Documents of the former Iraqi government which were recently released by the US Government include unexpected revelations about events in Iraq prior to the US-led invasion. These documents are addressed in an ABC News report released this week.
Fulfilling the lowered expectations many have developed for the major media, the story is titled Did Russian Ambassador Give Saddam the US War Plan?, emphasizing a document about the Russian ambassador involved in the oil for food scandal leaking some fairly obvious information about US invasion strategy to the Hussein regime. An interesting story, but it ought to take a back seat to some of the other documents, especially those which provide definitive evidence that Saddam was hiding WMD information from UN inspectors and that he had in fact been in communication with Osama bin Laden and worked in cooperation with Al Qaeda in the past.
For three years the media and the left have been trying to discredit some of the claims that led up to the Iraq war, especially the presence of ongoing WMD development and the idea that there were connections between the Hussein regime and Al Qaeda. Now those disinformation campaigns seem to be falling apart and these documents add to the growing body of evidence that the Bush administration was far closer to the mark than it has been given credit for in its concerns about Saddam's Iraq.
The ABC report confirms that the documents show that Saddam's government was in communication with Al Qaeda and with Osama bin Laden through intermediaries, and that they had discussed support for terrorism and 'joint operations' against common enemies like Saudi Arabia and the United States. The report says in part:
A newly released prewar Iraqi document indicates that an official representative of Saddam Hussein's government met with Osama bin Laden in Sudan on February 19, 1995, after receiving approval from Saddam Hussein. Bin Laden asked that Iraq broadcast the lectures of Suleiman al Ouda, a radical Saudi preacher, and suggested “carrying out joint operations against foreign forces” in Saudi Arabia. According to the document, Saddam's presidency was informed of the details of the meeting on March 4, 1995, and Saddam agreed to dedicate a program for them on the radio. The document states that further “development of the relationship and cooperation between the two parties to be left according to what's open [in the future] based on dialogue and agreement on other ways of cooperation.”
Perhaps even more significantly, the documents confirm the fact that Iraq continued to possess and develop WMDs far past the period in the early 1990s when they had supposedly destroyed their checmical and biological agents, and that they carried on an ongoing campaign to conceal information about their WMD capabilities and research from the United Nations inspectors. In one of the documents procedures are outlined for concealing WMD information including:
Removing correspondence with the atomic energy and military industry departments concerning the prohibited weapons (proposals, research, studies, catalogs, etc.)
Removing prohibited materials and equipment, including documents and catalogs and making sure to clear labs and storages of any traces of chemical or biological materials that were previously used or stored.
This fits closely with a previous ABC Nightline report on a series of audio tapes from meetings of Hussein and his advisors in which methods which had been used to conceal WMDs from inspectors were discussed.
Even more disturbing confirmation of the continued existence of WMDs which originated in Iraq can be found in a little-reported incident from April of 2004 in which Jordanian Special Forces seized three trucks carrying 20,000 tons of chemical weapons intended for use in a massive Al Qaeda attack against Jordanian intelligence headquarters.
According to a CNN report:
A Jordanian government scientist said the plot had been carefully worked out, with just the right amount of explosives to spread the deadly cloud without diminishing the effects of the chemicals. The blast would not burn up the poisonous chemicals but instead produce a toxic cloud, the scientist said, possibly spreading for a mile, maybe more.
The contents of the trucks appear to have been mostly caustic and explosive chemicals, plus Vx nerve gas which was produced by the Iraqi WMD program. This clearly confirms the claims of General Sada that Iraqi WMDs in Syria are being held there for the use of Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Reports also indicate that Syria is relocating some of the Iraqi WMDs to Sudan for their protection in the event of a US attack on Syria.
This confirmation of the presence of ongoing WMD research in Iraq leads directly into recent revelations about the relocation of Iraqi WMD technology and materials to Syria. Sources in Israeli intelligence, retired Israeli general Moshe Yaloon and most significantly former Iraqi Air Force general Georges Sada have all stated that WMD raw materials, facilities and research were relocated to Syria in the weeks before the US invasion. Sada was in command of the military unit whose planes transported much of the WMD equipment to Syria. This matches information gathered by UN Inspectors and revealed by former inspector David Kay in an interview where he said WMDs had been moved to Syria:
We are not talking about a large stockpile of weapons, but we know from some of the interrogations of former Iraqi officials that a lot of material went to Syria before the war, including some components of Saddam's WMD programme. Precisely what went to Syria, and what has happened to it, is a major issue that needs to be resolved.
Other sources confirm both the WMD data and the links between the Hussein regime and terrorist groups. Some of the most significant evidence is found in a set of captured Iraqi intelligence documents. These detail ongoing Iraqi support for a wide range of terrorist organizations and operations, including attacks agaisnt US forces in Somalia and US civilians throughout the middle east. They also document the acquisition of WMD materials as late as the fall of 2000 when Iraq purchased active anthrax cells, mustard gas and WMD handling equipment. This is years after the WMD programs were supposed to have been shut down.
What's remarkable about all of this is how little coverage it's getting in the day to day media and how little impact it is having on the endless debate over the war. It appears that all of our worst fears about Iraq's WMD program and their ties to Al Qaeda are turning out to be true, yet the dominant refrain on the subject remains the clearly disproven claim that the President lied to push us into the war. Even worse, the Iraqi WMDs seem to still be in play…