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Links To al Qaeda? No

Reader comment on item: What If the United States Had Not Invaded Iraq

Submitted by Jonathan Rick (United States), Sep 11, 2005 at 18:14

I have great respect for Dr. Pipes, but his assertion that Saddam had "links to al Qaeda" is simply false.

Re the "Prague connection," on January 31, 2003—seven weeks before the war began—Newsweek asked President Bush specifically about a 9/11 connection to Iraq, to which he replied, "I cannot make that claim."[1]

Re Ansar al-Islam, while dozens of Qaeda refugees slipped into northern Iraq before the war, they were holed up, not in Iraq proper, but in Iraqi Kurdistan, which for most of Ansar was native land.[2] Moreover, under the no-fly zones imposed after the Gulf War and patrolled 24 hours a day since by the U.S. and U.K., Kurdistan stood outside Baghdad's grip. Thus, though Saddam was aware of Ansar's activities, his influence over them was at best circuitous and most likely inoperative.[3] According to the C.I.A. and British intelligence, he regarded Zarqawi and his ilk more as a threat than an ally.[4]

Likewise, although Ansar certainly had ties to al Qaeda, it was not under its thumb.[5] For while Zarqawi and bin Laden cut their teeth together against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s, their mutual presence there in the 90s merely cohered with the postbellum status: host to myriad jihadist groups, from Uzbeks to Chechens to Pakistani fighters for Kashmir.[6] With their own camps and agendas, and amid a civil war, terrorists both worked with and against one another. As George Tenet told the Senate Select Intelligence Committee in February 2003, Zarqawi "conceive[d] of himself as being quite independent" of al Qaeda.[7]

See more in my thesis, "The Prewar Evidence (or Lack Thereof): Saddam Hussein's Collaboration with Terrorists and His Deterrability," May 2005:


[1] As quoted in Michael Hirsh and Michael Isikoff, "No More Hide and Seek," Newsweek, February 10, 2003, p. 46.
[2] Romesh Ratnesar, "Iraq and al-Qaeda: Is There a Link?," Time, September 2, 2002, p. 33. ; Jeffrey Goldberg, "The Great Terror," New Yorker, March 25, 2002, p. 65.
[3] Walter Pincus, "Alleged al Qaeda Ties Questioned," Washington Post, February 7, 2003.
[4] Mark Hosenball and Evan Thomas, "Spies, Lies and Iraq," Newsweek, February 10, 2003, p. 49.
[5] Walter Pincus, "Alleged al Qaeda Ties Questioned," Washington Post, February 7, 2003.
[6] Eric Umansky, "Abu Musab al-Zarqawi," Slate, June 29, 2004.
[7] George Tenet, Hearing of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, Federal News Service, February 11, 2003.

Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

Daniel Pipes replies:

Stephen F. Hayes proves my point in "The Connection : How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America," at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0060746734/qid=1121026757/sr=8-1/ref=pd_bbs_ur_1/102-1631762-3806561?v=glance&s=books&n=507846.


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