AQ/SH connections: Must read

On top of this Thomas Joscelyn piece I linked up with just a few days ago regarding connections between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, here’s another – this time written by both Thomas Joscelyn and Stephen Hayes (a pretty unbeatable and unrefutable combo, if I may say) which discusses yet another AQ/SH link – this one dealing with the creation of Ansar Al Islam:

Many have argued, incorrectly, that the current Iraq-centric terrorist network suddenly appeared only after the U.S.-led invasion. That is, they argue that the jihadists established their complex system of safehouses, weapons caches, funding, training, and transportation only after the fall of Saddam.

For those analysts and politicians, particularly in the United States, who cling desperately to the notion that there was “no connection” between Iraq and al Qaeda, Ansar al Islam presents a problem. Typical of this was an article in the July 10, 2005, issue of Time magazine. Written by former Clinton administration counterterrorism official Daniel Benjamin, the article presumptuously declared “we know there was no pre-existing relationship between Baghdad and al-Qaeda.”

The evidence, of course, suggests that this analysis is wrong. Even as naysayers in the States continue to deny any connection, such staunchly anti-Iraq War publications as Le Monde have long since conceded the point. One day before the Time article, on July 9, the French daily published a news story that declared Ansar al Islam “was founded in 2001 with the joint help of Saddam Hussein–who intended to use it against moderate Kurds–and al Qaeda, which hoped to find in Kurdistan a new location that would receive its members.”

On this, at least, the French are right.

Two intercepts in 2002–one in May, the other in October–illuminated the Iraqi regime’s role in Ansar al Islam. The first revealed that an Iraqi Intelligence officer praised the work of the terrorist group and passed $100,000 to its leaders. The second, described in a report from the National Security Agency, reported that the Iraqi regime and al Qaeda reached an agreement whereby the regime would provide safehaven in northern Iraq to al Qaeda terrorists fleeing Afghanistan. Also, the regime agreed to fund and to arm the

incoming jihadists.

In addition, there are numerous firsthand reports of this collaboration that come from the men at the center of it. The first reporting on this came in March 2002 from the New Yorker’s Jeffrey Goldberg. His work was followed by reports on PBS, ABC News’s Nightline, THE WEEKLY STANDARD and the Christian Science Monitor. Some of the sources were the same; others corroborated the original reporting. Writing in the Christian Science Monitor under the headline “Iraqi Funds, Training Fuel Islamic Terror Group,” Scott Petersen reported from northern Iraq:

While Ansar is gaining strength in numbers, new information is emerging that ties the organization to both Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network and to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The Al Qaeda contacts allegedly stretch back to 1989, and include regular recruiting visits by bin Laden cadres to Kurdish refugee camps in Iran and to northern Iraq, as well as a journey by senior Ansar leaders to meet Al Qaeda chiefs in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in the summer of 2000. A 20-year veteran of Iraqi intelligence alleges the Iraqi government secretly provided cash and training to Ansar.

Please read the whole thing.

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