Pentagon Study: No "operational" link between Saddam and Al-Qaeda

 A study produced by a federally-funded think tank, the Institute for Defense Analyses, under contract to the Norfolk, Va.-based U.S. Joint Forces Command that examined 600,000 pages of Iraqi government documents captured after the war shows no "operational link" between Saddam's Iraq and al-Qaeda:

The Pentagon-sponsored study, scheduled for release later this week, did confirm that Saddam's regime provided some support to other terrorist groups, particularly in the Middle East,

U.S. officials told McClatchy. However, his security services were directed primarily against Iraqi exiles, Shiite Muslims, Kurds and others he considered enemies of his regime.

The new study of the Iraqi regime's archives found no documents indicating a "direct operational link" between Hussein's Iraq and al Qaida before the invasion, according to a U.S. official familiar with the report. He and others spoke to McClatchy on condition of anonymity because the study isn't due to be shared with Congress and released before Wednesday.
This report is significant because it is the first study to use the Saddam documents in any extensive way.
Those documents were in the process of being vetted online when an inadvertent release of classified material closed down the project. At that point, on line investigators had only been able to plow through a few thousand pages of the nearly 1 million documents captured after the war.

What does this do to the rationale for going to war with Iraq? Aside from confirming what we already knew - that some of the information used by the Bush Administration in the run up to the war was false or incomplete - not much. Despite hazy memories on the left, there were numerous other reasons cited by the Administration for war with Saddam besides WMD and terror links. The fact that the left refuses to remember them doesn't erase these reasons from the historical record.

We know from declassified papers that Saddam's son Uday met with al-Qaeda representatives prior to our invasion of Afghanistan and offered to shelter Osama Bin Laden in Iraq. We also know they discussed the idea of joining forces but that no further record exists or has been found to date that ties Saddam Hussein with al-Qaeda in any operational capacity.

This story is news in the sense that they used the great bulk of Saddam documents to explore the question of Iraq-al-Qaeda connections. It should be interesting to read the rest of the report due out Wednesday for other information that the leakers may have deemed less damaging or perhaps even buttressing the case for war against Saddam.
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