Al Qaeda + Iraq: the new evidence
The key arguments for going to war in Iraq always seemed to me to be two: 1) the need to end Iraq's support for terrorism, of which support for Al Qaeda was only a part; 2) the need to establish a democracy in the Middle East as the only long-run answer to terrorism, and Iraq's strategic position as the keystone in the arch.
With the new release of documents from the Iraqi treasure chest, the case for Iraq's support for terrorism in general and Al Qaeda in particular has been dramatically strengthened.
1) We now know from the internal documents of the regime itself that Iraq was funding Al Qaeda groups in the Philippines, and in Saudi Arabia:
These documents add to the growing body of evidence confirming the Iraqi regime's longtime support for terrorism abroad. The first of them, a series of memos from the spring of 2001, shows that the Iraqi Intelligence Service funded Abu Sayyaf, despite the reservations of some IIS officials. The second, an internal Iraqi Intelligence memo on the relationships between the IIS and Saudi opposition groups, records that Osama bin Laden requested Iraqi cooperation on terrorism and propaganda and that in January 1997 the Iraqi regime was eager to continue its relationship with bin Laden. The third, a September 15, 2001, report from an Iraqi Intelligence source in Afghanistan, contains speculation about the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda and the likely U.S. response to it.
2) We now know also from these same internal documents that Uday Hussein had been tasked with creating the Saddam Fedayeen and using terrorism to strike the West abroad:
The Saddam Fedayeen also took part in the regime's domestic terrorism operations and planned for attacks throughout Europe and the Middle East. In a document dated May 1999, Saddam's older son, Uday, ordered preparations for "special operations, assassinations, and bombings, for the centers and traitor symbols in London, Iran and the self-ruled areas [Kurdistan]." Preparations for "Blessed July," a regime-directed wave of "martyrdom" operations against targets in the West, were well under way at the time of the coalition invasion.[bold added].
The decision to invade Iraq was an essential part of the war on terror. The challenge now is to make that decision work.