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May 26, 2004
ABC News: Saddam, Al-Qaeda Linked Through Al-Zarqawi

ABC News posted a story to its website yesterday on the hunt for Ayman al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaeda leader whose attacks in Istanbul and the beheading of Nicholas Berg have catapulted him to the forefront of the war on terror. According to their final section of the story, titled "Training Under Bin Laden," ABC reports (hat tips RantingProfs, Blogosapien):

During the 1990s, Zarqawi trained under bin Laden in Afghanistan. After the fall of the Taliban, he fled to northwestern Iraq and worked with poisons for use in potential attacks, officials say.

During the summer of 2002, he underwent nasal surgery at a Baghdad hospital, officials say. They mistakenly originally thought, however, that Zarqawi had his leg amputated due to an injury.

In late 2002, officials say, Zarqawi began establishing sleeper cells in Baghdad and acquiring weapons from Iraqi intelligence officials.

Late 2002? That preceded the American effort to get UNSC Resolution 1441 passed, as well as our presentations to the Council demonstrating Iraqi links to al-Qaeda. Certainly, Saddam's willingness to allow Zarqawi to live in Baghdad demonstrates his affinity for promoting terrorism (just as his hosting of Abu Nidal and payment to families of suicide bombers). Surely Saddam would not have countenanced Zarqawi's establishment of sleeper cells and the transfer of weapons by the IIS to his groups without ensuring that he and Zarqawi were working together. In light of the discovery of the binary sarin shell, one has to wonder what other weapons Saddam may have transferred to al-Zarqawi. How about all those chemical weapons Zarqawi tried to use in Jordan, for example?

The only conclusion? Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda were active allies and Hussein provided material support for AQ's terrorism. That certainly supports the argument for war in Iraq and underscores the Bush contention this week that Iraq is the central front in the war on Islamofascist terror. However, don't expect the media to pursue ABC's lead on this story. As Cori Dauber puts it:

So, to review: the latest intelligence says that Zarqawi got ready for this period with help from Saddam's people -- before -- the war. And ABC suddenly became a lot less skeptical of that claim today, either because it helped them get where they wanted to go, or because they have some reason to find this intell pretty damn good. But if it's the latter, they sure as hell weren't going to trumpet the fact that a key administration argument before the war is starting to look pretty good right now.

It also seems that the rest of the media doesn't care to trumpet it, either. Any idea why?

UPDATE: A well-respected blogger, one of my favorites, asks me why this is relevant given that we had committed to a "disarm or else" policy by late 2002 in the form of UNSC Resolution 1441. Good point, of course (I won't name the blogger as the question came by e-mail), but here's my answer: This revelation shows that 1441 itself was pointless, even if you hold that Saddam's involvement with al-Qaeda began at this point. All 1441 did was tip off Saddam that the jig was up and that we were going to get serious about enforcement of the cease-fire and the disarmament resolutions. It also shows that al-Qaeda involvement in Iraq didn't come about because of the American invasion of Iraq but predated it, with Saddam's blessing.

Actually, the French tried to warn us in January 2003 that the proposed 18th UNSC resolution was a bad idea, politically as well as strategically, but the British insisted on trying to get it for domestic political reasons, according to a Vanity Fair article in May (as reported by the Guardian in March, which I blogged at the time). Realistically, Bush needed to go back to the UN for our own domestic politics too, although he certainly doesn't get credit for it now.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 26, 2004 7:07 AM

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Tracked on May 26, 2004 10:55 AM

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