The newly-released translations of files captured in the invasion of Iraq reveal more about connections between Saddam Hussein and terrorism. The one file reviewed here yesterday that produced Saddam’s “Ode To My Moustache Hairs”, ISGP-2003-00014647, also contains more substantive information about his role in promoting terrrorism. On page 4 of the file, Iraq planned the announcement of direct payments to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers:
Republic of Iraq
The Press Secretary
Mr. the Esteemed Chief of the Presidential Bureau
AT the meeting that took place on Monday 3/4/2002 with Mr. Faruq Qaddumi, the Foreign Minister of Palestine, the President ordered that $25,000 are to be given to the family of any person who takes part in a suicide mission in Palestine.
H.E. also ordered that the Intifada martyrs are to be included in all salaries and benefits granted to the Umm-al-Ma`arik martyrs (TC: Umm-al-Ma`arik is the First Gulf War), as we view them as one and the same.
`Ali `Abdallah Salman
Saddam’s subsidy to suicide bombings has been reported in detail, and the fact that this went through his press secretary shows that he wanted to get the word out. Saddam wanted to provide incentives for terrorist recruitment in the Palestinian areas, and so decided to offer a strange sort of death insurance for suicidal jihadis. Not only would they get seventy-two virgins for their own martyrdom, their families would get the equivalent of ten years’ revenue for a family of four. The money for this enterprise came from the West, in the helpful Oil-For-Food program that put billions of dollars in hard currency into the pockets of Saddam Hussein and his sons.
However, the file also contains another memo, one that Saddam wanted hidden, that also shows his connections to terrorists in Afghanistan. On page 7, Saddam’s office shows that Iraq bankrolled an Islamic group and its leader, and that the Iraqi Intelligence Service had its leadership as their proxies:
Republic of Iraq
The Press Secretary
Date: Wednesday, March 6th, 2001
Mr. H.E. the Secretary
Please find enclosed a telegram congratulating H.E. the President on `Id al-Adha from Mr. Sayyid Ahmad al-Gilani, Chief of the National Islamic Front of Afghanistan. We inquired from the Intelligence Service about Mr. al-Gilani and his National Islamic Front, and we received the following in response:
Mr. al-Gilani was born in 1928, bears a Saudi Arabian passport, and is the leader of the National Islamic Front and one of the leaders of the Jihad factions in Afghanistan. He is a member of the Iraqi al-Gilani family. He immigrated with his father in the 1940s. He has religious influence among several Afghani tribes. Politically moderate, he has relations with Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Britain, and the US. He supports the king.
He has cooperated with the Intelligence Service since 1980, and had received aid from the Intelligence Service at the rate of half a million dollars per month. The aid stopped at the beginning of the first Gulf War. His son, Hamid, cooperates with the Intelligence Service and is the Vice President of the Islamic Front.
We do not support publicizing the telegram at the current time.
Please review and order as you see fit.
`Ali `Abdallah Salman
Far from disdaining contacts with Islamist groups, Saddam cultivated them, paying al-Gilani a fortune in order to keep up Iraqi influence in Afghanistan. This memo comes before the events of 9/11 and the fall of the Taliban. Now a member of the Afghan political environment, they helped pull down the Russian-supported government and install the Taliban in the first place.
These files show how dangerous Saddam was in the region, and how he exploited connections to terrorism in order to stir up as much trouble as possible.
UPDATE: Er, Iraqi influence in Afghanistan, not Iraq. Just noticed the mistake, but I’m sure CQ commenters have already noted it …
UPDATE II: CQ reader Donald M offers more on Gilani and cautions that the Gilani family had more complexity than this:
Pir Gilani, titular head of the NIFA was considered at the time of the Soviet War one of the most western-leaning of the major “muj” groups in the war. His family were fairly prosperous business leaders in pre-war Afghanistan. He had strong ties to the King, Zahir Shah. He had some “cachet” in that his bloodlines supposedly ran back to the Prophet. I knew his group at the time. They were “disdained” by the more radical groups who were in fact, Islamists. One of his sons had the nickname, “Gucci Gilani” because he favored Western, and expensive, accouterment. His top General was Rahim Wardak, part of the Royal Afghan Army (before the Soviet invasion), trained partially in the U.S. Rahim retired to Columbia, Md, not long after the Soviets left Afghanistan. Rahim was not welcome in Afghanistan when the Taliban took over.
I don’t know what’s happened to that group or family (i’ve been out of this stuff for 16 years) but I would hesitate before branding this family or group, Islamists.
This document reads to me, possibly, that the “Service” in question could actually be the ISI, whom the U.S used, unfortunately, as the conduit for cash and supplies during the war to those groups fighting the Soviets If that were true, it would be a “whole other can of worms” showing an almost intimacy with Iraq and the ISI. The role of the USG/ISI connection during the Soviet war is worthy of a book entitled.. “the tail wags the dog”.. Similar to the failures, due to complacency and incompetence, of the U.S relationship with Iran’s SAVAK in the ’70s. But that’s another story.
The Gilani family could have and could be playing several roles at once. Quite common in that volatile “vale of tears’. Certainly though, at the time (80’s) they were, by no means, considered by anyone in that AO to be “Islamists”. Those of us that were there, at the time, knew who the Islamists were and our warnings at the time were ignored.
So noted! It also looks like the US got caught up with a Saddam asset.