An examination of a key report on Iraq and the Saudi Opposition from the cache of documents captured during Operation Iraqi Freedom and now released by the U.S. government, with additional commentary by the document’s Iraqi translator who is working with Ms. Mylroie.
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Finally, the report suggests that states have a continuing importance, while ideology is not as important as many would have it. Once approached by Iraq, Mas’ari and bin Laden both sought things from that country. Iraq’s resources outstripped theirs in almost all respects. Mas’ari seemed to have had no objection to working with Baghdad; bin Laden’s concern appeared to center on how others might perceive him. Ideology — whether the Saudis were “secular” or religious — was irrelevant to the Iraqis, as was the Sunni-Shia divide, although a practical concern — Iran — inhibited them from contacting Saudi Hizbullah through the Yemeni branch. Sudan played an important role in facilitating Iraq’s contacts with Saudi oppositionists, but efforts to establish such ties in Yemen were unsuccessful, largely because the Yemeni government did not cooperate with Baghdad.
Below is additional commentary from Ayad Rahim, translator of the Iraqi intelligence report discussed above by Ms. Mylroie:
ONE OF THE MOST AMAZING THINGS in this document for Iraqis is the openness with which the Iraqi regime acknowledged that it engaged in terrorism, and particularly in its embassies. Iraqis have long considered the Baath regime a terrorist organization, the intelligence services its external terrorist arm, and the embassies as posts for the intelligence services (the dreaded mukhabarat). When an Iraqi came anywhere near an Iraqi embassy, he shuddered with fear. And God help you, if you actually had business to conduct in an embassy. You fretted about it for weeks, dared not go alone, posted friends outside, in case you lingered too long, then recovered from the humiliation. Since the fall of the regime, machine guns, weapons-silencers and torture implements have been found in abandoned embassy safes.
The document is also a reminder of how a gang of thugs took over a rich country, yet saw themselves as a legitimate enterprise, and conducting themselves accordingly. They addressed each other with honorifics and had a code of conduct and a core of beliefs, such as the myth of an Arab nation, with sections, ultimately to be united. They put together delineated reports about their doings, sent them up the line of command, and wrote in flowery language — albeit not very elegant.
An amusing phenomenon suggested in this document is Saddam’s Iraq granting people political asylum. While Iraqis fled the country in droves, seeking legitimate asylum elsewhere (an estimated four to five million ended up abroad, more than a million of them, forcibly driven out), the regime went searching far and wide, inviting “Arabs,” purely for their terrorist utility. Meanwhile, as actual Iraqis feared going to Iraq and had the doors of Iraqi embassies and consulates literally and figuratively slammed in their faces, their Arab “brothers” were being lavished with scholarships, the royal treatment and exorbitant sums of money, at their expense.
Finally, to Iraqis, the notion that Saddam wouldn’t deal with Islamists, because he was “secular,” is laughable. Iraqis, who witnessed on television Saddam’s dealings with any and all terrorists, have considered him the world’s biggest terrorist and have seen him ride whichever wind would prevail for him. During his war with Iran, he “became” Shi’a — among other things, posters of Muhammad’s family tree were circulated showing Saddam and his sons as descendents of the Prophet. In the '90s, he had a revelation, and called for “a campaign of faithfulness,” putting the country on a fundamentalist track. Alcohol was banned, extreme tribal ways were advocated for dealing with women, and hundreds of women were beheaded in public (allegedly for prostitution, but actually for dissent), and their heads posted in front of their homes. Then there was his constant championing of “the Palestinian cause” and pan-Arabism, while hosting and sponsoring terrorist groups and conferences of every stripe and flavor — with, as we see in this document, a process of give-and-take, in the mix.
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H/T to National Review Online