As we prepare for war on Iraq, polls show that the American people want to see evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD). A lot of us would also like to see the linkage between al Qaeda and Iraq, because it seems that the biggest thing they have in common is the letter, ‘Q.’
The media reports and US intelligence were so adamant that the tragic events of 9/11 were committed by al Qaeda, and they still are, but how did we go from al Qaeda to Iraq? Is it the oil? ( Iraq has the second largest oil reserves). Is it Israel? (It’s the only country to wholeheartedly rally for this war). Is it revenge for President Bush, Sr.? (He was almost assassinated in Kuwait back in 1992). Is Iraq more of a threat than North Korea? (Though North Korea has already admitted to having nuclear weapons).
The reasoning remains elusive.
So, we’re left to guess the reasons for the impending attack on Iraq. But we do know some things:
1) Some al Qaeda refugees from the war in Afghanistan have found refuge in Iraq. They live in an area dominated by Ansar al Islam (Partisans of Islam) who reside over a small area near the Iranian border — a part of Iraq that is in Kurdish hands and outside the direct control of the Iraqi government.
2) In an article reproduced by the US State Department, the reputable Christian Science Monitor interviewed one Ansar activist, Rafed Ibrahim Fatah. Fatah spoke of previous meetings in earlier years between the Ansar group and al Qaeda leaders, absent Osama bin Laden. Again, out of the area which Hussein’s government controls. This doesn’t mean there have been zero contacts, but as terrorism adviser to the U.S. National Security Council Daniel Benjamin recently stated, “While there are contacts, have been contacts, there is no co-operation. There is no substantial, noteworthy relationship.”
Even when the Sunday Telegraph in London reported that Fatah and senior al Qaeda operative Abu Zubair — both captured in Morocco — underwent training in Iraq, no alleged link between al Qaeda and the Iraqi government was mentioned. The event of the capture and training was mentioned by the British government in its official dossier against Iraq, but no definitive linkage.
3) The Czech authorities reported that one of the 9/11 hijackers, Mohammed Atta, had met an Iraqi agent in Prague in April 2001. But now the Czech President Vaclav Havel has reportedly told the Americans he doubts if it true. Still, it’s the greatest pillar to the Al Qaeda and Iraq link, which isn’t saying much given Havel’s reluctance.
A couple of other points to remember: Saddam Hussein, a secular nationalist who refuses to rule by the Muslim religious law, Sharia, has never been a fan of Islamic militants nor is he revered by them. In fact, bin Laden has long promised to bring down secular Arab leaders like Saddam Hussein.
“Osama bin Laden hates Saddam Hussein and considers him an infidel,” said Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based Arabic newspaper Al Quds . He says bin Laden was even ready to help liberate Kuwait when it was invaded by Iraq in 1990.
Further, while Hussein’s goal has been to promote Arab causes, al Qaeda was formed in the late 80s to fight for Muslim causes, particularly ousting American troops from the Gulf region.
The problem is – we just don’t know. The government explanation that we might jeopardize operations or our national security if we reveal our evidence is ludicrous. If our government informs the world about evidence of Iraqi WMD or al Qaeda links, chances are that Saddam Hussein already knows about it.
I guess I never thought the letter ‘Q’ could attain the status of a smoking gun, but with nothing more than tenuous evidence, I am left to surmise that ‘Q’ is the most tangible linkage available.
Ultimately, the White House may want to take its queue from the wise Republican, Senator Chuck Hagel, who has said, “military force alone will neither assure a democratic transition in Iraq, bring peace to Israelis and Palestinians, nor assure stability in the Middle East.”
Sherri Muzher, who holds a Jurist Doctor in International and Comparative Law, is a Palestinian-American activist and free lance journalist.