Thursday, June 17, 2004

No Saddam-Bin Laden ties

by pv vivekanand

THE FINDING by an American independent commission
investigating the Sept.11 attacks that no proof exists
between Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein
should not be surprising. It was always known in
Mideastern circles that a tie-up between Bin Laden and
Saddam was never possible because the two, despite
their fierce anti-US postures, followed different,
dramatically divergent paths, religiously
ideologically, politically and otherwise.
Bin Laden, a truly committed Muslim with strong
convictions and beliefs, never considered Saddam as a
Muslim faithful and steadfastly rejected the Iraqi
strongman's overtures to set up an alliance.
Bin Laden blamed Saddam for the Mideast's troubles as
much as he blamed the US and Israel. He saw Saddam as
having set the ground for the US to set up a permanent
military presence in the Gulf region by invading
Kuwait in 1990.
Bin Laden was a bitter critic of Saddam for using
Islamic tenets whenever it suited and ignoring them
otherwise. A classic example cited by Bin Laden was
Saddam's imposition of parts of the Shariah (Islamic
law) in Iraq, like bans on alcohol and nightclubs and
enforcement of the Islamic dress code at times when it
suited him. The bans were imposed and implicitly
lifted at regular intervals during the Saddam reign in
As far as Bin Laden was concerned Saddam was not a
true Muslim and this, in his eyes, ruled him out as an
ally. If anything, Bin Laden considered Saddam as a
traitor of the Islamic and Arab cause since he felt
that the Iraqi strongman would respond positively to
any American overture to settle Washington-Baghdad
differences and rejoin the American camp if the Bush
Senior administration, the Clinton administration or
the Bush Junior administration were inclined to do so.
"Saddam Hussein is in fact an infidel who is trying to
use Islam to serve his politics and secure support
among the faithful in Iraq," Bin Laden was known to
have commented to some of his "Arab Afghan" supporters
-- Arabs, who like Bin Laden himself, volunteered to
fight against the Soviet army in Afghanistan during
the 1980s. He also maintained that the people of Iraq
should be seen separate from the regime since "they
were Saddam's innocent victims" just as "the
Palestinians were the victims of Israel."
A secret British intelligence report, which was
suppressed by the government in late 2002, said it was
not possible that Bin Laden and Saddam could have
forged an alliance if only because their "ideological"
differences were too wide. The same report also said
that there was no evidence of an Al Qaeda-Baghdad
After the August 1998 Al Qaeda bombings of the
American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the
retaliatory American attacks against a Bin Laden camp
in Afghanistan, Saddam extended an invitation to Bin
Laden to go to Iraq and take shelter there against any
further American military action. Saddam promised him
"absolute" safety and protection.
The Al Qaeda leader not only turned down the
"invitation" but also berated Saddam for thinking that
a "true believer" such as Bin Laden himself would
accept such an invitation from a "non-believer" like
Indeed, according to the sources, Al Qaeda activists
from Egypt, Sudan and other countries might have
visited Iraq while Saddam was in power, but this
never constituted any basis for an alliance as alleged
by the US.
Against this backdrop, persistent claims made by
senior American officials that Saddam and Bin Laden
had strong links had sounded hollow — to those who are
familiar with the thinking of the two — and without
On the other hand, the US investigating commission
asserts that Saddam had never responded to requests
for help from Bin Laden in 1994. The reality,
according to highly credible and informed sources in
the Middle East, was that such a request was indeed
made by an unidentified Sudanese member of Al Qaeda
but without Bin Laden's knowledge. That Sudanese,
identified as Mamdouh Kais, was killed in a 1997
accident in Afghanistan, according to the sources.
Arab intelligence agencies which have more to fear
from a Bin Laden-Saddam alliance than the West have
asserted that they could not establish a link between
Al Qaeda and Baghdad.
The investigating commission's failure to find any
evidence that Al Qaeda and Iraq had links pulls the
rug from under the feet of steadfast claims made by
President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and
other administration officials.
Even last week, Cheney claimed Saddam "had
long-established ties with Al Qaeda," but what he had
to cite as evidence was an already discredited report
that Mohammed Atta, leader of the 19 Sept. 11
hijackers, met in Prague, Czech Republic, with a
senior Iraqi intelligence official before the attacks.
The investigating panel concluded no such meeting