Monday, July 19, 2004

Axis of evil update

This weekend a source close to the 9-11 Commission (i.e., probably a commission member who wanted to leak something) told Time and Newsweek that there is significant evidence of Iran's support of al-Qaeda.  Michael Ledeen has been banging this drum for years and his columns have continually called for the Bush Administration to end the fallacy that we can appease the mullahcracy and to accelerate support for a democratic Iran.
Here is Ledeen's latest column, and an excerpt:
[E]very time we come up with some devastating bit of information on Iran, we immediately follow it with "but that doesn't mean that the leaders knew about it, or that it was the actual policy of the regime." You find half of bin Laden's family and top assistants in Tehran? Not to worry, maybe the mullahs didn't know. You discover that that 9/11 band crossed Iran and were assisted by the border guards and customs officials? Not to worry, that wasn't necessarily the actual policy — this from the lips of the acting director of Central Intelligence on Fox News yesterday. Scores of Iranian intelligence agents are found in Iraq, some in the act of preparing bombs? Some bright bulb in the intelligence community puts out the line that Iran is actually helpful to us, and has actually restrained Hezbollah. We find Iranian involvement in the bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia? The evidence is quashed by the Saudis, with the complicity of State and large sectors of the intelligence community.

Meanwhile, Bill Kristol has a refresher course on the Commission's findings (and flaws therein) on Iraq's ties with al-Qaeda. 
And the indispensible Stephen Hayes provides this analysis; from which you get an excerpt:
With the absence of large stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, a new conventional wisdom has emerged. Saddam Hussein was contained, in his box. The Iraqi Intelligence Service, active in crushing internal dissent, was essentially inactive outside Iraq's borders. The bottom line: Saddam Hussein's Iraq was not a threat.

The text of the Senate report tells a very different story. The panel based
much of its analysis on a CIA product published in January 2003 called Iraqi Support for Terrorism--the most restrained of five CIA reports on Iraq and terror. The findings will surprise Americans who have relied for their information about the Iraqi threat on the establishment news media.

Iraq continues to be a safehaven, transit point, or operational node for groups and individuals who direct violence against the United States, Israel, and other allies. Iraq has a long history of supporting terrorism. During the last four decades, it has altered its targets to reflect changing priorities and goals. It continues to harbor and sustain a number of smaller anti-Israel terrorist groups and to actively encourage violence against Israel. Regarding the Iraq-al Qaeda relationship, reporting from sources of varying credibility points to a number of contacts, incidents of training, and discussions of Iraqi safehaven for Osama bin Laden and his organization dating from the early 1990s.
The Senate report summarized the findings on Iraqi Intelligence support for terrorism this way: "The CIA provided 78 reports, from multiple sources, [redacted] documenting instances in which the Iraqi regime either trained operatives for attacks or dispatched them to carry out attacks....Iraq continued to participate in terrorist attacks throughout the 1990s." No wonder the Clinton administration cited Iraqi support for terrorism as one of the main reasons that Saddam Hussein's regime posed a threat to the United States.

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