Document showing cooperative relationship between al Qaeda and Iraq has been possession of NY Times since April

Thom Shanker, NY Times:

Contacts between Iraqi intelligence agents and Osama bin Laden when he was in Sudan in the mid-1990's were part of a broad effort by Baghdad to work with organizations opposing the Saudi ruling family, according to a newly disclosed document obtained by the Americans in Iraq.

American officials described the document as an internal report by the Iraqi intelligence service detailing efforts to seek cooperation with several Saudi opposition groups, including Mr. bin Laden's organization, before Al Qaeda had become a full-fledged terrorist organization. He was based in Sudan from 1992 to 1996, when that country forced him to leave and he took refuge in Afghanistan.

The document states that Iraq agreed to rebroadcast anti-Saudi propaganda, and that a request from Mr. bin Laden to begin joint operations against foreign forces in Saudi Arabia went unanswered. There is no further indication of collaboration.

...

The new document, which appears to have circulated only since April, was provided to The New York Times several weeks ago, before the commission's report was released. Since obtaining the document, The Times has interviewed several military, intelligence and United States government officials in Washington and Baghdad to determine that the government considered it authentic.

...

The task force concluded that the document "appeared authentic," and that it "corroborates and expands on previous reporting" about contacts between Iraqi intelligence and Mr. bin Laden in Sudan, according to the task force's analysis.

It is not known whether some on the task force held dissenting opinions about the document's veracity.

At the time of the contacts described in the Iraqi document, Mr. bin Laden was little known beyond the world of national security experts. It is now thought that his associates bombed a hotel in Yemen used by American troops bound for Somalia in 1992. Intelligence officials also believe he played a role in training Somali fighters who battled Army Rangers and Special Operations forces in Mogadishu during the "Black Hawk Down" battle of 1993.

Iraq during that period was struggling with its defeat by American-led forces in the Persian Gulf war of 1991, when American troops used Saudi Arabia as the base for expelling Iraqi invaders from Kuwait.

The document details a time before any of the spectacular anti-American terrorist strikes attributed to Al Qaeda: the two American Embassy bombings in East Africa in 1998, the strike on the destroyer Cole in Yemeni waters in 2000, and the Sept. 11 attacks.

The document, which asserts that Mr. bin Laden "was approached by our side," states that Mr. bin Laden previously "had some reservations about being labeled an Iraqi operative," but was now willing to meet in Sudan, and that "presidential approval" was granted to the Iraqi security service to proceed.

At the meeting, Mr. bin Laden requested that sermons of an anti-Saudi cleric be rebroadcast in Iraq. That request, the document states, was approved by Baghdad.

...

A former director of operations for Iraqi intelligence Directorate 4 met with Mr. bin Laden on Feb. 19, 1995, the document states.


The story does not point out how Al Qaeda attacks escalted after this meeting. The Times tries to poo-poo the source of the document and discount it, but it is clear that there was a cooperative relationship that the Times had been discounting in previous stories and editorials.

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