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Context of 'July 2003: Official Says Iraq-Al-Qaeda Ties ‘Episodic, Not Continuous’'

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An unnamed Pentagon official tells USA Today that the hawks’ recent assertions regarding Iraq-al-Qaeda ties are “exaggeration[s]. The USA Today article, titled Experts Skeptical of Reports on Al-Qaeda-Baghdad Link, also says that “Other intelligence experts said some of the charges appeared to be based on old information and that there was still no ‘smoking gun’ connecting Iraq with the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.” [USA Today, 9/26/2002]

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, US Department of Defense

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

The Associated Press reports that Islamist militant leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi “was in Baghdad about two months ago, and US officials suspect his presence was known to the government of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, a defense official said…” This anonymous US official also calls al-Zarqawi among al-Qaeda’s top two dozen leaders. The article notes that “some US officials… contend the United States has no solid evidence of Iraq and al-Qaeda working together to conduct terrorist operations.” [Associated Press, 10/2/2002] But despite this caveat, just five days later, in a public speech President Bush mentions “one very senior al-Qaeda leader who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year, and who has been associated with planning for chemical and biological attacks” (see October 7, 2002). This is a reference to al-Zarqawi, and is said to be based on communications intercepts. But the same day as the speech, Knight Ridder Newspapers reports that according to US intelligence officials, “The intercepts provide no evidence that [al-Zarqawi] was working with the Iraqi regime or that he was working on a terrorist operation while he was in Iraq.” [Knight Ridder, 10/7/2002; US President, 10/14/2002] After the US invades Iraq in March 2003, evidence of this Baghdad connection will start to be questioned. Reports that al-Zarqawi was there to have a leg amputated will later be debunked (see January 26, 2003). In June 2003, Newsweek will report, “Bush Administration officials also have acknowledged that their information about al-Zarqawi’s stay in Baghdad is sketchy at best.” [Newsweek, 6/25/2003] Whether al-Zarqawi stayed in Baghdad and if the Hussein government was aware of his movements remains unclear.

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

An anonymous Bush administration official tells the Associated Press, “The relationships that were plotted [between al-Qaeda and Iraq] were episodic, not continuous.” [Associated Press, 7/12/2003 Sources: Unnamed Bush administration official]

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

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