In a speech before the House of Commons last week, Tony Blair said, "we do know of links between al-Qaeda and Iraq – we cannot be sure of the exact extent of these links". Blair’s spokesman said, "there is evidence al-Qaeda ‘operatives’ are being sheltered in Iraq". A document written at the Defence Intelligence Staff agency (DIS), and sent to the Prime Minister well before he made his Commons speech, flatly contradicts this. "There are no current links between the Iraqi regime and the al-Qaeda network", the official report stated.
No to war
Blair caught lying (again) over links between Iraq and al–Qa’eda
Intelligence resources leaked this document to distance and protect themselves. A great worry they may have is being held responsible for the possible consequences of a war on Iraq. Especially since the spin doctors around Bush and Blair have not managed to swing public opinion on the issue. As one reporter put it "there is growing disquiet at the way their work is being politicised to support the case for war on Iraq".
Iraq – al-Qa’eda links
The claim that Iraq has links with the Al Qa’eda network and was, in some way, involved in the 11 September attacks is one of the main charges laid against Saddam Hussein. In his State of the Union speech on the 28 January 2003, US president Bush reaffirmed the allegation: "Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody, reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists including members of al-Qaeda". Again, no evidence was forthcoming and Colin Powell’s speech to the UN Security Council on 5 Febuary failed to bring forward any conclusive evidence that links Saddam’s secular regime with Osama Bin Laden.
The DIS report states that any fledgling relationship between the Iraqi regime and the al Qa’eda network foundered due to mistrust and incompatible ideologies. "His (Bin Laden’s) aims are in ideological conflict with present day Iraq". Osama Bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network described Saddam Hussein as their main enemy in the region. The Taliban regime in Afghanistan sought and found support in the Pakistani military dictatorship as a counterbalance to the Iraqis on their Western border. The reactionary theocratic regime in Iran fought a vicious war with Saddam’s Iraq between 1980 and 1988. The US backed the Saddam’s dictatorship to check the advancing influence of the Khomeini regime after the 1979 Iranian revolution. Saddam Hussein was the main ally of the US in the region at this time. They supplied Iraq with the weapons and aid and watched in silence when the Iraqi army used chemical weapons against the Iranian troops as well as against the Iraqi population.
The decision by the Bush administration to include Iraq and Iran in the "axis of evil" doctrine lead to a certain warming of the relations between the two countries which had been deadlocked since the end of the Iraq-Iran war in 1988. However under the clouds of looming war, the Iranian regime is careful to keep some distance from Iraq.
Over recent years Saddam has used Islam much more in order to bolster his rule. This is particularly the case since the last Gulf war in 1991. He is using the country’s mosques and imams to build internal support. This intertwines with the general process in the Middle East where broader layers of the population seek relief and hope in religion, unable to find it in everyday live.
A nervous and split military command
The top secret document was leaked to BBC Radio 4 news in what was yet another attempt by British military and intelligence leaders to question the political wisdom of a drive to war with Iraq and the frenzied clumsy fashion in which Bush and Blair are trying to forge an international coalition against Saddam Hussein.
General Sir Jack Deverell, commander-in-chief of allied forces Northern Europe commented, "He would not like to go to war without the support of the country". He joins a string of former military officers who made similar public comments such as General Sir Roger Wheeler, who was head of the army until 2000, General Sir Michael Rose, former UN commander in Bosnia and Major General Patrick Cordingley, commander of the ‘Desert Rats’ armoured brigade in the 1991 Gulf war.
It seems that the military and ex-military commanders fear the consequences of going to war without broad popular support. Another issue is the feeling that political leaders in the US and Britain underestimate the dangers, the possible duration of a war and its aftermath. This has been described as an undercurrent of profound unease over a war against Iraq, sweeping through Britain’s military establishment, with senior commanders worried about confused objectives and the ethics of launching a pre-emptive strike. They ask: "Is it about regime change or is it about the discovery and demolition of weapons of mass destruction?" "What if there aren’t any or you can never find them?" one source was quoted in the Guardian (5 February 2003).
Norman Schwarzkopf, the American general who led allied troop in 1991, called for the inspectors to have more time. He attacked Defence Secretary Rumsfeld, "When he makes his comments, it appears that he disregards the army. He gives the perception when he’s on TV that he is the guy driving the train and everybody else better fall in line behind him, or else. It’s scary. Let’s face it, there are guys at the Pentagon who have been involved in operational planning for their entire lives. And for this wisdom, acquired during many operations, just to be ignored and in its place have somebody who doesn’t have any of that training, is of concern."
Although a US led war with Iraq seems most probable, not every section of the ruling class is ready to follow Bush and Blair and jump eyes-closed into the abyss. Increasingly contradictions and rifts amongst sections of the establishment develop in the run-up to war. The more far-sighted layers of the ruling class have come to the realisation that their rule will not remain unchallenged and the turmoil, in the Middle East, as across the globe, following a US invasion may open up a prolonged period of economic crisis, social uprisings and devastating wars.