An important meeting in Baghdad...
Christopher Hitchens looks at a newly-found Iraqi document.
As we are gradually becoming aware, an enormous tranche of captured Iraqi government papers are very slowly being analyzed and translated. Currently housed in Qatar, this documentation can be reviewed thus far on the Pentagon's Foreign Military Studies Office Web site. Elements in the Bush administration are still highly reluctant to declassify and disclose much of this material, probably because it demonstrates yet again that our "intelligence" services knew less than nothing of what was happening in Iraq. But early yields have proved illuminating and will probably lead to a revision of the current complacent consensus, both on Saddam's WMD plans and on his extensive contact with the region's Islamic fanatics.
A suggestive new document from this trove has now been uncovered and analyzed by Ray Robison, a former staffer on David Kay's Iraq Survey Group. It details a meeting in Baghdad between Fazlur Rahman, a major Pakistani cleric and Taliban sympathizer, and Taha Yassin Ramadan, Saddam's vice president and chief party enforcer. Fazlur Rahman seeks and receives sympathy, brings a message of goodwill from Mullah Omar, and requests Iraqi help in mediating between the Taliban, Northern Alliance, and the Russians in Afghanistan. Though some of the conversation is opaque and hard to decipher, it clearly shows that a friendly informal contact existed between the two regimes. (Unconfirmed reports allege that Vice President Ramadan also met with Bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in Baghdad in 1998.)