Critics of the removal of Saddam Hussein will focus on the testimony of Ahmed Samir al-Ani, the consul at the Iraqi embassy in Prague once alleged to have met Mohammed Atta, the ringerleader of the 9/11 hijackers, whose testimony was declassified along with Tariq Aziz’s. The Czechs were initially confident in their reporting and stood by it under heavy pressure, but then some Czech officials expressed doubt and so it is unclear where they officially stand on the issue. The 9/11 Commission expressed doubt about the intelligence but could not rule it out either.
Intelligence expert and investigative journalist Edward Jay Epstein notes that Atta’s visa application stated he was a “Hamburg student” and that al-Ani’s seized calendar listed a meeting with a “Hamburg student” in April 2001 — the same month the Czechs’ reporting alleged he met with Atta. In another interesting coincidence, two suspected Iraqi spies were arrested in Germany in February 2001. The Arab press reported that they were arrested after Iraqi intelligence “had drawn up a plan to strike at U.S. interests around the world through a network of alliances with extremist fundamentalist parties.” The German authorities were reportedly investigating groups connected to al-Qaeda when they discovered the two Iraqi spies.
Al-Ani denies that the meeting happened, saying it was “ludicrous” to believe Iraq would have anything to do with al-Qaeda or specifically Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Whatever the truth is regarding his alleged meeting with Atta, al-Ani’s testimony simply isn’t credible, as he makes the laughable assertion that he had never even heard of Osama Bin Laden before 9/11. Iraq had previously been accused of supporting Bin Laden by the Clinton administration, something that Al-Ani, as an Iraqi government official, surely would have known about. Best-selling books had been written on Bin Laden and he had carried out high-profile attacks.
Thanks to Tariq Aziz’s testimony, we know that Saddam’s attitude towards terrorism against the U.S. was the same in private as it was in public. He may not have been willing to directly engineer a plot like 9/11, but he certainly was willing to help terrorists do it for themselves. And as I’ve previously written, it is now known that Saddam’s regime also had been working on plans to actualize three of the most horrifying scenarios that the West fears the most: the smuggling of chemical and biological weapons into the West, a dramatic attack against Israel that could spark a regional war, and the destabilization of the Saudi royal family, with one 2002 document indicating Saddam actually suggested working with Ayman al-Zawahiri towards this end.
The methods can be debated, but Saddam’s regime fit every criteria of a regime that had to go.