WASHINGTON – Hatred for the United States and Saudi Arabia may drive Al Qaeda and Iraq to overcome their mutual antipathy and work together, CIA Director George J. Tenet said Thursday.
Tenet acknowledged his view is not universally held. Some analysts believe Al Qaeda's fundamentalist bent is incompatible with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's drive for secular power.
Bush administration officials, seeking to vilify Iraq, have made a great deal about reported contacts between Al Qaeda operatives and Iraqi officials. One senior Al Qaeda operative, Abu Musab Zarqawi, sought medical th Iraq in the next 100 days and Saddam Hussein, according to our intelligence analysis, is probably -- 75 percent [chance] or more -- going to initiate terrorist attacks if he feels his regime is going to be toppled," Graham said. "I'm concerned we're not prepared for that."
Some U.S. officials acknowledge Al Qaeda contacts with Iraq are real. But they say the presence of bin Laden operatives in Iraq is minimal. Bush administration officials have also alleged that Al Qaeda operatives have sought assistance with chemical and biological weapons from Iraq.
Tenet suggested the possibility of greater contacts is there.
"I actually think these distinctions between Sunnis and Shias and secularists and fundamentalists in the current environment we find ourselves in are bad distinctions to make in terms of looking at behavior for the future," he said.
Al Qaeda is run by Islamic extremists who are Sunni Muslims. Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed terrorist organization, is Shia Muslim. Nevertheless, counterterrorism officials say there have been low-level contacts between the groups.
Meanwhile, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller told lawmakers that the FBI is directing its efforts at the possibility of domestic terrorism springing from an Iraq war.
The FBI is "looking at every lead, we are looking at every possibility that comes to our attention, [but] .... I have a hard time telling the country that you should be comfortable that we've covered all the bases in the wake of what we saw they were able to accomplish on Sept. 11," said Mueller.