WASHINGTON – Among the documents found with Saddam Hussein when he was captured last month was a directive written to his followers telling them not to join forces with foreign Arab fighters that may be streaming in to Iraqi to fight Americans, Fox News has confirmed.
Officials said the directive — first reported in The New York Times Wednesday — appears to be authentic and was a strict warning from the deposed president to those loyal to him for them not to get too close to Islamic jihadists (search) crossing the border to join the insurgency.
U.S. officials have said that a briefcase of papers was found with Saddam when he was pulled out of a spider hole by U.S. soldiers near his hometown of Tikrit (search). They have said information obtained from these documents and/or Saddam himself has led to various raids and arrests.
With this document and other evidence, officials have determined that Saddam believed that foreign Arab fighters were eager for a holy war against the West, while his former ruling Baath Party was anxious for its own return to power.
Pentagon officials maintain that Saddam was trying to maintain some sort of command and control over his followers but they're not sure how far the document was circulated.
But critics say the document shows just how thin the relationship between the former regime and Al Qaeda (search) really was. U.S. officials, however, said they stick by previous characterizations of the relationship and meetings between the two groups but concede the document shows Al Qaeda fighters were not the means by which Saddam wanted to fight the U.S.-led coalition.
U.S. commanders have been telling Fox News in recent weeks that very few foreign fighters are believed to be behind recent attacks on U.S. and other coalition soldiers in Iraq. The document in question supports that conclusion.
While the numbers vary, U.S. officials suspect only a few hundred foreigners are in the country fighting the coalition.
U.S. military commanders suspect that suicide and homicide bombers may be foreigners recruited by former regime members, but the tie between the two groups is said not to be significant.
While U.S. officials have seen some cooperation on individual attacks, no one believes there is joint planning on overall operations.
And with the newest information, it's clear that Saddam did not want foreign radical Islamic fighters running the show.
The Times reported that CIA interrogators have already elicited from the top Al Qaeda officials in custody that, before the American-led invasion, Usama bin Laden (search) had rejected entreaties from some of his lieutenants to work jointly with Saddam.