Ray Robison, a former member of the CIA-directed Iraq Survey Group (ISG), examined efforts by Saddam Hussein to build and hide weapons of mass destruction, and supervised a group of linguists to analyze, archive and exploit documents and materials of Saddam's regime.
In this second of a three-part examination of a newly-released document captured in Iraq, Robison offers further evidence that in 1999 the Taliban welcomed "Islamic relations with Iraq" to mediate among the Taliban, the Northern Alliance and Russia, and that the Taliban reciprocated with an invitation to Iraqi officials to visit Afghanistan.
The document appears to be a notebook kept by an Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) agent, and apparently captured in 2003. The translation is provided by Robison's associate, known here as “Sammi.” The notebook deals extensively with the meetings between a prominent Taliban supporter and former Saddam regime officials.
It is highly probable that the man in this meeting is Fazlur Rahman, a Pakistani cleric described in an article from the BBC Profile: Maulana Fazlur Rahman as “A pro-Taliban cleric in Pakistan... one of the two main contenders for the post of the country's prime minister.” The BBC also said “Maulana Fazlur Rahman… is known for his close ties to Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime.”
Part One of the Saddam Dossier appeared to chronicle Rahman's meeting with Taha Yassin Ramadan, the then-vice president of Iraq and Saddam's chief enforcer. Part Two describes a meeting with an unidentified Iraqi official referred to as “M.O.M.,” who possibly is Tahir Jalil Habbush al Tikriti, the director of the IIS. This translation refers to the previous meeting of Maulana Fazlur Rahman and Ramadan. It also mentions a future meeting between the Maulana and Saddam Hussein. A second document captured in Afghanistan seems to confirm that a relationship existed between Saddam and the Maulana. The document is posted under the identifying Harmony number AFGP-2002-601693 at the West Point Terrorism Center.
Part One's translation from this notebook indicated that the Taliban under the leadership of Mullah Omar was seeking Iraq's support in mediating with Russia and the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. This translation reveals that the Saddam regime had expectations of assistance from the Taliban, and that the two agreed to a secret intelligence relationship. The Iraqi official tells the Maulana that they want the Taliban to support Iraq against U.S. actions. They also discuss their common enemy: the United States.
Also mentioned in the notebook is Fazlur Rahman Khalil, a Pakistani Taliban leader and Al Qaeda associate, who does not appear to be present at this meeting. The notebook mentions Rahman Khalil on page 72, at the bottom of a list of Islamic clerics coming to Iraq: “Very important: Fazlur Rahman Khalil: Leader of the Ansar Movement. Does not have a position inside Pakistan but inside Afghanistan and Kashmir.” Khalil was a co-signatory of the infamous Usama bin Laden 1998 fatwa against the U.S.
Sammi adds notes for clarity in parenthesis.
▪ Translator’s notes: The notebook is 76 pages. The notebook belongs to someone called Khaled Abd El Majid, and covers events taking place in 1999.
▪ The second meeting occurs on Nov. 28, 1999. This is the translation of the second meeting.
Meeting of Mr. M.O.M. with Sheikh Maulana Fazlur Rahman on Sunday, 11/28, 7:45 PM
Words of welcoming.
Probably M.O.M.: We are aiming to arrange a meeting between you and Mr. President Leader (translator’s note: this is how Iraqi officials refer to Saddam). But in the beginning we were instructed that Mr. Vice-President will meet you. I personally met Hekmatyar (translator’s note: an Afghani warlord fighting the Taliban) and he asked us to interfere for the possibility of closer relations with the Taliban. And he sent us emissaries concerning this issue.
Fazlur Rahman: I am the one who started with this issue, the relation between Taliban and Iraq, and it is our idea. The brothers in Afghanistan are facing the pressure of America, and are struggling against America and aim to have some connections between Afghanistan and Iraq, and it is a good start to establish the relations with Iraq and Libya and our association has taken this responsibility upon her. I already met with Mr. the Vice-President and the previous head of the directorate, may God rest his soul (translator’s note: apparently the head of the directorate passed away) and both proposed that Hekmatyar and the Taliban should get to an agreement. I spoke with the Taliban about this issue and they started meeting with delegations from the Islamic Party, and I met Mullah Omar and his reply was positive.
As a party, our stand is that there should be an agreement between the Taliban and the rest of the opposition, Shah Ahmad Massoud and Rabbani. And Mullah Omar said that we are looking towards this and that (not clear) and (not clear) and Ahmad Al Kilani and Jalal Al Din Hakkani do not oppose us. Therefore, Hekmatyar is on the positive way but we are in a war situation and that needs a lot of trust, and there are hurdles to this because he fought us and killed us and he has problems with the opposition in the North and with us. After repeated contacts we will reach an agreement, but in the form of steps. Concerning the relations with Iraq, he said that they are our brothers and Muslims and are facing pressures from America, like us and like Sudan and Libya. And he (Mullah Omar) desires to get closer relations with Iraq and that Iraq may help us in reducing our problems. Now we are facing America and Russia. He requested the possibility of Iraq intervening to build a friendship with Russia since Russia is no more the number one enemy. And we request Iraq’s help from a brotherly point of view. They are ready for this matter and they prefer that the relation between Iraq and Taliban be an independent relation from Hekmatyar’s relation with the Taliban. We want practical steps concerning this issue and especially the relationship with the Taliban and (not clear, but could be Iraq).
An Iraqi, most probably M.O.M.: I want to discuss three points.
The first is the relation with Taliban. It should be understood that this issue is completely independent from the mediation requested by Hekmatyar to get to an agreement with the Taliban. Developing the relation with Taliban is essential and this development requires meetings to create a common ground of understanding. We already believe that there are no points of disagreement between us and the Taliban because we are both in one trench facing the world’s oppression. But the details of the relation and its management are linked to the facts of the international situation. I find that by simply meeting with you (Fazlur Rahman) is a step forward in the relation with Taliban because we know well how much they trust you and what you represent for them. And when you relay our point of view for them they will understand it. For the future we think that we will arrange relations between us, as an intelligence service, and them in a secret way to establish the strong base of this relation. In the meeting (translator’s note: future meeting) and after reviewing the Taliban’s point of view, we would discuss the possibility of us making an effort to stabilize the situation between Taliban and Russia. We could discuss the subject through the intelligence channel. We look forward to security and stability in Afghanistan, the control of the Taliban and the construction of a political system according to the political and ideological choices of the Taliban. We look forward to assure the Russians that Afghanistan does not constitute a threat to Russia. Afghanistan is a country that wants to live in independence and by dialogue it is possible to reach common grounds to finally get to the result hoped for.
The second point is the subject of the agreement between Hekmatyar and the Taliban.
We proposed it for a single reason related to our psychological stand concerning Taliban. We hope that they will win and control. We felt that Hekmatyar hopes that Taliban will control the situation and his intentions are true. Because when he sees the different political and military parties in Afghanistan he knows that the best choice is Taliban.
(translator’s note: the Iraqi continues to expand his view on how all parties should come together through trust and negotiations.)
The third point which is important for us is outside Afghanistan. It is the spiritual relation which ties us with the Association of Islamic Scholars and we know your role in supporting the Iraqi cause and the effect you have on the Pakistani street. In the coming two weeks we are going to a confrontation with America because the U.S. has put all its weight in the Security Council to publish the Dutch-British resolution. We refuse this resolution and view it as a life-long embargo. We look to our Muslim brothers in particular to support us and especially our brothers in the Association of Islamic Scholars to organize protests in Pakistan against the resolution when it is made official. We ask our Muslim brothers in Pakistan to do this effort. We are trying and we have contacts with Muslims all over Asia and especially in Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh and India. We hope that during the two coming weeks you will ask our friends in those associations to demonstrate.
Fazlur Rahman: Concerning the relations between the Taliban and Iraq I was informed that they are going to start those relations in a secret manner and they are waiting for the answer and I will inform them that you will answer them through the embassy (translator’s note: could be through the Iraqi embassy of Kabul, if they had one, or Islamabad in Pakistan). Concerning the agreement with Hekmatyar, we are going to proceed with this issue. Concerning the third point, the Association of Islamic Scholars has a popular voice in Pakistan and we will always side with Iraq and we hope that the new government will have a positive stand with Iraq.
Last July we received information that America wants to attack Afghanistan because of Usama bin Laden so we did a (not clear) and agreed to contact the Taliban to be sure and they said it was true. We received information about CIA and U.S. commandos reaching the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and they started dropping bombs on Afghanistan and they used the Pakistani airfields to bomb important positions in Kandahar. We as a Muslim people do not accept the American presence on our soil. A representative from the U.S. embassy came and told me, “You said that America was your enemy, how can you say that we are your enemy and the enemy of Islam?” So I told them that you took Russia’s role in bombing Afghanistan and you are bombing Muslims. Then they said that they wanted Usama so I told them that Usama is in Sudan and that he was in Afghanistan during the rule of Rabbani and I added that they do not have a treaty to hand over criminals, as they pretend, with Afghanistan.
Note the Iraqi official says, “We hope that they will win and control,” referring to the Taliban. According to this notebook, Iraq has clearly thrown its support to the Taliban, the epicenter of Islamic Jihad. This is a clear indication that Saddam had no problem working with Jihadists outside of Iraq.
According to the notebook, the Iraqi official also tells the Maulana: “The third point which is important for us is outside Afghanistan. It is the spiritual relation which ties us with the Association of Islamic Scholars and we know your role in supporting the Iraqi cause and the effect you have on the Pakistani street.” This statement may indicate that a previous relationship was in place before this meeting between the Saddam Regime and the Maulana.
This excerpt from the notebook indicates that both the Taliban and Saddam Regime agreed to a secret relationship involving intelligence services. We do not know the scope or extent of that operational relationship, but this notebook and other documents give us further clues. It might well be noted that if Saddam Hussein was merely looking for an Islamic voice to take up his cause, there are plenty of Arab and Muslim organizations that do not depend on violence and terrorism directed at the United States. This point is illustrated in the BBC article Anger and Dismay in South Asia:
"Saddam Hussein is a hero of Muslims," a protester cried at a rally in the northwestern city of Peshawar, AFP reports."We want the government to give us permission to go to Iraq to fight against the U.S. forces," another protester told hundreds of supporters.Supporters of the Islamic Jamaat-i-Islami party assembled in the eastern city of Lahore, chanting "Bush is a dog," and "Save Iraqi children," AFP reports."America has signed its own death warrant," Islamist leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman said.
Since the Iraqi official in this meeting is not named, we can not be certain with whom the Maulana is meeting. But there are clues. First, it is clear Rahman has high level access and would most likely be meeting with a senior member of the government, a department head. This official talks about an intelligence based relationship indicating this might be the chief of the IIS, the former Iraq Intelligence Service. The Maulana says, “I already met with Mr. the Vice President and the previous head of the directorate, may God rest his soul”. This may indicate he is speaking to the current head of the directorate. An excerpt from the website Global Security provides insight:
One killing believed to be politically motivated included that of Intelligence Chief Rafa Daham Mujawwal Al-Tikriti, Saddam Hussein's second cousin and the former Iraqi ambassador to Turkey. Rafa died Oct. 11, 1999, three days after he was removed from his post. Government explanations for his death included both that he had died in a car crash and that he had suffered a heart attack
So it seems possible the IIS Chief died just prior to this meeting and the Maulana is meeting with the new IIS chief. The new IIS chief would have been Tahir Jalil Habbush al Tikriti, who according to the Multi-National Forces' Iraq Web site as of January, 2006 is still listed as “at large.” Of course, if he has not been captured, it is reasonable to assume he has not been interrogated.
Tahir Jalil Habbush al Tikriti came to public attention in December, 2003 when the Telegraph UK reported Terrorist Behind September 11th Strike was Trained by Saddam.
Details of Atta's visit to the Iraqi capital in the summer of 2001, just weeks before he launched the most devastating terrorist attack in U.S. history, are contained in a top secret memo written to Saddam Hussein, the then Iraqi president, by Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, the former head of the Iraqi Intelligence Service.
The handwritten memo, a copy of which has been obtained exclusively by the Telegraph, is dated July 1, 2001 and provides a short resume of a three-day "work programme" Atta had undertaken at Abu Nidal's base in Baghdad.
In the memo, Habbush reports that Atta "displayed extraordinary effort" and demonstrated his ability to lead the team that would be "responsible for attacking the targets that we have agreed to destroy".
Atta, of course, led the 9/11 attacks. It is interesting to note in this new context of an intelligence based relationship between the Taliban and Saddam regime, orchestrated by Pakistani contacts, specifically Maulana Rahman, that the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks was Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a Pakistani passport holder arrested in Pakistan in 2003. It also is worth noting that Mustapha Ahmed al-Hawsawi, who officials say sent cash to lead 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta, also was arrested in Pakistan with Khalid. Both of these men were arrested in the home of a member of Pakistan's largest religious political party, Jamaat Islami, of which Maulana Fazlur Rahman is a leader. A further translation from this notebook indicates that in another meeting, again believed to be with the Maulana, joint military training between the Taliban and the Iraqi military is proposed.
Due to the information provided in this notebook, we see a possible secret, intelligence based, operational relationship between the Taliban and the Saddam regime via Maulana Fazlur Rahman. We can discern that the Maulana most likely is meeting with Habbush al Tikriti, implicated in documents published by the Telegraph newspaper in reference to the training of Atta in Iraq. We also have an annotation that indicates Pakistani Fazlur Rahman Khalil, a known bin Laden associate, Al Qaeda terrorist and a 1998 fatwa co-signatory, also was traveling to Iraq in 1999. A further translation from this notebook indicates that in another meeting, again with the Maulana, the Taliban proposes joint military training with the Iraqi military.
The author welcomes your comment on the translation and analysis of this document. You can contact Ray Robison by emailing him at: email@example.com.