In fact, he claimed, he felt so vulnerable to the threat from "fanatic" leaders in Tehran that he would have been prepared to seek a "security agreement with the United States to protect [Iraq] from threats in the region," according to declassified accounts of the interviews released on Wednesday and published in the Washington Post
George W. Bush, supported by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, ordered the invasion of Iraq six years ago on the grounds that Hussein's regime possessed weapons of mass destruction, despite the failure of U.N. weapons inspectors to uncover any such weapons.
During his interviews — 20 formal interrogations and five "casual conversations" which were carried out in 2004, Hussein admitted that he should have allowed the United Nations to witness the destruction of his country's weapons stockpile after the 1991 Gulf War.
The FBI summaries of the interviews were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the National Security Archive, an independent non-governmental research institute, and posted on its Web site on Wednesday. The last formal interview, held on May 1 was completely redacted but the others had few deletions, the Washington Post reports.
The formal interviews, held from Feb. 7 to May 1, covered Hussein's rise to power, the Kuwait invasion, and the crackdown on the Shiite uprising in extensive detail, while the subject of the weapons of mass destruction and Al Qaeda were raised in the casual conversations, held after the formal interviews from May 10 to June 28.
George Piro, the agent who conducted the interviews, raised Iraq's alleged links with Al Qaeda in his last conversation with Hussein but Hussein's replies negated the Bush administration's efforts to link him with Usama bin Laden.
Hussein told Piro that he had never met bin Laden and that the two men did not share "the same belief or vision."
He said that "he was a believer in God but was not a zealot . . . that religion and government should not mix."
When the FBI agent said there were reasons why Hussein and Al Qaeda should have cooperated, as they had the same enemies in the United States and Saudi Arabia, Hussein replied that the United States was not Iraq's enemy, and that he simply opposed its policies.
He also made it clear that he considered Iran a greater threat than the United States, saying that he was convinced Iran was trying to annex the largely Shiite southern Iraq.
"The threat from Iran was the major factor as to why he did not allow the return of U.N. inspectors," Piro wrote. "Hussein stated he was more concerned about Iran discovering Iraq's weaknesses and vulnerabilities than the repercussions of the United States for his refusal to allow U.N. inspectors back into Iraq."
Hussein was later transferred to Iraqi custody, and he was hanged in December 2006.