August 6, 2002

MEMORANDUM TO: OPINION LEADERS

FROM: GARY SCHMITT

SUBJECT: Iraq - al Qaeda Connection

In making the case for removing Saddam Hussein from power, the Bush Administration has rested its case principally on the nexus between Saddam, his development of weapons of mass destruction and his ties to international terrorism. However, there are indications that the administration is close to concluding that the specific ties between Iraq and al Qaeda are sufficient to justify the use of force, as well.

In a news briefing last Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stated simply that Iraq had "a relationship" with al Qaeda and that elements of al Qaeda were now in Iraq. Then, last Friday, the Los Angeles Times ran a front page story ("U.S. Returns to Theory on Iraq-Sept.11 Link" by Bob Drogin, Paul Richter and Doyle McManus) that quoted a senior Bush Administration official as saying that "there is growing evidence" of ties between the two.

Of particular interest in this context, of course, is whether Mohammed Atta, the leader of the September 11 hijackers, met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague prior to the attack. According to the above report in the Times, "the White House is now backing claims" that the meeting in fact took place. Further in, the article states: "However, no tapes or photos of the visit have surfaced." But, in the current Weekly Standard, Executive Editor Fred Barnes reports from Prague ("Mohamed Atta Was Here…and met with Saddam Hussein's man in Prague" August 12) that "Czech officials say they have a photograph of the meeting."