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Study Discounts Hussein, Al-Qaeda Link

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

rch An examination of more than 600,000 Iraqi documents, audio and video records collected by U.S. forces since the March 2003 invasion has concluded that there is "no smoking gun" supporting the Bush administration's prewar assertion of an "operational relationship" between Saddam Hussein and the al-Qaeda terrorist network, sources familiar with the study said.

The review, conducted for the military's Joint Forces Command by the Alexandria-based Institute for Defense Analyses, is the first to examine Hussein's ties to terrorist groups based only on Iraqi sources.

Titled "Saddam and Terrorism: Emerging Insights From Captured Iraqi Documents," it cites evidence that while Hussein had no direct connection to al-Qaeda, he had ties to other regional and global terrorist organizations, including Palestinian groups. But it concludes that these links were largely nonoperational and were aimed to bolster his credentials as an Arab leader.

An alleged al-Qaeda-Hussein link was key to the Bush administration's case for invading Iraq. President Bush, Vice President Cheney and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld all referred to evidence of ties to the terrorists responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

In his speech to the United Nations in February 2003, then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell outlined a "sinister nexus" between Iraq and al-Qaeda. Much of the U.S. intelligence behind those conclusions has been retracted.

A declassified version of the study, first reported yesterday by McClatchy Newspapers, is due to be released this week.

-- Karen DeYoung

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