Saddam and Terrorism:

Emerging Insights from Captured Iraqi Documents (Redacted)

(November 2007)


In September 2003 the Commander, United States Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM), asked the Joint Advanced Warfighting Program (JAWP) at the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) to help develop the operational and strategic lessons from OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF) from the perspectives of former senior Iraqi decision-makers. By creating a historical narrative of the events surrounding OIF, interviewing captured prisoners, and reviewing translations of enemy documents and media archives, IDA researchers were able to report on the inner workings-and sometimes delusional behavior en masse-of the Saddam Hussein regime. For this paper, the JAWP Iraqi Perspectives Project (IPP) research team screened more than 600,000 original captured documents and several thousand hours of audio and video footage archived in a US Department of Defense (DOD) database called Harmony. As of August 2006, only 15 percent of the captured documents have English translations.

Executive Summary

The Iraqi Perspectives Project (IPP) review of captured Iraqi documents uncovered strong evidence that links the regime of Saddam Hussein to regional and global terrorism. Despite their incompatible long-term goals, many terrorist movements and Saddam found a common enemy in the United States. At times these organizations worked together, trading access for capability. In the period after the 1991 Gulf War, the regime of Saddam Hussein supported a complex and increasingly disparate mix of pan-Arab revolutionary causes and emerging pan-Islamic radical movements. The relationship between Iraq and forces of pan-Arab socialism was well known and was in fact one of the defining qualities of the Ba'ath movement.

But the relationships between Iraq and the groups advocating radical pan-Islamic doctrines are much more complex. This study found no "smoking gun" (i.e., direct connection) between Saddam's Iraq and al Qaeda. Saddam's interest in, and support for, non-state actors was spread across a variety of revolutionary, liberation, nationalist, and Islamic terrorist organizations. Some in the regime recognized the potential high internal and external costs of maintaining relationships with radical Islamic groups, yet they concluded that in some cases, the benefits of association outweighed the risks. A review of available Iraqi documents indicated the following:

• The Iraqi regime was involved in regional and international terrorist operations prior to OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM. The predominant targets of Iraqi state terror operations were Iraqi citizens, both inside and outside of Iraq.

• On occasion, the Iraqi intelligence servIces directly targeted the regime's perceived enemies, including non-Iraqis. Non-Iraqi casualties often resulted from Iraqi sponsorship of non-governmental terrorist groups.

• Saddam's regime often cooperated directly, albeit cautiously, with terrorist groups when they believed such groups could help advance Iraq's long-term goals. The regime carefully recorded its connections to Palestinian terror organizations in numerous government memos. One such example documents Iraqi financial support to families of suicide bombers in Gaza and the West Bank.

• State sponsorship of terrorism became such a routine tool of state power that Iraq developed elaborate bureaucratic processes to monitor progress and accountability in the recruiting, training, and resourcing of terrorists. Examples include the regime's development, construction, certification, and training for car bombs and suicide vests in 1999 and 2000.

From the beginning of his rise to power, one of Saddam's major objectives was to shift the regional balance of power favorably towards Iraq. After the 1991 Gulf War, pursuing this objective motivated Saddam and his regime to increase their cooperation with-and attempts to manipulate-Islamic fundamentalists and related terrorist organizations. Documents indicate that the regime's use of terrorism was standard practice, although not always successful. From 1991 through 2003, the Saddam regime regarded inspiring, sponsoring, directing, and executing acts of terrorism as an element of state power.

Volume 1 (PDF)
Volume 2 (PDF)
Volume 3 (PDF)
Volume 4 (PDF)
Volume 5 (PDF)

Volume 1 details Hussein’s relationship with terrorism. Volumes 2-4 contain translations and summaries of Iraqi documents. Volume 5 contains additional background and supporting documents.


Source: U.S. Department of Defense