Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80-83)|
THURSDAY 24 OCTOBER 2002
Mr David Chidgey
80. Mr Simon, I have read your article that
was produced in spring 2000. I note the chilling accuracy of your
comments then, some time before the events of September 11, and
it is on this issue that you have been debating here now. You
mentioned in your paper the added complication of a bulge in population
of Arab youth, and in a general sense Muslim youth, which adds
to the problems we might face in terms of potential recruits to
the terrorist cause. That brings me to the heart of the question.
How much do you believe the economic and social conditions in
Muslim and Arab countries has an impact in terms of poverty on
the creating of frustration amongst those peoples with their forms
of government and that being directed against the West; or is
it totally motivated by a particular form of religious fanaticism?
(Mr Simon) Let me weasel out of this one, if I may,
by saying that the underlying concerns are indeed socio-economic
in nature. They are also political, in the sense that the socio-economic
complaints are aggravated by what we might call a very low grade
of popular political participation in the systems that might be
in a position to do something about these socio-economic conditions.
The problem is that these concerns, for reasons having to do with
the political systems in these countries, find expression in religious
terms. Once that happens, the issues become transformed into religious
issues and are therefore not subject to negotiation or bargaining.
Once this process takes place, the result biases outcomes in the
direction of violence.
81. It is a pretty grim prospect, then.
(Mr Simon) It is a very bleak prospect actually.
Sir John Stanley
82. Can I turn to the issue of the linkage or
not between al-Qaeda and the Saddam Hussein regime. As you are
aware, British ministers, including the Foreign Secretary, in
front of this Committee have so far been very cautious about indicating
any firm evidence of linkage between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.
However, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, George
Tenet, in his open public letter of 7 October to Senator Bob Graham,
Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, went far further
than British ministers have been willing to do so far in public.
I will give you four key bullet points from Mr Tenet's letter
to Senator Graham: "We have solid reporting of senior level
contacts between Iraq and al-Qaeda going back a decade; credible
information indicates that Iraq and al-Qaeda have discussed safe
haven and reciprocal non-aggression; since operation Enduring
Freedom we have solid evidence of the presence of Iraq of
al-Qaeda members, including some that have been in Baghdad; we
have credible reporting that al-Qaeda leaders sought contacts
in Iraq who could help them acquire WMD capabilities; and the
reporting also stated that Iraq has provided training to al-Qaeda
members in the areas of poisons and gases and making conventional
bombs." From your position, would you endorse the comments
made by George Tenet, or would you take the much more cautious
position so far adopted by the British Government?
(Mr Simon) There is no question that there are many
al-Qaeda personnel in Iraq. Many Iraqis went to Afghanistan and
many Iraqis returned. These have mostly settled in the north,
in the areas under Kurdish control. They have established or strengthened
links with the regime in Baghdad that seeks to use them to destabilise
anti-regime Kurdish parties in Kurdistan; so there is a bit of
a marriage of convenience. I have no doubt that al-Qaeda representatives
have tried to get chemical and biological weapons out of the Iraqis.
This group, al-Qaeda, has been all over the world trying to find
material like this. They have not been very successful over the
past decade, but they have been very assiduous in their efforts.
I also do not have a hard time believing that there have been
variousas the DCI was sayingsenior al-Qaeda people
circulating through Baghdad over the years. Baghdad is an entrepot
of many nasty characters of many different stripes. I will
(Dr Chipman) Certainly, IISS publications have analysed
the presence of people with known connections to al-Qaeda in northern
Iraq in the Kurdish areas,to which Steve Simon referred. This
is pure speculation, but I expect the reticence of the British
Government on this point derives from questions they have about
the degree of collaboration that might sometimes be asserted between
al-Qaeda and Iraq, as opposed to the intensity or otherwise of
occasional contact between al-Qaeda individuals and the government
83. In short, you therefore incline to the more
(Dr Samore) I agree with my colleagues; the more conservative
view makes sense to me. I would also add that it seems to me that
if Saddam wanted to deliver chemical or biological weapons through
unconventional means, he might very well choose his own intelligence
apparatus, rather than run the risk of giving it to some group
that he does not have complete control over.
Chairman: Time is up, alas, but if there are
matters that you would like to comment on further, it would be
of great assistance to the Committee if you were to write. Thank
you very much indeed.