*The head of French intelligence insists that there is no proven link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. Pierre Bousquet de Florian told Television Channel 2,”One thing is certain. There is no physical link between the regime of Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda.” He admitted that even though Saddam and Osama despise one another, “sometimes they have interests in common.” He also worried that a second Gulf War would fuel more terrorism, saying tht even if “the prospect of a (military) intervention in Iraq does not change the nature of the threat, or heighten it, it helps to maintain it.” That, folks, is what intelligence assessment looks like when it isn’t under pressure from lobbying by the DoD.
* Saddam’s government continues to force Kurdish families out of the oil city of Kirkuk, resettling them in large Arabic-speaking areas in order to Arabize them. If a war breaks out, the Kurds are going to try to take Kirkuk, in all likelihood, and Saddam does not want them to have a local fifth column.
* Iraq has closed its borders to Iranian pilgrims seeking to go to the shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala, citing the threat of war. Presumably this is a way of denying funds to the Iraqi Shiites and weakening their ability to rise up in case of an American invasion. It also sends the signal that what the Americans are doing will disrupt their economy and hurt their pocket books. Likewise, it cuts down on the chance of pro-American Shiite SCIRI agents infiltrating Iraq from Iran.