In 2004, even after being captured by U.S. forces, Saddam Hussein told an FBI interrogator he believed Iran was a greater threat to Iraq than the United States, according to newly released FBI documents.
The FBI interviews took place while Hussein, then identified by the FBI as "High Value Detainee 1" was held captive by U.S. military forces at Baghdad International Airport between February and June of 2004.
Hussein regarded the Iranian threat as so serious that it was the major factor in his decision not to allow United Nations weapons inspectors to return, he said. Citing their shared border and his belief Iran would intend to annex southern Iraq, Hussein said he was more concerned about Iran discovering Iraq's weaknesses than repercussions from the United States and the international community. He believed that the inspectors would have directly identified to the Iranians where to inflict maximum damage to Iraq.
Approximately 100 pages of declassified interview summaries, previously classified as secret, were obtained by the National Security Archive at the George Washington University through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The FBI declined CNN's request to interview special agent George L. Piro, the agent who interviewed Hussein. FBI spokesman Paul Bresson declined to comment on the declassified documents. "As a general rule, the FBI does not discuss FOIA'd documents. We let the information stand on its own," Bresson told CNN.
Piro, an FBI agent fluent in Arabic, conducted the interviews along with another agent whose name has been redacted from the documents. Although Hussein had been a prisoner for months, at one point during an interview he said, "I am not the ex-president of Iraq. I am still the president of Iraq."
Hussein also described al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden as a "zealot" and said he had never met or seen him. He also said the United States used the September 11 attacks as justification to attack Iraq, and that the United States had "lost sight of the cause." Despite Piro citing evidence of Iraq's contacts with al Qaeda, Hussein said, "The Iraqi government did not cooperate with bin Laden" and that the two "did not have the same belief or vision."
The former regime's alleged weapons of mass destruction and alleged ties to al Qaeda were the Bush administration's primary justifications for invading Iraq in March of 2003.