Secret History of the Iraq War by Yossef Bodansky
1: Early Steps / Loss of Deterrence
There is a unique, and exceptionally well-defended upper-class compound
in the al-Jazair neighborhood of Baghdad. It is a retirement community,
but its residents are no ordinary senior citizens. They include reirees
from Iraqi intelligence, former senior security officials, and a host of
terrorists, most of them Arabs, who have cooperated with Baghdad over the
Since 2000, Sabri al-Banna -- better known as Abu Nidal -- had been one
of the preeminent members of this community. Then, on the night of
August 16, 2002, a few gunmen made their way through the well-protected
gates and into a three-story house where they swiftly killed Abu Nidal
and four of his aides. They then walked out without uttering a word.
None of the guards or security personnel attempted to interfere with the
assassination, because the assassins, like the guards themselves, worked
for the Mukhabarat -- Iraq's internal security and intelligence service.
Abu Nidal had been one of the world's most brutal terrorist leaders since
rising to prominence in the 1960s. His people were involved not only
in countless assassinations and bombings, but also in comprehensive support
operations for diverse terrorist groups all over the world -- from Latin
America to Northern Ireland to Japan. He was the mastermind of some
of the most lethal terrorist strikes in history, and his organization was
responsible for the deaths of hundreds of civilians around the world.
Over the years, Abu Nidal closely cooperated with any number of intelligence
services, including those of the Soviet Union, Romania, North Korea, Pakistan,
Libya, Egypt, and Iraq. But in August 2002 the sixty-five-year-old
murderer was old and infirm, bound to a wheelchair by heart disease and
cancer. There seemed to be no logic to Baghdad's decision to assassinate
Abu Nidal at the height of its crisis with America; at the very least,
the assassination reminded friends and foes alike of the shelter and sponsorship
the Iraqi government provided to the world's terrorist elite.
Like all aspects of the war in Iraq, the undercurrents surrounding the
assassination are far more important than the action itself. And
like many other facets of this crisis, they still leave more questions
than answers. Quite simply, Saddam Hussein, who personally authorized
the assassination of his longtime personal friend, had little reason for
doing so. The act was merely an attempt to please two close allies,
Hosni Mubarak and Yasser Arafat, who were desperate to ensure that American
forces entering Baghdad would not be able to interrogate Abu Nidal.
Mubarak was anxious to conceal the fact that during the late 1990s Egyptian
intelligence used Abu Nidal's name to run a series of covert assassinations
and "black operations" against Egyptian al-Qaeda elements. Posing
as Abu Nidal's terrorists, Egyptian intelligence operatives ruthlessly
destroyed British and other intelligence networks standing in their way.
They killed Egyptian Islamists Cairo knew to be spying for some of Egypt's
closest allies and benefactors. At the same time, Egyptian intelligence
was receiving comprehensive assistance from the CIA. Egypt had sworn
that it was not involved in these black operations, since the United States
considered them illegal and the CIA is not permitted to cooperate with
any country performing them, even indirectly. Egypt also adamantly
denied that Abu Nidal was being sheltered in Cairo at the time, although
he was receiving medical care in return for his cooperation with Egyptian
Arafat was desperate to conceal the long-term cooperation between his Fatah
movement and Abu Nidal's Black June organization. Ion Pacepa, the
former chief of Romanian intelligence, disclosed that in the late 1970s
Hanni al-Hassan, one of Arafat's closest confidants, took over Abu Nidal's
Black June organization on Arafat's behalf so that Arafat could "have the
last word in setting terrorist priorities" while enhancing his own image
as a moderate. Arafat was anxious to hide his terrorist connections
and maintain the charade that he was a peacemaker. Desperate to distance
himself and the Palestinian Authority from the specter of terrorism (and
thus exempt himself from the American war on terror), Arafat could not
afford to allow Abu Nidal to reveal their quarter-century of close cooperation,
during which Arafat was actually the dominant partner.
But there was a darker facet to the Abu Nidal story. In the weeks
prior to the assassination, Iraqi intelligence received warnings from the
intelligence services of several Gulf States that Abu Nidal was trying
to reach an agreement with Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (SIS),
which the Arab world respects and dreads far more than the CIA. Unhappy
with the medical treatment he was getting in Baghdad, Abu Nidal had offered
to divulge secrets in exchange for superior medical treatment in England.
When London was cool to the original offer, Abu Nidal professed that he
could produce the latest information about Iraqi cooperation with international
terrorism generally, and al-Qaeda in particular.
Iraqi intelligence was reluctant to accept these reports because it knew
the ailing Abu Nidal had few aides left, and most of these were actually
working for Iraqi intelligence. After extended consideration, Saddam
and the Mukhabarat high command concluded that the warnings had actually
been a crude disinformation effort by the CIA or the SIS -- sting aimed
to manipulate Baghdad into exposing its growing cooperation with bin Laden,
giving the administration an excuse to strike. The Iraqis, it turns
out, were correct: the SIS was indeed trying to provoke the Iraqis into
reckless actions, using its allies in the Gulf States as conduits for the
flow of "chicken feed" to Baghdad.
The assassination destroyed all remaining hopes in Washington and London
for extracting information from Abu Nidal. Baghdad further capitalized
on the event by delivering a message to the Western intelligence services.
On August 21, Mukhabarat chief Taher Habush appeared in a rare press conference,
showing grainy pictures of a blasted and thoroughly bandaged body he claimed
was Abu Nidal's. Habush admitted that the longtime terrorist had
been hiding in Baghdad, but alarmed at his recent discovery by police,
he had committed suicide rather than face Iraqi authorities.
On its own, the Abu Nidal assassination would have been a negligible episode,
lost in the flurry of activity as the American invasion neared. After
the fall of Baghdad, though, British intelligence investigators searching
through the devastated Mukhabarat building stumbled on parts of a file
pertaining to Abu Nidal. The key document in the file was an Iraqi
analysis of a Russian document delivered to Saddam Hussein on behalf of
Vladimir Putin in the summer of 2002. According to the Iraqi documents,
the Russians warned Hussein that Abu Nidal had sent emissaries to the Gulf
States to negotiate a deal with the CIA, planning to betray Saddam's secrets
in return for American shelter and medical care.
It may have appeared that Russian intelligence had fallen victim to the
British sting and decided to gain favor with Saddam by recycling the information
the Gulf States were already feeding Baghdad, but that is not the case.
In March 2003 the Mukhabarat conducted, with the help of Russian experts,
a thorough cleanup and evacuation of its Baghdad headquarters, and in April,
key archives were evacuated to Moscow via Damascus by Russian diplomats.
Needless to say, special attention was paid to documents pertaining to
Soviet and Russian cooperation with Iraq. The Russians handle these
matters efficiently, and the likelihood of so sensitive a file being lost
in the chaos is very slim. This leads to the lingering question:
Is the Iraqi document genuine -- that is, did the Russians deliver such
a warning? Or was the document manufactured to confuse? And
in any case, why was it left behind to be found by a coalition intelligence
service? What message were the Russians trying to tacitly deliver:
A simple reminder to the West that Moscow was aware of the intricacies
of Western intelligence activities in the region? A more subtle message
that Russia's presence and interests in Iraq were not to be ignored?
Or as British intelligence officials suggest, a reminder that ultimately,
Russia and the leading Western powers have common interests and goals in
this turbulent, vital region of the world?
Just such complex intelligence matters are at the core of the seemingly
straightforward confrontation between the United States and Iraq.
Washington regarded the confrontation with Iraq as an integral part of
the war on terrorism declared after September 11, in the region the imminent
American attack exacerbated troubling regional dynamics driven by the ascent
of militant Islam. ... The White House had by then concluded
that it could not expect Arab support for the broader war on terrorism
or the effort to destroy Saddam's regime. ...
Secret History of the Iraq War
From the Introduction
and elsewhere in the book:
In the fall of 2002 Iraq crossed an unacceptable threshold, supplying operational
weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to bin Laden's terrorists. These
developments were confirmed to the Western intelligence services after
several terrorists -- graduates of WMD training programs -- were captured
in Israel, Chechnya, Turkey, and France, along with documents related to
their activities. On the basis of pure threat analysis, the United
States should have gone to war against Iraq, as well as its partners Syria
and Iran, in fall 2002. By then there was already unambiguous evidence
indicating the urgency of defusing the imminent danger posed by Iraq and
its primary allies in the growing terrorist conspiracy.
The preparations for and conduct of the war were marred by endemic and
profound intelligence failures and unprecedented politicization of the
military planning and actual fighting. ... The errors that have plagued
the U.S. war in Iraq can be traced directly to long-term institutional
problems within the intelligence community and defense establishment.
These problems are the aggregate outcome of forty-five years of warranted
fixation with the Soviet Union, followed by eight years of systemic emaciation
and abuse of the intelligence agencies by the Clinton administration.
The gravity of these endemic problems was made clear on September 11, 2001.
Although the new administration immediately committed to an uncompromising
war against international terrorism and its sponsoring states, no administration
has the ability to instantaneously reverse decades-old institutional shortcomings
in intelligence collection and analysis.
Leading into the war, the CIA and other agencies provided the Bush administration
with profoundly wrong intelligence that, in turn, compelled the White House
to create false expectations where there should not have been any.
That the various search teams did not turn up any evidence of major WMD
production facilities is not surprising because the United States had long
known that Saddam moved virtually all production capabilities to Libya
and Sudan somewhere between 1996 and 1998. Subsequently, in the summer
of 2002, with Tehran's consent, the residual chemical weapons production
capabilities were shipped to Iran, where they were first stored in two
clusters of tunnels under the Zagros Mountains near Kermanshah, some 15
to 20 miles from the Iraqi border (near Baba-Abbas and Khorram-Abbad, and
near Harour), and , on the eve of the war, transferred to Lavizan, near
The evidence on all these transfers was overwhelming and timely.
For example, on February 10, 1998, the Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional
Warfare of the U.S. House of Representatives issued a report titled "The
Iraqi WMD Challenge -- Myths and Reality." The report stressed the
difference between Iraq's operational arsenal and production capacity,
Despite Baghdad's protestations, Iraq does have a small but very lethal
operational arsenal of WMD and platforms capable of delivering them throughout
the Middle East and even beyond. ... Significantly, however, even if the
U.S. and its allies will have managed to destroy the bulk of Saddam's WMD
operational arsenal, this will provide only a short-term solution.
No bombing campaign against Iraq, and even an occupation of that country
for that matter, is capable of destroying the hard core of Saddam Hussein's
primary WMD development and production programs. The reason is that
under current conditions these programs are run outside of Iraq -- mainly
in Sudan and Libya, as well as Algeria (storage of some hot nuclear stuff).
Thus the mere fact that a highly publicized search for major WMD production
units was attempted after the war is indicative of the absence of corporate
memory in the U.S. intelligence community. This is a colossal failure
of intelligence that subjected the Bush administration to an unnecessary
political embarrassment and humiliation. ... The main reason for this debacle
is that the American intelligence community refused to take into consideration
other people's opinions and analysis, whether they be individual experts
or foreign intelligence services.
And now, fear of another intelligence fiasco prevents Washington and London
from addressing reports about Iraqi WMD stockpiles moved to other countries.
There is ample evidence about the concealment of Iraqi WMD, particularly
in Syria, and material recently provided by Muammar Qadhafi has confirmed
data indicating the transfer of some of Iraq's development and production
capabilities to Libya in the 1990s and also demonstrated the reliability
of some of the key sources now pointing to Syria's possession of Iraq's
-- from The
Secret History of the Iraq War by Yossef Bodansky, Director of Research
of the International Strategic Studies Association, Director of the Task
Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare of the U. S. Congress, as
well as the World Terrorism Analyst with the Freeman Center for Strategic
Studies, and Senior Editor for the Defense and Foreign Affairs group of
Secret History of the Iraq War
excerpts here: http://snipurl.com/anj8
And "MYTHS AND
FACTS ABOUT IRAQ" here: http://www.thetruthaboutiraq.org/myths.htm
of the Iraq Survey Group says "A lot of material left Iraq and went
to Syria" here: http://snipurl.com/iw0b
" 'Saddam was
personally overseeing the details' of training terrorists and assigning
their missions, Mr. Phares said. 'From 1993 on, Saddam Hussein connected
with Sunni fundamentalists in the Arab world. He was in touch with the
founding members of al-Qaeda.' " -- from Unmasked Men by Wendy
Belz here: http://www.worldmag.com/displayarticle.cfm?id=9762
I went to interview Abu Nidal, then the most wanted terrorist in the world,
in Baghdad, he was operating out of an Iraqi government office. He was
an arm of the Iraqi State while being the most wanted man in the world.
The same is true of the shelter and safe house offered by the Iraqi government
to the murderers of Leon Klinghoffer and to Mr. Yassin, who mixed the chemicals
for the World Trade Center bombing in 1993." -- Christopher Hitchens
on MSNBC's Connected: Coast to Coast quoted here: http://www.radioblogger.com/archives/july.html#070805
a video clip of it here: http://thepoliticalteen.net/2005/07/09/1910/
For background information
on Iraq's involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, see http://www.papillonsartpalace.com/mylroie.htm
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