Bin Ladin and Iraq

Iraq News, WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 27, 1999

By Laurie Mylroie

The central focus of Iraq News is the tension between the considerable, proscribed WMD capabilities that Iraq is holding on to and its increasing stridency that it has complied with UNSCR 687 and it is time to lift sanctions. If you wish to receive Iraq News by email, a service which includes full-text of news reports not archived here, send your request to Laurie Mylroie .


   At 9 PM EST tonight CBS' new program "60 Minutes II" will feature a 
report on Iraq's continuing nuclear threat and on inspections by the 
International Atomic Energy Agency in Iraq.  The Nuclear Control 
Institute participated in the preparation of the report and urges all to 
tune in.

   The Iraqi Nat'l Assembly will conclude its two-day extraordinary 
session tomorrow.  The next "Iraq News" will provide an update on the 
ongoing, vituperative exchanges between Iraq and other Arabs.  

   Meanwhile, it seemed useful to review an issue that arose following 
last month's US/UK air strikes-Iraq, Osama bin Ladin, and Muslim 
Fundamentalists.  That question received far more attention in the 
Arabic press, than it did in the US press, where Newsweek, Jan 11 [see 
"Iraq News," Jan 6] seemed alone in addressing the issue.

  On Dec 26, as AP reported, Al Sharq Al Awsat published an interview 
with bin Ladin in which he said, "'The British and the American people 
loudly declared their support for their leaders' decision to attack 
Iraq. ' . . . This made it 'the duty of Muslims to confront, fight and 
kill' Britons and Americans."

  A series of articles followed in the international, particularly 
Arabic, press about links between Iraq and bin Ladin.  Some party/ies 
wanted to put the story out, it seems.  Some information in the articles 
is known and reliable, like the role of Hassan Turabi, head of Sudan's 
Islamic movement, in putting Osama bin Ladin in contact with Iraqi 
intelligence, during bin Ladin's residence in Khartoum.  But other 
information would not likely be known to outsiders and seems invented.

  That said, on Dec 28, the Italian paper, Corriere della Sera, reported 
"Saddam Husayn and Osama Bin Ladin have sealed a pact.  Faruq Hijazi, 
the former director of the Iraqi secret services and now the country's 
ambassador to Turkey, held a secret meeting with the extremist leader on 
21 December. . . . Hijazi reiterated Iraq's amenability to offering 
shelter to Osama and to his mujahedin, 'You will always be a welcome 
guest. . . We cannot forget our debt of gratitude.  This was a reference 
to the establishment last February of the 'International Islamic Front 
against the Crusaders and the Jews,' announced by Osama in the midst of 
one of the periodic crises between Iraq and the United Nations. . . The 
same ritual was reenacted during the most recent crisis.  The day after 
the air strikes, Osama called an international news conference and 
issued a new statement, including threats that neither Washington nor 
London are taking lightly. . . . "

  On Jan 1, the Paris-based, Al Watan Al Arabi, reported that in late 
Oct, 98, an Iraqi and Sudanese visited bin Ladin in Afghanistan. 
"Informed intelligence sources . . . were convinced that it was part of 
a new plan for cooperation and coordination, or more accurately a 
renewed one, between Iraq, bin Ladin and Sudan.  Information available 
to these sources confirmed that bin-Ladin began to establish close ties 
with Iraq at least five years ago, specifically when the leader of 
Muslim extremists chose to reside in Sudan with the blessing and 
protection of Dr. Hassan al-Turabi, leader of the National Islamic 
Movement.  These sources asserted that they received in the past few 
years confirmed and detailed information that cooperation between bin 
Ladin and Iraq entered 'an important and grave stage' through their 
cooperation in the field of producing chemical and biological weapons.
   "Al Watan al-Arabi's information indicated that several western 
diplomatic and security sources, including European ones, which have 
good relations with Sudan, warned in secret reports they sent at the end 
of last year that Iraq, Sudan, and bin Ladin were cooperating and 
coordinating in the field of chemical weapons.  These reports said that 
several chemical factories were built in Sudan.  They were financed by 
bin Ladin and supervised by Iraqi experts and technicians following a 
deal between Baghdad, Khartoum, and bin-Ladin. . . .
    "Informed sources asserted that the meeting was extremely serious.  
The two sides laid down the details of the biggest act of cooperation 
and coordination between the extremist Islamic organizations and Baghdad 
for confronting the United States, the common enemy.  This information 
indicated that the meeting focused on the ways with which Iraq could 
help the germ and chemical weapons laboratories.
    A second meeting was held later in which "Bin Ladin stressed to the 
Iraqi envoys that he could reach areas, which the Iraqi intelligence 
could not reach.  He referred to the spread of his cells in the Arab 
countries and the world and focused on his ability to penetrate Arab and 
Islamic countries through fundamentalist groups."

  On Jan 10, the Saudi-financed, London-based, weekly, Al-Majallah, 
reported that in Oct 98, an Iraqi intelligence official met with the 
Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, Osama bin Ladin, and Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, 
leader of Egypt's Jihad movement.  In Dec, according to Al-Majllah, the 
Iraqi embassy in Islamabad held a series of meetings with "leaders of a 
number of Pakistani fundamentalist movements and elements from the 
Taleban, with the knowledge of Pakistani military intelligence . . .  On 
21 December a high-ranking Iraqi diplomat normally based in Turkey 
visited Taleban leader Mullah Omar's residence in Kandahar, then headed 
for Khowat where he met with bin Ladin and al-Zawahiri. . . . [He] 
affirmed to his Afghan and Arab audience Iraq's willingness to provide 
financial, logistic, political and informational support for the Taleban 
and the Afghan Arabs."

  On Jan 3, the Daily Telegraph, reported on the UK/US investigation 
into the Dec 29 kidnapping of 16 UK, US, and Australian tourists and 
fatal shooting of four, by fundamentalists in Yemen.  The Telegraph said 
that authorities suspected that the Anglo-Saxons "were kidnapped as 
'direct retribution' for last month's air strikes on Iraq, and not to 
achieve the release of local Islamic militants as Yemeni authorities 
claimed originally.  The detectives suspect that the tourists may have 
been kidnapped to 'shield' Saddam Hussein from further bombing raids, 
with a warning that they would die if Iraq was attacked again."

  On Jan 12, Al-Ittihad (Abu Dhabi) reported, "Kuwaiti security 
authorities have received an important report indicating that there are 
hundreds of 'Arab Afghans' receiving advanced military training at 
al-Nasiriyah District in the south of Iraq. . . . The 'Arab Afghans' are 
being trained within the context of  'an alliance' struck recently 
between the Iraqi Government and an international network of militants. 
Kuwaiti security authorities are said to have been able to dent that 
alliance when they smashed a 'subversive cell' made up of 25 Egyptians, 
which operated on Kuwaiti territory. . . It emerged from investigations 
that there is an agreement in place between Iraq's intelligence services 
and a front comprising six militant organizations whose ranks included 
former fighters in the Afghan war effort. . . .
  "'Al-Ra'y al-Amm,' a Kuwaiti daily newspaper, said yesterday that the 
country's security police had rounded up 25 people . . .  The daily said 
that the 25 were working on behalf of Iraq and that along with them were 
seized leaflets urging that the Arabs rise against the Americans.   The 
fliers also featured words of incitement against the regime in Kuwait.  
The arrested suspects confessed to being members of a cell that had been 
organized by the Iraqi regime to engage in activity designed to hurt the 
stability and security of the state of Kuwait. . .
  "'Al-Ittihad' has come by a copy of the leaflets that were caught with 
the 25 Egyptians.  One of them led with this sentence: 'A statement from 
the Liberation Party-the Province of Kuwait.'  The leaflet urged the 
population of Kuwait to drop their arms and refrain from fighting 
against the Iraqis considering that 'your taking up arms against your 
fellow Muslims who come from other nations in point of fact has nothing 
to do with jihad because it is a sin for a Muslim to do battle against 
other Muslims. . . ."

  Finally, Al Watan Al Arabi, Jan 22, suggested that Saddam's Jan 6 Army 
Day speech, calling on Arabs to overthrow their governments, "was made 
in the context of a grand and well-thought-out plan designed so as to 
turn the clock back to a climate not unlike the run-up to operation 
'Desert Storm.'   . . . The Iraqi president is said to have huddled with 
his sons Uday and Qusay in late November, with the private session 
ending in the three making up their mind to fight their last battle that 
would see the Iraqi leader join a common cause and join forces with all 
extremist groups, Islamic and otherwise, who are known for their 
hostility to the United States.  The scenario drawn up by President 
Saddam Husayn and his sons calls for that alliance to launch a global 
terrorist war against the great Satan, the United States, and its 
allies.  The campaign would pursue, in the words of the Iraqi president, 
an uncompromising and scorched earth policy. . . .
   "It is said that the contribution made by Iraqi Army soldiers and 
security personnel in the war in southern Sudan and in south Yemen has 
had the effect of fostering Baghdad's relations with the extremists who 
happened to be there in Sudan and Yemen, both of which are 'allies' of 
Iraq.  In fact, Hasan al-Turabi and Ali Abdallah Salih, the president of 
Yemen, have continued to play a role on behalf of Iraq, winning over 
Islamic groups for the Baghdad government.  Yemen had been regarded as a 
rearguard base for those extremists who came from various nationalities. 
Yemen had been using them as much to advance its own national interests 
as to help Iraq, which viewed the presence of those militants on Yemen's 
soil as leverage with which it could bring pressure to bear on Gulf 
states.  The abduction of 16 Western hostages a few weeks ago by the 
Aden-Abyan Islamic Army was to retaliate for the US-UK air strikes 
against Iraq. . . .
   "The intelligence sources saw in the arrest of 25 Islamists in Kuwait 
for their involvement in the distribution of leaflets hostile to the 
Americans a fresh warning that this new front had actually begun to 
activate its cells in concert with Islamic groups based in a number of 
countries. . . .
   Finally, al Watan al Arabi described events of the first half of 
1993.  "In the month of June of that year, the Iraqi President Saddam 
Husayn surprised the world when he made the threat in response to the 
military strike carried out against Iraq then [the US cruise missile 
attack on Iraqi intelligence headquarters] that he would unleash 
'terrorist attacks against the United States and its allies. . . . The 
threats made by Iraq to lead terror attacks against US and Zionist and 
other interests coincided with the investigation into the bombing of the 
World Trade Center in New York in the month of February 1993.  Several 
months later, the investigation led to the discovery of a threat linking 
Islamic extremists with the Iraqi regime.  That was confirmed when it 
emerged that the key suspect, Ramzi Yusuf, had sought refuge in Iraq 
after the New York blast and remained in Iraq for a number of months."

  Indeed, some Arab governments suspect/are aware that Iraq was behind 
the Trade Center bombing.  One of those involved in the bombing, Mahmud 
Abu Halima, an Egyptian fundamentalist, fled to his family home in the 
Nile delta, where he was quickly found and arrested by Egyptian 
authorities.  Under harsh interrotgation, Abu Halima told them that two 
Iraqis had participated in the bombing, one of whom had been the 
mastermind, (Abu Halima knew Ramzi Yousef as an Iraqi.)  It was only two 
years after the Gulf war and the Egyptians understood that Iraq was 
behind the bomb.  As one official Egyptian source told Newsweek's Chris 
Dickey, they didn't understand why the US did nothing about it.  
   But the Clinton administration did, or thought it did, although its 
response to the suspected Iraqi role in the Trade Center bombing was 
related to events elsewhere, including in NYC.  The Trade Center bombing 
was followed by an FBI undercover operation, carried out in the spring 
of 93, aimed at the local fundamentalists.  A Sudanese emigre picked up 
the bait to make jihad.  His original target was a Manhattan armory.  
But he had two "friends" at Sudan's UN mission--intelligence officers.  
They suggested he target the UN instead and offered to provide 
diplomatic plates to get a bomb laden van into the UN parking garage.  
They also suggested adding another target, New York's federal building. 
 Two tunnels were added as well.
   When the FBI had the evidence it needed--the conspirators on 
videotape, mixing what they thought was a bomb--the FBI arrested them, 
on Jun 24.  Two days later, Clinton attacked Iraqi intelligence 
headquarters.  Publicly, he said the attack was retaliation for Saddam's 
attempt to kill George Bush.  But Clinton also meant it for the two New 
York bombing conspiracies. 
  NY FBI, like the Egyptians, suspected Iraq was behind the Trade Center 
bomb.  And US authorities knew of Sudan's involvement in the second 
plot, as the FBI was running it.  The White House recognized that Sudan 
alone didn't make sense.  US-Sudanese relations were not that hostile.  
The White House thought in terms of fundamentalism and thought Sudan was 
fronting for Iran.  
  But Iran had no reason to attack the UN.  After all, the 1988 UNSC 
cease-fire that ended the Iraq-Iran war determined that Iraq was the 
aggressor in that war and declared that Iraq owed Iran large 
  But who hates the UN more than anyone else?  And also has good 
relations with Sudan?  Of course, Iraq.  But the White House did not 
understand that.
  When Clinton struck Iraqi intelligence headquarters, Jun 26, he 
believed that the attack would stop Saddam from carrying out any more 
terrorist attacks, while it would serve as warning to Sudan and Iran.  
Thus, Tom Friedman reported, in an article dated Jun 27, that appeared 
in the NYT, Jun 28, "White House officials said today that their only 
regret about the missile attack on the Iraqi intelligence headquarters 
was that there was no CNN crew there to broadcast the event live so it 
could be watched in the Sudan, Iran and other countries suspected of 
involvement in terorism.  Administration officials say they have no 
conclusive evidence that the Sudanese or Iranian intelligence services 
were involved with the Muslims recently arrested in the New York area 
and accused of plotting to bomb the United Nations and other sites.  But 
they said that when the White House was planning the strike in Baghdad, 
it had not only the Iraqi audience in mind, but also the intelligence 
services of countries suspected of sponsoring terrorism, like the 
bombing of the World Trade Center in New York."    
   Thus, as the prominent Iraqi journalist, Salah Mukhtar, wrote in Al 
Jumhuriyah, Jul 3, "It is . . . a wrong conclusion on Clinton's part 
that striking the intelligence headquarters will ease the Iraqis' anger. 
[ED: ie stop Iraq's terrorism, which is driven by anger]. This also 
confirms Clinton's weakness and naivete."  
   Or as "Iraq News" told then NSC adviser on the Middle East, Martin 
Indyk, in Dec 94, "One strike on an empty building at night is not going 
to stop Saddam forever."