Iraq News, FEBRUARY 10, 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 .


   The NYT, yesterday, reported that no traces of the VX precursor, 
Empta, nor its degradation product, Empa, could be found in 13 samples 
taken from the al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant and its grounds last Oct.  
That work was supervised by the chairman of the Boston U. chemistry 
department, hired by the law firm representing Salih Idris, owner of the 
plant.  Also, Idris' lawyers hired Kroll "to conduct a detailed review 
of the Shifa controversy.  In their report, made available to the New 
York Times, Kroll Associates found no evidence of a direct link between 
Idris and bin Ladin," even as the White House maintained, "We stand by 
our evidence linking this plant to bin Ladin's network." 

   Vincent Cannistraro, former Chief of Counterterrorism Operations for 
the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, has suggested a very sensible and 
quite clever explanation for what was going on at al-Shifa--why it 
turned out to be a pharmaceutical factory; why the US had compelling 
evidence linking it to VX; and why it can't be found now.
   When US officials were obliged to defend their decision to attack the 
al-Shifa plant, after the Aug 20 strike, they revealed an Iraqi link to 
al-Shifa, as reported, for example, in the NYT Aug 25.  US officials 
also revealed the existence of other sites in Khartoum thought to be 
associated with Iraq and VX production. Clinton chose al-Shifa as a 
target, because it was the only VX-related site not near a populated 
   Although the CIA did not know al-Shifa made pharmaceuticals, the 
State Dept did, because al Shifa was authorized by the UN sanctions 
committee to ship medicines to Iraq.  Cannistraro suggested that Empta, 
manufactured at another Khartoum site, was stored, even perhaps 
packaged, at al-Shifa, to be sent to Baghdad, under UNSCR 986, looking 
to all the world like a pharmaceutical product.
   That would explain how Empta could be found in a soil sample outside 
the facility-a leak/spill?; but also why extensive tests in the facility 
subsequently, including of the septic tank, did not detect it.  It would 
also explain why Iraqi CW personnel had contact with a pharmaceutical 
plant.  Moreover, Iraqi intelligence would think of something like that. 
Indeed, Scott Ritter, in his Sept 3 Senate testimony [see "Iraq News," 
Sept 7], explained that Iraq was importing proscribed and dual use 
material under cover of UNSCR 986.
   Finally, given the proximity of Iraq's angry suspension of UNSCOM 
inspections, Aug 5, and the simultaneous terrorist assaults on the two 
US embassies, Aug 7, it would seem that in the Aug 20 strikes, the US, 
hit two targets--Osama bin Ladin, in Afghanistan, and Iraq, in Sudan, 
even as the White House has tried to blur that, with the claim that bin 
Ladin was linked to the al-Shifa plant.  The White House did something 
similar in June, 1993, in that, when it struck Iraqi intelligence 
headquarters then, it did not clearly and fully explain the several 
reasons for the attack [see "Iraq News," Jan 27].

   On the Jim Lehrer News Hour, Jan 21, 1998, over a year ago, as the 
second Iraq crisis began, Clinton, warning of the danger Iraq posed, 
said, "Think how many can be killed by just a tiny bit of anthrax, and 
think about how it's not just that Saddam Hussein might put it on a Scud 
missile, an anthrax head, and send it on to some city he wants to 
destroy. Think about all the other terrorists and other bad actors who 
could just parade through Baghdad and pick up their stores.  . . . This 
is a serious thing with me, this is a very serious thing. You imagine 
the capacity of these tiny amounts of biological agents to cause great 
harm; it's something we need to get after."
   Clinton understands the danger, but apparently does not want to 
address it in the only way that it can be properly addressed--by getting 
rid of Saddam. Clinton also said on that program, justifying the 
seemingly tough line he was taking then, "What's the issue? Weapons of 
mass destruction. What's the answer? The U.N inspectors."   And he also 
said that he did not have sex with that woman.  It is all of a piece.

   "Iraq News" has learned what precipitated the earlier rash of 
articles about Bin Ladin and Iraq [see "Iraq News," Jan 27].  
   A senior Iraqi intelligence official, Farouk Hijazi, newly appointed 
as Iraq's ambassador to Turkey, did visit Osama bin Ladin in Afghanistan 
in December, as several of those articles reported.
   There has been more reporting on bin Ladin and Iraq.  All of it 
included the suggestion that Iraq is coordinating with bin Ladin on CBW 
   The Italian paper, Corriere della Sera, reported Feb 1, "Terrorist 
cells belonging to the network organized by Osama bin Laden . . . are 
ready to go into action in the countries of the Persian Gulf and Europe. 
According to a confidential report, the list of targets is ready.  It 
was agreed in Kandahar (Afghanistan) 21 December by Osama himself and 
Farouk Hijazi. . .  The new recruits, together with the veterans of the 
wars in Afghanistan and Bosnia, form the secret army that is expected to 
use its weapons against all those who oppose the rais of Baghdad.  In 
order to make them even more dangerous, traditional training has been 
supplemented with training in the use of chemical weapons, toxins, and 
viruses . . ."
  The New York Post, Feb 1, reported, "Saddam Hussein-battered, 
humiliated and increasingly isolated-plans to resort to terrorism in 
revenge for US airstrikes against his country. . .  US officials say the 
CIA has received 'credible and reliable' intelligence reports that 
Saddam is forging alliances with some of the Middle East's most 
bloodthirsty terrorists-including Osama Bin Ladin and Abu Nidal-as part 
of an apparently new campaign to strike American targets and possibly 
destablise Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. . . . US officials are concerned 
about the possibility that Saddam could not only help with funding and 
logistics for Bin Ladin's far-flung network, . . . but he could also 
help the group acquire chemical and biological weapons."
   The Guardian, Feb 6, carried two articles.  The shorter article 
began, "Saddam Hussein's regime has opened talks with Osama bin Laden, 
bringing closer the threat of a terrorist attack using chemical, 
biological or nuclear weapons."  But as Ahmed Allawi, a senior INC 
official, advised, that it is not new, "There is a long history of 
contacts between the Mukhabarat [Iraqi secret service] and Osama bin 
  Also, Cannistraro explained that the Hijazi-bin Ladin meeting occurred 
"with the knowledge of the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar."  As a reader 
remarked, the Taliban are a nasty bunch and the US does not recognize 
them as the legitimate Gov't of Afghanistan.  Rather, it recognizes the 
Afghan Gov't in exile, in Tehran.
   The longer Guardian article, entitled, "The Western nightmare: Saddam 
and Bin Ladin versus the World," reporting on the Hijzazi-Bin Ladin 
meeting, observed, "Thus, the world's most notorious pariah state, armed 
with its half-built hoard of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, 
tried to embrace the planet's most prolific terrorist.   . . . 
  "But it is not just the US which finds itself in the putative firing 
line.  Since RAF bombers took part in air strikes in Iraq in November 
[sic], British citizens have also become primary targets.  Talking to 
the London-based Arabic newspaper, Asharq al-Awsat, a month after the 
air strikes on Iraq, Mr. Bin Ladin explicitly added British civilians to 
his 'divinely-ordained' list of targets. 'The British and American 
people have widely voiced their support for their leaders' decision to 
attack Iraq, which makes all those people, in addition to the Jews who 
occupy Palestine into people warring [against God],' he said. .  . .
    Still, as one British-based expert cautioned, "It's dangerous to 
characterize [bin Ladin] as the be all and end all of this problem . . . 
Political Islam is on the rise and terrorist groups will continue to 
organise in spite of all the security measures.  And bin Ladin has 
faithful lieutenants so even if he's assassinated the phenomenon isn't 
going to go away."
   Indeed, that would be particularly true, if, as "Iraq News" believes, 
the very worst of the terrorism of the Militant Muslim Fundamentalists, 
including bin Ladin, is carried out with the technical assistance and 
support of terrorist states, and Iraq in particular, as Saddam has some 
very major complaints and very big scores to settle.