Even as the U.S. faces Iran, it’s too soon to abandon Iraq
Review of Death to America: The Unreported Battle of Iraq by Ryan Mauro, (PublishAmerica, Sept. 12, 2005), 313 pp., $24.95.
Just after the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11–and two months from a critical mid-term election–even President George W. Bush is trying to separate himself (and incumbent Republicans) from a key incentive for invading Iraq. In 2002 and 2003, ‘we thought [Saddam Hussein] had weapons of mass destruction,’ the President stated in an August 21 White House press conference.
‘It turns out he didn’t, but he had the capacity to make weapons of mass destruction.’
Asked what role Iraq played in the attack on America, while implying that it belonged to the global terror network, the President said, ‘Nothing.’ But in October 2002, strong evidence suggested such a link might exist.
According to Ryan Mauro’s fascinating book, Death to America, documents, testimony and site inspections have since uncovered ties between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. The evidence confirms Iraq’s pre-war possession of weapons of mass destruction–and their components or building blocks. And recent evidence, Mauro writes, even suggests that Hussein may have helped to fund or plan the September 11 attacks after all. In any case, Hussein’s Iraq was certainly involved in previous attacks on the U.S., Mauro contends.The Osama bin Laden-Saddam Hussein connections
Mauro cites an October 2002 Iraqi agreement to give al Qaeda safe haven, funds, weaponry and 90 Iraqi and Syrian passports, in exchange for its promised participation in an anti-American insurgency if Iraq were later invaded by U.S. and coalition forces, as subsequently occurred. Indeed, in 2000, Iraq shielded Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in a June 2006 American strike in North Baghdad. In September 2002, Zarqawi returned there from Syria, via Jordan, to lead the terrorist insurgency that now continues without him. An Iraqi Mukhabarat intelligence agency document, discovered by Britain’s Telegraph in April 2003, proved that Baghdad had hosted an al Qaeda leader to collaborate during his extended March 1998 visit.
Furthermore, in November 2002, according to Judge Gilbert S. Merrill, an unauthorized (and swiftly confiscated) Iraqi newspaper reported on an Iraqi officer ‘responsible for the coordination of activities with the Osama bin Laden group.’ The front page also ran side-by-side photos
of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein and his Revolutionary Council. Mauro here recounts all this evidence of links between bin Laden and Hussein–and many other besides.
In fact, according to Mauro, a remarkable 19-year-old autodidact, Hussein and bin Laden cooperated in the 1993 attack on U.S. peace keepers in Somalia. In 1995, bin Laden’s emissaries met key Hussein liaison, Farouq Hijazi, and his special operations chief, Habib Ma’muri, at Iraq’s secret Salman Pak terror training facilities. Moreover, Mauro connects both Republican Guardsman Hussein Hashem al-Hussaini and suspected Iraqi agent Ramzi Yousef to the 1995 bombing of Oklahoma City’s Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Witnesses saw al-Hussaini there with Timothy McVeigh, and Yousef taught bomb making to Terry Nichols during their simultaneous stay with the Philippines’ Abu Sayyef terror group.
Iraq had Weapons
Despite the President’s recent denial, moreover, Mauro offers bountiful evidence to prove that Iraq also had weapons of mass destruction. In 2000, he writes, the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission–working with Libya, Sudan and perhaps others–ramped up several small new research programs to help develop nuclear technology. Ex-U.N. atomic weapons inspector chief Richard Butler reported evidence that Hussein began reconstructing weapons programs after officials left Iraq in 1998.
Additionally, in May, 2003, the CIA reported that coalition forces had found ‘strong evidence…that Iraq was hiding a biological weapons program.’ The facilities discovered actually matched former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s February 2003 description of them to the U.N. General Assembly.
In October 2003, David Kay’s interim Iraq Survey Group report disclosed Iraq’s prewar interest ‘in reconstituting a centrifuge enrichment program,’ its commitment to ‘development of ballistic missiles with ranges of at least 400km and up to 1000km’ (violating 1991 UN restrictions by wide margins), its prototype production of a ‘clustered engine liquid propellant missile,’ work towards acquiring and producing ‘dual use chemicals’ and clandestine work on chemical and biological weapons.
At one prison lab, previously hidden from the U.N., Kay’s ISG suspected Iraq of testing biological weapons on captives. The agency also found many hidden Mukhabarat labs, including one in a scientist’s home–with stocks of several germ strains, all potential biological weapons.
Cached at another scientist’s residence they found a botulism toxin vial. They also discovered proof of continuing research and work on such other biological weapons agents as aflatoxin, ricin (an extreme pulmonary toxin), Brucella, Congo Crimean Hemorraghic Fever, and anthrax. In addition, they found hidden unmanned aerial vehicles, documentation of ongoing work on long-range ballistic missiles that could reach the entire Middle East–and negotiations with North Korea to purchase 1,300 kilometer range ballistic missiles and 300 kilometer range anti-ship missiles. In 2002, Turkey reported that Iraq ‘had produced at least one nuclear device, minus the fissile core,’ and corroborated testimony from key Iraqi defector Khidir Hamza, of up to 400 Iraqi nuclear-weapons sites developing related materiel.
Furthermore, in 2004 officials revealed that 1999 to 2001 electronic intelligence had detected several discussions of illegal uranium trading in Niger, with dealers (including Niger officials) implicating Iraq. Former ambassador Joseph Wilson, sent to Niger to corroborate other such intelligence, later claimed to have found nothing. However, he himself had been told by a Niger official of a ‘trade’ negotiations visit from former Iraqi information minister Sayeed al-Sahaf–in a small, land-locked desert country whose chief export beside uranium was goats.
Hiding and moving weapons
According to Mauro, Iraq effectively hid and transported these and other weapons by following plans Hussein had hatched much earlier with al Qaeda, Syrian, Libyan and even Russia collaborators. Iraqi intelligence documents, for example, reported that two Iraqi agents graduated on Sept. 15, 2002 from a two week surveillance curriculum at Moscow’s Special Training Center. In early 2003, two former Soviet air defense systems and rapid-reaction forces generals admitted having been in Iraq with former Soviet prime minister Yevgeny Primakov months before the war. Former Romanian spy chief Ion Mihai Pacepa attributed their involvement to Iraqi duplication of Soviet-designed ’emergency exit’ (Sarindar) plans, in case of subsequent Western invasion.
Besides hating Israel, Primakov had always ‘championed Arab radicalism.’ And having supplied Iraq with much of its lethal materiel, the former Soviets now helped Iraq dispose of them–both to hide Russian complicity and embarrass the West. As in earlier Soviet plans, chemical weapons would be burned–while fast rebuild instructions would be hidden in waterproof containers. Pacepa learned of Iraq’s Soviet-backed ‘Sarindar’ program directly from Romanian strongman Nicolae Ceausescu–and later, from both then-KGB chief Yury Andropov and Primakov, Hussein’s personal buddy, who ‘repeatedly visited Baghdad after 1991’ to help hide Iraqi weapons.
Mauro accepts Pacepa’s theory, thanks partly to independent investigations of the U.N. oil-for-food scam, which exposed active Russian facilitation of Iraqi violations. But U.S. forces have also discovered exactly such complex weapons reproduction instructions as Pacepa described. Furthermore, in March 2003, Russian intelligence agents met with Iraqi officials. And Russian ambassador Vladimir Titorenko, suspiciously, ordered his April 6 escape transport on to Damascus after it was caught in U.S. fire–despite at least one serious injury in his party. Within three days, Titorenko then jetted from Damascus to Moscow and back–Maruo suspects, carrying embarrassing and/or secret Iraqi documents.
Mauro also documents substantial evidence, seriously underreported and misrepresented in the mainstream media, of huge convoys from Iraq to Syria before the war. In October 2004, Defense Deputy Undersecretary John Shaw reported an extensive Russian finance scheme under which Hussein arranged prewar weapons transports to Syria, a contention he reiterated in March 2005. In late 2002,
‘U.S. spy satellites detected a sudden expansion of suspected missile and WMD facilities south of Hom[a] in Syria,’
Mauro reports. And that summer, according to Yossef Bodansky,
‘Iraqi ‘residual chemical weapons capabilities’ were transferred to Iran, in tunnels under the ‘Zagros Mountains near Kermanshah’,’
within 15 or so miles of Iraq’s border near Harour, and were later ‘transferred to Lavizan, near Tehran.’
But the media mislead the public. Widely-circulated April 2005 news reports, that ISG chief Charles Duelfer had discovered ‘no Iraqi WMDs moved to Syria,’ were wrong. Duelfer’s 92-page document actually indicated ‘that weapons were moved to Syria,’ with which Iraq had had ‘extensive military collaboration,’ according to Mauro. Syria had offered to hide Iraqi weapons, but the insurgency impeded completion of the ISG’s investigation.
Officials will never find a major weapons cache, Mauro contends. First off, Hussein would not have stored ‘hundreds of tons of illegal weapons in one spot.’ He also moved parts of that huge stockpile to Syria, Iran and Libya. In part, Maruo believes, Hussein facilitated this via frequent replacement of Syrian border guards with Iraqi intelligence agents who, Iraqi prisoners have confirmed, oversaw black market trade. Furthermore, prewar cross-border traffic intensified dramatically.
In any case, it is incontrovertible fact that there were plenty of weapons to transport. During summer 2004, for example, ‘Polish troops found 17 warheads with cyclosarin and mustard gas–and this only after informed of a terrorist ‘bid of $5,000 for each warhead.’
Furthermore, in September 2004, former ISG chief Duelfer had reported evidence–including tapes of the tyrant himself–of Saddam Hussein’s total obsession with acquiring nuclear weapons. This lengthy accounting also indicated that before the war, Iraq had been freely importing war materiel. In June 2001, for example, with
‘France, Russia and Syria (then a member of the [U.N.] Security Council) all quite vocally supporting Iraq in sanctions debates’ … ‘[p]rohibited goods and weapons were being quite freely shipped into Iraq with virtually no problem,’
including 380 liquid fuel rocket engines. Iraq was also designing missiles, assuming it would have no trouble obtaining necessary components. By 1999, ‘Iraq was within striking distance of a de facto end to the sanctions, at the same time, as Hussein ‘aspired to develop a nuclear capabilityâ€”in an incremental fashion….’
The 9/11 connections
Undoubtedly the most contentious of Mauro’s hypotheses is that Iraq may have been connected to the September 11 attacks, after all. But even here, he offers intriguing evidence that supports the possibility. Not only was there a November 2002 Iraqi newspaper, cited above, reporting which Iraqi officer was ‘responsible for the coordination of activities with the Osama bin Laden group.’
Additionally, at the behest of the Iraqi embassy, Malaysia Airlines in January 2000 employed Iraqi ‘facilitator’ Ahmad Himmat Shakir–whom the embassy had ordered ‘to handle the paperwork for the arrival of two Al Qaeda members–Khalid al-Midhar, and Nawaz al-Hamzi.’ they became two of the 19 hijackers on 9/11. According to Mauro, Shakir almost certainly attended the January 8 meeting held by two senior al Qaeda leaders in a Kuala Lampur hotel to plan the attacks.
Shakir also associated with Zahad Sheikh Mohammed–the brother of 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed–and was tied to a key bin Laden liaison to Hussein’s regime, Abu Hajer al-Iraqi. Others of Shakir’s acquaintances included Musab Yasin, brother to the 1993 WTC bombing mastermind, Abdul Rahman Yasin, and 1993 co-conspirator Ibrahim Ahmad Suleinman.
Then there was the confirmed May 30 2000 visit of chief hijacker Mohammed Atta to Prague International Airport–and his complex June 2 efforts to reach Prague itself. Atta may have met Iraqi intelligence agent Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, Mauro suggests, before his confirmed, April 2001, Prague meeting with al-Ani. Czech authorities also believe Atta met Iraqi intelligence agent and ambassador to Turkey, Farouq Hijazi. And one Iraqi document, its authenticity questioned, but confirmed by a member of Iraq’s Governing Council familiar with the handwriting, establishes that Atta attended terror training in the summer of 2001.
Meanwhile, before coming to the U.S. to establish final plans, two more 9/11 hijackers, Zaid Samir Jarrah and Marwan al-Shehi, met Iraqi intelligence officers in Dubai. In December 2000, Al Qaeda terrorists were also in Iraq for training in chemical and biological weapons. Indeed, Mauro cites suspected Iraqi fingerprints on the anthrax attacks of October 2001, as well.
Of course, Hussein also had confirmed ties with, and supported, Hamas and Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority terrorists.
But Iraqi captive Mohamed Mansour Shahab reported having shipped arms to al Qaeda on Hussein’s orders, and also revealed February 2000 Iraqi plans for at least nine anti-American attacks. In one, Mauro writes, suicide bombers were expected to pack a merchant vessel with explosives, and then drive it into an American ship in the Gulf. Before his March capture, Shahab had also met near Tikrit with Uday Hussein associate Luai Kharirallah Tikrit and Ali Hassan al-Majid–a.k.a. Chemical Ali. He was ordered to transport refrigerator motors containing ‘suspicious’ liquids to Afghanistan.
Furthermore, in January 2004, Coalition forces discovered, inside one of Zarqawi Baghdad safe houses, ‘a seven pound block of cyanide.’ In a Hussein palace, they also found tapes in which Hussein is shown plotting attacks and handing large cash sums to terror leaders.
Mauro’s fascinating book includes many other suspicious items, suggesting Iraqi involvement in 9/11, and other actual and plausible attacks. He notes, for example, that the strain of West Nile Virus that appeared in the U.S. exactly matches that which occurred in two other nations for whom Saddam Hussein had sworn enmity. And Ramzi Yousef, both a suspected Iraqi intelligence officer and the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and helped construct the Malaysian precursor to 9/11, the (thankfully) aborted 1995 Soyinka Plot to down an American jetliner. And Iraq sponsored a threeâ€”day, May 2001 visit by renal doctor, Mohammed Kayla, to Afghanistan, where he was ‘rumored’ to have treated Osama bin Laden.
Now, of course, the U.S. is focusing on Iranian nuclear weapons production as the greatest international threat. Nevertheless, it is much too early to have concluded that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction–particularly since those hidden caches could still fall into terrorists’ hands. That also implies that it’s too soon for American and coalition forces to leave Iraq.
Readers should consult Mauro’s book to learn the fine, and very disturbing, details.
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