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 .
I. OSAMA BIN LADIN AND IRAQ, CORRIERE DELLA SERA, FEB 1 II. OSAMA BIN LADIN AND IRAQ, NEW YORK POST, FEB 1 III. OSAMA BIN LADIN AND IRAQ , GUARDIAN, FEB 6 IV. OSAMA BIN LADIN AND IRAQ , GUARDIAN, FEB 6 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 area. 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 terrorism. 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 Ladin." 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.