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'The Iraqi connection'

A. The Iraqi Connection, Observer, 11th November 2001
B. CIA agent alleged to have met Bin Laden in July, Guardian, 1st November

Here's a piece from today's Observer. Enititled 'The Iraqi Connection' it
purports to lay out the 'evidence' linking Iraq to the September 11th
attacks. As might be expected, this 'evidence' is pretty feeble stuff:
basically it's what was alleged 6 weeks ago, namely that the 'chief'
hijacker Mohammed al-Atta met an Iraqi intelligence official in the Czech
Republic. This piece adds the claim from an anonymous 'senior US diplomatic
source' that 'two other hijackers ... also met known Iraqi intelligence
officials in the run up' to September 11th. Whether this is true or not is
impossible to judge. The rest is mostly fluff.

There are some moments of (unintended) humour in the piece. For example we
are told that 'the striking thing about the meetings [between Atta and Iraqi
intelligence agent al-Ani] is the lengths to which Atta went in order to
attend them. In June last year, he flew to Prague from Hamburg, only to be
refused entry because he had failed to obtain a visa. Three days later, now
equipped with the paperwork, Atta was back for a visit of barely 24 hours.'
But surely if Atta had been wanting to get into the Czech Republic last June
and had been turned back due to visa problems, you'd expect him to sort this
out and return immediately! Me thinks they doth protest to much ...

Ironically the 'evidence' linking Iraq to the September 11 atrocities is of
roughly the same type and believability as that linking the US to the
atrocities, at least if we take as a given Osama bin Laden's involvement
(and before anyone asks, I don't believe the US had anything to with the
atrocities). Thus, according to the French newspaper Le Figaro 'Two months
before September 11 Osama bin Laden flew to Dubai for 10 days for treatment
at the American hospital, where he was visited by the local CIA agent.' This
disclosure 'is known to come from French intelligence'. The quotes are taken
from an earlier artcile in the Guardian which I also reproduce below.

Letters can be e-mailed to the Observer at

Best wishes,



A. The Iraqi connection

As evidence linking Iraqi intelligence to the 11 September hijackers begins
to emerge, David Rose gathers testimony from former Baghdad agents and the
CIA to reveal the secrets of Saddam's terror training camp

David Rose
Sunday November 11, 2001
The Observer

His friends call him Abu Amin, 'the father of honesty'. At 43, he is one of
Iraq's most highly decorated intelligence officers: a special forces veteran
who organised killings behind Iranian lines during the first Gulf war, who
then went on to a senior post in the unit known as 'M8' - the department for
'special operations', such as sabotage, terrorism and murder. This is the
man, Colonel Muhammed Khalil Ibrahim al-Ani, whom Mohamed Atta flew halfway
across the world to meet in Prague last April, five months before piloting
his hijacked aircraft into the World Trade Centre.

Evidence is mounting that this meeting was not an isolated event. The
Observer has learnt that Atta's talks with al-Ani were only one of several
apparent links between Iraq, the 11 September hijackers and Osama bin
Laden's al-Qaeda network. Senior US intelligence sources say the CIA has
'credible information' that in the spring of this year, at least two other
members of the hijacking team also met known Iraqi intelligence agents
outside the United States. They are believed to be Atta's closest associates
and co-leaders, Marwan al-Shehri and Ziad Jarrah, the other two members of
the 'German cell ' who lived with Atta in Hamburg in the late 1990s.

In the strongest official statement to date alleging Iraqi involvement in
the new wave of anti-Western terrorism, on Friday night Milos Zeman, the
Czech Prime Minister, told reporters and Colin Powell, the US Secretary of
State, that the Czech authorities believed Atta and al-Ani met expressly to
discuss a bombing. He said they were plotting to destroy the Prague-based
Radio Free Europe with a truck stuffed with explosives, adding: 'Yes, you
cannot exclude also the hypothesis that they discussed football, ice hockey,
weather and other topics. But I am not so sure.

In Washington and Whitehall, a furious political battle is raging over the
scope of the anti-terrorist war, and whether it should eventually include
action against Iraq. According to the Foreign Office, British Ministers have
responded to this prospect with 'horror', arguing that an attack on Saddam
Hussein would cause terrible civilian casualties and cement anti-Western
anger across Middle East.

Meanwhile, Paul Wolfowitz, the US Deputy Defence Secretary, heads a clique
of determined, powerful hawks, most of them outside the administration -
among them James Woolsey, the former director of the CIA. The doves argue
that an al-Qaeda-Iraq link is improbable, given the sharp ideological
differences between Saddam's secular Baathism and Islamic fundamentalism.
They also say that claims of Iraqi involvement are being driven by the
agenda of the hawks - a group which has for years been seeking to finish the
job left undone at the end of the Gulf war in 1991.

Nevertheless, Saddam does not lack a plausible motive: revenge for his
expulsion from Kuwait in 1991, and for the continued sanctions and Western
bombing of his country ever since. In this febrile atmosphere, hard
information about who ordered the 11 September attacks remains astonishingly

US investigators have traced the movements of the 19 hijackers going back
years, and have amassed a detailed picture of who did what inside the
conspiracy. Yet what lay beyond the hijackers is an intelligence black hole.
If they had a support network in America, none of its members has been
traced, and among the hundreds of telephone records and emails the
investigators have recovered, nothing gets close to identifying those
ultimately responsible.

It still seems almost certain, intelligence sources say, that parts of Osama
bin Laden's al-Qaeda network actively backed the conspiracy: about half of
the estimated $500,000 the hijackers used reportedly came from al-Qaeda
sources, while some of the terrorists are believed to have passed through
bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan. At the same time, however, evidence is
emerging of direct Iraqi links with the US hijackers in particular, and with
radical Islamic terror groups in general.

In the early period after the attacks, Western intelligence agencies said
they knew of nothing to suggest an Iraqi connection. That position has now
changed. A top US analyst - a serving intelligence official with no
connection to the 'hawks' around Wolfowitz - told The Observer: 'You should
think of this thing as a spectrum: with zero Iraqi involvement at one end,
and 100 per cent Iraqi direction and control at the other. The scenario we
now find most plausible is somewhere in the middle range - significant Iraqi
assistance and some involvement.'

Last night, Whitehall sources made clear that parts of British intelligence
had reached the same conclusion. Uncomfortable as it may be, this
reassessment is having a political impact. Last month, when the CIA was
still telling him it did not believe Iraq was involved in 11 September,
Powell said there were 'no plans' to attack Iraq. Last Thursday, speaking in
Kuwait, he abruptly reversed his earlier pronouncements. He promised that
after dealing with bin Laden and Afghanistan, 'we will turn our attention to
terrorism throughout the world, and nations such as Iraq'.

The FBI is now sure that Atta, the Egyptian who had studied in Germany, was
the hijackers' overall leader. He personally handled more than $100,000 of
the plot's funds, more than any other conspirator, and he made seven foreign
trips in 2000 and 2001 - all of which appear to have had some operational
significance. Investigators lay heavy stress on a captured al-Qaeda manual
which emphasises the value of conducting discussions about pending terrorist
attacks face to face, rather than by electronic means.

Two of those trips were to meet al-Ani in Prague. The Iraqi's profile has
been supplied by defectors from Saddam's intelligence service, the
Mukhabarat, who are now being guarded by the London-based opposition group,
the Iraqi National Congress (INC). CIA sources have confirmed its crucial
details. 'There's really no doubt that al-Ani is a very senior Iraqi agent,'
one source said.

The Observer has interviewed two of the defectors. They began to tell their
stories at the beginning of October, and have been debriefed extensively by
the FBI and the CIA. Al-Ani's experience in covert 'wet jobs'
(assassinations), gives his meetings with Atta a special significance: his
expertise was killing.

According to the defectors, he has an unusual ability to change his
appearance and operate under cover. One defector recalls a meeting in the
early 1990s when al-Ani had long, silver hair, and wore jeans, silver chains
and sunglasses. Al-Ani explained he was about to undertake a mission which
required him to look like a Western hippy. A member of Saddam's Baathist
party since his youth, al-Ani also has extensive experience working with
radical Islamists such as Mohamed Atta.

Since the 1980s, Saddam has organised numerous Islamic conferences in
Baghdad, expressly for the Mukhabarat to find foreign recruits. Al-Ani has
been seen at at least two of them. On one occasion, the defectors say, he
took on the cover of a Muslim cleric at a fundamentalists' conference in
Karachi, presenting himself as a delegate from the Iraqi shrine of the Sufi
mystic Abdel-Qadir al-Gaylani, whose followers are numerous in Pakistan.

Last Wednesday, Iraq made its own response to the news of the meetings
between al-Ani and Atta. Tariq Aziz, Saddam's Deputy Prime Minister, denied
Iraq had anything to do with the hijackings, saying: 'Even if that [the
meetings] happened, that would mean nothing, for a diplomat could meet many
people during his duty, whether he was at a restaurant or elsewhere, and
even if he met Mohamed Atta, that would not mean the Iraqi diplomat was

Yet the striking thing about the meetings is the lengths to which Atta went
in order to attend them. In June last year, he flew to Prague from Hamburg,
only to be refused entry because he had failed to obtain a visa. Three days
later, now equipped with the paperwork, Atta was back for a visit of barely
24 hours. He flew from the Czech Republic to the US, where he began to train
as pilot. In early April 2001, when the conspiracy's planning must have been
nearing its final stages, Atta was back in Prague for a further brief
visit - a journey of considerable inconvenience.

On 17 April, the Czechs expelled al-Ani, who had diplomatic cover, as a
hostile spy. Last night, a senior US diplomatic source told The Observer
that Atta was not the only suspected al-Qaeda member who met al-Ani and
other Iraqi agents in Prague. He said the Czechs monitored at least two
further such meetings in the months before 11 September.

The senior US intelligence source said the CIA believed that two other
hijackers, al-Shehri and Jarrah, also met known Iraqi intelligence officers
outside the US in the run-up to the atrocities. It is understood these
meetings took place in the United Arab Emirates - where Iraq maintains its
largest 'illegal', or non-diplomatic, cover intelligence operation, most of
it devoted to oil exports and busting economic sanctions.

The source added that Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which has now effectively
merged with al-Qaeda, maintained regular contacts with Iraq for many years.
He confirmed the claims first made by the Iraqi National Congress - that
towards the end of 1998, Farouk Hijazi, Iraq's ambassador to Turkey and a
key member of the Mukhabarat leadership - went to Kandahar in Afghanistan,
where he met bin Laden.

The FBI believes many of the 11 hijackers who made up the conspiracy's
'muscle', Saudi Arabians who entered the US at a late stage and whose task
was to overpower the aircrafts' passengers and crew, trained at Afghan camps
run by al-Qaeda. But they have no details: no times or places where any of
these individuals learnt their skills. Meanwhile, it is now becoming clear
that al-Qaeda is not the only organisation providing terrorist training for
Muslim fundamentalists. Since the early 1990s, courses of this type have
also been available in Iraq. At the beginning of October, two INC activists
in London travelled to eastern Turkey. They had been told that a Mukhabarat
colonel had crossed the border through Kurdistan and was ready to defect.
The officer - codenamed Abu Zeinab - had extraordinary information about
terrorist training in Iraq. In a safe house in Ankara, the two London-based
activists took down Zeinab's story. He had worked at a site which was
already well known - Salman Pak, a large camp on a peninsular formed by a
loop of the Tigris river south of Baghdad.

However, what Zeinab had to say about the southern part of the camp was new.
There, he said, separated from the rest of the facilities by a razor-wire
fence, was a barracks used to house Islamic radicals, many of them Saudis
from bin Laden's Wahhabi sect, but also Egyptians, Yemenis, and other
non-Iraqi Arabs.

Unlike the other parts of Salman Pak, Zeinab said the foreigners' camp was
controlled directly by Saddam Hussein. In a telephone interview with The
Observer, Zeinab described the culture clash which took place when secular
Baathists tried to train fundamentalists: 'It was a nightmare! A very
strange experience. These guys would stop and insist on praying to Allah
five times a day when we had training to do. The instructors wouldn't get
home till late at night, just because of all this praying.'

Asked whether he believed the foreigners' camp had trained members of
al-Qaeda, Zeinab said: 'All I can say is that we had no structure to take on
these people inside the regime. The camp was for organisations based
abroad.' One of the highlights of the six-month curriculum was training to
hijack aircraft using only knives or bare hands. According to Zeinab, women
were also trained in these techniques. Like the 11 September hijackers, the
students worked in groups of four or five.

In Ankara, Zeinab was debriefed by the FBI and CIA for four days. Meanwhile
he told the INC that if they wished to corroborate his story, they should
speak to a man who had political asylum in Texas - Captain Sabah Khodad, who
had worked at Salman Pak in 1994-5. He too has now told his story to US
investigators. In an interiew with The Observer, he echoed Zeinab's claims:
'The foreigners' training includes assassinations, kidnapping, hijacking.
They were strictly separated from the rest of us. To hijack planes they were
taught to use small knives. The method used on 11 September perfectly
coincides with the training I saw at the camp. When I saw the twin towers
attack, the first thought that came into my head was, "this has been done by
graduates of Salman Pak".'

Zeinab and Khodad said the Salman Pak students practised their techniques in
a Boeing 707 fuselage parked in the foreigners' part of the camp. Yesterday
their story received important corroboration from Charles Duelfer, former
vice chairman of Unscom, the UN weapons inspection team.

Duelfer said he visited Salman Pak several times, landing by helicopter. He
saw the 707, in exactly the place described by the defectors. The Iraqis, he
said, told Unscom it was used by police for counter-terrorist training. 'Of
course we automatically took out the word "counter",' he said. 'I'm
surprised that people seem to be shocked that there should be terror camps
in Iraq. Like, derrrrrr! I mean, what, actually, do you expect? Iraq
presents a long-term strategic threat. Unfortunately, the US is not very
good at recognising long-term strategic threats.'

At the end of September, Donald Rumsfeld, the far from doveish US Defence
Secretary, told reporters there was 'no evidence' that Iraq was involved in
the atrocities. That judgment is slowly being rewritten.

Many still suspect the anthrax which has so far killed four people in
America has an ultimate Iraqi origin: in contrast to recent denials made by
senior FBI officials, CIA sources say there simply is not enough material to
be sure. However, it does not look likely that the latest anthrax sample,
sent to a newspaper in Karachi, can have come from the source recently
posited by the FBI - a right-wing US militant. 'The sophistication of the
stuff that has been found represents a level of technique and knowledge that
in the past has been associated only with governments,' Duelfer said. 'If
it's not Iraq, there aren't many alternatives.'

If the emerging evidence of Iraqi involvement in 11 September becomes
clearer or more conclusive, the consequences will be immense. In the words
of a State Department spokesman after Powell's briefing by the Czech leader
on Friday: 'If there is clear evidence connecting the World Trade Centre
attacks to Iraq, that would be a very grave development.'

At worst, the anti-terrorist coalition would currently be bombing the wrong
country. At best, the world would see that some of President Bush's closest
advisers - his father, Powell and Vice President Dick Cheney, to name but
three - made a catastrophic error in 1991, when they ended the Gulf war
without toppling Saddam.

The case for trying to remove him now might well seem unanswerable. In that
scenario, the decisions Western leaders have had to make in the past two
months would seem like a trivial prelude.

Additional reporting by Ed Vulliamy in New York and Kate Connolly in Berlin.

Guardian Unlimited  Guardian Newspapers Limited 2001


CIA agent alleged to have met Bin Laden in July
French report claims terrorist leader stayed in Dubai hospital

Anthony Sampson

Thursday November 1, 2001

Two months before September 11 Osama bin Laden flew to Dubai for 10 days for
treatment at the American hospital, where he was visited by the local CIA
agent, according to the French newspaper Le Figaro.

The disclosures are known to come from French intelligence which is keen to
reveal the ambiguous role of the CIA, and to restrain Washington from
extending the war to Iraq and elsewhere.

Bin Laden is reported to have arrived in Dubai on July 4 from Quetta in
Pakistan with his own personal doctor, nurse and four bodyguards, to be
treated in the urology department. While there he was visited by several
members of his family and Saudi personalities, and the CIA.

The CIA chief was seen in the lift, on his way to see Bin Laden, and later,
it is alleged, boasted to friends about his contact. He was recalled to
Washington soon afterwards.

Intelligence sources say that another CIA agent was also present; and that
Bin Laden was also visited by Prince Turki al Faisal, then head of Saudi
intelligence, who had long had links with the Taliban, and Bin Laden. Soon
afterwards Turki resigned, and more recently he has publicly attacked him in
an open letter: "You are a rotten seed, like the son of Noah".

The American hospital in Dubai emphatically denied that Bin Laden was a
patient there.

Washington last night also denied the story.

Private planes owned by rich princes in the Gulf fly frequently between
Quetta and the Emirates, often on luxurious "hunting trips" in territories
sympathetic to Bin Laden. Other sources confirm that these hunting trips
have provided opportunities for Saudi contacts with the Taliban and
terrorists, since they first began in 1994.

Bin Laden has often been reported to be in poor health. Some accounts claim
that he is suffering from Hepatitis C, and can expect to live for only two
more years.

According to Le Figaro, last year he ordered a mobile dialysis machine to be
delivered to his base at Kandahar in Afghanistan.

Whether the allegations about the Dubai meeting are confirmed or not, the
wider leaks from the French secret service throw a worrying light on the
rivalries and lack of coordination between intelligence agencies, both withi
n the US and between western allies.

A familiar complaint of French intelligence is that collaboration with the
Americans has been essentially one-way, with them happy to receive
information while giving little in return.


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