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Powell, Iraq and terrorism

First, a piece from today's Independent (
reporting Powell's latest declaration to Congress. In the usual tiresome
fashion this piece claims that UNSCOM was 'ejected in 1998.'

Second, a piece from yesterday's New York Times in where we learn that the
CIA 'has no evidence that Iraq has engaged in terrorist operations against
the United States [the only sort that counts apparently -  G] in nearly a
decade.' '[T]he agency is also convinced that President Saddam Hussein has
not provided chemical or biological weapons to Al Qaeda or related terrorist
groups, according to several American intelligence officials' - well,
there's a surprise.

Best wishes,


US says it will act to overthrow Saddam
By Rupert Cornwell and David Usborne

07 February 2002

In a major policy shift, the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, declared
yesterday that there should be a "regime change" in Iraq and that Washington
was prepared to pursue that goal alone if necessary.

America is spoiling as never before for action to settle its unfinished
business with Iraq, the country singled out by President George Bush as the
most menacing member of his "axis of evil". Whatever he means, and whatever
the obstacles, the name of the game is clear – "regime change". But just how
this will be achieved remains clouded in uncertainty. General Powell told
Congress that Mr Bush was considering "a full range of options".

Charles Duelfer, a former deputy chairman of the UN weapons inspectors and a
leading Iraq specialist, said: "They've taken the decision that the Iraq
problem has to be solved, not managed, and there's certainly an inclination
to do this militarily. But the details still have to be worked out."

Various scenarios are being floated, from fomenting internal opposition to
Saddam Hussein, to striking Iraqi installations or even dispatching 100,000
or more US troops to complete the job left unfinished in 1991.

General Powell told Congress: "We believe strongly in regime change in Iraq
and look forward to the day when a democratic, representative government
leads Iraq to rejoin the family of nations." In an admission of the lack of
international backing for the overthrow of Mr Hussein, he suggested the US
"might have to do it alone". And he had a curt answer to Iraq's offer of a
new dialogue, saying this should be "a very short discussion" in which the
UN inspectors, ejected in 1998, "have to go back on our terms".

UN diplomats appear equally sceptical about the chances of a breakthrough at
the proposed meeting between Iraqi officials and the UN secretary general,
Kofi Annan. They note that similar encounters had come and gone in the past
with no significant results.

But there is little sense that Washington is any closer to resolving the
fierce debate over military action in Iraq. One source close to the Security
Council said: "The battle hasn't been settled. If Iraq is getting the
message that they might be about to get a thumping that's OK but there is a
very big difference between the words coming out of Washington and something
actually happening."

More immediately pressing for the Council is a two-day meeting, which
started yesterday, between Russian and American diplomats in Geneva, on
implementing a new Iraq sanctions regime agreed in November. Once that deal
is in place, the US will be tempted to force a new showdown over weapons
inspectors. If Iraq still refuses to admit them, military action could

But Washington would probably find itself with scant international support,
at least in public. Pouring scorn on the notion of an "axis of evil", the
French Foreign Minister, Hubert Védrine, openly criticised "simplistic"
American foreign policy. Saudi Arabia, whose bases would be essential for an
invasion of Iraq, also signalled its opposition.


New York Times
February 6, 2002

Terror Acts by Baghdad Have Waned, U.S. Aides Say


WASHINGTON, Feb. 5 — The Central Intelligence Agency has no evidence that
Iraq has engaged in terrorist operations against the United States in nearly
a decade, and the agency is also convinced that President Saddam Hussein has
not provided chemical or biological weapons to Al Qaeda or related terrorist
groups, according to several American intelligence officials.

The officials said they believe that the last terrorist operation tried by
Iraq against the United States was the assassination attempt against the
first President Bush during his visit to Kuwait in 1993. That plot was
disrupted before it could be carried out. American intelligence officials
believe that Mr. Hussein has been reluctant to use terrorism again for fear
of being detected.

George J. Tenet, the C.I.A. director, is to testify Wednesday before the
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to review the global threat. During
his appearance, his first before Congress since Sept. 11, Mr. Tenet is
likely to be asked about a wide range of terrorism issues, including Iraq.

Since Sept. 11, there has been widespread speculation about possible Iraqi
links to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, based
largely on reports of a meeting in Prague between Mohamed Atta, a leader of
the hijacking teams, and an Iraqi intelligence officer. The reports about
that meeting have been the subject of intense analysis and debate within the
American intelligence community, and some officials even questioned whether
the meeting took place.

Now senior American intelligence officials have concluded that the meeting
between Mr. Atta and the Iraqi officer, Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani,
did take place. But they say they do not believe that the meeting provides
enough evidence to tie Iraq to the Sept. 11 attacks.

United States intelligence officials say they do not know what was discussed
at the meeting. But some experts on Iraq say that even if Iraq were somehow
involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, President Hussein would never have
entrusted such a sensitive matter to a mid-level officer like Mr. Ani.

American officials say Iraqi intelligence now focuses most of its resources
on finding ways to evade trade and economic sanctions that were imposed on
Iraq after President Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990.

Instead, American intelligence officials say their greatest concern is
Iraq's continuing development of chemical and biological weapons, covert
programs that have resumed since United Nations weapons inspectors left in

Mr. Hussein apparently feels that such weapons will help his government
deter any military attack by the United States and its allies.

A C.I.A. report released last week noted that Iraq is probably continuing
low-level nuclear weapons research as well, and that its inability to obtain
enough fissile material is the biggest obstacle to becoming a nuclear power.

The major threat to the United States from Iraqi efforts to develop weapons
of mass destruction would come instead from Baghdad's parallel efforts to
develop long-range missiles, which could be tipped with chemical or
biological warheads, the C.I.A. believes.

In his State of the Union address last week, President Bush described Iraq
as part of an "axis of evil," which includes Iran and North Korea, that the
United States must confront in order to maintain global stability.

Mr. Bush said Iraq "continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to
support terror," but the section of his speech devoted to Iraq focused
primarily on Baghdad's efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction. In
fact, some American intelligence officials say, the Bush administration does
not have enough evidence of Iraqi complicity in anti- American terrorism to
justify making Iraq the next target in the war on terrorism.

Some signs have emerged in recent years that President Hussein might
consider terrorism as a tool against the United States in the long- running
duel over the inspection of suspected chemical and biological weapons sites.
In 1998, American and Middle Eastern intelligence agencies discovered that
Abu Nidal, the Palestinian who had been one of the most feared terrorists of
the 1970's and early 80's, had moved to Baghdad.

Abu Nidal had been ousted from his previous haven in Libya, after Col.
Muammar el-Qaddafi decided he wanted to end Libya's ties to terrorists in
order to get out from under international sanctions. But Abu Nidal does not
appear to have engaged in any anti-American operations since his arrival in
Iraq, and he may have ended his terrorism activities, officials said.

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