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[casi] Baer on Iraq assault

Dear list members,





1) 'Bombing Saddam is ignorance'
2) Iraq attack 'will end in chaos'



The Observer (London)
March 03, 2002

'Bombing Saddam is ignorance'

Robert Baer, the ex-CIA man in Iraq during the failed uprising in 1995,
says the US is not in a position to strike against Iraq because it does not
understand anything about the country

Henry Porter
Sunday March 3, 2002

Robert Baer's objections to an attack on Iraq could hardly be principled.
As the CIA's point man in Iraq during the failed uprising in 1995, he
encouraged dissident groups to believe that the United States wanted the
overthrow and death of Saddam Hussein. Yet Baer, whose memoir of life in
the CIA, See No Evil, is published in Britain tomorrow, is appalled at the
idea of a US strike against Iraq today.

'If the US is to bomb Saddam and his army until there is no army, what
comes after that? No one is discussing the ethnic composition of Iraq or
what Iran is likely to do.'

Few in America appreciate the tribal ethnic and religious faultlines that
run through the Middle East as Baer does. Iraq is particularly divided. In
the south there is a Shia majority which now looks to Iran for support.
Occupying the geographical and political centre of the country are the
followers of the Sunni sect, which includes Saddam's tribe, and in the
north are the Kurds, who are split into two warring parties, the PUK and
the KDU.

'The US is in no position to rejigger this because we don't understand
anything about the country. If I were the Iranians, for instance, I would
try to set up a state in southern Iraq and add three million barrels a day
to my account. That could begin to rival Saudi Arabia. Of course, I don't
know this is going to happen, but the US government doesn't know either.
The heart of the debate is about taking out all Saddam's tanks in a couple
of weeks.'

Baer worked for the CIA's Directorate of Operations for 25 years, with
postings in Sudan, Lebanon, Iraq, Tajikistan, India and Europe. His
devastating portrait of the agency's decline adds much to the understanding
of why America was caught off guard on 11 September, but as important is
what he has to say about American sluggishness when it comes to
institutional reform.

Towards the end of his time, he searched CIA computer for files on subjects
that interested him, for example, the Pasdaran (the Iranian Intelligence
service), the Saudi royal family and Syria.

'You know what? There was nothing there. Nothing. They didn't have
anything. That's America now, you know. It can't reform.'

After a quarter of century abroad, Baer hardly recognises the States and is
appalled at the level of public ignorance.

'There is no debate,' he says. 'People will not address the question of
Palestine in the context of the World Trade Centre attacks. It's not in the
terms of the discussion. They simply believe that Israel has the right to
defend its democracy like the US does. They don't understand that Israel
gives no democratic rights to the Palestinians whatsoever. They don't see
that it's not a democracy.'

An affable but watchful man in his late forties, Baer is aware that the CIA
is mightily displeased with his first literary effort. It can't help that
the book has been on the New York Times ' bestseller list for four weeks in
a row; that Warner Brothers bought an option and hope to develop the
project with the team that made Traffic ; and that Baer is never off US
television, often doing three national shows in an evening.

He seems to have few regrets about leaving the CIA. 'I would rather drive a
taxi than serve in the CIA,' he says convincingly over lunch at the
Alistair Little restaurant in West London.

'Don't ask me how it happened, but the people who work in it just don't
match up to the people who got to Silicon Valley or the people who make
cruise missiles or design derivatives.'

It's in the innocuous detail that Baer's book is telling. At one point he
remembers taking over from a female officer in the Paris station and being
handed her list of contacts and agents. When he followed them up, he found
that instead of using them to gather intelligence she had been trying to
recruit them to a religious sect. The serving US ambassador to France was
also involved in the sect. When the two of them were observed handing out
leaflets in the street, the French security service thought some kind of
operation was in progress.
With good reason he is a pessimist about the CIA and US foreign
policymaking. Examples of incompetence abound in See No Evil . In 1986, he
was contacted in Germany by the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood who wanted a
meeting. He went to Dortmund and listened to Syrian con tacts propose an
intelligence alliance against President Assad. He wrote up a report (on a
typewriter, whose ribbon he destroyed afterwards) and sent it to the US
embassy in Bonn. A message came back that they weren't interested.

But that was not the last he heard of it. In the wake of 11 September, 16
years later, the FBI contacted Baer to say that associates of the Syrian
contacts had been involved in al-Qaeda. That channel, closed down so
peremptorily, might have led them to Mohamed Atta.

Over lunch we circled the problem of Iraq. He mentioned that it is easily
within Saddam's power to forestall the long-announced air attacks from US
bases in Diego Garcia. He could, says Baer, 'simply move his tanks into
Syria and proclaim that he was going to liberate the Palestinians', thus
pitching Israel into a war with an Arab state.

If there is a fault in Baer's analysis of the Iraqi problem, it is that
while he acknowledges Saddam's willingness to use force against civilians
he does not believe that the accumulation of weapons of mass destruction is
anything but defensive.

Baer says we should look at it through Saddam's regional mentality and that
his chief concern is, as it always has been, Iran.

·See No Evil, by Robert Baer, Crown Publications £12.99.



Monday, 4 March, 2002, 19:49 GMT

Iraq attack 'will end in chaos'

The BBC's Tim Sebastian met Robert Baer

A former CIA agent has said that a US invasion of Iraq could cause untold
chaos in the Middle East.
Robert Baer, who belonged to the CIA's directorate of operations for more
than 20 years, also said the US Government does not have a game plan when
it comes to Iraq.

"There is no plan," he told Tim Sebastian in an interview for BBC HARDtalk.
"What terrifies me is that if the US attacks Iraq, destroys Saddam's army -
which is what really holds the country together - it's going to break up
ethnic and religious groups."

"If you destroy the army, the chances of Iran invading the south are very
US President George W Bush has demanded that Saddam Hussein allow checks by
UN weapons inspectors, who left Baghdad in 1998 ahead of a US-led bombing


Mr Baer who was part of the team that helped to organise an abortive coup
attempt against Saddam Hussein in 1995, went on to say that it was likely
the Iraqi president would evade a US attack.

"I think Saddam could pull a rabbit out of his hat, he could let the UN
inspectors back," he said.

"If worse came to worse he could turn his army over to Arafat - I mean he's
capable of doing anything - and say I'm going to liberate Jerusalem."

In the interview, Mr Baer also predicted the demise of the interim
government in Afghanistan, saying that "it won't last until June".

He went on to call Afghanistan "ungovernable" and said that different
warring groups will soon move in and carve up the country.

"I think once the snow melts, people are going to start fighting," he said.

"Not listening"

He also launched a scathing attack on the CIA, condemning the organisation
for not listening to early intelligence warnings about the 11 September

"They're not listening," he said.

"They'd made up their mind before 11 September that no terrorism was going
to reach US shores and in 1993 the first World Trade Centre bombing was an
accident, people got lucky and we don't have to worry about it."
However Mr Baer also claimed that responsibility does not just rest with
the CIA.

"It's a cultural problem. It's not just the CIA, it's Immigration, the FBI,
State Department, they're all broke," he said.

"Federal bureaucracy in the US is broke."


He went on to blame part of the CIA's problems on recruitment and

"Smart people in the US don't want to go into the CIA they want to go to
Wall Street, they want to go some place else. So when 11 September came, no
wonder we didn't know what was going on, " he said.

"The best minds in America go to Silicon Valley and New York, the financial
sector, and not the CIA. That is one of the problems."

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