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Iraqi Party Helping US ReasseRe: [casi] Whimsical de-Ba'thification



Iraqi Party Helping US Reassemble Saddam's Agency to Spy on Iran
Resurrection of once-feared service could backfire, critics say
San Fransico Chronicle
Tues 22 July 2003
http://tinyurl.com/hshd

Baghdad -- Relying on the help of an Iraqi political party, the United
States has moved to resurrect parts of Iraq's once-feared intelligence
service, with the branch that monitors Iran among the top priorities, former
Iraqi agents and politicians say.

The Iraqi National Congress, which is led by Ahmad Chalabi, the longtime
exile who is now a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, says its senior
officials have met with senior members of the so-called Iran and Turkey
branch of the Mukhabarat, or Iraqi intelligence, over the past several
weeks. The party has received documents from the intelligence officers and
recruited them into a reconstituted version of the unit, said Abdulaziz
Kubaisi, the Iraqi National Congress official responsible for the recruiting
effort.

American officials, he said, are fully informed about what the party is
doing. Iraqi intelligence officers who have been asked to rejoin the branch
contend that the United States is orchestrating the effort.

"As far as what we do, we are sending back information to the Pentagon, to
people who are responsible," Kubaisi said. "They know the nature of what
we're doing. There is coordination. We have representatives of (U.S. Defense
Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld (at the Congress)."

But some Middle East experts said trying to revive the branch before a
sovereign government is in place and working through a political party could
backfire.

"This sets a bad precedent because you don't have a government in place, and
because Chalabi's party is a minority and doesn't represent the majority of
Iraqis," said Edward Walker, former ambassador to Egypt and Israel under
former President George Bush and now president of the Middle East Institute,
"I think it will be highly controversial to rebuild the intelligence arm
when there are so many unresolved questions about Iraqi intelligence from
before."

The effort to reach out to former Iraqi intelligence officials also appears
hard to harmonize with the American drive to "de-Baathify" Iraqi society,
given the prominence of the Baath Party of Saddam Hussein in his government.

A senior American official said concern about Iran was driving some of the
discussion about moving quickly to re-establish an intelligence service. The
official said the United States recognized that Iraq had a good intelligence
apparatus focused on Iran because activities in the neighboring country
might affect Iraqi security at home.

People close to the Iran branch said the Americans had also expressed
interest in reviving the intelligence service's Syria branch.

Kubaisi also said the possibility that Iran might try to interfere in Iraq's
affairs made the revival of the Mukhabarat's Iran branch a top priority.

"There are political parties -- not the main seven ones -- who have
alliances with Iran, who are flirting with it," he said. "I think the
Iranians are interfering in Iraq's affairs. They've been meddling here for
years."

American officials in Washington and Baghdad maintained that reviving the
Iran branch was only being discussed now. Senior U.S. officials in
Washington said the question of when and how to re-establish the Mukhabarat
was under active consideration at the highest levels of the government. They
said that it had been discussed recently by the Deputies Committee, which
represents the second-ranking official at national security agencies, and
that the CIA had been designated the lead agency in the process.

But people close to the Iraqi members of the Iran branch say recruitment
efforts began two months ago, when the crisis over Iran's nuclear program
flared, and continue now. Sabi al-Hamed, a former Iran branch member in
Zubayr,

in southern Iraq, said two of his former colleagues had made contact with
him two weeks ago and told him that they had been working with Americans.

The Iran unit will begin working once the Governing Council settles in and
the ministries are fully functioning, Kubaisi said. But the former Iraqi
agents who had discussions with the Iraqi National Congress and with members
of the Iran branch say the unit is already working in a building in central
Baghdad.

Kubaisi said Iran branch members were being vetted before being signed up.
He and others close to the branch said none of the officers had been paid
yet.

"These are people we should attract and make use of," he said. "But they
shouldn't be bad people. They should not have a criminal past, and they
shouldn't be stained with people's blood."

In other developments Monday, a U.S. soldier and his Iraqi interpreter were
killed when their humvee was attacked by rocket and small-arms fire on a
highway north of Baghdad. The vehicle erupted in flames as soldiers and
Iraqi bystanders tried to rescue the occupants.

Witnesses, including U.S. artillery troops who rushed to the scene with a
medic from a nearby base, said they had dragged the interpreter out of the
humvee and tried to keep him alive, but he was badly burned and wounded,
apparently by rocket shells. Officials said three other troops had been
wounded in the attack. The assailants escaped.

The attack brought to 39 the number of U.S. troops killed in hostilities
since May 1, when President Bush declared major combat had ended in Iraq. A
spate of recent guerrilla attacks has singled out U.S. military convoys and
patrols, as well as Iraqi civilians and a mayor friendly to U.S. forces.
Page A - 13

2003 San Francisco Chronicle


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