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[casi] Iraq: US running with the enemy

Aug 15, 2003

Iraq: US running with the enemy

By Nir Rosen

BAGHDAD - The US Central Intelligence Agency used former members of Saddam
Hussein's government to induce regime elements to defect in the prelude to
Operation Iraqi Freedom. This has emerged from the admission of two key
collaborators with the CIA. One of the men is Faris Sulayvani, who was the
commander of the Fursan, the all-Kurdish militia numbering up to 200,000
that fought with Saddam against pro-independence Kurds and in the 1991 first
Gulf War against the United States as well.

Sulayvani, who is the leader of his 50,000-strong tribe of Kurds, is related
to Saddam through marriage. He worked for Iraqi military intelligence and
was also involved in business, securing contracts thanks to his close
association with the regime. In 1994 he had a falling-out with the minister
of defense, Ali Hassan Majid, commonly known as Chemical Ali, and he fled
with his family to Turkey, then Ukraine and Germany, finally arriving in the
United States in 1998, where he was immediately debriefed by the CIA in a
series of 20 meetings. These meetings culminated in Sulayvani being
dispatched to Syria, where he met with tribal, military and security
officials from Iraq.

Unbeknown to the Syrian government, the Iraqis Sulayvani met included Taleb
Abdel Jabbar, who was head of security in northern Iraq, Liwa Yasin Saleh
Jaheishi, who was head of security for Tikrit, and Muhamad Majid, a
high-level General Security Department official. He also induced friend and
ally Arshad Zebari to meet him in Damascus and return to Iraq, where Zebari
persuaded the Kurdish Surchi tribe and the northern Sunni Arab Shammar tribe
to defect. Additionally, in Germany and the Netherlands, Sulayvani met with
other leaders of tribes, such as the Muzuris.

The officials Sulayvani met in Syria without that government's awareness
were cautious. "They said, 'We are afraid the US will betray us like they
did in 1991,'" he said, referring to the US call for an Iraqi uprising and
subsequent refusal to assist it, "'but we'll work with you.'" He added that
the officials he induced to abandon Saddam "helped in the fall of Mosul and
Kirkuk", the north's biggest cities.

The other collaborator was Arshad Zebari, who had been a minister in
Saddam's government for more than two decades. His roles included security
positions and governorship of the northern city of Sulaimaniya. Most
controversial, however, is his participation in the Anfal campaign of 1988.
This military operation, in which Sulayvani's troops also took part, was led
by Chemical Ali, and it was here that he earned his nickname for his use of
chemical weapons to punish Kurds for rebelling against Saddam's government.
Tens of thousands of Kurdish civilians died in what a United Nations report
called genocide because of the systematic attempt to wipe out entire Kurdish
villages and a way of life.

Sulayvani established the Iraqi National Front in 2002, an exile political
party that was recognized by President George W Bush in September of that
year as eligible to receive US government funds. Late last year he
volunteered for the Free Iraqi Forces (FIF), the exile Iraqi militia that
the US army trained on a base in Hungary for three months. Sulayvani
returned to Iraq with US troops and another controversial member of the FIF
named Galub Baradosti, who had also been a member of the Fursan. Their
presence angered many FIF members who had joined idealistically to battle
the regime that Sulayvani and Baradosti had until recently supported.

Zebari's name appears on an August 8 US Department of the Treasury Office of
Foreign Assets Control list of specially designated nationals and blocked
persons just below the name of al-Qaeda's Ayman al Zawahiri. Zebari, who in
1987 destroyed the village of Barzan, home to the Barzani tribe that
dominates the Kurdish Democratic Party, receives protection from the CIA,
and carries a card identifying him as a "friend of the United States of
America" who is entitled to free travel, as well as armed security. "We are
against Barzani," he explained from his home in Mosul. Zebari admired
Saddam's intelligence until 1990, "then the man changed", he said. "After
1991 he isolated himself from the people of Iraq. Saddam's advisers told him
what he wanted to hear."

Anonymous US security officials in Iraq justify the anomaly of Zebari being
both listed and courted by the US by explaining that only former regime
members had the knowledge and contacts that could be useful to the CIA in
its attempt to seduce supporters of Saddam away from his regime. The CIA
initially supported Ahmad Chalabi, but allegations of financial
irregularities and Chalabi's 50-year absence from Iraq drove the US
intelligence agency to find more recent exiles, such as Ayad Alawi, a former
high-ranking Ba'athist and leader of the Iraqi National Accord, as well as
former Iraqi chief of staff General Nizar Khazraji, who was exiled in
Denmark and under investigation for war crimes thanks to his participation
in the 1987 gassing of Halabja that cost more than 5,000 lives during the
Anfal campaign.

The risks of such association, however, are that it may drive the already
anxious Kurdish leadership farther away from Iraq and the US effort, since
the majority of Kurds still hope for independence and may resent the
presence of those who fought against them on the list of US government

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