U.S. experts see Saddam as culprit

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Has Iraq blackmailed the U.S. into striking back at the wrong target?

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U.S. experts see Saddam as culprit

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM Monday, September 17, 2001

WASHINGTON The Bush administration appears to have ruled out Iraq, but intelligence analysts say President Saddam Hussein is a key culprit as the sponsor of the suicide attacks in New York and Washington. The analysts said the intricate details of the plan as well as the of training of the attackers point to the level of financing and coordination that is beyond any one group. They said a government must have either financed or sponsored the attack.

"It is entirely possible if not likely that both the Iraqi government and elements within the Iranian government provided support for the latest attack," said Michael Rubin of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. R. James Woolsey, former CIA director, said the Iraqi connection must be investigated. In an article in the New Republic, Woolsey said the architect of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Ramzi Yusef, could have been an Iraqi agent who took on an identify of somebody missing from the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. "Saddam still considered himself at war with the United States in 1993," Woolsey said. "And, tragically, he may still today."

Several Israeli analysts agreed. "I don't know of operative contacts between Iraq and Bin Laden," Tel Aviv University terrorism expert Ariel Merari said. "But because that they both share a hatred of the United States, we can't rule this out."

Other analysts said a key concern of the administration is that the attackers had collaborators working in the U.S. government. This ranges from agents within airports and airlines to the White House itself. They said the hijackers appeared to know the whereabouts of Air Force One, President George Bush's official plane. They said this could indicate informants in such agencies as the FBI or CIA. "More to the point, how did they get the code-word information and transponder know-how that established their mala fides?" William Safire wrote in the New York Times. "That knowledge of code words and presidential whereabouts and possession of secret procedures indicates that the terrorists may have a mole in the White House that, or informants in the Secret Service, FBI, FAA or CIA. If so, the first thing our war on terror needs is an Angleton-type counterspy." So far, the FBI has detained 25 suspects believed connected to the attacks.

Officials said the FBI has a list of 100 people sought for interrogation. Over the weekend, a poll by Newsweek magazine reported that 62 percent of those surveyed oppose a crackdown on Arabs and Arab-Americans. This includes the imposition of restrictions that resembled those on Japanese-Americans following the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

Administration officials said Bin Laden has become the focus of the U.S. investigation into last week's attacks. "There is no question he is what we call a prime suspect," Bush said. "And if he thinks he can hide and run from the United States and our allies, he will be sorely mistaken." A senior administration official said it was premature to point to a culprit in the attacks. But he appeared to rule out any government sponsorship. "This is a different enemy," the official said. "It doesn't have a capital. It doesn't have marching troops."

But in Tel Aviv, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Sunday that Israel's military assesses that the United States would strike targets both in Afghanistan and Iraq. For his part, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein called on Bush to employ wisdom rather than force in any response to last week's attacks.

-- Robert Riggs (rxr.999@worldnet.att.net), September 19, 2001

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