Ex-C.I.A. Aides Say Iraq
Leader Helped Agency in 90's Attacks
WASHINGTON, June 8 "New York Times"
-- Iyad Allawi, now the designated prime minister of
Iraq, ran an exile organization intent on deposing Saddam Hussein that sent
agents into Baghdad in the early 1990's to plant bombs and sabotage
government facilities under the direction of the C.I.A., several former
intelligence officials say.
Dr. Allawi's group, the Iraqi National Accord, used
car bombs and other explosive devices smuggled into Baghdad from
northern Iraq, the officials said. Evaluations of the effectiveness of the
bombing campaign varied, although the former officials interviewed agreed
that it never threatened Saddam Hussein's rule.
No public records of the bombing campaign exist, and the former officials
said their recollections were in many cases sketchy, and in some cases
contradictory. They could not even recall exactly when it occurred, though
the interviews made it clear it was between 1992 and 1995.
The Iraqi government at the time claimed that the bombs, including one it
said exploded in a movie theater, resulted in many
civilian casualties. But whether the bombings actually killed any
civilians could not be confirmed because, as a former C.I.A. official said,
the United States had no significant intelligence sources in Iraq then.
One former Central Intelligence Agency officer who was based in the region,
Robert Baer, recalled that a bombing during that period
"blew up a school bus; schoolchildren were killed."
Mr. Baer, a critic of the Iraq war, said he did not recall which resistance
group might have set off that bomb.
Other former intelligence officials said Dr. Allawi's organization was the
only resistance group involved in bombings and sabotage at that time.
But one former senior intelligence official recalled that "bombs were going
off to no great effect."
"I don't recall very much killing of anyone," the official said.
When Dr. Allawi was picked as interim prime minister last week, he said his
first priority would be to improve the security situation by stopping
bombings and other insurgent attacks in Iraq — an idea several former
officials familiar with his past said they found "ironic."
"Send a thief to catch a thief," said Kenneth Pollack, who was an Iran-Iraq
military analyst for the C.I.A. during the early 1990's and recalled the
Dr. Allawi declined to respond to repeated requests for comment, made Monday
and Tuesday through his Washington representative, Patrick N. Theros. The
former intelligence officials, while confirming C.I.A. involvement in the
bombing campaign, would not say how, exactly, the agency had supported it.
An American intelligence officer who worked with Dr. Allawi in the early
1990's noted that "no one had any problem with sabotage in Baghdad back
then," adding, "I don't think anyone could have known how things would turn
Dr. Allawi was a favorite of the C.I.A. and other government agencies 10
years ago, largely because he served as a counterpoint to Ahmad Chalabi, a
more prominent exile leader.
He "was highly regarded by those involved in Iraqi operations," Samuel R.
Berger, who was national security adviser in the Clinton administration,
said in an interview. "Unlike Chalabi, he was someone who was trusted by the
regional governments. He was less flamboyant, less promotional."
The C.I.A. recruited Dr. Allawi in 1992, former intelligence officials said.
At that time, the former senior intelligence official said, "what we were
doing was dealing with anyone" in the Iraqi opposition "we could get our
hands on." Mr. Chalabi began working with the agency in 1991, and the idea,
the official added, was to "decrease the proportion of Chalabi's role in
what we were doing by finding others to work with."
In 1991, Dr. Allawi was associated with a former Iraqi official, Salih Omar
Ali al-Tikriti, whom the United States viewed as unsavory. He and Dr. Allawi
founded the Iraqi National Accord in 1990. Both were former supporters of
the Iraqi government.
Some intelligence officials have also suggested that Dr. Allawi, while he
was still a member of the ruling Baath Party in the early 1970's, may have
spied on Iraqi students studying in London. Mr. Tikriti was said to have
supervised public hangings in Baghdad. The former officials said the C.I.A.
would not work with Dr. Allawi until he severed his relationship with Mr.
Tikriti, which he did in 1992.
Several intelligence officials said the agency's broad goal immediately
after the Persian Gulf war in 1991 was to recruit opposition leaders who had
senior contacts inside Iraq, something Dr. Allawi claimed. The Iraqi
National Accord was made up of former senior Iraqi military and political
leaders who had fled the country and were said to retain connections to
colleagues inside the government.
"Iyad had contact with people the agency thought would be useful to us in
the future," Mr. Pollack said. "He seemed to have ties to respected Sunni
figures that no one else had." The Hussein government was dominated by Sunni
The bombing and sabotage campaign, the former senior intelligence official
said, "was a test more than anything else, to demonstrate capability."
Another former intelligence officer who was involved in Iraqi affairs
recalled that the bombings "were an option we considered and used." Dr.
Allawi's group was used, he added, "because Chalabi never had any sort of
internal organization that could carry it out," adding,
"We would never have
asked him to carry out sabotage."
The varied assessments of the bombing campaign's effectiveness are
understandable, the former senior intelligence official said, because
would not attribute to the U.S. sufficient intelligence resources then so
that we could perceive if an effective bombing campaign was under way."
Dr. Allawi is not believed to have ever spoken in public about the bombing
campaign. But one Iraqi National Accord officer did. In 1996, Amneh
al-Khadami, who described himself as the chief bomb maker for the Iraqi
National Accord and as being based in Sulaimaniya, in northern Iraq,
recorded a videotape in which he talked of the bombing campaign and
complained that he was being shortchanged money and supplies. Two former
intelligence officers confirmed the existence of the videotape.
Mr. Khadami said that "we blew up a car, and we were
supposed to get $2,000" but got only $1,000, according to an account
in the British newspaper The Independent in 1997. The newspaper had obtained
a copy of the tape.
Mr. Khadami, it added, also said he worried that the C.I.A. might view him
as "too much the terrorist."
source: The New York Times -
June 8, 2004