The Jerusalem Post

February 23, 2001, Friday


LENGTH: 786 words

HEADLINE: Q&A with Laurie Mylroie

BYLINE: Elliot Jager

Would it be fair to infer that US decision makers now know that Iraq was the moving force behind the World Trade Center bombing?

When Clinton hit Iraqi intelligence headquarters in June 1993, saying it was in retaliation for Saddam's attempt to assassinate George Bush, Clinton also believed that it would take care of the Trade Center bombing. But it didn't.

I cautioned Martin Indyk in December 1994, when he was NSC adviser on the Middle East: "One strike on an empty building at night will not stop Saddam forever."

Even as we spoke, Ramzi Yousef, WTC bombing mastermind, was plotting to bomb a dozen US airplanes. Saddam is working with Moslem extremists, including, it would seem, Osama bin Ladin, to attack Americans.

And Americans have died for the sly way that the Clinton administration dealt with the Trade Center bombing. It is a very serious problem.

You argue that the WTC bombing began as a low-level conspiracy among NY-area Moslem fundamentalists, and that the mission was quickly coopted by Iraq for its own purposes. Did Iran and Syria not have any hand in the attack?

Iran and Syria had nothing to do with the bombing. Iraq was behind it.

The Gulf War never really ended. The WTC bombing was the first of the terrorist attacks Saddam was to conduct against the US as part of his ongoing war against America.

What role did bin Ladin and his al-Qaida group play? After all, some of the WTC bombers had CIA training and were veterans of the anti-Soviet struggle in Afghanistan.

Bin Ladin played no role in the Trade Center bombing. At the time of the investigation and the trials, his name never came up.

It is only later, after more bombings, that bin Ladin's name became connected with the Trade Center bombing.

But that's just sloppy reporting.

Most noteworthy, the indictment of bin Ladin doesn't include the NY bombing conspiracies. But there seems to be a tendency (in at least some reporting) to make bin Ladin responsible for everything.

It's not very logical, but maybe simple answers appeal.

But wasn't Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, mastermind of the WTC attack, captured in a hotel in Pakistan owned by bin Laden?

Ramzi Yousef was not captured in a hotel in Pakistan owned by bin Ladin. It was a very ordinary bed & breakfast in Islamabad, not far from the Iraqi embassy.

You get these kind of reports because people somehow think they "know" something, like Yousef was part of bin Ladin's network.

And then small points end up distorted to show the "connection," when there really is none.

What role did Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman play?

The charges against the Egyptian cleric are "seditious conspiracy" - his inflammatory rhetoric inspired some of those who participated in the WTC bombing and some who participated in a second bombing conspiracy.

That conspiracy involved picking more bombing targets in New York, including the UN.

Sudanese intelligence (and behind Sudan, Iraq) was involved, but the FBI was onto them.

Did you uncover any information that might help unravel the story behind the assassination of Meir Kahane? His killer, El Sayyad Nossair, was also associated with the WTC bombing gang.

Some information emerged to suggest that El Sayyid Nossair might have had contacts with Abu Nidal.

What parallels do you see between Libya's involvement in Lockerbie and Iraq's role in the WTC bombing?

They are similar in that both were state-sponsored terrorism.

But the big difference is that Iraq ran the WTC bombing as a "false-flag" operation, with Moslem extremists meant to take the blame.

The Clinton administration accepted that pretext because it was convenient.

If the administration had told the US public that it strongly suspected Iraq was behind an attempt to topple New York's tallest tower onto its twin, the public might have demanded that the US do a great deal more than attack Iraqi intelligence headquarters.

How did you personally become so interested in Iraq?

I did my Ph.D. on the rivalry among Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran for dominance in the Persian Gulf after 1968, when the British announced that they would be leaving the region.

Then, in 1991, the late Uriel Dann, professor of history at Tel Aviv University, and I were talking.

He was very agitated and I didn't really understand what he was saying.

But I encouraged him to write it up. His article appeared in The New Republic, entitled "Getting Even."

Dann argued that Saddam lived for revenge and that the consequences could be quite terrible.

With time, I came to understand that Dann's article was perhaps the most brilliant and eloquent thing written during that whole period.


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