The Jerusalem Post

Friday, February 23, 2001

Whodunnit (really)?

By Shimshon Arad

Review of “Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein's Unfinished War Against American,” American Enterprise Institute Press, Washington DC, 300 pps., $24.95


Everyone “knows” that Osama bin Ladin and his gang of Muslim fanatics—with,  perhaps, Iranian collusion, were behind the bombing of the New York World Trade Center.  But everyone may be wrong, according to Iraq-specialist Laurie Mylroie.  She says that the February 1993 WTC bombing, as well as murderous attacks against U.S. facilities in Saudi Arabia in 1995 and 1996, were the dirty work of Iraq's Saddam Hussein.


In “Study of Revenge,” Mylroie has produced a persuasive and harsh indictment of Saddam, all based on comprehensive and meticulously compiled evidence, backed by sound and dispassionate analysis.


Iraq has been, for years, the focal point of Laurie Mylroie's study.  She is publisher of an on-line newsletter, Iraq News, and served as an adviser on Iraq to Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign.


The last angle is of interest, because her book charges Clinton's administration with consistently turning a “blind eye to the clear and obvious dangers that Saddam Hussein poses.”


The evidence she produces against Saddam appears overwhelming.  The main question is: Why should Iraq be behind these repeated acts of terrorism, rather than, say, Iran or Syria?


Mylroie believes the answer is simple: In Saddam's view the U.S. and Iraq are still at war.  According to the evidence she harnesses, Iraq sees itself as justified in conducting anti-American terrorism: from Iraq's vantage point, this is legitimate revenge.


THE INITIATIVE for the Trade Center plot did not, apparently, begin in Baghdad.  But once the Iraqi security service—through its telephone tapping—got wind of the brewing conspiracy, it took the mission under its wing.


The FBI found out that during a single month, one of the plotters made 46 calls to Iraq.

Iraqi intelligence was already then planning a terrorist operation, but the specific means to carry it out fell into their laps through these telephone calls.  Iraqi agents provided the perpetrators with false passports, funds and explosives.


For a while there were suspicions that the plotters were tied to Iran because some of their telephone calls were placed to that country.  But a cursory glance at the telephone bills showed that these calls were placed to Baluchistan in southeast Iran.


The Baluchi are Sunni, and tensions are known to exist between the Shi'ite regime in Tehran and its Baluchi population.  Iraq's support of the Sunni Baluchi in Iran has persisted for years.  And US authorities established that Ramzi Yousef, the chief defendant in the Trade Center plot, was an ethnic Baluch.


When he fled from New York soon after the Trade Center explosion, he used a false passport and did not go to Tehran.  His destination was Baluchistan, where the Iraqis were well established to help him.


Mylroie questions the supposition that a most ambitious terrorist bombing project—aimed at toppling the two huge WTC towers and letting loose sodium cyanide gas that could have killed tens of thousands of New Yorkers—could have simply been the work of émigré Islamic extremists.  She shows a link between Saddam's chemical weapons program and the sodium cyanide associated with the WTC attack.


WASHINGTON, says Mylroie, “was slow to understand and accept the conclusion reached by New York law enforcement officials that the cyanide gas attack was intended to accompany the bombing” of the Trade Center.  US Secretary of Defense William Cohen warned that the US faced serious dangers from new terrorist poison gas attacks, but surprisingly attributed this danger to “individuals and independent groups” and not the actual culprit—Iraq.


What about Iran? The book concludes that Iran reportedly gave money to Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman (the Egyptian cleric), but no intelligence service has found any links between Omar and the WTC explosion.


The 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, however, and the subsequent terrorist attack on the Jewish community center there, were indeed the work of Iran.


The Egyptians, incidentally, maintained all along to the Americans that Saddam was behind the New York and the Saudi Arabia bombings, but to no avail.


Mylroie devotes a good part of her book to Saddam's nonconventional warfare capabilities.  It is an appalling and ominous story, and Washington's failure to do anything effective since Saddam's suspension of the UN inspection regime over two years ago was a major failure of the Clinton administration.


If the new Bush administration opts to deal with Saddam the way Washington dealt with him during the past few years, “we must be prepared to see further acts of violence that are more successful, more brutal, and more devastating.”


And, as a New York Times analysis said of last week's air attacks, Bush's “slap at Saddam falls short on strategy.”


This book is an important contribution to understanding the menacing regime in Baghdad.