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«DANY SHOHAM The Anthrax Evidence Points to Iraq Any analytical context that is not merely technical, but relies on the power of mind, ultimately ...»

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International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence, 16: 39–68, 2003

Copyright # 2003 Taylor & Francis

0885-0607/03 $12.00 +.00

DOI: 10.1080=08850600390121467


The Anthrax Evidence Points to Iraq

Any analytical context that is not merely technical, but relies on the power of

mind, ultimately reaches a point where evidence, even if only circumstantial,

generally accumulates to a certain level of a critical mass, thus necessarily producing a solid conclusion. This point is both conceivable and pragmatic. Its validity is both intrinsic and objective, stemming from an inherent plausibility. Occasionally, the resulting conclusion is inadequate to propel the practical moves — strategic or political — which are regarded as its corollaries. This may be inevitable, due to the very fact that the evidence is circumstantial. But that would not impair the validity of the conclusion, even for those that are considered to be inferential assessments.

Unavoidably, intelligence analysts often face such challenges.

The intention here is to present, analyze, and gauge the accumulating mass of information that indicates, though mainly indirectly, Iraqi involvement in the anthrax letters affairs of 2001. Accentuating its evidential essence indicates that a critical level has indeed been achieved. The following categories of supportive information are at least circumstantially examined

to determine whether Iraq sponsored the anthrax letters operations:

 Earlier conduct by Iraq of nonconventional terrorism preparations  Earlier conduct by Iraq of nonconventional terrorism operations  Iraqi activities concerned with anthrax as a biological warfare agent (BWA)  Relationship of Iraq to the anthrax letters affairs


Even before becoming his country’s leader, Saddam Hussein himself, along with a dozen Iraqi government officials, visited the United States as early as Dr. Dany Shoham, a researcher at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel, has written extensively on the issue of chemical and biological warfare.


40 DANY SHOHAM 1967 to learn about chemical weapons. The group traveled to the Aberdeen and Dugway proving grounds, where they observed tests of chemical weapons.1 That remarkable initiation provided no hint of the future.

Iraq’s preparations for acquiring offensive chemical and biological capabilities, in terms of both regular and terrorism-oriented warfare, began in earnest soon after Saddam took power, in the 1970s. 2 Saddam’s offensive unconventional capabilities peaked shortly before the 1990 Gulf crisis and the UNSCOM inspection. By that time, an offensive biological arsenal had already been included. That arsenal was cautiously cultivated by Iraq, with anthrax the favorite agent in the inventory. For some reason, germs have a great appeal to Saddam. This was clear during the past decade, as evidenced by his enormous efforts to retain Iraq’s offensive biological capabilities.3 It is in his very nature to resort to BWA, using the ‘‘tiny creatures’’ to accomplish grand missions.

As Ambassador Richard Butler, the past executive chairman of the United

Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), put it:

In dealing with the Iraqis, you quickly learn that their resistance to having the truth about a program revealed has a direct, proportional relationship to the importance of that program. Given that fact, I concluded that Iraq’s biological weapons program is Saddam Hussein’s biggest self-indulgence and top priority. He seemed to think [that] killing with germs has a lot to recommend it. The ludicrous lies, false documentation, and purest effort the Iraqis employed in order to prevent us from getting a handle on their biological weapons program was an absolute wonder to behold.4 Ironically, yet sensibly, Dr. Rihab Taha, identified as the leading official in charge of Iraq’s biological weapons program, is also politically well-connected. Her husband, Iraq’s oil minister, Amir Rashid Ubaydi, helps direct the country’s relations with the United Nations weapons inspection teams. Actually, Iraq’s sole goal in that context is to retain its biochemical weapons and prepare for their use.5 The first Iraqi facility dealing with biological warfare agents, located in Salman-Pak since the late 1970s, retained its research and development infrastructure even after Iraq’s biological weapons program matured, and large-scale production was carried out elsewhere. Two other facilities are located at the Salman-Pak site, very close to the biological facility.

Two defectors from Iraqi intelligence disclosed that they had worked for several years at Salman-Pak, where Islamic terrorists have been trained in rotations of five or six months since 1995. They noted that the training in the camp was aimed at carrying out attacks against neighboring countries, and possibly Europe and the United States. On one side of the camp, young Iraqis who were members of Fedayeen Saddam, or Saddam’s


Fighters, were trained in espionage, assassination techniques, and sabotage.

In a nearby compound, non-Iraqi Arabs — most appearing to be Islamic militant radicals — were drilled in terrorist acts. Among other things, the trainees practiced hijackings in small groups, armed only with knives, on a Boeing 707.6 (After 11 September 2001, a private United States satellitephoto company, Space-Imaging, went through its archives and indeed found a photo that included a plane parked in the Salman-Pak compound).7 This combination of Salman-Pak facilities, together with its intelligence mastery, does not seem at all to be just coincidence.

Another intelligence and special operations–controlled project, involving biochemical agents designed for acts of terrorism, was conducted within the framework of the closely based main facility of Iraq’s Atomic Energy Organization, the Nuclear Research Center in Taweita. Another Iraqi defector, formerly a senior scientist who worked at Iraq’s Atomic Energy Organization, noted: ‘‘One day a light green-yellow substance, which was crystallized and packed in tins, arrived. Suddenly, intelligence men came in and rushed it away. I later found out they were working on some secret project.’’ The substances were tested on Iraqi prisoners, mainly Kurds and Shi’ites in Radwania Jail, in west Baghdad. The project is headed by Professor Shaher Mahmoud al-Jibouri, a chemist and secret service agent. (Senior Western intelligence officers confirmed the experimentation on prisoners: ‘‘Between April and May 2001, 30 prisoners died after being used in experiments,’’ said one.) The defector was asked to examine numerous complicated and dangerous toxins. Mentioning typical modes of terrorism-oriented options of dissemination, he added: ‘‘They were very easy to use. You could put them in water or steam, or use them in the soil.’’8 Also, Professor Khidhir Hamza, a former director of Iraq’s nuclear program, stated that radioactive materials — a particular category of chemical agents suitable for specific sabotage acts — were dealt with, as well, within the Iraqi Atomic Energy Organization, in conjunction with the Iraqi intelligence system overseeing terrorism operations.9 Water sources, for instance, if contaminated by such materials, are useless. Notably, UNSCOM’s formed chairman, Rolf Ekeus, stated that a central project included in the Iraqi BW program was the poisoning of lakes and aqueducts.10 Yet, this was not the end. One method adjusted by Iraq to spread biochemical agents through terrorism is airborne. Specific platforms destined to carry and deliver nonconventional weapons allow both military-oriented and terrorism-oriented employment. A typical instance is that of a UAV (unmanned air vehicle, specifically the Eastern Europeanmade L-29) procured and modified by Iraq to disseminate chemical, and more likely, biological warfare agents.11


42 DANY SHOHAM Furthermore, Iraq’s preparation of biochemical warfare agents has included contacts with terrorists. The main terrorist organization involved is Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda. In 1991, both Saddam and Osama — independently, yet consequent to direct American pressure — found a hospitable, safe shelter in Sudan: Saddam, for elements of his top strategic military assets, ballistic plus unconventional, and Osama, for his own sake.

They had both been obliged to desert their own homeland, a crucial seed of tribulation. They soon recognized certain common denominators. Also U.S. President Bill Clinton’s administration emphasized the importance of ‘‘loose networks’’ of Muslim militants, rather than states. Within the context of responsibility for major terrorist strikes. Saddam, completely opportunistic, fully recognized the potentially cardinal role of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. That approach helped fuel Saddam’s intensifying interface with al-Qaeda.

In 1994, Faruq Hijazi, then Saddam’s secret service director, and presently his ambassador to Turkey, had a series of meetings with bin Laden in Sudan.

Strong bonds were formed; that cooperation included the arena of terrorismoriented biological and chemical warfare agents.12 Sabotage by means of biological and chemical warfare agents has long been fondly regarded by Saddam. Bin Laden readily joined the cabal, though in 1996 he moved from Sudan to Afghanistan. The Sudanese regime propelled and thickened the connection, providing a proper base, particularly in 1997, when Iraq’s need to protect its biochemical weapons development from U.S. forces patrolling the Persian Gulf escalated. Iraq then moved to Sudan the weapons of mass destruction, both chemical and biological, it had stored in Yemen.

In early 1998, another series of meetings between Faruq Hijazi and bin Laden took place in Afghanistan, after bin Laden was implicated in the bombing of two U.S. embassies in East Africa. Hijazi offered Osama sanctuary in Iraq. Although the offer was not accepted, the ties were strengthened. Other links between al-Qaeda and Iraq continue to crop up.

Indications are that some of the people Saddam employed to assassinate Iraqi dissidents were affiliated with al-Qaeda. A meeting followed in Baghdad between bin Laden’s number two man, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Iraq’s vice president, Taha Yasin Ramadan. On 25 April 1998, bin Laden sent an al-Qaeda terrorist delegation to Baghdad. On that occasion, according to an intelligence report, Saddam’s son, Uday, agreed to receive several hundred members of al-Qaeda for training in terrorist techniques, in Iraq.13 Consequently, a secret pact was forged among Osama bin Laden, Iraq, and Sudan to wage a terrorist war against the United States. This October 1998 agreement led to Iraqi know-how and experts helping to build a chemical weapons factory especially for bin Laden’s terrorists in Sudan,


and bin Laden and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq cooperating to build several others. The pact was uncovered in a paper prepared for the U.S. House of Representatives’ Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare by its staff director Yossef Bodansky. Bodansky’s report showed the growing brashness of Iraqi involvement in developing chemical weapons for terrorism in Sudan, away from the prying cameras of U.S. planes patrolling the no-fly zone in Iraq. It cites two other ultra-modern chemicalbiological weapons factories built in Sudan with Iraqi expertise.

Actually, as early as February 1999, the Paris-based Arab language newspaper, al-Watan al-Arabi revealed the formidable triangular Arabic connection. It reported that Western diplomatic and security sources had warned in secret reports that Iraq, Sudan, and bin Laden were cooperating to build several chemical and germ weapons factories in Sudan, financed by bin Laden and supervised by Iraqi experts and technicians. The Baghdad-Khartoum-bin Laden deal was regarded as the biggest act of coordination among extremist multinational Islamic organizations, chiefly al-Qaeda, and Baghdad ‘‘for confronting the U.S., the common enemy.’’ Many meetings between bin Laden and Iraqi officials took place subsequent to the October 1998 pact.14 Also, by that date, United Nations inspections in Iraq had ceased; yet UN inspectors documented visits to Khartoum by officials in Iraq’s chemical weapons program. Some believe that bin Laden and his associates were helping to finance the weapons work. ‘‘There was a guy in bin Laden’s entourage in Khartoum who had very close connections to Iraqi intelligence,’’ recalled one former CIA operative who declined to be identified. ‘‘He was close to bin Laden and dealt with him a lot in his incarnation as factory builder and road builder.’’15 Eventually, at the start of 1999, bin Laden himself, in an interview with Time Magazine said that ‘‘If I had indeed acquired biological and chemical weapons, then I thank God for enabling me to do so, and if I seek to acquire these weapons, I am carrying out a duty.’’16 The observation that solid ties—including the dimension of terrorism by means of unconventional weapons — have for long existed among Iraq, Sudan, and al-Qaeda has been fully established. The ‘‘missing link,’’ identifying an al-Qaeda presence at Iraq’s Salman-Pak biochemical facility, is rather ostensible.


The Iraqi regime has, for a long time, proved to be terrorism-oriented in terms of both conventional and nonconventional operations. This distinct orientation has been manifested, at times covertly and others overtly, mainly against the Kurds and domestic political opponents. Israeli and


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