Saturday, November 25, 2006

Analyzing Iraq's involvement in terrorism

Iraq's support of terrorism:

Abu Nidal

Setting himself up as a freelance contractor, Abu Nidal was based over the years in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Egypt, and is believed to have been responsible for ordering attacks in 20 countries, killing or injuring over 900 people.

Abu Nidal died of between one and four gunshot wounds in Baghdad in August 2002, believed by Palestinian sources to have been killed on the orders of Saddam Hussein, [9] but said by the Iraqi government to have committed suicide.

Shortly after King Hussein expelled the fedayeen, Abu Nidal began broadcasting criticism of the PLO over Voice of Palestine, the PLO's own radio station in Iraq, accusing them of cowardice for having agreed to a ceasefire with Hussein, and during Fatah's Third Congress in Damascus in 1971, Abu Nidal emerged as the leader of a leftist alliance against Arafat.

Abu Nidal is known to have entered Iraq in 1999 after being expelled from Libya by Gaddafi, who was distancing himself from terrorism in an effort to re-establish diplomatic relations with the U.S. and UK after Lockerbie. The Iraqi government later said Abu Nidal had entered the country using a fake Yemeni passport and was not there with their knowledge, but by 2001, at the latest, he was living there openly, in defiance of the Jordanian government, whose state-security court had sentenced him to death by hanging in absentia in 2001 for his role in the 1994 assassination of a Jordanian diplomat in Beirut. (Wikipedia)

And that is the source of our urgent concern about Saddam Hussein's links to international terrorist groups. Over the years, Iraq has provided safe haven to terrorists such as Abu Nidal, whose terror organization carried out more than 90 terrorist attacks in 20 countries that killed or injured nearly 900 people, including 12 Americans. Iraq has also provided safe haven to Abu Abbas, who was responsible for seizing the Achille Lauro and killing an American passenger. And we know that Iraq is continuing to finance terror and gives assistance to groups that use terrorism to undermine Middle East peace. (Chicago Tribune)

The ANO was once one of the most feared transnational terrorist organizations in the world.1 Its operations, which included kidnapping, murders, bombings and hijackings, have killed approximately 900 people and injured several hundred more across three continents and 20 countries.2 Over the years, Iraq, Syria, and Libya each reportedly harbored Abu Nidal and often hired the ANO to execute attacks that were in their interests.3 As a result, the ANO’s selection of targets has been diverse and inconsistent, depending largely on the demands of the state sponsor. (

From1974-1980, ANO headquarters were based in Baghdad, where the group reportedly took direction from the Iraqi administration to carry out attacks against primarily Syrian and PLO targets. The ANO later relocated to Syria, then Libya, and finally Lebanon.7 Today, ANO militants reportedly reside in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, but over the years, the group’s activities have reached far beyond the confines of its state sponsors.8 When the ANO was active in the 1970s and 1980s, it executed attacks in 20 countries, including Austria, Belgium, Egypt, France, Greece, India, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sudan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. (


The Bush Administration accuses Syria and Iran of harboring and supporting Hamas. Both states are opposed to Israel and the peace process, and both claim that Hamas and other Palestinian groups opposed to Israel are legitimate freedom fighters. During the Second Intifada, which began in late 2000, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein reportedly gave money to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, including Hamas members. Furthermore, Israel has accused Saudi Arabia of allowing money raised in state-run telethons to go to support Hamas. Secretary of State Colin Powell implied sympathy for that allegation by stating, “There are some troubling aspects as to how that telethon money would be distributed.” Hamas reportedly also runs money-generating businesses in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and abroad. (

Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization: (an anti-Iranian group; not a threat to US interests)

In 1981, the MEK bombed several important government buildings, killing as many as 70 high-ranking Iranian officials. Under pressure from the government in Tehran, the group fled to France from 1981 to 1986, after which it took refuge in Iraq. While in Iraq, Saddam Hussein armed the group and sent it into battle against Iran during the Iran-Iraq War. The group also provided various security services for the Saddam Hussein regime, including helping with the suppression of Kurdish and Shi’a revolts after the first Gulf War in 1991. It continued to attack the Iranian regime, conducting a 1992 bombing campaigning of Iranian embassies in 13 different countries. In early 2000, the group used mortars to attack the leadership complex in Tehran that houses the offices of the Supreme Leader and the President. Since the end of the Iran-Iraq War, the group has represented an important security threat to the Iranian regime. (

U.S. and international policy toward the MEK has been ambivalent and controversial. Some see the group as a legitimate, pro-democracy resistance to the illiberal Iranian government, while others condemn the group’s earlier anti-Western attacks and regard the group as an anti-Western cult with a pro-democracy facade. French authorities arrested more than 160 members, including the group’s leader Maryam Rajavi, in Paris in 2003, reversing the longstanding French policy of giving asylum to the group. Several high-profile figures have opposed the arrests. During the 2003 Iraq war, U.S. forces bombed MEK bases in Iraq but later signed a cease-fire with the group. Finally in May 2003, the U.S. military disarmed the group. (

The MEK is comprised of Iranian dissidents opposed to the Islamic regime in Iran. According to the State Department, the group possesses several thousand fighters in Iraq and additional members operating overseas. Within Iraq, the group has until recently controlled aging military equipment given to it by Saddam Hussein, including tanks, artillery, and armored vehicles.292 The U.S. military in Iraq recently disarmed the group. (

Until the recent war to topple Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the MEK received all of its military assistance and much of its financial support from the Iraqi regime. The group apparently uses front organizations to solicit contributions from Iranian expatriates and others, and may also raise funds among sympathizers within Iran. (

Saddam Hussein's Support for International Terrorism

Iraq is one of seven countries that have been designated by the Secretary of State as state sponsors of international terrorism. UNSCR 687 prohibits Saddam Hussein from committing or supporting terrorism, or allowing terrorist organizations to operate in Iraq. Saddam continues to violate these UNSCR provisions.

In 1993, the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) directed and pursued an attempt to assassinate, through the use of a powerful car bomb, former U.S. President George Bush and the Emir of Kuwait. Kuwaiti authorities thwarted the terrorist plot and arrested 16 suspects, led by two Iraqi nationals.

Iraq shelters terrorist groups including the Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO), which has used terrorist violence against Iran and in the 1970s was responsible for killing several U.S. military personnel and U.S. civilians.

Iraq shelters several prominent Palestinian terrorist organizations in Baghdad, including the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), which is known for aerial attacks against Israel and is headed by Abu Abbas, who carried out the 1985 hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro and murdered U.S. citizen Leon Klinghoffer.

Iraq shelters the Abu Nidal Organization, an international terrorist organization that has carried out terrorist attacks in twenty countries, killing or injuring almost 900 people. Targets have included the United States and several other Western nations. Each of these groups have offices in Baghdad and receive training, logistical assistance, and financial aid from the government of Iraq.

In April 2002, Saddam Hussein increased from $10,000 to $25,000 the money offered to families of Palestinian suicide/homicide bombers. The rules for rewarding suicide/homicide bombers are strict and insist that only someone who blows himself up with a belt of explosives gets the full payment. Payments are made on a strict scale, with different amounts for wounds, disablement, death as a "martyr" and $25,000 for a suicide bomber. Mahmoud Besharat, a representative on the West Bank who is handing out to families the money from Saddam, said, "You would have to ask President Saddam why he is being so generous. But he is a revolutionary and he wants this distinguished struggle, the intifada, to continue."

Former Iraqi military officers have described a highly secret terrorist training facility in Iraq known as Salman Pak, where both Iraqis and non-Iraqi Arabs receive training on hijacking planes and trains, planting explosives in cities, sabotage, and assassinations.(Iraq articles)


President Bush has said that the war to liberate Iraq is part of the war on terrorism. And he's right. Let's let the facts speak for themselves. First of all, American administrations of both political parties for more than two decades have identified Iraq as a state which supports terrorism. And it did -- it did, under Saddam Hussein. They supported Palestinian terrorists. He gave safe haven to notorious Palestinian terrorists like Abu Nidal . He supported Iraqi -- Iranian terrorists groups. And as the 911 Commission reported this fall, there were contacts between Al Qaeda and members of Saddam's government running back a decade. Moreover, since 1998 it had been the stated policy of the American government to seek regime change in Baghdad. That was a policy which was passed in a bill (see The Iraq Liberation Act) by both houses of Congress, by both Parties -- overwhelming majorities of both Parties -- in this country in 1998, and signed into law -- it was the law of the land to seek regime change -- signed into law, not by Bush, but by President Bill Clinton. (Bremer)

I think what we've learned is that the terrorist threat is serious, but it shifts. You cannot make a single person the sole focus of your counterterrorism. We had Qaddafi as the number one enemy from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s. Then we had Abu Nidal who appeared on the scene, and he was the number one enemy from the mid-1980s until the early 1990s. Now we have bin Laden. And the implication of that is if you can deal with this one guy, the threat will go away. The threat doesn't go away, it evolves.

What you need to do, and certainly is sort of the central lesson, is you need to have a policy and tools which evolve as the threat evolves. And that's the challenge that we're into right now. (Bremer: PBS interview)

In my view, it is incontestable that Iraq has supported terrorism. Iraq has been on the State Department list of states that support terrorism for more than twenty years. At least two major terrorist groups have had their headquarters openly in Baghdad for most of that time--the Palestine Liberation Front and the Mujahedin-e Khalq. Moreover, as the President said last night, known international terrorists like Abu Abbas and Abu Nidal have lived openly in Baghdad--in the case of Abu Abbas, more than twenty years, and Abu Nidal, for more than a decade. So it is incontestable that Iraq is a supporter of terrorism, and on that there is no disagreement. [NOTE: Public denunciation of Iraq's sponsorship of terrorism predates 9/11. The cases cited by the President were covered, for example, in the Patterns of Global Terrorism report for 2000, especially in the report's Overview, which can be accessed at]

It is also clear that there are reports --reports that are credible and that date back for the past decade--of meetings between Al-Qaeda and members of the Iraqi government. We know that Iraqi officials have helped to train members of Al-Qaeda in the use of biological and chemical weapons. So then you have the question of September 11.

I read Michael O'Hanlon's article, which I felt was very narrowly focused on the question of whether Iraq is, in some fashion, culpable for the September 11 attacks. That is a narrow question. Certainly, if you indeed had conclusive evidence of Iraqi sponsorship of that specific attack, you would certainly have a causus belli. However, in my view, it does not really have much bearing on the larger issue--there is more than sufficient evidence to establish Iraq's support of terrorism.

Indeed, I think O'Hanlon misses the point about the meeting in Prague [between the 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence officer operating under diplomatic cover, Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, in April 2001], that he seems to dismiss offhand. For the last six months, people have gone back to the Czech Intelligence Service, over and over, and every time, the Czechs reply that they are positive that this meeting took place. To then implicitly call the Secretary of Defense a liar in the face of that seems a bit over the top. However, I must again reiterate that I think the whole article is a bit of a red herring. Its implication--that we should not pursue action against Iraq because we do not have proof that Saddam Hussein masterminded September 11--is incorrect. Saddam's support for terrorism is clear, it is documented, and it has been there for years. In fact, Saddam's support for terrorism has been going on for years, long before the whole issue of his weapons of mass destruction rose to the fore, which is, after all, a separate issue. (Bremer)

The handwritten memo, a copy of which has been obtained exclusively by the Telegraph, is dated July 1, 2001 and provides a short resume of a three-day "work programme" Atta had undertaken at Abu Nidal's base in Baghdad.

In the memo, Habbush reports that Atta "displayed extraordinary effort" and demonstrated his ability to lead the team that would be "responsible for attacking the targets that we have agreed to destroy." (Saddam documents)


Abu Abbas:

Throughout the 1980s, the PLF launched attacks on both civilian and military targets in the north of Israel, across the Lebanese border. But Abu Abbas's notoriety in the West is mostly due to his PLF faction's 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship the Achille Lauro.[citation needed] During the hijacking, wheelchair-bound American Jewish passenger Leon Klinghoffer, was shot dead and thrown overboard, which caused an international outcry and resulted in strong pressure on the PLO.

After the hijacking, under immense political pressure from the United States and Italy, Tunisia expelled Zaidan from the country. He fled to Baghdad, where Saddam Hussein sheltered him from extradition to Italy. He remained in Iraq and commanded the PLF (reunited in 1989) until Saddam was deposed by coalition forces in 2003. (Wikipedia)

On April 15, 2003, Zaidan was captured by American forces in Iraq while attempting to flee from Baghdad to Syria. (Wikipedia)

Abbas is the general director of the Palestine Liberation Front, which the U.S. State Department has designated a terrorist organization. A warrant for Abbas' arrest is outstanding in Italy, where he was convicted and sentenced to five life terms in absentia in connection with the hijacking. Since then, he has lived in Tunisia, Libya, Gaza and finally -- since 1994 -- in Baghdad, where he was under the protection of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The Palestine Liberation Front, one of multiple offshoots of the Palestine Liberation Organization, was initially based out of Tunisia, but relocated to Iraq after the Achille Lauro hijacking. His group also was responsible for many attacks in Israel. (CNN: U.S. captures mastermind of Achille Lauro hijacking)

Abu Abbas has been based in Iraq since 1990 and the PLF has a presence in both Lebanon and the West Bank. (


At 1:49 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Awesome blog and nice compilation of points.

I work on a similar project at

If you'd be interested in doing some kind of collaborative piece or sharing ideas sometime shoot me an email.

My address is in the "about" section.

Keep fighting the good fight!


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