Sunday, July 4, 2004
Moreover, said the former senior official, who has spent more than a year in Iraq and had access to the highest-level intelligence, American officials had found it ``almost impossible to penetrate'' the network organized by the Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is believed responsible for many of the suicide bombings that have killed both American troops and Iraqis.
The official also said that over the last year, both Iran and Syria had stepped up their activity in Iraq, and that the Iranians might have been financing Moktada al-Sadr, the young radical cleric whom the Bush administration first promised to capture or kill, then decided had to be spared to avoid urban warfare in Najaf, his stronghold. The Iranians have ``become more active over time, and not helpful,'' the official said, though he said intelligence indicated that far more foreign fighters were coming over the border from Syria than from Iran.
Taken together, the description of the paucity of intelligence still available to the 138,000 American troops in Iraq and the assessment of how few inroads have been made at reducing the insurgency sounded a very different note from the optimistic-sounding messages that President Bush has been sending all week about the prospects of the new Iraqi government.
I caution those Baathists who have not committed crimes in the past, I ask them to stay away from the mercenaries of Saddam. Those who pledge to continue in their crimes, I ask all of those [other] Baathists to fight the enemies of the people and to inform the government of any suspicious activities they see. The Iraqi people are asked to tackle these challenges by scrutinizing any suspicious activity and informing the government and the police.
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.
I said upside down
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