Friday, September 30, 2011

Kurdish Forces Re-Deploy To Iraq’s Diyala Province


At the end of August 2011, a contingent of Kurdish peshmerga moved into the Khanaqin district in northeastern Diyala province. The Kurdistan Regional Government claimed that the Kurdish residents of the area were under attacks by insurgents, and that the security forces were doing nothing about it. While that was the official cause of the move, the reason was the Kurds’ longstanding hope to annex the district.

(Wikipedia)
On September 22, President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Massoud Barzani travelled to Khanaqin. There he gave a speech saying that the district was Kurdish. The President went on to state that the peshmerga would not be withdrawing from the district, and promised to improve the services there. The Iraqi National Movement immediately criticized his comments. A politician from the party said that Barzani’s statements were inappropriate, claiming that the Kurds simply wanted to annex Khanaqin, which is part of the disputed territories within Iraq, after United States forces withdrew. He went on to warn that the peshmerga’s presence might eventually lead to a civil war. This was in line with earlier remarks by the list, which criticized the deployment of peshmerga to the province from the beginning. The National Movement has a nationalist stance, and has opposed Kurdish aspirations over the disputed areas of the country. The party also controls the governorship, and would be against breaking off a large chunk of the governorate. The Kurds on the other hand, have coveted Khanaqin since the 2003 overthrow of Saddam, and have repeatedly said that it is a historically Kurdish area that should be annexed to the KRG. This has not really been an issue in the last few years, but has been rekindled by the recent deployment of peshmerga back into the district.
Peshmerga in Diyala
 At the end of August, two battalions of peshmerga moved into Khanaqin. 1,300 were initially deployed, but eventually there will be 2,400 fighters in the district. They were escorted into their new positions by American and Iraqi forces, and started joint patrols with the Iraqi army shortly afterward. That showed that the central government and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki acquiesced in the movement of peshmerga. The premier is currently playing a delicate balancing act with his erstwhile allies and rivals. The Kurds play an important part in this drama, having supported Maliki’s second term, but demanding action on their long-standing issues. One of those is dealing with the disputed territories like Khanaqin. While the prime minister has been slow on moving on his promises to the Kurds, it appears he was willing to allow this deployment of peshmerga to appease the KRG.

The Kurds claimed they had to secure the area because of attacks upon the local population, while others disagreed. Kurdish officials said they didn’t trust the security forces in Diyala, saying that they were derelict in their duties, claimed that Kurds were fleeing parts of the district because of attacks, and that they were facing a new Arabization program, quoting statistics that showed a dramatic increase in the Arab population. The mayor of Jalawla for example, claimed that his area was now 80% Arab, and only ten out of 36 villages were Kurdish. The Kurds’ argument was immediately disputed. A local security official said that violence in the area was no different than the rest of Diyala, while the chief of the Armed Forces, General Babaker Zebari, who is a Kurd himself, rejected the criticism of the local security forces. He said that the 5th Army Division, which was in Diyala, was one of the best. A review of security statistics did not show much violence or an increase in incidents in Diyala in the weeks preceding the peshmerga deployment. It seems that the Kurds were simply using that excuse to achieve their larger goal of re-establishing their military control of Khanaqin. The district is already administered by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, and the peshmerga would solidify the Kurds’ claim to the area. Since 2003, the KRG has been making moves like these to create facts on the ground to bolster their hold on the disputed territories, and increase their case for annexing them.

The peshmerga originally moved into Kahanqin in 2003 during the U.S. invasion. They were there for the next fives years until they were confronted by Prime Minister Maliki. In 2008, he sent security forces into Khanaqin in a symbolic gesture meant to bolster his nationalist image. He wanted to show that the central government had the final say in the country, and thus forced the Kurds to nominally concede to this by withdrawing their forces from the district. The Kurds have since said that was a major mistake, and have regretted it ever since. That was a major inspiration for sending the peshmerga back into Kahanqin this year.

The dispute within Diyala has largely stayed a local issue so far. Kurdish officials in Khanaqin have welcomed the peshmerga’s return, while members of the Iraqi National Movement from the governorate have protested. National politicians have said little about it, and the Kurds could only deploy their forces with Maliki’s okay. President Barzani’s statement about Khanaqin being Kurdish however raised the political stakes. The prime minister is probably hoping that it leads to little, because the last thing he wants is something that could be exploited by his rivals. His main priority is consolidating power, and dealing with the country’s more intractable problems has simply not been dealt with. That’s why he conceded to the peshmerga moving back into Khanaqin, because it can keep the Kurds happy, while not really changing much. The district is already under Kurdish administration, and security is largely unchanged so Maliki could let this go. This is all part of the game that Maliki is currently playing with masterful skill to stay in office.

SOURCES

Alsumaria, “Iraqiya: Barazani visit to Khanaqin District provocative,” 9/23/11

Aswat al-Iraq, “Peshmerga forces will not withdraw till situation is stable, Barzani,” 9/22/11

Basharati, Saman, “Kurdish Parliamentary Delegation Visits Jalawla,” Rudaw, 8/20/11

Mohammed, Bryar, “Peshmerga fail to curb exodus of Jalawla Kurds,” AK News, 8/23/11

Mohammed, Muhanad, “Kurdish troops on patrol in Iraq’s restive Diyala,” Reuters, 9/9/11

National Iraqi News Agency, “Barzani: Khanaqeen and its suburbs are Kurdish,” 9/22/11
- “Daini calls on the Kurdish leadership to send the Peshmirga to protect the region’s borders, instead of sending them to Diyala,” 8/20/11

Rudaw, “Iraq Army Chief: US Supervising Plan For Joint Task Force On Disputed Areas,” 8/24/11

Taha, Yaseen, “kurdish military in iraq because they ‘cannot sit still and watch Kurdish civilians killed,’” Niqash, 8/23/11

REUTERS VIDEO: At Least Two People Killed In Kirkuk, Iraq Blast

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Iraq’s Deputy Premier Shahristani Comes Under Fire For Bad Electricity Deals


In August 2011, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki dismissed the Electricity Minister Shallal al-Ani for two fraudulent deals with foreign companies to build power plants. Deputy Premier Hussein Shahristani was then named Ani’s replacement. An official investigation was then launched, which has now implicated the deputy prime minister.

Deputy Premier Shahristani
In September, a special committee created to look into the corruption charges made against the Electricity Ministry said that it had evidence that Deputy Prime Minister Hussein Shahristani was involved. It said it had documents showing that he signed off on the two contracts under question. The integrity committee and fired Minister Ani made similar charges back in August. Shahristani and his State of Law party have denied that he had played any role. He was brought before parliament in August along with Electricity Ministry Ani, but refused to answer any substantive questions. For example, when he was asked what role the energy committee he heads plays he refused to say. Shahristani is supposed to be called before the legislature again now that Ramadan is over. Whether he will appear, and if his questions will be any more satisfactory is yet to be seen. Since he is such a high-level figure, and important ally of Maliki it seems unlikely that anything will come of it.

On August 24, Maliki named Shahristani the acting Electricity Minister. In 2010, he held the same post when the prime minister fired the last Minister in the wake of public protests over power shortages. Shahristani also led the charges against Minister Ani over the two problematic contracts. Since taking over the Ministry, he has promised that the country’s power problems will be solved by 2013. He stated that only a few more power plants are needed, and then demand will be met. That was disputed by a report by the International Energy Development Organization. It said that Iraq needed to spend $12 billion, and to produce 17,000 megawatts to meet future needs. The government says it only needs 12,000 megawatts. The Energy Organization also criticized Iraq for costly development projects, lacking a central power distribution system, and a private sector that would reduce costs. The special investigative committee also found problems with 17 other contracts for power plants, which will hold up the government’s plans. Iraq has struggled with its power supply since the 1991 Gulf War when the Coalition bombed most of the electricity infrastructure. After the 2003 invasion, things got worse at first, when the power system was looted and then attacked by insurgents intent upon undermining the government. Since then, the power supply has consistently increased, but so has demand. The authorities have announced one contract after another to build power plants and install generators this year, but many of them have run into difficulties.  Iraq is therefore unlikely to fix this massive problem anytime soon, despite official promises.

As deputy prime minister, one of Shahristani’s main responsibilities is to oversee electricity. He, along with Maliki, scapegoated Minister Ani over the fake contracts even though Shahristani was likely involved. As a result, he took over the Electricity Ministry for the second time in two years. He continues to promise a solution to the country’s chronic power shortages just like the first time he ran the Ministry, even though it’s unlikely to happen in the near term. The only way he can escape criticism for these two moves is if another Electricity Minister is named. All the blame for the current and future failures can then be placed on him, because there’s no way Maliki will allow one of his most trusted allies to go down in a political controversy. Finding serious solutions to the power problems seems to be taking a back seat to political expediency right now.

SOURCES

Alsumaria News, “Oil and energy parliamentary accused Shahristani of evading the responsibility of fictitious contracts and constantly call hosted by,” 8/18/11

Ibrahim, Haider, “Corruption Charges against Electricity Minister Shahristani,” AK News, 9/17/11
- “Electricity Minister in $1.7bn fraud probe – integrity committee unconvinced,” AK News, 8/18/11
- “Parliament criticizes electricity minister for non-appearance,” AK News, 8/16/11
- “Parliament to probe Shahristani over fake contracts,” AK News, 8/29/11

National Iraqi News Agency, “Shahbandar rebuffs Sa’idi’s statements about Shahristani,” 8/15/11

Raphaeli, Dr. Nimrod, “Corruption in Iraq: A Case Study of Massive Fraud in the Energy Sector,” Middle East Media Research Institute, 8/12/11

Salaheddin, Sinan, “Iraq PM fires electricity minister,” Associated Press, 8/7/11

Sowell, Kirk, “Inside Iraqi Politics No. 21,” 8/26/11
- “Inside Iraqi Politics No. 22,” 9/15/11

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress,” 7/30/11

Al-Wannan, Jaafar, “Report: Iraq needs $12bn to resolve energy crisis,” AK News, 9/18/11
- “Shahristani: electricity crisis will end in 2013,” AK News, 9/24/11
- “Shahristani named interim Electricity Minister,” AK News, 8/24/11

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Iraq’s Oil Production Flattens Out In 2011 As Profits Surpass 2010


Starting in 2011, Iraq’s oil exports received a nice boost from the work of international oil companies that signed a number of deals in 2009. As happened in previous years, production has since flattened out as the country’s infrastructure is at near capacity, and cannot handle any larger flows of oil. At the same time, due to unrest in the Arab world, especially in Libya, international petroleum prices have risen to over $100 a barrel for the last six months. That means despite exports flat lining, Iraq has still been able to bring in huge profits, so much that it has already surpassed all of last year’s revenue.

(Middle East Online)
August 2011 showed how Iraq’s oil industry is at or near capacity. Exports were at an average of 2.19 million barrels a day. That was slightly up from July’s average of 2.16 million barrels, but below this year’s high of 2.27 million barrels achieved back in June. The rise in exports was due to an increase in overall production from 67.2 million barrels in July to 67.9 million last month. That put August at just about the yearly average. So far this year, Iraq has exported 2.18 million barrels per day. This is above last year’s mark of 1.89 million. Still, the numbers show that exports have flattened out. Foreign oil firms that entered Iraq in 2009 have been able to increase output, but the pipelines and terminals cannot handle anymore.

Luckily, prices for Iraqi oil remain high. The cost for buying Iraqi crude slightly dipped, going from an average of $108.80 per barrel in July to $104.92 in August. August marked the sixth straight month that Iraqi petroleum has sold for more than $100 per barrel. For the year, prices have averaged $104.68 per barrel. In 2010 they averaged $75.62. The Arab Spring is responsible for the high prices. Starting in December 2010 with protests in Tunisia, the Middle East has been wracked with a series of demonstrations and the civil war in Libya. The latter has severely cut its oil production as a result. This has increased fears in international markets over access to the region’s resources, and upped prices.

Iraq Oil Exports And Profits 2010-2011
Month
Avg. Exports
(Mil/
Bar/
Day)
Avg. Price Per Barrel
Revenue
(Mil)
Jan. 10
1.92
$73.97
$4.441
Feb.
2.05
$73.04
$4.229
Mar.
1.84
$76.20
$4.351
Apr.
1.80
$79.66
$4.222
May
1.88
$73.85
$4.335
Jun.
1.86
$71.10
$3.889
Jul.
1.82
$71.21
$4.009
Aug.
1.82
$71.43
$3.957
Sep.
2.02
$73.07
$4.428
Oct.
1.91
$77.10
$4.526
Nov.
1.92
$80.59
$4.618
Dec.
1.95
$86.31
$5.222
Jan. 11
2.16
$90.78
$6.082
Feb.
2.20
$98.44
$6+
Mar.
2.15
$107.13
$7.167
Apr.
2.14
$114.26
$7.342
May
2.22
$108
$7.45
Jun.
2.27
$105.16
$7.173
Jul.
2.16
$108.80
$7.3
Aug.
2.19
$104.92
$7.124

Iraq has been an unexpected beneficiary of the unrest, which is good for its finances. In the first eight months of 2011 it has already surpassed the total revenues of 2010. Last year, Iraq earned $52.202 billion from its oil exports. This year it has already earned $55.733 billion. That’s good news for Baghdad. At that rate, it will bring in around $83.5 billion by the end of the year. That will cover the 2011 budget, which was set at $82.62 billion. Originally, the government expected a $13.44 billion deficit, but that doesn’t look likely now. The ministries and various offices also lack the capacity to deal with all of their budgets, so even if oil prices were to dip at the end of the year, there will still probably be a surplus leftover.

The trends seen in Iraq’s oil industry in the first eight months of the year are likely to continue for the remaining four. Exports will hover just around 2.2 million barrels, while prices will remain high. Iraq has plans to boost its capacity, but implementing them has gone very slowly. It’s probably two to three years until the first projects come on line. Until the country is able to complete these major renovation and development projects on its oil infrastructure, this will be the status quo in the foreseeable future.

SOURCES

Agence France Presse, “Iraq eclipses 2010 oil income in eight months of 2011,” 9/22/11

Aswat al-Iraq, “Iraqi oil exports up by 700,000 barrels in August,” 9/22/11

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress,” 7/30/11

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

HBO/BBC MOVIE: House Of Saddam - Part 4

The final episode of "The House of Saddam" covers the 2003 U.S. invasion, Saddam's escape to Salahaddin province, and his attempt to organize the insurgency, and at the same time, forge a new life. His two sons end up being killed by American forces in Mosul, and Saddam is finally captured as well. Finally the series ends with Saddam's trial and conviction in Baghdad in 2006.

REUTERS VIDEO: Wave Of Violence In Iraq As U.S. Prepares To Leave

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sunday, September 25, 2011

HBO/BBC MOVIE: House Of Saddam - Part 3

Part 3 of "The House of Saddam" starts in 1995 during the international sanctions period. United Nations weapons inspectors are in the country, while Saddam tries to hide his programs. He also becomes more religious as part of the Faith Campaign the government started to shore up support during the hard economic times, while members of the ruling elite steal and smuggle humanitarian supplies. The rivalry between Saddam's eldest son Uday and number 2 son-in-law Hussein Kamal grows, which led to the latter going into exile in Jordan, hoping to overthrow Saddam. Kamal ended up telling the inspectors that all of Iraq's weapons programs had been ended. His story was undermined by Saddam who claimed that Kamal was personally trying to hide them. His plot fails, and he and his extended family are talked into returning to Iraq, where Hussein and his brother are executed by members of their tribe. At the same time, the government rounds up hundreds who were suspected of working with the CIA.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

HBO/BBC MOVIE: House Of Saddam - Part 2

Part 2 of the HBO-BBC mini-series "The House Of Saddam" begins in 1988, just as the Iran-Iraq War has ended in a draw, which Saddam declared a victory. It opens with Saddam's eldest son Uday at a nightclub in Baghdad, which he shoots up, one of his many excesses. Turmoil continues within Saddam's extended family, highlighted by Saddam's assassination of his brother-in-law General Adnan Khairallah, the Minister of Defense. Those problems led to the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and then the 1991 Gulf War, which is what ends the episode.

Friday, September 23, 2011

HBO/BBC MOVIE: House Of Saddam - Part I

"The House of Saddam" was a four-part, 2008 mini-series put together by HBO and the BBC. Part I starts with the beginning of the 2003 invasion, and then flashes back to 1979 when Saddam Hussein came to power by pushing out President Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr. Saddam then initiated a bloody purge and began the Iran-Iraq War. At the same time the Dawa Party was carrying out terrorist attacks within the country, and failed at an assassination attempt, which resulted in the destruction of the town of Dujail. The first episode finishes with the internal power struggle within the regime, as Saddam played off one faction against another, and ended up marrying off his eldest daughter Raghad Hussein to Hussein Kamal, who would eventually become Saddam's number two.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Laurie Mylroie’s Convoluted Iraq-Terrorism Conspiracy Theory


In April 2001, the new Bush administration held its first National Security Council meeting on terrorism. The White House’s counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke said that the United States had to focus upon Al Qaeda. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz disagreed. He said that Iraq was the leading sponsor of terrorism in the world. He claimed that Iraq was behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing as an example. Wolfowitz went on to say that just because the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) couldn’t find any evidence to support his claim didn’t meant it wasn’t true. Clarke and Deputy CIA Director John McLaughlin both countered by saying that Iraq had not been behind any anti-Western terrorism since its 1993 attempt upon former President Bush while he was on a trip to Kuwait. Wolfowitz’s argument was based upon a book written by Laurie Mylroie. Mylroie began as an adamant supporter of Iraq in the 1980s, but when Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990 she turned around 180 degrees. She became obsessed with the 1993 New York bombing, creating an elaborate conspiracy theory to blame Iraq for it. That led her to blame every major terrorist attack upon the U.S. on Saddam. Wolfowitz, Vice President Dick Cheney and others later embraced her idea, and used it to advocate for military action against Iraq. This was despite the fact that every investigation of her theory found nothing to support her claims.

Laurie Mylroie began as a staunch supporter of Saddam Hussein. She started writing about the Middle East in the 1980s as a graduate student. She later became an assistant professor of political science at Harvard, and then worked at the U.S. Naval War College. She became attached to Saddam because he was not anti-American or an Islamist. She then argued that the U.S. should ally with Iraq in a 1987 article co-written by Daniel Pipes for the New Republic. In it, she wrote that Washington should back Baghdad in the Iran-Iraq War believing that would help with not only American security, but Israel’s as well because it would block the expansion of Tehran’s revolutionary ideas. Mylroie then took it a step further believing that she could personally broker a peace between Iraq and Israel. She went to the Middle East and worked with a professor from the Israeli University to try to mediate between the two countries. In 1987, she travelled to Baghdad and met with Iraq’s Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz and its Ambassador to the U.S. Nizar Hamdoon. She worked out a meeting with Hamdoon and two Israeli Army generals in the United States. The effort failed, but it showed how committed she was to her beliefs. In May 1989, she wrote a piece for the Jerusalem Post saying that Israel and America should not condemn Iraq’s gassing of the Kurds from 1987-1988. Everything would change the next year however.

The 1990 invasion of Kuwait would forever change Mylroie’s opinion of Iraq. She ended up co-authoring a book with New York Times reporter Judith Miller entitled Saddam Hussein and the Crisis in the Gulf. It detailed Iraq’s abuses. It became a best seller, and helped her get a position at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. In a flash, Mylroie went from one of the biggest boosters of Iraq and its leader Saddam Hussein, going as far as trying to improve its relations with Israel, to suddenly condemning Saddam as a brutal dictator. This was a beginning of an obsession for Mylroie who went beyond Iraq’s actual crimes, to trying to blame almost any terrorist act against the United States on Baghdad.

That began with the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Despite the overwhelming evidence that Al Qaeda was behind the attack, Mylroie began arguing that it was actually the work of Iraq. The gist of her argument came down to three major claims. First, was that one of the conspiracy members Abdul Rahman Yasin fled to Iraq after the incident. Yasin was an Iraqi born in Indiana, who grew up in Baghdad. Mylroie argued that Yasin was working for the Iraqi government, and was given safe haven by them after he returned to the country. Second, Mylroie found out that one of the bombers, Mohammed Salmeh, was the nephew of a PLO-Fatah member, Abu Bakir who lived in Baghdad, and would call him often. She thought that proved Iraq was involved in the 1993 attack because Bakir could have been working for Iraqi intelligence. Finally, Mylroie believed that the lead bomber, Ramzi Yousef, was an Iraqi agent. In 1995, the FBI arrested Yousef in Pakistan. He ended up admitting that his real name was Abdul Basit Karim, a Pakistani national who grew up in Kuwait, and went to school in Wales. Mylroie theorized that there were actually two Abdul Basit Karims. One was the real Karim, who was killed along with his whole family in the 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Iraqi intelligence then took his identity and gave it to one of their agents who then became Ramzi Yousef. Mylroie's evidence was that Karim’s passport was missing some pages and had some discrepancies, which she claimed were because his passport was a fake made by Baghdad. She also claimed that former classmates of Karim’s in Wales claimed he looked physically different, like being shorter. In May 1993, three months after the World Trade Center bombing, Mylroie presented her ideas to the FBI. They did not call her back. Later, the 1993 prosecutor of the bombing, the Joint Terrorism Task Force in New York, the State Department, the CIA, the FBI, and the National Security Council all looked into Mylroie’s writings and found nothing. Officially, Mylroie’s theory was not accepted by a single agency within the U.S. government.

There were several problems with her theory. First, Iraq tried to use Abdul Rahman Yasin as a bargaining chip with the United States, something that didn’t seem to jibe with him being an Iraqi agent. For example, in 1998, Baghdad offered to return Yasin to America, but the Clinton administration refused because it did not want to give any concessions to Saddam. Second, several other members of the 1993 bomb plot planned on going back to their homes countries like Egypt and Pakistan. The difference was that Yasin actually made it to Iraq, while the others didn’t. Those other countries were not implicated in the 1993 bombing by Mylroie, only Iraq was. As for Ramzi Yousef, there were witnesses in England who testified that he was the same man they’d known in Wales. Other witnesses said Yousef was an Islamic radical who trained in Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, something he admitted himself. The FBI also said that Yousef’s fingerprints matched those of Basit in Kuwait. Finally, even if Yousef did not prove to be exactly whom he was that did not prove that he worked for Iraqi intelligence. Overall, her whole argument was largely based upon speculation, which was likely the reason why it received no official support.

In the 1990s, Mylroie would pick up an important supporter in Paul Wolfowitz. At the time, he was a dean at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He found a kindred spirit in Mylroie, who was just as obsessed with Iraq as he was. Wolfowitz became a fan of her book, and went to the National Security Council asking why Washington wasn’t doing more about her theory. He was told that the CIA and FBI had debunked her writing, but Wolfowitz didn’t believe them. Rather he claimed that the Clinton administration did not want to take on Saddam. Wolfowitz would end up pushing Mylroie’s argument when he returned to government with the second Bush administration in 2001.

Mylroie was not done with her Iraq conspiracy ideas. In 1995, she offered to be a witness in the trial of Eyad Ismoil, one of the 1993 bombers, claiming that he was just a fall guy because Iraq was really the main culprit. That same year, she talked with Timothy McVeigh’s lawyer claiming that the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing was the work of Iraq as well. She ended up being hired by McVeigh’s defense team. One theory she came up involved McVeigh’s co-conspirator Terry Nicholas. He spent time in the Philippines, and Mylroie argued that he met Ramzi Yousef there, proving an Iraq connection. McVeigh’s lawyer hired an investigator to look into this, but found nothing. This would start a trend of blaming almost every single major terrorist attack upon America on Iraq. This included the 1996 Khobar tower bombings in Saudi Arabia, the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the 2000 U.S.S. Cole assault. Like her previous work on the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, her arguments for Iraqi connections to all of these attacks were tenuous at best.

In the 2000s, Mylroie’s fortunes appeared to pick up when some of her supporters joined the new Bush administration. First, she got a job with the American Enterprise Institute, which published her book in 2000, Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein’s Unfinished War Against America where she outlined her argument about Iraq’s involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Paul Wolfowitz, former Defense Department official Richard Perle, and ex-CIA Director James Woolsey all endorsed her work. In 2001, she was hired as a Pentagon adviser on terrorism. Wolfowitz and others would all end up pushing her work hard within the White House and with the public. In early 2001 for example, Wolfowitz asked the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) director Admiral Thomas Wilson to go over Mylroie’s book. He found nothing. In June 2001 Wolfowitz asked the same of the CIA, and they had the same results. Just like in the 1990s, government agencies could not find anything to support Mylroie’s conspiracy theory about the World Trade Center bombings, but that didn’t stop her or her supporters.

When the September 11 attacks occurred in 2001, Mylroie, Wolfowitz, and others used her book to argue for attacking Iraq instead of Al Qaeda. On September 12, Wolfowitz began arguing that Iraq was behind the attacks, saying that they were responsible for the 1993 bombing. The next day, James Woolsey wrote a piece for the New Republic summing up Mylroie’s argument. He would repeat that story for the Wall Street Journal in October. (1) On September 14, the American Enterprise Institute held a panel discussion about the attacks, which Mylroie participated in. She said that Al Qaeda could not carry off the assault without a state sponsor, and that was Iraq. Three days later, Wolfowitz sent a memo to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld entitled, “Preventing More Events” saying that Iraq was behind 9/11, and cited Iraq’s involvement in the 1993 bombing as evidence. The fact that no government agency had ever been able to find any evidence to support Mylroie’s theory did not seem to matter. Rather it was the biases of Wolfowitz and others who became obsessed with Iraq that was important. They had reached the point where they would believe just about anything that fingered Saddam for wrong doing in the world, and that led them to Mylroie’s ideas.

In mid-September, Wolfowitz wanted to try to prove Mylroie’s theory on his own, since the U.S. intelligence agencies had rejected it. He sent Woolsey on a trip to England to find evidence. In London, Woolsey asked British officials to release more information about Ramzi Yousef from when he was a student in Wales. The British said they had cooperated with the FBI in their investigation of the 1993 bombing, and found nothing to support Mylroie’s ideas. Woolsey came away empty handed, but that didn’t matter either. He went on to write a new forward for Mylroie’s book. She in turned claimed that proved that he must have found evidence to support her book in England, otherwise he would not have endorsed it. In an interview with PBS’s Frontline that aired in October, she said the same thing, claiming that the British had proof that Iraq had tampered with Yousef’s files in Kuwait. That seemed to be contradicted by Woolsey himself in another Frontline piece where he said he knew Yousef was an Iraqi agent, but he couldn’t prove it. Wolfowitz and Woolsey’s own failure didn’t stop them from their continued support for Mylroie.

In the following months, heading into 2002, Mylroie only gained more support within the Bush administration, while she continued to expand her conspiracy theories. In October, she claimed that the anthrax letters sent to Washington D.C. were from Iraq. Then Vice President Dick Cheney took up her cause. He went on Meet The Press in December claiming that Abdul Rahim Yasin was in Iraq implying that Iraq was behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. (2) Cheney, like Wolfowitz, was keen on any reports that implied Saddam’s wrong doing. With Wolfowitz and others pushing Mylroie within the administration it was only a matter of time before they reached the Vice President.

After the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Mylroie supporters believed they would finally be able to find the evidence they’d always lacked to prove her theory. Wolfowitz sent a Pentagon official to investigate captured Iraqi records for information on Abdul Rahman Yasin for example. Nothing substantial was found, but it was discovered that Yasin received a monthly stipend from the government while he was kept under surveillance. This was later used as evidence for Mylroie's case. In late-2003, Cheney for instance, was interviewed on National Public Radio (NPR) where he said that Iraq was behind the 1993 bombing because Yasin was on the Iraqi payroll after he fled to Baghdad. In November, Wolfowitz was on Good Morning America talking about how Yasin fled to Iraq, and that the government was finding more connections between him and Baghdad. In January 2004, Cheney told NPR much of the same thing. These claims showed how Wolfowitz and Cheney’s support of Mylroie was based more upon faith and their anti-Iraq biases then any evidence. Previously Wolfowitz had gone to the U.S. intelligence agencies and they had all said that there was nothing to Mylroie’s story. After he sent one of his own underlings to Iraq and he could not turn anything up except that Yasin received a monthly stipend, it did not shake Wolfowitz’s belief or Cheney’s.

From 2004 on, more and more evidence actually built up against Mylroie's theory. In March, Richard Clarke testified to the 9/11 Commission. He stated that one of the 12 culprits involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing being an Iraqi did not prove that Iraq was involved. He said that Al Qaeda, not Iraq was responsible, and that from 1995-1996 the CIA and FBI reviewed all the information available and found no Iraqi ties. In July, the Senate Intelligence Committee released its report on pre-war intelligence. Supporters of Mylroie’s theory claimed that Ramzi Yousef used a fake passport provided by Iraqi intelligence. The CIA could find no evidence of that. The claim that Abdul Rahman Yasin was an Iraqi agent because he received a stipend after he fled to Baghdad in 1993 was countered by the fact that he was held under custody after he arrived. Finally, the CIA did not think that bomber Mohammed Salameh’s uncle who was in the PLO was used as a middleman by the Iraqi government because he was allowed to move to the West Bank in 1995. The Agency did not think that the uncle would be allowed to leave if he played an important role in a major terrorist attack upon the United States. Finally, the United States ended up arresting and interrogating Abdul Rahman Yasin after the fall of Saddam, and found that Baghdad tried to use him as a trading chip with the United States. As stated before, Iraq offered to return Yasin for concessions, which the Clinton administration was unwilling to give. An investigation of Iraqi documents also discovered that Saddam’s government actually had its own conspiracy theory about the 1993 attack, believing that the CIA or the Mossad was behind it. As usual, none of this shook Wolfowitz’s faith. In a November 2004 profile in the New Yorker, he was still repeating Mylroie’s story, claiming that Yasin fleeing to Iraq proved that Saddam was behind Islamic terrorism in the world.

Laurie Mylroie went from one of the strongest supporters of Saddam Hussein, to one of its greatest opponents. She was so attached to Iraq being the savior of the Middle East, that when it invaded Iraq in 1990 she felt deeply betrayed. She became obsessed with Iraq, and tried to blame every anti-American terrorist attack upon it with very little evidence to support her argument. She was still able to attract many powerful allies like Wolfowitz, Woolsey, and Cheney. The fact that one U.S. agency after another found nothing to support her writing did not matter. It was that she blamed Iraq for much of the wrong doing in the world that made her appealing to people like Wolfowitz and the others. They were so convinced that Iraq was one of the greatest threats to the United States that they would accept just about any evidence against Saddam no matter how factitious it was. It was that anti-Iraq agenda that led to all these people pushing such a flimsy conspiracy theory.

FOOTNOTES

1. Woolsey, R. James, “The Iraq Connection,” Wall Street Journal, 10/18/01

2. NBC, “The Vice President Appears on NBC’s Meet The Press,” 12/9/01

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