- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 24, 2001

Saddam Hussein has vowed revenge for air strikes near Baghdad earlier this year. Conventional Washington wisdom says hes sufficiently boxed in by sanctions and the no-fly zone to hit back. But the Iraqi leader has called on Arabs outside Iraq to strike U.S. interests in the region. That, according to Iraq expert Laurie Mylroie, fits Saddam Husseins pattern of revenge since the 1991 Gulf War: masterminding terrorism through Arab fundamentalists who are left holding the bag.
In "Study of Revenge: Saddam Husseins Unfinished War against America," Miss Mylroie argues that the Clinton administration erred by prosecuting such individuals in Justice Department-led criminal trials, rather than conducting national security investigations that would have fingered Saddam Hussein.
Miss Mylroie, who co-wrote the 1991 bestseller "Saddam Hussein and the Crisis in the Gulf," sees his fingerprints on four terrorist attacks: the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; the 1995 bombing of the U.S. training mission for Saudi troops in Riyadh; the 1996 attack against the U.S. base in al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. servicemen; and the 1998 bombings of two American embassies in Africa. Saddam Husseins motive is not in doubt: Continue the Gulf War through other means. Proving it is more difficult.
The author sets out an intriguing case for Iraqs involvement in the World Trade Center blast based on circumstantial evidence. There is no smoking bomb, but the late head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in New York, James Fox was convinced that Iraq was behind the WTC attack. Washington ignored him, believing a "loose network" of Islamic radicals intended to topple the twin towers onto one another with their bomb, releasing a cloud of cyanide gas to maximize the killing.
Miss Mylroies evidence mostly phone, airline and passport records entered into the trial appears to show that mastermind Ramzi Yousef, now serving life, was an Iraqi agent who traveled to New York on an Iraq passport to direct dupes who were intended to be caught, to deflect attention from Saddam Hussein. Another indicted suspect who fled New York a day after the bombing is living under Saddam Husseins protection in Baghdad, she says.
Miss Mylroie argues that Bill Clinton purposely ignored these leads because he didnt want to deal with Baghdad. Indeed, the middle chapters form one of the clearest expositions of how the Clinton White House undermined United Nations weapons inspectors in Iraq: "Official silence is undoubtedly the most dangerous possible response to a terrorist adversary," writes Miss Mylroie. "It is, quite simply the opposite of a policy of deterrence; instead of holding out the threat of retaliation, the silence holds forth the promise of a blind eye, if a convenient cover story is provided." Such as, it was all the work of "Muslim extremists."
Miss Mylroie says the Riyadh bombing that killed five Americans was likely Saddam Husseins response to a negative U.N. weapons inspectors report and was aimed at U.S. troops still in the region from the Gulf War. She quotes an unnamed senior Saudi official: "Of course that was Iraq. That was a professional bomb. It was not made by a bunch of Saudis sitting in a tent." She admits: "There is no proof Iraq was behind the Riyadh bombing. Yet Iraq should have been considered a prime candidate, and it was not."
The al-Khobar bombing in Saudi Arabia seven months later killed 19 U.S. servicemen who had helped enforce the Iraq no-fly zone. Miss Mylroie constructs a scenario in which Iraqi agents in Khartoum worked with Osama bin Laden to plan the attack. She quotes Israeli counterintelligence sources and Saudi officials who believed Saddam Hussein was behind that bomb, too.
Likewise, Miss Mylroie believes Iraq worked with Osama bin Laden in the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa on August 7, 1998, two days after Saddam Hussein formally suspended U.N. weapons inspections. In May, Baghdad warned of "dire consequences" if U.N. sanctions were not lifted. Because U.S. intelligence never investigated the possible links to Saddam Hussein, there is no proof, Miss Mylroie says. Instead, the U.S. indictment stops at bin Laden and his gang.
Mr. Clintons secretary of defense, William Cohen, spoke of a "grave new world of terrorism" in which "traditional notions of deterrence and counter-response no longer apply." Miss Mylroie swims against this stream.
"According to the Clinton administration, a new terrorist threat has come into being, represented by loose networks of Muslim extremists," she writes. "It is truer to say that the Clinton administrations handling of terrorist episodes and its refusal to address the question of state sponsorship have encouraged further terrorist attacks."
We may never know if Iraq was behind these terrorist attacks, but if the Bush administration wants to lead a more robust policy against Baghdad, it might be wise for it to find out.

Joe Lauria has covered Iraqi issues at the United Nations for the Daily Telegraph (London), the Boston Globe and other publications.

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