- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 24, 2002

Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has ordered all his diplomats posted abroad to send their children back to Iraq, according to a U.S. intelligence report.
The notice, seen as a sign of fragility in the Baghdad government, was sent in the past two days to Iraqi envoys and intelligence personnel around the world and was ostensibly a security measure, U.S. intelligence officials said.
Intelligence analysts believe that Saddam is ordering the recall of the officials' children, amid increasing U.S.-led international pressure on Baghdad, to discourage defections by using them as potential hostages.
"He's worried about defections," said one intelligence official of Saddam.
A classified intelligence report on the Iraqi notice was sent to senior U.S. officials on Monday.
Two high-ranking Iraqi diplomats defected to the United States in July 2001, including one who brought his family with him. Baghdad called the defections "treason."
U.S. intelligence agencies also are hoping that the directive from Baghdad will lead to defections by Iraqi officials who prefer to stay abroad rather than risk returning their children.
The order came days after Saddam released tens of thousands of political prisoners and criminals from jails and camps.
The release last week triggered small protests by relatives of some prisoners who were lost in the state security system. The anti-government displays were unprecedented, according to reports from Baghdad.
Officials who have read the notice said that it indicated that spouses of the diplomats are not required to return with the children.
Another U.S. intelligence official said that the order has not led to the return of any Iraqi dependents.
The forced recall of Iraqi diplomats' children would be a new step in Saddam's efforts to ensure loyalty from overseas personnel, but it is "certainly plausible," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
"To coerce loyalty [of foreign government employees] Saddam has kept family relatives in the country," the official said.
Recalling the children would be "different from tactics used in the past to prevent people from defecting and to coerce loyalty," the official said.
Some of the best U.S. intelligence information on Iraq, American officials say, has come from senior and midlevel Iraqi military and intelligence officials who fled Saddam's regime.
Hussein Kamal, Saddam's son-in-law, defected to Jordan in 1995 and disclosed that Iraq's government was violating U.N. sanctions and the 1991 Persian Gulf war cease-fire agreement by hiding chemical and biological weapons.
Khidhir Hamza, a former head of Iraq's nuclear weapons program, also defected and revealed crucial details of the secret program.
The CIA is working with numerous Iraqi exiles to form opposition forces, both political and military. The covert action program, based in London, Beirut and northern Iraq, has been successful in gathering numerous Iraqi exiles and dissidents, including military officers.
In addition, Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters on Tuesday that the U.S. government, including the Pentagon, is planning to train Iraqis opposed to Saddam's regime.
"We're in the preliminary stages of trying to determine if there are people out there that might be helpful in case the president asked us to use force in Iraq," Gen. Myers said.
The training could involve developing liaisons with Iraqi opposition forces who can provide "local knowledge to combat units," he said.
An official at the Iraqi Interests Section in Washington declined to comment and referred calls to Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations in New York.
The State Department lists three Iraqi diplomats posted to the interests section office on 18th Street. Two of the diplomats are posted here with their families.
Osama al-Taye, a spokesman for Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, had no immediate comment.
An Iraqi diplomat, however, said: "I've heard no such thing. I would not send my children back."
Iraq has 12 diplomats and their families posted in New York.
Dozens of nations broke off diplomatic ties with Iraq during the Gulf war, but many have since been restored. Baghdad now has diplomatic relations with at least 50 countries.
The exact number of Iraqi dependents could not be determined, but U.S. intelligence officials estimate the number at thousands.
Betsy Pisik in New York contributed to this report.


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