UN inspectors in Iraq helped spy for the CIA

                      By Martin McLaughlin
                      7 January, 1999

                      United Nations weapons inspectors in Iraq served as a cover for US
                      intelligence-gathering, including efforts to track the movements of Saddam
                      Hussein and other key Iraqi officials, according to reports published
                      Wednesday by the Boston Globe and the Washington Post.

                      The intelligence provided by the weapons inspectors was later used to
                      target US air strikes during Operation Desert Fox, the US-British assault
                      on Iraq last month, with the aim of killing the Iraqi president.

                      These reports vindicate the denunciations of UNSCOM over the past
                      several years by Iraqi spokesmen, who have pointed to the close links
                      between the UN inspectorate and American and Israeli intelligence
                      agencies. Both the Globe and the Post confirmed that UNSCOM
                      collaborated extensively with the Israeli Aman (military intelligence), the
                      CIA and British intelligence.

                      One implication of these revelations is clear. As US officials demanded
                      ever more intrusive searches of alleged weapons facilities--which they
                      knew had already been effectively dismantled by the Persian Gulf war and
                      eight years of inspections and sanctions--they had another purpose in
                      mind. They were engaged in profiling the Iraqi security apparatus and
                      monitoring Saddam Hussein's movements, to assist in efforts to kill the
                      Iraqi leader, either through outright assassination, a coup attempt or as a
                      consequence of US air strikes.

                      The front-page reports on the spy role of the UN Special Commission
                      (UNSCOM) cited advisers to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, US
                      intelligence officials and former UNSCOM official Scott Ritter, the
                      American ex-Marine who resigned from the agency last August. Both UN
                      spokesmen and Clinton administration officials denied the reports, but
                      provided no factual refutation.

                      The Post quoted a source close to Annan declaring, "The
                      secretary-general has become aware of the fact that UNSCOM directly
                      facilitated the creation of an intelligence collection system for the United
                      States in violation of its mandate. The United Nations cannot be party to
                      an operation to overthrow one of its member states. In the most
                      fundamental way, that is what's wrong with the UNSCOM operation."

                      According to the Globe account, which was far more detailed than the
                      Post 's, UNSCOM's relationship with US intelligence services, always
                      close, underwent a significant change in February 1996. At the initiative of
                      Scott Ritter, UNSCOM began to target not merely alleged Iraqi nuclear,
                      biological and chemical weapons facilities--its mandate from the Security
                      Council--but also what Ritter labeled the Iraqi "concealment mechanism,"
                      i.e., the entire internal security and counterintelligence apparatus which is
                      the font of Saddam Hussein's dictatorial power.

                      US intelligence agencies supplied UNSCOM with high-tech equipment
                      that made it possible for the UN inspectors to eavesdrop on secret
                      communications between the elite military units responsible for Hussein's
                      personal security. These units, the Special Republican Guard and the
                      Special Security Organization, were the principal targets of the US-British
                      bombing raids on December 16-19.

                      In September 1996, then-chairman of UNSCOM, Swedish diplomat Rolf
                      Ekeus, complained in a letter to CIA Director John Deutch that the US
                      agency was not sharing the fruits of the electronic monitoring conducted by
                      UNSCOM inspectors on the ground in Baghdad. This was the first of a
                      series of clashes between UNSCOM and the CIA over control of the joint

                      These arguments, which reflected conflicts between rival powers on the
                      Security Council, especially France and Russia versus the US and Britain,
                      culminated in March 1998, when the CIA took over the electronic
                      monitoring, automating it so that UNSCOM participation was no longer
                      necessary. The equipment continues to function to this day, the Globe
                      reported, nearly a month after all UNSCOM personnel were withdrawn
                      from the Iraqi capital.

                      The Globe quotes Ritter saying that UNSCOM inspectors tracked
                      Saddam Hussein's own movements. "We knew a hell of a lot of
                      information about presidential security," he said. A Clinton administration
                      official all but acknowledged that UNSCOM was spying on Hussein under
                      cover of searching for "weapons of mass destruction." "Saddam's personal
                      security apparatus and the apparatus that conceals weapons of mass
                      destruction are one and the same," he said.

                      The Globe noted that the chief of Hussein's personal security operations,
                      Abid Hamid Makhmoud, was specifically targeted during Operation
                      Desert Fox. His home was blown up by a US bomb or cruise missile.

                      There are discrepancies between the Globe report and the Post report
                      which have a political significance. The Post is silent on the role of Ritter
                      and provides far fewer details of the electronic intelligence-gathering
                      operation. The Washington newspaper revealed that it had withheld such
                      details from an earlier article, published October 12, which first made
                      public the name of the CIA-UNSCOM joint venture, "Operation Shake
                      the Tree." The Post said that, at the CIA's request, it was continuing to
                      suppress these details.