Dual Loyalties

My opinion on the people who shape our world

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Maloof loses Clearances over “rogue operations”

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GEORGE HERBERT BUSH’S RATIONALE FOR STOPPING SHORT OF BAGHDAD. George Herbert Bush explained in his memoirs why he decided not to go to Baghdad and try to take out Hussein: “Trying to eliminate Saddam ...would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible ... We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq ...there was no viable “exit strategy” we could see, violating another of our principles. Furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations’ mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land.”

IRAQ’S ATTEMPT TO AVOID WAR. Just days before Bush launched the invasion, Iraqi officials made a desperate attempt to avert war. A Lebanese-American businessman, Imad El-Hage, told the Associated Press that a high-level Pentagon official received a secret message. El-Hage owned a Beirut-based insurance conglomerate, American Underwriters Group, which did extensive business in Africa. (New York Times, November 6, 2003)

El-Hage said he had six meetings -- five in Beirut and one in Baghdad -- with senior Iraqi intelligence officials in the three months before the March 20 invasion. He said he believed the Iraqis he spoke to were desperate to avoid war. (New York Times, November 6, 2003)

In late 2002, the CIA was approached by Syrian intermediaries with an unusual offer that reportedly came from General Tahir Jalil Habbush, Saddam Hussein’s chief of intelligence. The Iraqis allegedly wanted to avert war and were willing to go to great lengths to appease the Bush administration, which eventually might have included permitting the deployment of United States troops in Iraq and free elections. (Newsweek, November 10, 2003)

The chief of the Iraqi Intelligence Service and other Iraqi officials told El-Hage that they wanted the Bush administration to know that Iraq no longer had WMD. He offered to let American troops and experts do an independent search. Iraqi officials also offered to hand over a man accused of being involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing who was being held in Baghdad. (New York Times, November 6, 2003)

Michael Maloof, a veteran Defense Department intelligence and export-control official. He cofounded a secret Pentagon intelligence unit that was assigned the job of investigating links between Al Qaeda operatives and secular Arab governments that conservatives have long suspected of having links to international terrorism, including the Saudis and the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein. (Newsweek, November 10, 2003)

On January 28, 2003, Maloof set up a meeting for El-Hage with Jaymie Durnan, a senior Pentagon aide to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Durnan confirmed he met with El-Hage and Maloof in Washington D.C. for 30 minutes. Durnan said, El-Hage claimed he could arrange for Hizbollah and the Syrian Intelligence services to “help us with Iraq.” (Newsweek, November 10, 2003)

Only hours after his meeting with Durnan, as El-Hage was attempting to board an overseas flight at Dulles Airport, he was stopped for questioning by United States customs investigators after screeners discovered the semiautomatic pistol and stun guns in his luggage. El-Hage had failed to obtain an export license for the pistol and also had failed to declare it to the airline, according to sources. Since El-Hague possessed diplomatic papers, FBI and Customs agents allowed him to return home to Lebanon. (Newsweek, November 10, 2003)

In February, internal Pentagon e-mails indicated that Durnan had sent messages to other Pentagon officials inquiring about what intelligence agencies knew about the Beirut businessman. Maloof received a message on February 19 from El-Hage saying he had just returned from meetings in Iraq with Saddam Hussein’s aides Habbush, Tariq Aziz, Amer Saadi and Naji Sabri. This message was forwarded to the Pentagon. (Newsweek, November 10, 2003)

These Iraqi officials wanted a confidential meeting with a top U.S. representative to discuss Iraqi concessions including support for any Bush administration proposals for an Arab/Israel peace plan, cooperation with the United States against terrorists, and giving the United States “1st priority” (sic) for Iraqi oil rights. (Newsweek, November 10, 2003) In March – weeks before the war broke out -- Maloof arranged for El-Hage to meet in London with Pentagon advisor Richard Perle, a member of the Defense Policy Board, and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Perle later admitted that he had met with El-Hage in 2002. Perle said that El-Hage proposed a plan to avert war. (New York Times, November 6, 2003; Newsweek, November 10, 2003)

Defense Department officials said the CIA authorized Perle’s meeting with the Iraqis, but eventually told him they did not want to pursue El-Hage’s overture for peace. However, a senior United States intelligence official said CIA officials were unaware of any conversations with Perle on this subject and were unaware of any such authorization. (New York Times, November 6, 2003)

White House spokesman Scott McClellan refused to say whether the reported Iraqi effort to avert the war was brought to Bush’s attention. He said, “The United States exhausted every legitimate and credible opportunity to resolve this peacefully.” (New York Times, November 6, 2003)

In mid-April – weeks after the war broke out -- a Defense Intelligence Agency panel revoked Maloof’s high-level security clearances. The defense official had originally lost his clearances in December 2001, allegedly for failing to properly report his second marriage to a citizen of a former Soviet republic. The clearances later were restored after intervention by senior Pentagon civilians. However, Maloof had his clearances revoked for the second time, because allegedly both the CIA and DIA were angry with him for playing down Al Qaeda and for conducting “rogue operations” behind the backs of the CIA and DIA. (Newsweek, November 10, 2003)"


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