- WASHINGTON (IPS) -- Iraq
under Saddam Hussein did not pose a threat to the United States but it
did to Israel, which is one reason why Washington invaded the Arab country,
according to a speech made by a member of a top-level White House intelligence
- IPS uncovered the remarks by Philip Zelikow, who is now
the executive director of the body set up to investigate the terrorist
attacks on the United States in September 2001 -- the 9/11 commission --
in which he suggests a prime motive for the invasion just over one year
ago was to eliminate a threat to Israel, a staunch U.S. ally in the Middle
- Zelikow's casting of the attack on Iraq as one launched
to protect Israel appears at odds with the public position of President
George W. Bush and his administration, which has never overtly drawn the
link between its war on the regime of former president Hussein and its
concern for Israel's security.
- The administration has instead insisted it launched the
war to liberate the Iraqi people, destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction
(WMD) and to protect the United States.
- Zelikow made his statements about "the unstated
threat" during his tenure on a highly knowledgeable and well-connected
body known as the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB),
which reports directly to the president.
- He served on the board between 2001 and 2003.
- "Why would Iraq attack America or use nuclear weapons
against us? I'll tell you what I think the real threat (is) and actually
has been since 1990 -- it's the threat against Israel," Zelikow told
a crowd at the University of Virginia on Sep. 10, 2002, speaking on a panel
of foreign policy experts assessing the impact of 9/11 and the future of
the war on the al-Qaeda terrorist organisation.
- "And this is the threat that dare not speak its
name, because the Europeans don't care deeply about that threat, I will
tell you frankly. And the American government doesn't want to lean too
hard on it rhetorically, because it is not a popular sell," said Zelikow.
- The statements are the first to surface from a source
closely linked to the Bush administration acknowledging that the war, which
has so far cost the lives of nearly 600 U.S. troops and thousands of Iraqis,
was motivated by Washington's desire to defend the Jewish state.
- The administration, which is surrounded by staunch pro-Israel,
neo-conservative hawks, is currently fighting an extensive campaign to
ward off accusations that it derailed the "war on terrorism"
it launched after 9/11 by taking a detour to Iraq, which appears to have
posed no direct threat to the United States.
- Israel is Washington's biggest ally in the Middle East,
receiving annual direct aid of three to four billion dollars.
- Even though members of the 16-person PFIAB come from
outside government, they enjoy the confidence of the president and have
access to all information related to foreign intelligence that they need
to play their vital advisory role.
- Known in intelligence circles as "Piffy-ab",
the board is supposed to evaluate the nation's intelligence agencies and
probe any mistakes they make.
- The unpaid appointees on the board require a security
clearance known as "code word" that is higher than top secret.
- The national security adviser to former President George
H.W. Bush (1989-93) Brent Scowcroft, currently chairs the board in its
work overseeing a number of intelligence bodies, including the Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA), the various military intelligence groups and
the Pentagon's National Reconnaissance Office.
- Neither Scowcroft nor Zelikow returned numerous phone
calls and email messages from IPS for this story.
- Zelikow has long-established ties to the Bush administration.
- Before his appointment to PFIAB in October 2001, he was
part of the current president's transition team in January 2001.
- In that capacity, Zelikow drafted a memo for National
Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice on reorganising and restructuring the
National Security Council (NSC) and prioritising its work.
- Richard A. Clarke, who was counter-terrorism coordinator
for Bush's predecessor President Bill Clinton (1993-2001) also worked for
Bush senior, and has recently accused the current administration of not
heeding his terrorism warnings, said Zelikow was among those he briefed
about the urgent threat from al-Qaeda in December 2000.
- Rice herself had served in the NSC during the first Bush
administration, and subsequently teamed up with Zelikow on a 1995 book
about the unification of Germany.
- Zelikow had ties with another senior Bush administration
official -- Robert Zoellick, the current trade representative. The two
wrote three books together, including one in 1998 on the United States
and the "Muslim Middle East".
- Aside from his position at the 9/11 commission, Zelikow
is now also director of the Miller Centre of Public Affairs and White Burkett
Miller Professor of History at the University of Virginia.
- His close ties to the administration prompted accusations
of a conflict of interest in 2002 from families of victims of the 9/11
attacks, who protested his appointment to the investigative body.
- In his university speech, Zelikow, who strongly backed
attacking the Iraqi dictator, also explained the threat to Israel by arguing
that Baghdad was preparing in 1990-91 to spend huge amounts of "scarce
hard currency" to harness "communications against electromagnetic
pulse", a side-effect of a nuclear explosion that could sever radio,
electronic and electrical communications.
- That was "a perfectly absurd expenditure unless
you were going to ride out a nuclear exchange -- they (Iraqi officials)
were not preparing to ride out a nuclear exchange with us. Those were preparations
to ride out a nuclear exchange with the Israelis", according to Zelikow.
- He also suggested that the danger of biological weapons
falling into the hands of the anti-Israeli Islamic Resistance Movement,
known by its Arabic acronym Hamas, would threaten Israel rather than the
United States, and that those weapons could have been developed to the
point where they could deter Washington from attacking Hamas.
- "Play out those scenarios," he told his audience,
"and I will tell you, people have thought about that, but they are
just not talking very much about it".
- "Don't look at the links between Iraq and al-Qaeda,
but then ask yourself the question, 'gee, is Iraq tied to Hamas and the
Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the people who are carrying out suicide bombings
in Israel'? Easy question to answer; the evidence is abundant."
- To date, the possibility of the United States attacking
Iraq to protect Israel has been only timidly raised by some intellectuals
and writers, with few public acknowledgements from sources close to the
- Analysts who reviewed Zelikow's statements said they
are concrete evidence of one factor in the rationale for going to war,
which has been hushed up.
- "Those of us speaking about it sort of routinely
referred to the protection of Israel as a component," said Phyllis
Bennis of the Washington-based Institute of Policy Studies. "But this
is a very good piece of evidence of that."
- Others say the administration should be blamed for not
making known to the public its true intentions and real motives for invading
- "They (the administration) made a decision to invade
Iraq, and then started to search for a policy to justify it. It was a decision
in search of a policy and because of the odd way they went about it, people
are trying to read something into it," said Nathan Brown, professor
of political science at George Washington University and an expert on the
- But he downplayed the Israel link. "In terms of
securing Israel, it doesn't make sense to me because the Israelis are probably
more concerned about Iran than they were about Iraq in terms of the long-term
strategic threat," he said.
- Still, Brown says Zelikow's words carried weight.
- "Certainly his position would allow him to speak
with a little bit more expertise about the thinking of the Bush administration,
but it doesn't strike me that he is any more authoritative than Wolfowitz,
or Rice or Powell or anybody else. All of them were sort of fishing about
for justification for a decision that has already been made," Brown
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