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11. januar 1999 hadde Newsweek et oppslag om Saddam Husseins terrorkapabilitet og mulige forbindelse med Osama bin Ladens nettverk. Saken har tittelen «Saddam + Bin Laden?».
(I samme nummer var det intervju med Osama bin Laden, som på den tiden lot seg intervjue også av Reuters og andre viktige medier. Enkelte vil huske NTBs sitatsak på natta der hele Reuters-intervjuet ble gjengitt så nær som setningene der Osamas antisemittisme kom til uttrykk.)

Den som har tilgang på Newsweeks arkiv kan finne saken der, men jeg stjeler et lengre utdrag fra papirutgaven. For ordens skyld; det enkleste er å søke på navnene til artikkelens forfattere (samlet): Christopher Dickey, Gregory L. Vistica og Russell Watson.

«IN THE NO-FLY ZONES OF NORTHern and southern Iraq, Saddam Hussein’s gunners blindly fired surface-to-air missiles at patrolling American and British warplanes. In Yemen, terrorists seized a group of British Commonwealth and American tourists, and four of the hostages died in a shootout. In Tel Aviv, the U.S. Embassy abruptly closed down after receiving a terrorist threat. Perhaps it was just a typical week in the Middle East. But in a region where no one puts much faith in blind coincidence, last week’s conjunction of Iraqi antiaircraft fire and terrorism aimed at the countries that had just bombed Iraq convinced some that a new conspiracy was afoot.

Here’s what is known so far: Saddam Hussein, who has a long record of supporting terrorism, is trying to rebuild his intelligence network overseas – assets that would allow him to establish a terrorism network. U.S. sources say he is reaching out to Islamic terrorists, including some who may be linked to Osama bin Laden, the wealthy Saudi exile accused of masterminding the bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa last summer. U.S. intelligence has had reports of contacts between low-level agents. Saddam and bin Laden have interests – and enemies – in common. Both men want U.S. military forces out of Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden has been calling for an all-out war on Americans, using as his 2_kommentar pretext Washington’s role in bombing and boycotting Iraq. Now bin Laden is engaged in something of a public-relations offensive, having granted recent interviews, one for Newsweek. He says «any American who pay taxes to his government» is a legitimate target.

Saddam’s terrorism capability is still small-time, according to senior U.S. officials. «He’s nowhere close to the level of the Iranians or Hizbullah», says one. But terrorism may be Iraq’s growth industry. An Arab intelligence officer who knows Saddam personally and stays in touch with his clandestine services predicts that «very soon you will be witnessing large-scale terrorist activity run by the Iraqis.» The attack, he says, would be aimed at American and British targets in the Islamic world. Washington is somewhat sceptical, but this source says plans have already been put into action under three «false flags»: One Palestinian, one Iranian and one «the al-Qaida apparatus», the loose collection of terrorists who receive bin Laden’s patronage. «All these organizations have representatives in Baghdad», says the Arab intelligence officer.

According to this source, Saddam expected last month’s American and British bombing campaign to go on much longer than it did. The dictator believed that as the attacks continued, indignation would grow in the Muslim world, making his terrorism offensive both harder to trace and more effective. With acts of terror contributing to chaos in the region, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait might feel less inclined to support Washington. Saddam’s long time strategy, according to several sources, is to bully or cajole Muslim countries into breaking the embargo against Iraq, without waiting for the United Nations to lift it formally. With the sudden end of the allied air offensive, the Iraqi challenge to U.S. and British overflights in the exclusion zones may have been Saddam’s way of keeping the regional pot boiling.»…

…»The idea of an alliance between Iraq and bin Laden is alarming to the West (what if Baghdad gave the terrorists highly portable biological weapons?). Saddam may think he’s too good for such an association. Jerold Post, a political psychologist and government consultant who has profiled Saddam, says he thinks of himself as a world leader like Castro or Tito, not a thug. «I’m sceptical that Saddam would resort to terrorism,» says a well-informed administrastion official. «He can do a lot of other things to screw with us.» But Saddam is famous for doing whatever it takes to stay in power. Now that the United States has made his removal from office a national objective, he knows he is fighting for his life. «The worst thing you can do is to wound him, let him know you meant to kill him, and then let him survive,» says an Iraqi Shiite leader in London. As his own people know only too well, Saddam is quite capable of fighting dirty.»

Dette ble skrevet to og et halvt år før terrorangrepene på USAs vestkyst, mens Bill Clinton var sjef i det hvite hus. Det er ikke at USA har bestemt seg for å fjerne Saddam. Det er heller ikke USA kobler Saddam til terrorisme og til en mulig forbindelse med al-Qaida. Men Clinton-administrasjonen, og amerikanerne i det hele tatt, følte ikke at terrorfaren var så stor før 11. september 2001. De hadde like lite som oss andre forestillinger om hva som kunne være mulig. Etter 11. september kan ingenting utelukkes lenger. I dag ville nok ikke den velinformerte tjenestemannen i Clintons stab ha formulert seg som han gjorde. Det som er forskjellen idag sammenlignet med for to og et halvt år siden, er at USA ikke lenger tar sjansen på å tvile på at Saddam «would resort to terrorism». Dermed er også viljen der til å gjøre noe med problemet. I ettertid er det nok mange amerikanske politikere som angrer på at Osama bin Laden ikke ble satt ut av spill mye tidligere.

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