Flash Back: How the CIA
found and groomed Saddam
WASHINGTON: US forces may now be
searching high and low for Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein but in the
past he was seen by US intelligence as a bulwark of
anti-communism, reports UPI.
operatives used him as their instrument for more than 40 years,
according to former US intelligence officials and
UPI interviewed almost a dozen former US
diplomats, British scholars and former US intelligence officials
to piece together the following account. The CIA declined to
While many have thought that Saddam Hussein became
involved with US intelligence agencies from the 1980 Iran-Iraq
war, his first contacts date back to 1959 when he was part of a
CIA-authorized six-man squad tasked with assassinating then Iraqi
prime minister General Abd al-Karim Qasim.
In July 1958,
Qasim had overthrown the Iraqi monarchy. According to US
officials, Iraq was then regarded as a key buffer and strategic
asset in the Cold War with the Soviet Union.
in the mid-1950s, Iraq was quick to join the anti-Soviet Baghdad
Pact which was to defend the region and whose members included
Turkey, Britain, Iran and Pakistan.
Little attention was
paid to Qasim's bloody and conspiratorial regime until his sudden
decision to withdraw from the pact in 1959.
watched in marked dismay as Qasim began to buy arms from the
Soviet Union and put his own domestic communists into ministry
positions of real power.
In the mid-1980s, Miles Copeland,
a veteran CIA operative, said the CIA enjoyed "close ties" with
Qasim's ruling Baath Party.
In a recent public statement,
Roger Morris, a former National Security Council staffer in the
1970s, confirmed this, saying the CIA chose the authoritarian and
anti-communist Baath Party as its instrument.
another former senior State Department official, Saddam Hussein,
while only in his early 20s, became a part of a US plot to get rid
According to this source, Saddam Hussein was
installed in an apartment in Baghdad on al-Rashid Street directly
opposite Qasim's office in Iraq's ministry of defence to observe
Adel Darwish, a Middle East expert and
author of "Unholy Babylon," said the move was done "with full
knowledge of CIA" and that Saddam Hussein's CIA handler was an
Iraqi dentist working for CIA and Egyptian intelligence.
The assassination was set for October 7, 1959, but it was
completely botched. One former CIA official said the 22-year-old
Saddam lost his nerve and fired too soon, killing Qasim's driver
and only wounding Qasim in the shoulder and arm.
hiding on the floor of his car, escaped death, and Saddam Hussein,
whose calf had been grazed by a fellow would-be assassin, escaped
to Tikrit, thanks to CIA and Egyptian intelligence
He then crossed into Syria and was transferred by
Egyptian intelligence agents to Beirut.
While in Beirut,
the CIA paid for Saddam Hussein's apartment and put him through a
brief training course. The agency then helped him get to
During this time Saddam made frequent visits to the
American Embassy where CIA specialists such as Miles Copeland and
CIA station chief Jim Eichelberger were in residence and knew
In February 1963, Qasim was killed in a Baath Party
coup. Morris claimed that the CIA was behind the coup, which was
sanctioned by President John F. Kennedy.
The CIA quickly
moved into action. Noting that the Baath Party was hunting down
Iraqi communists, the CIA provided the submachine gun-toting Iraqi
National Guardsmen with lists of suspected communists who were
then jailed, interrogated, and summarily gunned down, according to
former US intelligence officials with intimate knowledge of the
Many suspected communists were killed outright,
these sources said. Darwish told UPI that the mass killings,
presided over by Saddam Hussein, took place at Qasr al-Nehayat,
literally, the Palace of the End.
Saddam Hussein became
head of the Baath Party's intelligence apparatus.
CIA/Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) relation with Saddam Hussein
intensified after the start of the Iran-Iraq war in September
1980. During the war, the CIA regularly sent a team to Saddam
Hussein to deliver battlefield intelligence to aid the
effectiveness of the Iraqi armed forces.
A former CIA
official said that Saddam Hussein had assigned a top team of three
senior officers from Iraq's military intelligence to meet the
According to Darwish, the CIA and DIA provided
military assistance to Saddam Hussein's ferocious 1988 assault on
Iranian positions in the al-Fao peninsula by blinding Iranian
radars for three days.
The Saddam Hussein-US intelligence
alliance of convenience came to an end on August 2, 1990 when
100,000 Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait. America's one-time ally had
become its bitterest enemy.
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