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Mole reveals Saddam plots against Iran

By Marie Colvin
The Sunday Times
December 10, 2000

A RECENT defector from the Iraqi intelligence service has revealed that Saddam Hussein has stepped up operations against Iran, despite public diplomatic overtures.

The defector, who worked in the Iranian office of the mukhabarat (intelligence) headquarters in Baghdad, portrayed a Saddam unchastened by his 1991 defeat in the Gulf war, still plotting against his neighbours and able to import substantial weaponry despite an international embargo.

Saddam's increased efforts to undermine Tehran include extra support for the Mujaheddin-e Khalq, an Iranian opposition group based in Iraq. With Iraqi training and a supply of arms and explosives, the group has mounted a growing number of operations inside Iran.

The defector said Saddam had ordered Iraqi intelligence to encourage the Mujaheddin-e Khalq to attack armed forces and assassinate officials. Last Sunday the group shelled Mehran, a southern city, and in October mortar-attacked buildings in central Tehran two days running. One of the targets was the headquarters of the elite Republican Guards.

According to the defector, Saddam has also begun supporting other opposition groups among restive minorities in Iran, where most of the population is Persian and adheres to the Shi'ite branch of Islam.

Iraqi intelligence has been ordered to give weapons and other support to Sunni Arabs in Baluchistan, Iranian Kurds, Turkomans in the desert north of Tehran and Arab Shi'ites in Ahvaz, near Iraq's border in the south.

The Iraqi support for these other groups, the defector said, was not just to undermine the regime in Tehran but to dilute the strength of the Mujaheddin-e Khalq, the very group Saddam purports to back.

"Saddam's ultimate goal is to take back the Shatt al Arab," the defector said, referring to the waterway that gave Saddam an outlet on the Gulf.

Outwardly Saddam has pretended to be seeking peace with Iran. In October Kamal Kharazi became the first Iranian foreign minister to visit Baghdad in 10 years. But behind the scenes there is no rapprochement. "We were told, 'Ignore what you see in politics,' " the defector said.

Iraq has increased the number of intelligence officers at its embassies in Karachi, Islamabad and Ankara as part of the campaign against Iran.

Iraq was supposed to destroy its weapons of mass destruction after the Gulf war. However, the defector said, the mukhabarat had unlimited access to weapons needed for an assassination and guerrilla campaign in Iran: pistols with silencers, machine pistols, sniper rifles of low calibre, detonators with timing mechanisms and poison that could kill with one tablet.

While at the end of the war in 1991 the army had only 200,000 guns, it was now completely re-equipped with many times that number, he said.


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