US 9/11 Probe Misses Saudi-Iranian-Syrian Rescue Operation for Saudi Terrorists
20 July: Anxious to blunt the general impression that their findings are tainted by the US presidential election campaign, the Sept. 11 commission whose report comes out Thursday, July 23, finds this horror was preventable – but assigns no blame, whether to the Clinton or the Bush administrations.
Furthermore, the recommendation to appoint a cabinet-level chief for all 15 intelligence agencies is unlikely to be carried out before the November election. Even when it is, calling up an idyll of cooperation between the CIA and the FBI would stretch the imagination.
In 1996, after participating in the inquiry into the Aldrich Ames affair, the late Senator Patrick Moynihan declared the entire CIA should be torn down and rebuilt. That was not feasible either.
But shortly afterwards, in April 1997, the CIA and the FBI both found out that Osama bin Laden was preparing to attack New York’s World Trade Center – and did nothing.
However it will be much harder to ignore Sandy Berger, Clinton’s national security adviser, being caught filching terror papers from the National Archives, in advance of his testimony to the panel. n particular, questions are bound to be asked about three missing documents, one an “after-action report” criticizing the Clinton administration’s handling of al Qaeda millennium threats and identifying American vulnerabilities at airports and sea ports in the year.
This paper was penned one year before the September 11 attack.
The 9/11 commission has gained considerable attention by “discovering” that Iran had given free passage to five al Qaeda terrorists who took part in that attack. The Iranians shrugged off the accusation with the comment that the long Iranian-Afghan border is easily breached undetected by anyone who wants to sneak across.
Neither Tehran nor the Senate members are revealing the real story of Iran-al Qaeda relations, or its contemporary sequels. Neither do they name the third and fourth parties to the relationship. That story began eight years ago with the June 25, 1996 al Qaeda truck bomb that blew the facade off the Khobar Towers in the eastern Saudi town of Dhahran, where US crews who flew the warplanes protecting Saudi oil fields were quartered. The attack claimed 19 American lives and left 500 maimed, some gravely.
Already then, Iran not only allowed al Qaeda terrorists to pass through its territory but provided the intelligence and logistical support for the attack. According to debkafile‘s counter-terror sources, the Saudis extracted this information from Saudi al Qaeda assailants who fled to Damascus after the bombing. Syria later extradited them with the provisos that Riyadh not turn them over to the United States or permit American investigators to interrogate them. Riyadh kept faith with Damascus. However the Iranians, upon learning that the captured Saudi terrorists had revealed their role in the Khobar Towers attack, rushed former Iranian president Hashem Rafsanjani over to Riyadh for damage control. The upshot was a secret Saudi-Iranian deal whereby Riyadh kept mum to Washington on Iran’s complicity in the assault on US troops in return for Tehran barring Iranian soil as a base for al Qaeda or any other terrorist attacks on the oil kingdom.
Saudi rulers were therefore bound to silence by under-the-table deals with both Syria and Iran. Muzzling the Saudi al Qaeda members involved in the Khobar attack kept the heat away from both these terrorist sponsoring governments in the critical years of the latter half of the 1990s and up to 2000. During this period, Saudi nationals were drawn deep into bin Laden’s machine of terror. The free passage of Saudi terrorists from their home towns to Afghanistan and back via Iran was routine in those years and an open secret to every intelligence and counter-terror agent in the Middle East and Persian Gulf.
In October 2001, after the Sept 11 attacks provoked the invasion of Afghanistan, Iran extended a helping hand once again when Saudi intelligence asked for permission to use Iranian airspace for a secret emergency airlift to evacuate most of bin Laden’s Saudi combatants from the besieged northern Afghan town of Konduz.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly broke the news of that airlift at the time, together with word of Iran’s offer of safe passage to Saudi fighters fleeing other battle arenas like Kandahar and Tora Bora.
By helping Saudi fugitives reach safety, Tehran turned the tables on Riyadh. Whereas before this episode, Iran was at Saudi mercy over its involvement in the Khobar bombing, now the Saudis depended on Iranian silence to conceal their nationals’ massive participation in the Afghan war and correlatively the 9/11 attacks.
From that time on, the ayatollahs considered themselves released from their earlier bargain with the princes. On May 12, 2003, al Qaeda terrorists based in Iran were allowed to strike three Riyadh compounds occupied by Westerners. This decision was strengthened by intelligence reaching Tehran, as well as US and Middle East spy agencies, that senior princes of the Sudairi branch of the royal house, including interior minister Prince Nayef who was charged with combating terror and King Fahd’s son Abdelaziz, were in secret dialogue with al Qaeda leaders.
All the intelligence data revealed here was known to the Clinton and Bush administrations and brought before both presidents.
Even now, the Saudi-Iranian-Syrian al Qaeda deal works when it suits the parties.
Tehran enabled senior bin Laden association sheikh Muhammed Khaled al-Harby, known also as Suleiman al-Makki, to turn himself into Saudi authorities under the month-long royal amnesty Crown Prince Abdullah offered al Qaeda terrorists on June 23, 2004 He is said to have contacted the Saudi embassy in Tehran from his hideout on the Iran-Afghan border and flown to Riyadh. A widely-broadcast videotape found in Afghanistan showed bin Laden showing al Harby, who is married to the daughter of bin Laden’s No. 2 Ayman Zuwahiri, how the New York Trade Center bombing was carried out soon after the event.
US authorities hope for Saudi cooperation in questioning the sheikh, who could shed much light on the US Sept. 11 inquiry. They may be disappointed. debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report that just before the US invasion of Afghanistan, al-Habry and family went through Iran to Syria. His family still lives there. The Saudis are clamming up on the exact circumstances of his surrender. The common intelligence assumption is that for the last three years he lived at a secret location in Syria. But the Assad regime found it more convenient for him to turn himself in from Iran in line with the still functioning arrangements between the four parties.
This semi-hidden transaction and other signs seem to indicate that Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria, each for its own interests, have decided to join forces to repatriate all Saudi al Qaeda veterans who were complicit in orchestrating the 9/11 attacks and no longer active.
Al Kharby, who lost both feet on the battlefields of Afghanistan, is one. Another is Ibrahim al-Sadiq al-Kaidi who last Saturday, July 17, returned to home to Saudi Arabia after presenting himself at the Saudi mission in Damascus and accepting the royal amnesty. Riyadh is unlikely to allow US investigators to question him too under the terms of its accord with Syria.
The committee’s conclusion that America had more reason to go to war against Iran than Iraq is based on a fallacious, possibly political, comparison. Al Qaeda’s presence in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq from 1996 was quite separate from the Tehran-Riyadh-Damascus-al Qaeda arrangements. It has everything to do with the general terror offensive bin Laden has since launched against the Saudi kingdom and his organization’s war against the US presence in Iraq. The thousands of Saudi terrorists who wended their way to and from Afghanistan through Iran are now fighting American troops in Iraq.