Will bin Laden give Saddam a bolt-hole?

Like a fox that hears the baying of the hounds, Saddam Hussein is reported to be in indirect negotiation with Osama bin Laden over a bolt-hole for a quick escape. He believes that no one but the Islamist terrorist can provide him with an extra-territorial base complete with partner to continue fighting the Americans and their allies after they install a new regime in Baghdad – yet out of their reach.
This is reported byDEBKA-Net-Weekly‘smilitary and intelligence sources. (To subscribe toDNWclickHERE)
The word going round the staff of General Tommy Franks’s war command and the Pentagon, as well as the CIA officers in charge of the search for Osama bin Laden, according to those sources, is that the Iraqi and al Qaeda leaders are in mid-dialogue through their agents. The Bush government’s strategy of isolating Saddam’s bastions, psychological pressure and the subversion of his army appears to be taking effect.
Saddam Hussein’s potential plan to fight his war against the Americans from an underground, extra-territorial base – and its perfect fit with the Saudi-born terrorist’s schemes – is fiercely debates in the western intelligence community. The skeptics cannot see the all-powerful ruler who has lived the good life in opulent palaces for the last twenty years, opting like bin Laden for a life on the run, trekking astride a camel or horse through wild, burning desert regions for long weeks and months.
Wrong, say the believers. Saddam has more on his mind than just saving himself and his family; he seems to believe he can win the greatest battle of his life. For victory, he needs to reach a hidden territorial base outside Iraq ahead of his regime’s defeat by the United States. His only recourse for a base, a safe haven and an operational collaborator – all in one package – is al Qaeda.
Saddam’s forward planning, according toDEBKA-Net-Weekly‘sintelligence sources, catches al Qaeda leaders in the midst of their own debate over priorities: destabilize Saudi Arabia first or recapture Afghanistan – or both?
DEBKA-Net-Weekly was first to reveal on October 18 that the leader of the Islamic terrorist network was alive and, with his close associates and family, at safe anchorage in the Empty Quarter fringing Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Those same sources now report that Bin Laden leads the camp advocating the deepening of the network’s penetration of Saudi tribes, clergy, security forces, intelligence and cities. He believes that planting new cells in every branch of the oil kingdom’s ruling establishment and every corner of the country will in the space of a year or two create the conditions for overthrowing the Saudi royal house and replacing it with a Wahhabist Islamic republic. From that point on, nothing will stop the dissemination of the authentic Islamic revolution far and wide.
The clash on Saturday and Sunday, November 16 and 17, in the A Shaafa suburb of Riyadh between Saudi security forces and young Saudi “jihadists” was one of the first audible rumbles of the earthquake to come. Two groups – Saudi fugitives from Afghanistan who were permitted to return home and new arrivals that bin Laden inserted in the Saudi capital since his arrival – are already busy imparting military training to Saudi youths, many of them out of work, as fodder for local militias.
Bin Laden’s senior lieutenant and partner, the Egyptian Jihad Islami leader Ayman Zuwahri, holds the second view. He has no objection to targeting Saudi Arabia, but believes the timing unpropitious. Washington’s preoccupation with Iraq favors the network’s chances of success in Afghanistan, where already the security situation is even worse than in Saudi Arabia. There too, he argues al Qaeda has a trusted war ally, who commands military strength and enjoys the support of tribal leaders ready to fight against the Americans and the shaky Karzai government in Kabul. According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Kabul sources our sources, Mullah Omar, the ousted Taliban leader, is getting ready to launch a guerrilla campaign the length and breadth of Afghanistan to recapture the country. He expects to exploit the US offensive against Iraq to rally the Muslim world to the Taliban’s cause and point up the transient nature of any American triumph in Iraq.
A lightning advance in Saudi Arabia would be Saddam Hussein’s first preference, according to our Gulf sources. To this end, he would be prepared to place lavish financial, logistical and intelligence resources at al Qaeda’s disposal. But his ability to influence the argument going back and forth in the Islamic terror group’s top echelon is limited.
Whatever is decided by his potential allies, Saddam has a third option ready to hand should he decide to flee the country ahead of the American attack. From the deserts of Arabia, he would well placed to activate any weapons of mass destruction he brought with him without fear of reprisals. Those weapons would be concealed in locations under al Qaeda’s control. Who would be targeted if Saddam let loose his infernal devices from a concealed extraterritorial base, by means of surrogate terrorist cells or his own pre-positioned intelligence agents? He would have to be found before he could be stopped from stirring up Afghanistan-style unrest in a US-controlled Iraq.

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