Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Sabri files, part 2

This is an update to a previous post regarding the infamous CIA mole within Saddam's inner circle, Naji Sabri.

The last post was triggered by a flurry of activity surrounding the outing of Sabri as the mole. The story pretty much disappeared until Clinton operative Sidney Blumenthal resurrected it recently in hopes of providing Hillary some cover for her Iraq war resolution vote. We've also since seen a memoir from George Tenet speaking of a high level source.

For those not following along in 2006, NBC reported that Sabri was recruited as a CIA mole during a trip to the UN in 2002 (to denounce Bush's warmongering), eventually agreeing to speak through a French cutout. This deal was presumably arranged by the CIA station chief in Paris, a man who'd simultaneously been sending cables to HQ denouncing the Niger uranium story. Interestingly, Sabri would not talk of stockpiles.

Matter of fact we seem to have three versions of what he talked about, 1) NBC said he talked of no bioweapons, some chemical shells, and a hopeful nuke program when sanctions were lowered, 2) Tyler Drumheller, CIA station chief in Germany, described it as nothing, and 3) Sabri himself, who said the whole thing was a fabrication.

Then there's Tenet, who would talk of a mystery source who provided corroborating information. While it's largely a fool's errand to try to make sense of what a spook says in the first place, let's press on, warning in hand. In his book, on page 329, the former DCI describes a "very senstive, highly placed source in Iraq" who was funneling info to the highest levels of CIA. Presumably this was Sabri, although maybe it was someone else? He goes on to say on page 330:
"Every once in awhile, doubts would creep in about why so much of our evidence was indirect or why it had been so long since inspectors had found something. Right about then, this source would pop up with something incredibly specific that would not only affirm our intelligence but eliminate the doubts we might be having"
Let's assume it was Sabri--the public seems to be left with two choices--either he was telling the truth to help promulgate the myth that Saddam had WMDs when he really didn't, which is the bizarre storyline we're supposed to now believe; or he was telling what sounded like the truth hoping it would help thwart an attack. Events on the ground seem to back up his story especially considering the 500 chemical-tipped shells found buried but with no other programs.

What NBC didn't focus on was the fact Sabri, while saying Iraq had nothing to the international community, was in effect telling CIA that Saddam was in material breach and if left to his devices would go much further. A casus belli, or using the American vernacular, a slam dunk.

This is likely why Mr. Sabri, a high-ranking Ba'ath official, only appeared on a get-out-of-jail-free card and not one of the deck of 55 most wanted. Notice he didn't engage in the post-war insurgency like other former regime members, such as Izzat al-Duri. Check out this BBC interview in March 2003, which seems to foretell his future:
As the minister spoke to me, I realised with mounting alarm that the Egyptian singer was crooning the 1970s disco hit by Gloria Gaynor - I Will Survive.
He laughed at that, since the interview occurred after he had evacuated Iraq. He now lives as a teacher in Qatar.

Sabri was also telegraphing the future when interviewed by the BBC in 2001. After spewing out a line of America-is-at-fault rhetoric that would make Ron Paul envious, he slipped in that Saddam had been preparing for an invasion "for the past 11 years". One only has to consider the dabblings with al Qaeda or his training of insurgents at Salmon Pak to understand the strategy, which has worked pretty well until just lately.

Finally, last we checked Stephen Hayes was speculating that Langley had come into possession of some floppies taken directly from Sabri's offices after the invasion:
One day after the floppy disks from Naji Sabri's office manager were passed to a representative of "another U.S. government agency"--presumably the CIA--the recipient reported back that the find was "a treasure trove." That was the last that any of these officials have heard about the recovered documents.
Tenet would know whether such floppies exist and if so, what they contain. And he ain't sayin'.

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