Pearle warns: 'Powerful' evidence of Iraq-Al Qaida WMD ties
SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Monday, July 15, 2002
The United States believes Iraq has distributed weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to Al Qaida and other Islamic militants.
"It is likely that chemical weapons, biological weapons in the possession of the Iraqis . . . are now being disseminated to terrorists," Richard Pearle, chairman of the Defense Policy Board, said.
Pearle warned that Iraq is coordinating with Al Qaida on plans to attack the United States, Middle East Newsline reported.
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"This evidence is very powerful," Pearle said. "There is collaboration between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaida, which means to destroy us. It entails chemical weapons, biological weapons, training in their application. And he's working on nuclear weapons. The message is very clear: We have no time to lose, Saddam must be removed from office."
Pearle, a former assistant defense secretary, chairs a group that advises the Pentagon on national security issues. He is regarded as a leading proponent of a U.S. military campaign against Baghdad.
U.S. officials said the Bush administration has been warned of the prospect that the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has issued biological and chemical weapons to Al Qaida and its allies in an attempt to deter any military campaign by Washington. The officials said Iraq hopes that the weapons, obtained during the Cold War with help from the Soviet Union, will be sent from the Middle East to Western Europe and the United States.
In an interview on U.S. PBS network, Pearle said the Saddam regime has launched cooperation with Al Qaida in planning WMD attacks against the United States. He criticized a State Department report released earlier this year that did not cite such cooperation.
U.S. officials said Iraq has been bolstering its biological and chemical weapons programs over the last two years. They cite new information from an Iraqi defector who has told the Defense Intelligence Agency of more than 30 biological weapons facilities in Iraq.
The officials said Israel as well as U.S. troops in the Middle East are under greatest threat of Iraqi WMD. The officials said Baghdad might have weaponized such agents as anthrax and botulinum poison.
But Pearle said that with Al Qaida cooperation Iraq could launch biological or chemical weapons attacks in the United States. He said Iraq is also working on new unspecified means of WMD delivery.
"The target could be the United States," Pearle said. "It could be Americans abroad; it could be American forces deployed now in the region, and it could the Israelis or the Saudis. He has the capacity to do great damage, and at any moment he may do so."