Monday, June 21, 2004

Meet the New Boss 

Sy Hersh touches briefly on the past exploits of Iyad Allawi, the new Iraqi Prime Minister, in "Plan B" below. Here (via Cursor) is a Wolf Blitzer interview in which Hersh fleshes out his portrait of Our Man in Baghdad:
BLITZER: All right. Let's talk a little about another fascinating aspect in the article . . . Allawi, you write, was involved with a Mukhabarat hit team that sought out and killed Baath Party dissenters throughout Europe. You're talking about the days when he was an ally of Saddam Hussein.

HERSH: Yes. He was one of Saddam's closest allies, I'd say from '68 to the middle '70s. He was a big supporter of Saddam.

Saddam was, you know, killing his the way through the Baath Party to get control. The vice president then -- all during the '70s he was seizing control, but he finally got it officially in '79.

And for five or six or seven years, Allawi was his guy, one of his people in Europe. And what they would do is they would basically, the only other word for it is murder the opposition anywhere in Europe. And he was certainly involved with those people. He was a thug. I've talked to people who have read his internal CIA file. On the other hand, he also became later a very big asset.

BLITZER: Well, they tried to kill him. They axed him almost to death. He spent a year in a hospital because Saddam Hussein tried to kill him?

HERSH: His people did, yes. The head of the Mukhabarat did in '76 -- '78 is when he got axed. I think before that they had gone after him. Something happened in between '75, '76 in which they turned against him.

BLITZER: What happened?

HERSH: I can give you 10 different theories. Nobody really knows.

BLITZER: The bottom line, I guess, for U.S. policy today, Iyad Allawi, he's going to be the interim prime minister. He's a Shiite leader in Iraq right now. Is this a guy the United States can trust, can rely on to get the job done?

HERSH: People in our CIA who work with him say he's really quite competent. He's a good guy now. The past is passed. I urged by somebody, "It isn't worth it. Don't go after him."

But the truth is that he had a very, very bad past. I even quote somebody in this article, one of the persons with whom he went to med school, a fellow Iraqi, as saying that his med degree came basically from the Baath Party. Nobody's quite sure, you know, what kind of doctor is he. He says he's a doctor.

What's important is that it's totally, completely clear that he was involved with what the Russians call wet-ops, blood. And he was involved in a lot of very bloody things. And I quote a former CIA official using that word.

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