For a Kinder, Gentler Society
Iraqi leader is said to have aided attacks
Ex-CIA aides tell of bombs in early 1990s By Joel Brinkley

WSHINGTON Iyad Allawi, the des­ignated prime minister of Iraq, ran an exile organization intent on deposing Saddam am Hussein that sent agents into Baghdad in the early 1990s to plant bombs and sabotage government facil­ities under the direction of the CIA, sev­eral former intelligence officials say.

Allawi's group, the Iraqi National Ac­cord. used  car bombs and other explo­sive devices smuggled into Baghdad from northern Iraq, the officials said.

Evaluations  of the bombing campaign's :--mess varied, although the former officials interviewed agreed that n never threatened Saddam's regime.

No public records of the bombing campaign exist, and the former offi­cials' recollections were in many cases sketchy and in some cases contradicto­ry. :. They could not even recall exactly when it occurred, though the inter­s made it clear it was between 1992 and 1995.

 The Iraqi government at the time claimed that the bombs, including one it said exploded in a movie theater, re­sulted  in numerous civilian casualties. But whether the bombings actually killed civilians could not be confirmed because , as a former CIA official said, United States had no significant in­telligence  sources in Iraq then.

One former CIA officer who was based in the region, Robert Baer, recalled that a bombing during that period "blew up a school bus; schoolchildren were killed." Baer, a critic of the Iraq war, said he did not recall which resistance group might have set that bomb off.

Other former intelligence officials said Allawi's organization was the only resistance group involved in bombings and sabotage at that time.

But a former senior intelligence offi­cial recalled that "bombs were going off to no great effect."

"I don't recall very much killing of anyone," the official said.

When Allawi was named interim prime minister last week, he said his first priority would be to improve the security situation by stopping the bombings and other insurgent attacks that plague the nation - an idea several former officials familiar with Allawi's past said they found ironic.

"Send a thief to catch a thief," said Kenneth Pollack, who was Iran-Iraq military analyst for the CIA during the early 1990s and who recalled the sabot­age campaign.

Allawi declined to respond to re­peated requests for comment, made on Monday and Tuesday through his Wash­ington representative, Patrick Theros. The former intelligence officials, while confirming CIA involvement in the bombing campaign, would not say how exactly the agency supported it.

A US. intelligence officer who worked with Allawi in the early 1990s noted that "no one had any problem with sabotage in Baghdad back then," adding, "I don't think anyone could have known how things would turn out today."

Allawi was a favorite of the CIA and other government agencies 10 years ago, largely because he served as a counter­point to Ahmad Chalabi, a more promi­nent exile leader.

He "was highly regarded by those in­volved in Iraqi operations," Sandy Ber­ger, who was national security adviser in the Clinton administration, said in an interview. "Unlike Chalabi, he was someone who was trusted by the re­gional governments. He was less flam­boyant, less promotional."

The CIA recruited Allawi in 1992, former intelligence officials said. At that time, the former senior intelligence official said, "what we were doing was dealing with anyone" in the Iraqi oppo­sition "we could get our hands on." Chalabi had begun working with the agency in 1991 and the idea, the official added, was to "decrease the proportion of Chalabi's role in what we were doing by finding others to work with."

Several intelligence officials said the agency's goal immediately after the Gulf war in 1991 was to recruit opposi­tion leaders who had senior contacts in­side Iraq, something Allawi claimed to have. The Iraqi National Accord was made up of former senior Iraqi military and political leaders who had fled the country and were said to retain connec­tions to colleagues inside the regime.

The bombing and sabotage cam­paign, the former senior intelligence of­ficial said, "was a test more than any­thing else, to demonstrate capability."

Another former intelligence officer who was involved in Iraqi affairs re­called that the bombings "were an op­tion we considered and used." Allawi's group was used, he added, "because Chalabi never had any sort of internal organization that could carry it out. We would never have asked him to carry out sabotage."

The New York Times