At least two of the Iraqi diplomats kicked out of the United States at the start of the Persian Gulf war were busy trying to set up a terrorist network, and intelligence sources expect that more than 100 terrorists will try to infiltrate U.S. borders within the next month.
Sources in the Justice Department and Central Intelligence Agency and other knowledgeable sources who shared that intelligence with us were quick to add that there is no reason to panic. Iraqi-sponsored terrorists are likely to target American installations in Western Europe first. The least likely strategy would be to strike within the United States, where the terrorists have only a slim network of support to hide them and supply them with weapons and explosives.But lack of a support system has not stopped Saddam Hussein from trying. Highly classified U.S. intelligence reports say that the United States has received information that Saddam has already dispatched more than 100 terrorists, both seasoned and novice, to try to infiltrate the United States. One report, quoting sources inside Iraq, cites a specific number of terrorists - 160 - who have been sent off with missions in America.
That coincides with reports that at least two and possibly as many as four Iraqi diplomats in their embassy in Washington were monitored as they attempted to set up terrorist cells in the capital and elsewhere in the United States. Our sources say that there is no evidence that the low-level diplomats still in the embassy are involved in terrorist-related activities or even significant espionage. If they were, they would be booted out too. If Saddam is serious about terrorizing Americans at home, there are several allies he could call on for help.
The most dangerous terrorist organization in the world, the Abu Nidal Organization now based in Baghdad, has a rudimentary infrastructure of about 50 people in the United States. All of them, according to FBI sources, are under surveillance. Abu Nidal, a rebel Palestinian, has successfully rained terror since the early 1970s on Israelis, Western Europeans, Americans and even his old rival in the Palestine Liberation Organization, Yasir Arafat.
If Saddam's agenda fits his own, Abu Nidal will do Saddam's terrorist bidding.
What if Saddam is killed or Iraq surrenders? That will not stop the terrorists. A recent intelligence report says that Saddam has deposited money in several Swiss bank accounts, which will automatically be paid out to terrorists no matter what happens to Saddam.
Most Iraqis recruited for terrorist strikes will be rank amateurs. Iraqis living in the United States who support Saddam strongly enough to resort to violence would probably be used to provide bank accounts, safe houses and materials for the experts who sneak into the country.
Among the other terrorist celebrities who are taking, or would take orders from Saddam are Abu Ibrahim, a pioneer bomb maker who designed the barometric pressure bomb that blew up Pan Am flight 103; Ahmed Jibril, who masterminded the Pan Am bombing on a contract from Iran; and Mohammed Abul Abbas, who hijacked the Achille Lauro cruise ship in 1985 and launched a speed boat attack against Israeli beaches last year.
Abbas has displayed a thuggish incompetence, but his attacks have their effect. In the case of the Achille Lauro, he wanted to use the ship to sneak into Israel. When that didn't work, he killed a passenger, Jewish-American Leon Klinghoffer. Last year's beach raid was foiled, but the timing of the attempt succeeded in breaking up the dialogue between the United States and the PLO.