Iraq was invaded 'to protect Israel' - US official
By Emad Mekay
WASHINGTON - Iraq under Saddam Hussein did not pose a threat to the United States, but it did to Israel, which is one reason why Washington invaded the Arab country, according to a speech made by a member of a top-level White House intelligence group.
Inter Press Service uncovered the remarks by Philip Zelikow, who is now the executive director of the body set up to investigate the terrorist attacks on the US in September 2001 - the 9/11 commission - in which he suggests a prime motive for the invasion just over one year ago was to eliminate a threat to Israel, a staunch US ally in the Middle East.
Zelikow's casting of the attack on Iraq as one launched to protect Israel appears at odds with the public position of US President George W Bush and his administration, which has never overtly drawn the link between its war on the regime of Saddam and its concern for Israel's security.
The administration has instead insisted it launched the war to liberate the Iraqi people, destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and to protect the United States.
Zelikow made his statements about "the unstated threat" during his tenure on a highly knowledgeable and well-connected body known as the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB), which reports directly to the president. He served on the board between 2001 and 2003.
"Why would Iraq attack America or use nuclear weapons against us? I'll tell you what I think the real threat [is] and actually has been since 1990 - it's the threat against Israel," Zelikow told a crowd at the University of Virginia on September 10, 2002, speaking on a panel of foreign policy experts assessing the impact of September 11 and the future of the war on al-Qaeda.
"And this is the threat that dare not speak its name, because the Europeans don't care deeply about that threat, I will tell you frankly. And the American government doesn't want to lean too hard on it rhetorically, because it is not a popular sell," said Zelikow.
The statements are the first to surface from a source closely linked to the Bush administration acknowledging that the war, which has so far cost the lives of nearly 600 US troops and thousands of Iraqis, was motivated by Washington's desire to defend the Jewish state.
The administration, which is surrounded by staunch pro-Israel, neo-conservative hawks, is currently fighting an extensive campaign to ward off accusations that it derailed the "war on terrorism" it launched after September 11 by taking a detour to Iraq, which appears to have posed no direct threat to the US.
Israel is Washington's biggest ally in the Middle East, receiving annual direct aid of US$3-4 billion.
Even though members of the 16-person PFIAB come from outside government, they enjoy the confidence of the president and have access to all information related to foreign intelligence that they need to play their vital advisory role. Known in intelligence circles as "Piffy-ab", the board is supposed to evaluate the nation's intelligence agencies and probe any mistakes they make. The unpaid appointees on the board require a security clearance known as "code word" that is higher than top secret.