Just days before the anthrax attacks of 2001 started in the United States, the Saddam regime appears to have received intelligence of an impending attack on its own government. According to a newly translated memorandum, Saddam's office issued a security alert on September 17th, 2001 for a 'poisonous paper' attack. The alert consisted of a warning that 'agents' who were instructed by their 'Iranian masters' were going to submit personal paperwork to Iraqi government offices that it called 'poisonous papers'.
While the memo does not state the nature of the poison, due to the context of the memo it seems to indicate some type of chemical or biological agent would be embedded on the paper, which would then be submitted to government offices. An Arabic linguist informs this researcher that the original Arabic term for 'poisonous papers' is not used metaphorically and almost certainly refers to some type of literal deadly agent.
This new information comes from a document captured in Iraq. The Pentagon has released hundreds of Saddam's documents at an online repository. The document can be found at the Foreign Military Studies Office website. It is in Arabic and our translator 'Sammi' provides an original English translation below. The memorandum has two pages with what appear to be official letterhead and stamps.
Begin Translation for CMPC—2003—006051
In the name of Allah the Merciful
Republic of Iraq
Presidency of the Republic
Top secret and personal
Date: 17 September 2001
To: Respected Director of the Intelligence Service
Respected Director of the General Military Intelligence
Respected Director of General Security
We have received information saying that agents, following instructions from their Iranian masters have instructed their followers to go to official and semi—official government offices to follow up on paper work. They were instructed to submit personal files containing poisonous papers that were specially prepared to target the officials and the important places in the security, (Baath) party, and administrative offices in all the provinces of the country.
Please be informed and respond as needed.
Dr. Abd Hamid Khattab
Secretary of the President of the Republic
16 September 2001
Republic of Iraq
Presidency of the Republic
Top secret and personal
Date: 19 September 2001
Respected Assistant Director of the Operations of Intelligence.
Enclosed is the photocopy of the letter of the Presidency of the Republic—Secretary 9320 on 17 September 2001, regarding information about targeting the officials through submitting forms containing poisonous papers.
Please review...With respects
Signed by; M.M 1
18th September 2001
Respected Mr. M. A. M 4
Respected Mr. M. A. M 5 Enclosed copy of the mentioned letter
Respected Mr. M. M 40 With respects.
Respected Mr. M. M 6
Respected Mr. M. M 16
While the evidence presented here is not conclusive, it raises some interesting questions. There are a few different scenarios that could explain why Saddam was sending out this alert the day before a similar attack occurred in the United States.
One theory would be to take the memo at face value. Perhaps the Iraqi government actually picked up information that the Iranians were planning this attack. In that case, it raises the level of suspicion that the Iranians were possibly involved with the attack on the United States. If this were the case and Iran was plotting an anthrax attack on Iraq, this document could make the case for intervention in Iran that much stronger. However, CIA reports from that period make no mention of Iran having active biological production but do mention dual use technologies. Chemical contamination would have been within their capabilities.
On the other hand it could be a ploy by Saddam, who is well known to have had biological weapons in stockpile during the 90's, to turn his enemies against each other. If Saddam had knowledge of the impending attacks in the US he might have written the memo expecting US intelligence to pick it up and be more suspicious of Iranian complicity. He might have believed this would deflect the suspicion off Iraq as a fellow victim and put it on Iran. While it may sound a bit na�ve for him to believe this might work there are other references to his use of similar tactics. A White House press release demonstrates how Saddam routinely pitted enemies against each other:
To Prevent Iraq's Different Groups From Coming Together To Challenge His Regime, Saddam Undertook A Deliberate Strategy Of Maintaining Power By Dividing The Iraqi People:
He brutally repressed different Iraqi communities and pitted them against one another. By displacing communities and dividing Iraqis, Saddam sought to establish himself as the only force that could hold the country together.
And it was not uncommon for Saddam as the culprit to portray himself as the victim. A prime example of this strategy coming from Iraq can be found in the claim that during the Gulf War Coalition forces poisoned Iraqis with Depleted Uranium (DU), used to harden some US munitions.
Despite United Nations environmental surveys that show DU munitions have negligible environmental impact, Saddam continually claimed that DU was causing wide spread health problems in Iraq. Many experts attribute these problems to Saddam's own use of chemical weapons in Iraq.
It is worth noting that according to Iranian state run media, two of its newspapers received anthrax mailings in December of 2001. This could have been a ploy by the Iranians to deflect suspicion, but in this case it occurred after the American anthrax attack. The article does not make it clear whether the mailings were actual anthrax or were a hoax.
Of course, this alert may be just one instance of numerous security alerts that just happened to fall on a date that makes it appear suspiciously like there is a relationship between it and the US anthrax attack. We may never know what initiated this security alert, but the coinciding time and mechanism of attack certainly warrants consideration.
It should also be noted that Saddam was thinking about a biological attack on America. In February of 2006, Fox News reported about a newly released tape recording of Saddam with his ministers. During the meeting held in the mid 1990s, Saddam predicted a biological attack in the United States.
"Terrorism is coming. I told the Americans," Saddam is heard saying, adding he "told the British as well'. 'In the future, what would prevent a booby trapped car causing a nuclear explosion in Washington or a germ or a chemical one?" Saddam said. "This story is coming, but not from Iraq," he said.
Ray Robison is an occasional contributor to American Thinker, and proprietor of the eponymous blog Ray Robison.