New York Times: A sitting member of Parliament was convicted more than two decades ago of planning the attacks on the American and French Embassies in Kuwait that left five Americans dead in 1983, Iraqi and American officials said Tuesday. The New York Times
By JAMES GLANZ and MARC SANTORA
Published: February 7, 2007
BAGHDAD, Feb. 5 A sitting member of Parliament was convicted more than two decades ago of planning the attacks on the American and French Embassies in Kuwait that left five Americans dead in 1983, Iraqi and American officials said Tuesday.
The Parliament member, Jamal Jafaar Mohammed Ali Ebrahimi, was sentenced to death in absentia by a court in Kuwait for the 1983 attacks. He was elected to Parliament in 2005 as a part of the Shiite coalition that now governs Iraq.
We are actively investigating these serious allegations and continue to be in contact with the government of Iraq to pursue this case, said Lou Fintor, a spokesman for the American Embassy here.
Mr. Jamal, as he is known, served for a while as a security adviser to Iraqs first prime minister after the American invasion, Ibrahim al-Jafaari, officials in Washington said. It was then that they first suspected that he was involved in the 1983 embassy attacks. Their suspicions grew over the past year, and they are almost certain of the connection today.
It was unclear when American officials first raised the issue with the current prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, but one official said there have been discussions for at least several months.
The embassy bombings led to the kidnapping of at least seven Americans in Lebanon and several other terrorist acts aimed at freeing 17 prisoners under death sentences in Kuwait for the attacks. The hostage-taking also led to a scandal in the Reagan administration famously involving the delivery of a cake in the shape of a key by a presidential envoy as Washington sought the hostages freedom with the offer of a secret arms deal to help Iran, which was then at war with Iraq.
Mr. Jamal, who was in Iraq until a week ago, is now in Iran, according to two associates. The presence of a wanted terrorist in the Parliament of Iraqs American-backed government is likely to be an embarrassment for the United States, particularly given Irans role in sheltering Mr. Jamal.
The United States and Iran are locked in a standoff of sorts in Iraq. The United States has warned Iran against meddling in Iraq and American forces have detained a number of Iranians here on charges of providing assistance to illicit armed groups. Iran, a Shiite state with deep and longstanding ties to Iraqs Shiite political parties, has denied those charges and announced that it plans to expand its ties with Iraq.
Tensions between the rivals rose higher on Tuesday as Iran said it held the United States responsible for the safety of an Iranian diplomat kidnapped in Iraq two days before. Although the diplomat, Jalal Sharafi, was abducted on a Baghdad street by men wearing Iraqi military uniforms and with official identification, Iran has accused the United States of directing the operation. American officials deny any involvement.
The Islamic Republic of Iran holds U.S. forces responsible for his safety and demands his immediate release, Irans foreign ministry spokesman, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, told the ISNA news agency on Tuesday.
But Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a spokesman for the American-led forces in Iraq, said: This specific event we dont have any knowledge of.
There was no news on Mr. Sharafis fate on Tuesday.
How Mr. Jamal went unnoticed for so long in the Iraqi government was a mystery that Iraqi officials were at a loss to explain.
The story of how he came to power, his close association with many Iraqi officials, and his long association with Iran all underscore the complicated and intertwined nature of the relationship between the two nations.
Mr. Jamal, who also goes by the name Abu Mahdi al-Mohandis, meaning the engineer, was first identified as a wanted terrorist a month ago by Strategic Policy Consulting, an Iranian dissident group in Washington that gets much of its information from the Peoples Mujahedeen, the largest and most militant group opposed to Tehran.
However, it was only on Tuesday, when CNN confirmed the groups assertion, that American officials acknowledged they were investigating the case. But several Iraqi officials who know Mr. Jamal said there was little doubt that he was involved in the bombing in Kuwait.
Ali al-Timimi, a Shiite politician who met Mr. Jamal in the early 1980s and used to be a member of the same political party, the Supreme Council for Revolution in Iraq, or Sciri, said Mr. Jamal came back to Iraq shortly after the American invasion in 2003. Another Iraqi politician, insisting on anonymity, confirmed that Mr. Jamal worked for a time for Mr. Jafaari as his security adviser.
Mr. Jafaari, like Mr. Jamal and many other leading Iraqi officials, spent years in exile in Iran while Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, was in power. That was where Mr. Timimi got to know both men. His account was supported by one other Iraqi official who was an associate of Mr. Jamals, but who insisted on anonymity.
Mr. Timimi said Mr. Jamal, who was from the southern city of Basra, left Iraq in 1979, fleeing to the Iranian town of Ahvaz, just across the border.
The Iranians, who were fighting a war with Iraq at the time, had set up a camp there to train Iraqi dissidents, with the ultimate goal of undermining Mr. Hussein. The bombing operation was opposed by some who worried about reprisals against the thousands of Iraqis in Kuwait without official papers. But Mr. Jamal insisted on this operation and helped plan these attacks, Mr. Timimi said.
But the plotters outsourced the actual bomb making to a Lebanese cell, and among the 17 sentenced to death were three Lebanese, which spurred a series of hostage takings in Lebanon and other terrorist acts, which included the hijacking of a Kuwaiti airliner to Tehran in December 1984, in which two Americans aboard were killed.
The Kuwaiti government steadfastly refused either to free the prisoners or to execute them, but they are believed to have escaped in the confusion attendant with Saddam Husseins invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and the subsequent American attack that drove the Iraqis out.
Reporting was contributed by Ali Adeeb from Baghdad, Nazila Fathi from Tehran, Mark Mazzetti from Washington and John Kifner from New York.