WASHINGTON (Dec. 16)
Two senior CIA officers secretly traveled in 1986 to Baghdad in hopes of persuading Iraq to turn over the Palestinian terrorist who orchestrated the Achille Lauro hijacking, according to the memoirs of a former CIA officer.
Duane “Dewey” Clarridge, director of the CIA’s counterterrorism center at the time and one of the two who made the trip, writes that he attempted to arrange for the capture of Mohammed Abul Abbas, whose terrorist group killed Leon Klinghoffer, a wheelchair-bound American Jew, during the 1985 Italian cruise ship hijacking.
Clarridge’s book discloses the terms of a top-secret deal forged by then-CIA Director William Casey with President Saddam Hussein’s government.
The United States was to provide Iraq with U.S. satellite intelligence information for use in its war with Iran.
In exchange, the Iraqis were supposed to end their terrorist activities around the world and turn over terrorists they were harboring, such as Abbas.
Baghdad, however, never made good on the deal.
“Although we had given the Iraqis intelligence to improve their battlefield performance — particularly in the air — they were not fulfilling their end of the agreement,” Clarridge writes in “A Spy for All Seasons,” which details dozens of CIA operations during his 33-year career.
The CIA cleared for publication all the accounts Clarridge describes.
Under the 1986 plan, the Iraqis were to transport Abbas, who was then living in Iraq, to Yemen on one of their planes, according to Clarridge. U.S. officers were supposed to intercept and force down the plane, seizing Abbas without implicating Iraq.
But senior Iraqi officials with whom Clarridge and the other officers met in Baghdad considered the plan “insane,” Clarridge writes. The CIA officials never met with Hussein.
Clarridge expresses frustration that the Iraqis “had suckered the U.S. government into a deal with no intention of fulfilling their end of the bargain.”
Abbas still remains at large, 11 years after the Achille Lauro hijacking.
Susan Heller, who manages the Klinghoffer Memorial Foundation of the Anti- Defamation League, said of the disclosure: “We’re heartened to know that the American government pursued the apprehension of Abul Abbas seriously in the months after the Achille Lauro attack, and we hope that their pursuit of him continues.”
Klinghoffer’s brutal murder at the hands of Abbas and three other Palestinian terrorists set off an international uproar that culminated with U.S. fighters forcing an Egyptian plane carrying Abbas to land in Italy.
The Italian government, however, prevented U.S. military personnel from capturing Abbas, ignored a U.S. extradition request and sent him to safety in Yugoslavia. From there, Abbas made his way to Baghdad.