Strike One - Khobar Towers
Strike Two - TWA 800
Strike Three ......
The Khobar Towers Bombing
You have three people in charge:
You have Khamenei - he is in charge of religion and terrorism,
You have Rafsanjani - he is in charge of business and terrorism.
You have Khatami - he is in charge of internal politics, moderation and terrorism.
Crown Prince Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain
Click to go to homepage of "The Hull Thread" for further details on the TWA 800 downing
On June 25, 1996 nineteen Americans were killed by a truck bomb at the Khobar Towers in the Dhahran military base in Saudi Arabia. Within two days suspicions focused on Saudi dissidents funded by Iran ....
June 27, 1996 International News The Telegraph (U.K. Electronic
Edition) Issue 415
Suspicion for the bombing outside Dhahran was pointing towards internal enemies of the Saudi monarchy. Middle East experts were last night discounting the most immediate theory that groups connected with Iran's fundamentalist regime were involved in the blast.
Prior to the downing of TWA 800 this bombing had created worries about attacks on airliners .....
July 18, 1996 NY Times
Airline security has been higher than usual for several reasons including the bombings in Saudi Arabia. The meeting emphasized the seriousness with which the intelligence community viewed the current dangers of terrorism against airplanes.
Within one day of the TWA 800 downing suspicions mounted that it was linked to the Dhahran bombing ....
July 18, 1996 EmergencyNet NEWS Service Vol.
2 - 200 ENN 7/18/96 10:36CDT
Terrorists in late June attacked a U.S. military facility in Saudi Arabia; and the Summer Olympic Games are starting this week in Atlanta. Kupperman said, "The potential, especially with the interest in disruption of the peace process in the Mideast, plus normal stability problems, makes me quite suspicious. There's motivation, wherewithal and technical means to carry out an attack."
The suspicions were confirmed by the head of the FBI .....
August 1, 1996 CNN
FBI chief says U.S. is 'under attack' by terrorists. In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Freeh pointed to a series of arrests and convictions since four Islamic fundamalists were found guilty in the February 1993 bombing that killed six people at New York's World Trade Center. He referred to two fatal bombings in Saudi Arabia and the still unexplained crash of TWA Flight 800.
The U.S. intelligence agencies were apparently thinking along the same lines.....
August 3, 1996 EmergencyNet NEWS Service Daily Report Vol. 2 -
According to the documents, that the bombers who conducted the attacks on the U.S. military sites in Saudi Arabia in November of 1995 and on 25 June 1996 were trained at Iranian terror camps. U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry warned that "strong action" will be taken against any nation that is linked to the bombing of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia. The Secretary was asked if that there may be a connection to Iran and he replied, "Possibly ... we know that Iran is very active in international terrorism, some of it linked against the United States. It's no secret, they have announced that themselves. The Saudis, I think, are close to completing their investigation on that case and will be announcing that soon. I anticipate that we will find, when they announce it there will be an international connection, yes." The SecDef said that he, himself, has not yet come to a final conclusion about who was responsible for the bombing attack on 25 June 1996, but he called Iran "the leading candidate" for international terrorism that is directed against the United States. He said, "If we have compelling evidence of international sponsorship of that bombing, we will take strong action." .According to the Defense Secretary, the U.S. is watching several different groups in the Gulf region very closely, including militant groups in the Saudi kingdom. He said, "There is direct evidence that some of these groups are internationally supported. They have support in training, in the funding, in providing materials to them, maybe even in planning and directing their operations."
By early August the U.S. was drawing up plans to punish Iran .....
August 5 1996 International News The Telegraph (U.K. Electronic
Edition) Issue 442
There will be no shortage of targets if the United States goes ahead with its plans to retaliate against Iran for continuing to support international terrorist organisations. The Iranians provide practical and financial support to two dissident Saudi groups - the Organisation of Islamic Revolution and Hizbollah of the Hejaz. Both groups, linked to Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden, the Afghan veteran who has threatened to wage an international terrorist war against the US, have been linked to June's lorry bomb against the American military base at Dhahran. Members of the two groups have been trained at the Imam Ali camp on Teheran's outskirts.
Yet, amazingly after the downing of TWA 800 Iran was still threatening US airliners. But the gentleman who was leading the threats was 'an elected government official' and thus Clinton could not get rid of him ....
August 5 1996 International News The Telegraph (U.K. Electronic
Edition) Issue 442
Iran has embarked on the most far-reaching campaign of state-sponsored terrorism ever conducted against the United States, threatening US airliners, public buildings with a wave of destructive attacks. US officials are convinced that the clerical regime in Teheran has made a strategic decision to escalate its permanent war against the "Great Satan", striking US targets on American soil for the first time in a systematic way. Coming just weeks after the Iranian-backed bombing of the US barracks in Dhahran, which killed 19 American servicemen, it is now widely suspected that the TWA tragedy is part of Iran's ugly new campaign. "This is just the beginning," said Kenneth Timmerman, publisher of the Iran Brief in Washington. "More aircraft are going to fall out of the sky." "For 10 years, the attacks against Americans always took place outside the US - either in Europe or in the Middle East. Now it's moving here," said Daniel Pipes, author of a book on the Iranian terror machine. He argued that the mullahs were enraged when the speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, threw down the gauntlet last December, after calling Iran "a permanent, long-term threat to civilised life on this planet". Gingrich pushed through legislation forcing the CIA to spend $20 million on a covert operation targeting the Iranian government. Teheran retaliated immediately, announcing that it would match the funding dollar for dollar with its own undercover operation against Washington. US intelligence sources believe that Iran's president, Hashemi Rafsanjani, made his strategic decision at the beginning of this year to strike on American soil.
September 26, 1998 The New York
Federal authorities charged Friday that a person described as a senior deputy to Osama bin Laden, the Saudi exile suspected in last month's bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa, made significant efforts on behalf of the bin Laden group in 1993 to develop nuclear weapons. The allegations, concerning Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, also assert that bin Laden had an official agreement with the Iranian government and with Sudan's ruling party to oppose the United States, and suggested that the United States had penetrated the bin Laden organization and learned detailed information in 1996. The government also asserted for the first time in court papers that the Iranian government had entered into a formal three-way "working agreement" with bin Laden and the National Islamic Front of the Sudan to "work together against the United States, Israel and the West." The front is the ruling party in Sudan. Members of bin Laden's organization, al Qaeda, sent emissaries to Iran and some of its members received explosives training in Lebanon from Hezbollah, the terrorist group backed by the Iranian government, prosecutors said in court papers filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. The government also said that during the time when the working agreement was being negotiated, Salim met with an Iranian religious official stationed in Khartoum and also traveled with al Qaeda members to Tehran to arrange for training by Iran in the use of explosives. The allegations against Iran come at a sensitive time, since Tehran is currently trying to improve its relations with the West and is also at odds with the Taliban, the dominant group in Afghanistan, which is protecting bin Laden. The authorities also acknowledged for the first time that the FBI had won the secret cooperation of an admitted terrorist in al Qaeda as early as 1996, and obtained extensive information about the group from the asset, who was not identified. The document does say that the information from the source was provided to the FBI in the late summer and fall of 1996, raising questions about how much the government knew about the bin Laden group in the months leading up to the bombings.
Intelligence reports continued to indicate that Iran was connected to the TWA 800 crash and to the Dhahran bombing .....
August 12, 1996 TIME Magazine
A well-placed U.S. intelligence source has told TIME that calls and transmissions tracked by the CIA out of Tehran "have raised suspicions" that there is an Iranian connection to the crash. The CIA is also looking at intelligence on a meeting of terrorist leaders in Iran the month before the crash to see if any green light was given for the attack. "There is a hard look being taken at the Iran possibility," says a senior U.S. intelligence official. However, he adds. the intelligence gathered so far is "vague, nothing solid." Even so, he says, it is "tantalizing". the Iranian links to terrorism were further highlighted last week when Defense Secretary William Perry, in a National Public Radio interview, hinted that an ongoing Saudi investigation of the June 25 bombing of a U.S. military complex in Dhahran may "possibly" point to Iran's involvement. He suggested that the U.S. might have to consider "strong action".
September 22, 1996 The New York
Investigators are reviewing an anonymous threat received after the October 1, 1995 conviction of radical sheik Omar Abdel Rahman .... the threat was that a New York airport or jetliner would be attacked in retaliation.
August 25, 1996 Times of
U.S. officials are investigating reports that Islamic terrorists have smuggled Stinger ground-to-air missiles into the United States from Pakistan. Senior Iranian sources close to the fundamentalist regime in Tehran claimed this weekend that TWA flight 800 was shot down last month by one of three shoulder-fired Stingers of the type used by Islamic guerrillas during the Afghanistan war. The sources said the missiles arrived in America seven months ago after being shipped from Karachi via Rotterdam and on to the Canadian port of Halifax. They claimed an Egyptian fundamentalist group backed by Iran was responsible for smuggling the weapons across the Canadian border into the United States. The group, the Gama'a al-Islamiya, comprises followers of Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, a blind Egyptian cleric jailed in the United States over the 1993 New York World Trade Center bombing. A senior White House official responsible for counter-terrorism told The Sunday Times this weekend that he had seen a report that a Stinger missile had been smuggled into the United States from Pakistan. The official, who is involved in collating intelligence relating to the TWA inquiry for the White House, said investigators were aware of reports that Stingers may have been smuggled into the country. If a Stinger was the cause of this, our first theory would be that it came from Afghanistan." The official was commenting on reports from Tehran that claimed several groups funded by the religious authorities in Iran are active in the United States. The reports claim one previously unknown underground group called Falakh may have as many as 50 highly trained terrorists in the country.
Yossef Bodansky was the Director of the House Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare and in this capacity was a key advisor to the highest echelons of the U.S. Government. In his book "bin Laden - The Man who Declared War on America" Bodansky writes that there were two key events "on the eve" of the TWA 800 downing.
First he describes an editorial in the London Islamist paper 'al-Quds al-Arabi' that spelled out the reasons behind the escalating terrorist attacks on the United States which concluded by mentioning the bombings in Riyadh and Khobar as the beginning of these attacks. The editor of al-Quds al-Arabi, Abdul-Bari Atwan, is personally close to Osama bin Laden.
Bodansky indicates that the second key event was a fax received by al-Hayah in London through al-Safir in Beirut in which on July 16 the Islamic Change Movement - the Jihad Wing in the Arabian Peninsula took credit for both the Riyadh and Khobar Towers bombings . A warning was then issued by the same group on July 17 stating that "the mujahideen will give their harshest reply to the threats of the foolish U.S. President. Everybody will be surprised by the magnitude of the reply. The invaders must be prepared to leave, either dead or alive. Their time is at the morning-dawn. Is not the morning-dawn near?". TWA 800 exploded in the early morning in the United Kingdom. On July 18, this group issued a statement accepting responsibility for the TWA 800 downing. The leaders the Islamic Change Movement had participated in a June 1996 terrorist planning meeting held in Tehran and on July 20, 1996 it attended a follow-up conference in Tehran in which the Islamic Change Movement was singled out for "recent achievements".
Three weeks to the day before TWA 800 was shot down, in approximately the same location as the TWA 800 downing, within hours of the Khobar Towers bombing, the Coast Guard received a report of "three red flares" launched 25 miles south of Shinnicock Inlet. An air and surface search was carried out which found nothing out of ordinary. There were no boats in distress. However, TWA Flight 848 (New York to Rome) blocked out of JFK at exactly 10:00 pm on June 26, 1996 and assuming normal handling, it would have passed about 11 NM South of Shinnecock Inlet at 10:29 p.m. EDT. TWA Flight 884 (New York to Tel Aviv) was scheduled to depart before FL 848 but blocked out late at 10:19 p.m. EDT. Four months after TWA 800 was shot down TWA Flight 884 was again under missile attack (For further details see The Tale of The Tapes ).
We do not need to guess what "recent achievements" were being celebrated in Iran!
Meanwhile the Saudis having caught some of the culprits involved in the Khobar Towers bombing became strangely reticent .....
November 10, 1996 International News The Telegraph Issue
According to American intelligence reports, Islamic militants are planning a new round of bomb attacks against US targets to show that their terrorist capability has not been affected by the Saudi crackdown. The militants also want to put pressure on Washington to abandon its long-standing support for the Saudi royal family. The Saudis now believe that they have detained the ringleaders of the Dhahran attack, including the man who drove the explosive-laden vehicle that was detonated just outside the military complex. Despite mounting speculation that the group responsible for the bombing had been trained and equipped by Iran, the Saudis are refusing to provide any details of the evidence they have acquired from confessions and other sources.
Were they worried about the Syrians? Perhaps not - the FBI was involved and it had become reticent too ...
January 19, 1997 International News The Telegraph Issue
Syrian intelligence officers played a key role in last year's bombing of the American military base in Saudi Arabia in which 19 US servicemen died. This is one of the central conclusions that has been reached by two inquiries into the bombing conducted by American and Saudi officials. After the bombing, a key Saudi dissident suspect fled to Syria to seek sanctuary. But when Saudi investigators asked Syria to hand him over, the suspect was killed by Syrian intelligence to prevent him from disclosing details of Syria's involvement in the attack. News of Syria's involvement has caused alarm in Washington. It is one reason why details of the lengthy inquiry by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which sent a team of specialists to Dhahran, have not been made public. Iran provides training and support for numerous Arab terrorists, including two groups of Saudi dissidents which have been involved in previous attacks within the kingdom: the Organisation of Islamic Revolution of Jezier al-Arab, and the Hizbollah of the Hejez, both outlawed in Saudi Arabia. .The Saudis were put in contact with Osama bin Laden, a 40-year-old Islamic fundamentalist terrorist. bin Laden, who works for Iranian intelligence, is a fierce opponent of both the Saudi regime and America's presence in the Gulf. Any doubts about bin Laden's involvement in the Dhahran attack were removed by an interview he gave in Peshawar shortly afterwards. The Saudi bombing, he said, "marked the beginning of war between Muslims and the United States".
So if Osama bin Laden said that he did it, why were the Saudis and the FBI keeping things under wraps?
February 21, 1997 ENN Daily Intelligence Report Vol. 3,
According to reports from the British television documentary show, "Dispatches", and the Reuter's News Service, Osama bin Laden, Saudi dissident exile and alleged Islamic Fundamentalist terror financier, has again threatened United States forces in Saudi Arabia. In a television interview from Afghanistan, Bin Laden said that 1996 attacks on the Khobar Towers housing complex in Dhahran and a November, 1995 military assistance unit in Riyadh were carried out as "a warning to Washington." Bin Laden went on to threaten additional attacks on U.S. personnel, unless all American and allied military forces are immediately withdrawn from Saudi Arabia.
Didn't they know that Canadian intelligence had the same information?
March 29, 1997 The Telegraph (U.K. Electronic Edition)
A Saudi dissident with links to Iran took part in the Dhahran bombing that killed 19 US airmen and injured 500 others last summer, according to Canadian intelligence authorities. Hani al-Sayegh, 28, was arrested while working at a grocery in Ottawa. They claim he is a member of a terrorist organization called Saudi Hizbollah and that he spoke about the bombing in phone calls to Iran tapped by the intelligence services. The details match the Saudi version of the blast. If proved conclusive, they would force President Clinton to act against Teheran, either through a military strike or sanctions. Sayegh arrived in Canada last August, carrying an international driving permit issued by Syria in 1994. On it, he gave his permanent address as Damascus.
April 5, 1997 EmergencyNet NEWS Service Vol. 3, No.
The Los Angeles Times reported on Friday that the arrest of a Saudi Arabian suspect in Canada in March may have done more harm than good to the U.S. investigation into the terrorist truck bombing in Dhahran that killed 19 U.S. airmen on 25 June. The Canadian decision may have thwarted U.S. hopes that the suspect could prove to be more valuable as an intelligence asset that would tell U.S. authorities about individuals, groups and countries that may have played a role in the terrorist attack last June. Federal law enforcement officials think that the suspect does have information that they want, but don't think that they will get it now. The Washington Post was reporting that months before the 25 June terrorist truck bombing in Dhahran, Syria reportedly refuse to assist Saudi authorities in apprehending the individual who has now been identified as the leader of the Saudi branch of the Hezbollah terrorist group..
So rather than attack Iran, the U.S. government figured it could use sabotage ....
April 17, 1997 International News Electronic Telegraph
American intelligence officials tried to sabotage a Russian weapons deal with Iran yesterday by leaking details of two meetings monitored in Moscow in which arms shipments were agreed. These included the transfer to Teheran of 500 advanced shoulder-launched "Igla" anti-aircraft missiles. The US is indicating that the shipments are being organised by Russian brokers acting separately from Rosvooruzheniye, the state arms exporter, and offering discount prices. Other older surface-to-air systems were also discussed, as well as the transfer of T-72 tanks and Mi-17 transport helicopters. Washington fears that the missiles are destined for use by Hizbollah, the Teheran-backed terrorist group. With a range of 10,500 feet, they could be used in Lebanon against Israeli aircraft. Any new arming of Hizbollah is alarming to Washington because of the growing suspicion that it provided the logistics for last summer's bombing in Dharhan, Saudi Arabia, killing 19 US airmen and injuring 500. A group opposed to the Iranian regime, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, gave reporters in Washington what they called conclusive evidence yesterday that the bombing was directed by Iranian intelligence. The attack, it was claimed, was masterminded by Brig Gen Ahmad Sharifi, a commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
'Cool heads' pressed for a 'moderate' approach ....
April 20, 1997 The Telegraph (U.K. Electronic Edition) Issue
Hard-liners at the US Defense Department are pushing for a massive strike against Iran to punish the mullahs for their alleged role in the bombing of a US barracks in Saudi Arabia last year. There is also strong pressure within the Pentagon for a broader attack to cripple the growing military power of the Islamic regime. Sources say that this would include a Pearl Harbor-style strike to annihilate the Iranian navy before it can become a threat to US naval operations in the Gulf, and heavy bombing raids to set back Iran's nuclear weapons programme. The Clinton administration has been weighing its options for several months, waiting to see whether there is conclusive evidence of Iranian involvement in the Khobar Towers bombing. But US intelligence has now linked a top official in Iran's Revolutionary Guard, Brigadier Ahmad Sherifi, to a bombing suspect arrested in Canada last month. "Iran was the organizing force behind the attack," said a senior US official. Analysts argue that US policy provoked fury in Teheran and prompted a strategic decision by the Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani to launch a campaign of terrorism against the Great Satan. Bill Clinton now has to decide how far to ratchet up the cycle of escalation in the most dangerous and volatile region in the world. "The worst possible response would be a silly missile attack in the middle of the night that stirs up a hornet's nest without doing any real damage," says Ken Timmerman, editor of the Iran Brief in Washington. "If you are going to hit them, you've got to do it so hard they spend the next 10 years recovering." This view is widely shared at the Pentagon, which has watched with alarm as the Iranians acquired three Russian Kilo-class submarines with quiet diesel engines that are hard to detect. Iran has also been buying advanced C-802 cruise missiles from China which could pose a serious danger to US warships in the Gulf. Hard-liners see retaliation for the Khobar Towers bombing as an opportunity to deal with the Iranian military before it has the means to choke the Straits of Hormuz, the source of 12 million barrels of oil a day, a third of the industrial world's oil supply. Military analysts are afraid that the Clinton policy of "dual containment" of both Iran and Iraq is becoming a dangerous fiction. Herb Meyer, former vice-chairman of the CIA's National Intelligence Council, warns that Iran and Iraq may join forces to drive the US out of the Gulf and seize the Saudi oil fields, with consequences that are almost unthinkable. It is a nightmare waiting to happen.
May 8, 1997 ENN Daily Intelligence Report Vol. 3 -
Officials say that the recent arrest of a Saudi Arabian national believed to be connected to a deadly terrorist attack in the Middle East in 1996 has given authorities a glimpse of what is said to be a largely hidden network of terrorists that use Canada to raise money, recruit members, provide a safe haven and plan additional terrorist attacks. Officials believe the pro-Iranian Hezbollah has established a presence in Canada. Canada's open borders and its refugee policies make it easy for suspected terrorists to enter the country to hide or to find an easy way to get into the United States. The Saudi national, Hani Abdel Rahim al-Sayegh, is accused of belonging to Hezbollah and taking part in the 25 June 1996 terrorist bombing of a military complex in Dhahran According to al-Husseini, Hezbollah is made up as "a military organizational and popular apparatus." He also said that "orders for these three units come from Iran".
June 18, 1997 The Telegraph (U.K. Electronic Edition) Issue
A Saudi dissident was being deported to the United States by Canada last night for FBI questioning about his role as a "look-out" in the bombing that killed 19 Americans in Dhahran last year. CIA sources say that, two years before the blast, Hani al-Sayegh, secretly met Brig Ahmad Sherifi, the top official in Iran's Revolutionary Guards. Sherifi's duties include organising Hizbollah cells in Arab countries around the Gulf. If Sayegh provides conclusive evidence of Iranian involvement in the attack, President Clinton will come under heavy pressure to retaliate against Teheran with a military strike. Canadian intelligence sources said he spoke about the bombing in tapped phone calls to Teheran.
But did President Clinton really want to know that Iran was behind the Dhahran attack? How much more did he need? The guy that knows said he would tell all, so the Canadians sent him off to do so....
June 19, 1997 NY Times
A Saudi dissident who says he will cooperate in the investigation of the bombing that killed 19 Americans in Dhahran last year will plead guilty in an earlier plot to kill Americans. The first plot was never carried out. This brought him one step closer to a deal under which he would provide evidence about the June 1996 truck bombing in Dhahran in return for not being extradited to Saudi Arabia. The federal grand jury indictment says Sayegh was paid by an unnamed terrorist organization as part of a plot to "kill nationals of the United States residing and working in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia" in 1994 and 1995. Sayegh says he is a member of Saudi Hezbollah, the Party of God, a branch of a terrorist organization based in Lebanon and backed by Iran. He was deported on Tuesday from Canada, where he had arrived last August, about six weeks after the Dhahran bombing.
June 24, 1997 Reuter
Defense Secretary William Cohen on Tuesday reminded military forces to be alert for possible terrorist attack one year after a truck bomb killed 19 American Air Force troops in Saudi Arabia. Officials for months have been seeking independent verification of allegations by Saudi Arabia that Iran was behind the attack. A Saudi dissident who has agreed to cooperate with the U.S. investigation into the truck bombing was charged last week in Washington with conspiracy to commit murder and ''international terrorism.'' Sayegh, 28, a Shiite Moslem, has been identified as a member of the radical Saudi Hizbollah (Party of God). They said he may have valuable information about those responsible for the massive bombing that killed 19 U.S. airmen and injured 500 others.
When al-Sayegh arrived in the United States he talked ... and talked .... and talked .....
June 29, 1997 NY Times
A Saudi fugitive deported from Canada to the United States has told investigators that an Iranian intelligence official helped direct a plot to attack American installations in Saudi Arabia, officials familiar with the investigation said Saturday. The plot was never carried out. Investigators said they had no conclusive evidence linking Iran or the Iranian officer, Brig. Ahmad Sherifi, to the later bombing in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, that killed 19 U.S. servicemen and wounded about 500 people last year. U.S. intelligence officials say they believe that the Iranian officer serves as a liaison to the Party of God, a Shiite Muslim terrorist group based in Lebanon and financed by Iran. Canadian court documents say that he was a member of the Saudi branch of the Party of God and that he had contacts with Iranian intelligence officials in the decade he spent as a student in Iran.
He kept talking --- the U.S. kept trying not to hear. Meanwhile the Iranians got nervous and issued more threats .....
June 30,1997 AP
Iran's top military commander has said his country does not intend to start a war with the United States, but promised to turn the Persian Gulf into a slaughterhouse if attacked. "If the Americans one day decide to attack Iran, then they will have committed suicide because the Iranians will turn the region into a slaughterhouse for them,'' said Maj. Gen. Mohsen Rezaie, commander of the 120,000-strong Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, Iran's main fighting force. His comments, published Sunday in the English-language Kayhan International daily, coincided with the start of four days of Iranian amphibious military exercises in the Persian Gulf. The United States has about 22,000 troops in the area, a region Iran long has considered in its sphere of influence. 'The Persian Gulf belongs to the regional countries and the Americans should leave it,'' Rezaie said. 'Iran has vital interests in the region and is going to defend its interests.'' Iranian officials say they are concerned over U.S. warships in the gulf, particularly in the wake of American threats to retaliate if Iran is found to be behind a June 1996 bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. servicemen. Iran has denied any role.
Then bin Laden popped up again and the United States got really nervous - the country had been infiltrated! ....
July 15, 1997 CNN Web posted at: 6:05 p.m. EDT (2205
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating connections between a maverick Saudi Arabian multimillionaire and his followers in the United States, who may be planning terrorist attacks on U.S. targets. Federal agents have identified followers of Osama bin Ladin in Brooklyn, New York; Jersey City, New Jersey; and Detroit, Michigan, to determine whether they are preparing to carry out attacks, CNN has learned. Bin Ladin, has been linked to the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia .Now living among followers in Afghanistan, bin Ladin has gone on record as being a bitter enemy of the United States. In an interview with CNN last month for the TV newsmagazine "Impact," bin Ladin said, "We declared a Jihad -- a holy war -- against the United States government because it is unjust, criminal and tyrannical.". Federal sources say a grand jury is investigating bin Ladin. According to federal sources, agents investigating Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman and the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York began looking into the activities of bin Ladin's followers in this country. In particular, agents have been tracing money transfers from Afghanistan and Pakistan -- bin Ladin's power base -- through London to his followers in the United States. Bin Ladin communicates with his adherents though audiotapes, but he also spreads his fundamentalist beliefs through Web sites on the Internet. The FBI wants to know if bin Ladin is financing any religious or political activities in the United States. So far, sources say, bin Ladin has not been linked to any illegal activities in this country, but the investigation continues.
And so we blamed a 'good guy' for the Khobar Towers terrorism and President Clinton got rid of him ......
July 24, 1997 Reuters
The U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff, General Ronald Fogleman, has submitted his resignation. Pentagon officials say Fogleman is retiring amid differences over responsibility for security lapses that led to the death of 19 U.S. airmen last year in a guerrilla bombing in Saudi Arabia. Air Force officials say Fogleman, one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has asked for early retirement, to take effect no later than September 1. Fogleman, 55, reportedly told associates he would step down if Air Force generals were punished for failing to prevent last year's bombing of Khobar Towers, the Saudi barracks in which 19 U.S. airmen were killed.
Osama continued to threaten ....
July 25, 1997 ERRI Risk Assessment Services - Intelligence Report
Vol. 3 - 206
Exiled Saudi millionaire Osama bin Laden remains hidden somewhere in the mountains of Afghanistan. He has set his sights on and has sworn to bring an end of U.S. influence in his native Saudi Arabia and the Islamic world. Counterterrorism analysts say that bin Laden is working with terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and its patron Iran. Kenneth Katzman, the terrorism analyst for the U.S. Congress, said, "I think you have an 'atomic bomb' brewing between bin Laden, Hezbollah and the Iranians. .... Just like the old E.F. Hutton ads, when bin Laden speaks, people listen. This past February, bin Laden renewed his threat of a "jihad" or holy war against U.S. soldiers and civilians in Saudi Arabia. This led the U.S. State Department to issue a warning. In speaking to an Arabic newspaper, bin Laden said, "We had thought that the Riyadh and al-Khobar blasts were a sufficient signal to sensible U.S. decision-makers to avert a real battle between the Islamic nation and U.S. forces, but it seems that they did not understand the signal." Bin Laden reportedly made his militant contacts during the Afghan war. He then set up terrorist training camps in Sudan and financed attacks against the moderate governments of Algeria, Egypt, his native Saudi Arabia and Yemen.His apparent partner, Hezbollah, has a history of terror against the United States and its allies. They are believed responsible for the 1983 attack on the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 Americans and more recently the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Argentina that killed 95 people. There is growing evidence that bin Laden has struck the United States with Hezbollah's help. The evidence is said to be strong that his followers were responsible for the November 1995 terrorist bombing in Riyadh that killed five U.S. service personnel and two Indians. It is said to be still unclear if bin Laden had any involvement in the 25 June 1996 terrorist truck bombing in Dhahran that killed 19 U.S. airmen.There is also evidence that bin Laden may had been connected to the February 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Ramzi Yousef, who is currently on trial for being involved in the World Trade Center bombing, is said to have received money from bin Laden's brother-in-law. According to a top State Department official, "Bin Laden's activities were run through Islamic charities that we think extended as far as the Philippines and that is where Yousef planned out his attacks on U.S. planes." Yousef was captured in Pakistan at a guesthouse that was set up for Afghan war veterans by Osama bin Laden.
And so believe it or not, the man who said he would talk was persuaded not to talk and the FBI retreated under the umbrella of a "setback" .....
July 31, 1997 New York Times
In a setback to FBI efforts to solve a 1996 bombing that killed 19 American servicemen in Saudi Arabia, a Saudi man pleaded not guilty here Wednesday in a separate plot to scout out American targets in the kingdom for terrorist attacks. The not guilty plea unhinged a deal in which the Saudi man, Hani Abdel Rahim Hussein al-Sayegh, who was deported here in June from Canada. Under the arrangement, law-enforcement officials say, he had agreed to provide information about the deadly bombing at the Khobar Towers, a military housing complex in Dhahran used by American Air Force personnel. Law-enforcement officials said Wednesday that while the not-guilty plea did not represent a fatal blow to their efforts, it did provide yet another disappointment in the Khobar Towers case, which has seen little progress. Sayegh was the first witness whom federal agents considered able to shed light on one of the core questions in the bombing -- whether Iran played a role in underwriting the attack. Saudi intelligence officials have said that Sayegh met with Iranian intelligence officials and later acted as a lookout in the attack, on June 25, 1996, in which a truck bomb ripped the face off an apartment building.
What a relief! Now the government could drop the charges and send him home ....
September 9, 1997 NY Times
The Justice Department said Monday that it would drop criminal charges against a Saudi dissident who has been a central figure in the government's efforts to investigate the truck bombing that killed 19 American airmen in Saudi Arabia last year. The department, in effect, acknowledged the collapse of its effort to obtain the cooperation of Hani Abdel Rahim al-Sayegh. Government officials said they might try to deport Sayegh, who remains in custody. Officials said they would oppose any application for asylum. When he was deported to the United States in June, officials expressed hope that he could answer some of the most puzzling questions in the Khobar Towers case, among them whether Iran had played a role in the attack. Saudi intelligence officials had identified Sayegh as a driver of a scout car that signaled the driver of an explosives-laden truck to the site of the blast. But despite three trips to Saudi Arabia by the FBI director, Louis Freeh, U.S. efforts have been stymied by Saudi resistance and refusal to allow access to suspects in custody there.
Our Saudi 'friends' told us to get lost so the FBI came home and told the relatives of the Khobar Towers bombing what they were also telling the relatives of those killed in TWA 800.....
December 13, 1997 New York Times
A year and a half after 19 U.S. airmen were killed in Saudi Arabia, officials have told their relatives they still do not know who carried out the truck bombing of their barracks. Attorney General Janet Reno, FBI Director Louis Freeh and other officials met privately with families of the victims of the Khobar Towers bombing at a daylong counseling session and dinner Thursday at which they promised to press on with the stalled investigation. "There was great respect for us, but little information," Fran Heiser, the mother of Master Sgt. Michael G. Heiser, said Friday. "They don't have anything concrete." The meeting, which was closed to the press and not announced beforehand, was held at the FBI Academy at Quantico, Va. Mrs. Heiser, who has been active in the efforts of the families to learn more about what happened, said that members of 18 families attended. The airmen were killed, and 500 other people wounded, when a large truck bomb exploded at the housing complex near Dhahran for Air Force personnel mounting patrols over the no-flight zone in southern Iraq declared after the Persian Gulf War. Investigators had hoped for a break when a Saudi dissident, Hani Abdul Rahim Sayegh, was arrested in Canada on information from Saudi intelligence that he drove a scout car in the bombing. But Sayegh later reneged on a plea-bargain agreement with U.S. officials to provide information, saying he only made it because he feared execution if he was deported to Saudi Arabia. The Justice Department case against him collapsed for lack of evidence. He is now in custody of the immigration authorities, awaiting deportation hearings.
Our ally in the Middle East announced that the case was solved .....
March 31, 1998 New York
The Saudi Arabian government said on Monday that it had completed its investigation into the June 1996 terrorist bombing there that left 19 American airmen dead but would not release the results of the inquiry. There was concern, officials said, that the Saudis failed to conduct an adequate inquiry because it might produce evidence of a link between the bombers and Iran, embarrassing the Saudi government. Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran have warmed dramatically in recent months. The relationship between the Justice Department, which is overseeing the investigation for the United States, and the Saudis remains "chilly," the official noted. The 19 American airmen were killed on June 25, 1996, when terrorists drove a large truck filled with explosives up to the perimeter of an apartment complex near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. There was widespread suspicion in Saudi Arabia and the United States that the bombing might have been directed by Iran, which has long protested the presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia and has been accused of involvement in other terrorist attacks against the United States. The Saudi announcement Monday was made by the interior minister, Prince Nayef ibn Abdul Aziz, who said in a news conference in Mecca, the Saudi holy city, that "all the facts concerning the crime are in our hands" and that Saudi investigators had "exerted great efforts to learn all the facts and each detail about this incident." He said the findings "will be released in due course." The United States announced that it would drop criminal charges against a Saudi dissident who was once described as a central figure in the bombing and who is still in custody here, awaiting deportation hearings. The dissident, Hani Abdel Rahim al-Sayegh, who once lived in Iran, fled to Canada after the bombing and was arrested there. Saudi intelligence officials identified al-Sayegh as the driver of a scout car that signaled the driver of the explosives-laden truck to the site of the blast. Al-Sayegh was deported to the United States from Canada as part of a plea agreement in which he initially agreed to provide the Justice Department with information about the bombing in exchange for a promise that he would not be returned to Saudi Arabia, where he almost certainly face execution by beheading. But on arrival in the United States, al-Sayegh reneged on the agreement with the Justice Department, claiming he was not involved in the bombing and had no information to provide to American prosecutors. He has recently insisted that he was not in Saudi Arabia when the bombing occurred.
And that they had found a new friend in Iran ....
April 12, 1998 The New York Times
For half a century, the Persian Gulf has held a crucial place in U.S. policy-making. Repeatedly, its oil and its leaders have drawn the United States into its sometimes deadly games, even as its rivalries and intrigues have confounded U.S. strategy. So the United States can end up preoccupied with the smallest events, on the assumption that they may be the prelude to something big. This is one of those times. Saudi Arabia, America's closest ally in the Persian Gulf, and Iran, one of Washington's most bitter foes, have been busy trying to charm each other. In the two decades since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini fomented Iran's revolution, the Saudis and Iranians have never been particularly close. Since then, Saudi Arabia and Iran have moved slowly -- very slowly -- to shape a more normal relationship. That effort accelerated late last year, when Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah met Iranian President Mohammed Khatami in Tehran at the summit of Islamic countries. After two meetings, the Iranian cleric and the Saudi prince gave signals that they had, in a manner of speaking, bonded. These days, there are no more rumblings from the kingdom that Iran might have been involved in the terrorist bombing of an apartment building in Saudi Arabia in 1996 that left 19 U.S. servicemen dead. In fact, Saudi Arabia announced last month that it would allow its national airline to fly in and out of Tehran for the first time since shortly after the revolution. So the question in Washington is: What's up? The stability of the Saudi kingdom is of so much concern to the United States that since the bombing of the military housing, a special task force of analysts has been studying the kingdom under the same rigorous process used to assess the most serious potential threats to U.S. national security. The Saudis who hold power now are not about to walk away from the United States, of course. It's just that the relationship is a lot more difficult than when King Fahd was in good health, in charge and eager to please the United States. Crown Prince Abdullah, who is running the country on a day-to-day basis, simply isn't as likely as his brother the king to say yes every time the United States asks for something. When Defense Secretary William Cohen visited in February in a vain effort to win support for possible military action against Iraq, Crown Prince Abdullah simply made himself unavailable. Prince Sultan, the defense minister, stood in. A week later, the crown prince did turn up for a meeting with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Ever-protective of his boss, State Department spokesman James Rubin said she found the encounter "fascinating"; other officials described it as a stern lecture by Abdullah on the failings of U.S. policy in the Middle East, followed by an equally stern defense by Ms. Albright. The Iranians, meanwhile, are not about to embrace the United States. They have been demanding for two decades that the U.S. military leave the gulf, and that is not likely to change. But already the Saudis have urged the Clinton administration to help along Iran's new president and have offered to mediate. One thought remains profoundly comforting to the policy planners in Washington. Whatever else is going on between Saudi Arabia and Iran, trust is not part of the equation. Crown Prince Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain, one of Saudi Arabia's close neighbors, shared a joke recently with a senior U.S. official visiting the sheikdom. In Iran, he said, "You have three people in charge: You have Khamenei, and he is in charge of religion and terrorism," referring to Iran's ruling spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. "You have Rafsanjani, and he is in charge of business and terrorism. And you have Khatami, and he is in charge of internal politics, moderation and terrorism."
But the joke was on the U.S. government. Now that the Saudi prince and the Iranian cleric had "bonded" the maxim to "follow the money" could be applied.....
April 12 1998 The Times
Hamas, the Islamic fundamentalist group, has received $25m (£15m) from a senior member of the Saudi royal family, raising fears that the enormous influx of money could be used to fuel a devastating bombing campaign. Saudi sources said the contribution was the first sent directly to Hamas, which has killed scores of Israelis in a series of suicide bombings since 1996. A substantial portion of the $25m was destined for Izzedine al-Qassem, Hamas's military wing. The revelation of the Saudi contribution came as Hamas leaders from Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Sudan held an emergency session this weekend in Saudi Arabia with Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the frail founder and spiritual leader of Hamas. Hamas calls for war against Israel until it has been completely destroyed and considers the West, particularly the United States, an enemy because of its support for the Jewish state.
The Iranians praised Saudi "objectivity".....
May 22, 1998 The New York Times
A Saudi official has been quoted as saying that citizens of Saudi Arabia were behind the bombing that killed 19 United States airmen near Dhahran in June 1996 - the first time that a Saudi official has so clearly ruled out any foreign participation in the attack. The suggestion that Saudi citizens alone are responsible for the attack is a significant admission for the Government because it raises the possibility that it was carried out by Sunni Muslim fundamentalists. Last year, the Saudis requested the extradition from the United States of a Saudi national, Hani Abdel Rahim al-Sayegh who was extradited to the United States in June 1997 from Canada. Canadian and American authorities say that Mr. Sayegh helped plan the attack and admitted belonging to a Saudi group that used the name Hezbollah. Saudi Arabia has enjoyed a recent reconciliation with the Government of President Mohammad Khatami, the moderate cleric who came to power a year ago. In November 1996 the Iranian Ambassador in Riyadh congratulated the Saudi authorities on the objectivity of their inquiries into the bombing.
While the U.S. left the families of those killed with an investigation that had "collapsed" .....
June 21, 1996 The New York
The government's investigation of a 1996 terrorist bombing that killed 19 U.S. airmen in Saudi Arabia has collapsed over disagreements with the Saudis, and Clinton administration officials now say they may never be able to determine who carried out the attack. In frustration, FBI Director Louis Freeh has quietly pulled out the dozens of investigators initially rushed to the scene of the bombing at the Khobar Towers apartment complex in eastern Saudi Arabia, leaving behind only a single agent as a legal attache and liaison to the Saudis. The Clinton administration's insistence that it remains committed to the case is at odds with other signs that the investigation has dissolved into a muddle of inconclusive evidence and ill-feeling between the United States and Saudi Arabia. Evidence suggesting that Iran sponsored the attack has further complicated the investigation, since the United States and Saudi Arabia have recently sought to improve relations with a new, relatively moderate government in Tehran. As the case languishes, families of the American victims are, for the first time, complaining openly about the slow pace of the investigation. They also assert that the case is not being pursued aggressively because of U.S. fears of offending Saudi Arabia. "Ignoring us doesn't make us go away," said Fran Heiser of Palm Coast, Fla., mother of an Air Force master sergeant who was killed in the explosion. "Everybody is forgetting about this case. These guys didn't die so much for their country as they died because of their country." What may have been the FBI's best hope of cracking the case -- the arrest of a Saudi dissident opposed to the royal family who initially suggested that he was involved in the attack -- evaporated last year when he reneged on a plea-bargain agreement and changed his testimony. He insisted that he had no information on the bombing. The Saudi, Hani Abdel Rahim Sayegh, is now in the custody of the Immigration and Naturalization Service at an undisclosed location, awaiting deportation to Saudi Arabia, where he is likely to be beheaded. Even if he reversed himself again and agreed to testify, U.S. officials say, his credibility is now so tainted that his account might be of little use. U.S. officials acknowledge that the FBI is stymied. They say there is no reason to believe that they will ever obtain the Saudi cooperation necessary to determine who carried out the attack. "By ourselves, there's not much we can do," one U.S. official said. Attorney General Janet Reno and Freeh have publicly criticized the Saudis for a lack of cooperation. Federal officials say the Saudis have refused to allow them to interrogate dozens of suspects arrested by the Saudis and to review critical evidence. It took months, they said, for the Saudis to agree to allow the FBI to inspect the getaway car used by the terrorists. The Saudi Embassy in Washington said it had no comment on the investigation, but American business executives and others close to the Saudi government said that the Saudis were equally frustrated by the FBI. They said the Saudis described the bureau as high-handed in its dealings with the kingdom and reluctant to accept the validity of evidence gathered by the Saudis suggesting that the attack was carried out by Saudi dissidents with the help of Iran. The evidence, they said, included videotapes of confessions by some of the suspects and wiretaps of their conversations with other terrorists. .While U.S. officials do not deny that the Saudi government's theory about an Iranian tie may be correct, they say that the evidence that the Saudis have shared with them has been inconclusive and would be of little value in a U.S. court. Freeh once described the Saudi evidence as little more than "hearsay." Families of the American victims of the bombing are, for the first time, complaining openly about the slow pace of the investigation. They say they fear that the Clinton administration has allowed justice for their loved ones to be sacrificed to the complexities of the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia. "They let the Saudis get away with a lot of things because of the oil," she said. "They need to go to the Saudis and say, 'Look, we lost a lot of people, we need your help.' But the Pentagon won't do that. They're weak." While the Defense Department insists that it is closely monitoring the FBI investigation, it insists that it cannot interfere in the work of criminal investigators. "We've been very clear from the beginning: This is the FBI's job," said Ken Bacon, the Pentagon's chief spokesman. "We don't ask the FBI to fly F-16s over Iraq and they don't ask us to take over their investigations." The families of the victims say the Pentagon's attitude smacks of callousness. U.S. and Saudi investigators have attempted to maintain a facade of mutual assistance, with periodic pledges of cooperation and occasional discussions of the case. But Clinton administration officials say that whatever substantive cooperation did exist between the FBI and its counterpart in Saudi Arabia is largely over. "In the end of the day, there is a big cultural gulf here," said a senior administration official. "Neither side has a great deal of experience in dealing with each other in these matters. The FBI has no history of involvement in the kingdom." The question of Iranian involvement has greatly complicated the investigation, especially since the United States had at one time threatened a military strike against any foreign government involved in the 1996 attack. The Saudis insisted early on in the case that there was an Iranian connection to the blast and arrested dozens of Saudi dissidents, including several who had been educated in Iran and had ties to the Lebanese militants Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed terrorist group. Any conclusive finding that Tehran was involved in the bombing could undermine the recent foreign-policy goals of the United States and Saudi Arabia. Both countries have sought to improve ties to Iran as a result of last year's election of President Mohammad Khatami, a moderate who was spoken of his desire to end years of hostility with the United States and Saudi Arabia. Thursday, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in a speech in New York that the United States hoped to establish a framework for improved relations with Iran. "As the wall of mistrust comes down, we can develop with the Islamic republic, when it is ready, a road map leading to normal relations," she said. President Clinton called for "a genuine reconciliation" between the two countries. The Saudis have gone much further recently in seeking an improvement in its relations with Tehran. Last year Crown Prince Abdullah traveled to a summit meeting of Islamic countries held in Iran, where he met with Khatami and praised the new Iranian leader. Commercial ties between the two nations have been restored. Yet despite the recent good will, people close to the Saudi government say that the Saudis continue to believe that the Iranian government sponsored Saudi dissidents who carried out the bombing. While he did not single out Iran for blame, the Saudi interior minister, Prince Nayef ibn Abdul Aziz, said last month that "Saudi hands" had carried out the bombing "with the support of others." People close to the Saudi government say that the Saudis have been perplexed by the reluctance of the FBI to accept the validity of evidence showing an Iranian link. "You'd think that maybe this is an investigation that the United States doesn't want concluded," said Nathaniel Kern, an American oil-industry consultant who is close to senior Saudi officials. "My suspicion is that it would be terribly difficult for the United States if the investigation concluded that Iran was responsible for the deaths of 19 Americans. What practical steps do you take? Do you put new sanctions on Iran? Do you bomb it?"
Maybe the U.S. Government might should ask the Taliban for some help ......
October 8, 1998 The New York
The Taliban movement in Afghanistan might consider putting Osama bin Laden on trial for a 1996 bomb attack that killed 19 American airmen in Saudi Arabia, a leading Saudi-owned newspaper reported Wednesday. The London-based newspaper Al Hayat - generally a reliable source on matters involving the Saudi government - reported that the Taliban had communicated the offer to Saudi Arabia as a good-will gesture. Saudi Arabia has never charged bin Laden or anyone else in the 1996 bombing, and any specific American accusations linking bin Laden to that attack have been spelled out only in a sealed indictment. But U.S. officials have said they have learned enough about the bombing, of an American military compound in the eastern Saudi city of Dhahran, to regard bin Laden as a prime suspect.
But if the U.S. government doesn't want to find "concrete evidence" and it wants to have better relations with a "great civilization" that sponsors terrorism, then all bets are off .......
September 29, 1999 The Washington
President Clinton last month sent a secret letter to Iranian President Mohammed Khatemi in which he held out the prospect of better relations between the two countries if Iran helps U.S. investigators find the culprits behind the 1996 bombing of a U.S. military facility in Saudi Arabia, administration officials said. ..... U.S. investigators have long suspected that Iran was linked to the June 25, 1996, truck bombing of the Khobar Towers military housing complex in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, which killed 19 U.S. servicemen and wounded more than 500 other people. At the same time, the Clinton administration is eager to explore the possibilities for dialogue with Khatemi, a moderate cleric who was elected in May 1997--nearly a year after the bombing took place--and has called for better relations with the West. The request from Clinton was based in part on intelligence reports linking the bombing to three Saudi men who have taken refuge in Iran, a senior official said. The three men are thought to be affiliated with a Shiite Muslim extremist group known as Saudi Hezbollah. Shiite Muslims constitute a minority in Saudi Arabia, which is predominantly Sunni Muslim, and many Shiites feel at least a spiritual kinship with the Shiite clerics who rule Iran. Clinton's request to Khatemi for help on the investigation was first reported Sept. 10 by Kuwait's al-Watan newspaper. At the time, State Department spokesman James P. Rubin confirmed that Clinton had indeed passed a message to Khatemi, but he declined to say how the letter was transmitted or provide any details of its contents. Clinton's letter--his first direct message to the Iranian government--also repeated language from his previous public statements to the effect that Iran and the United States are "great civilizations" that should have a natural affinity for one another. Administration officials believe that most Iranians have tired of the virulent anti-Western views that have characterized Iran's foreign policy since the 1979 Islamic revolution that deposed the American-backed shah. They have called on Iran to begin a government-to-government dialogue aimed at addressing, among other things, Iran's support for Islamic fundamentalist groups opposed to the American-sponsored Middle East peace process. Khatemi, however, is under intense pressure from religious hard-liners and has yet to respond to Washington's offer. U.S. officials fear that anything they say in support of the Iranian president will be used by the conservatives to undermine his authority in advance of crucial parliamentary elections in February. "At least until the elections, relations with the United States are going to be held hostage to the internal struggle," a U.S. official said, adding that if Khatemi's supporters do well at the polls, he may "feel more confident to engage in a dialogue." Suspicion fell on Saudi Shiite extremists almost immediately after the Khobar bombing. But the FBI quickly ran into roadblocks when Saudi authorities refused to let U.S. investigators interrogate witnesses and potential suspects; FBI agents had to make do with the accounts of interrogations conducted by Saudi authorities. The only break in the case came in 1997 when Canadian officials turned over Hani Abdel Rahim Sayegh, a Saudi dissident who fled to Canada seeking asylum. Sayegh initially claimed to have information pointing directly to the involvement of Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the Khobar bombing, but he later reneged on a plea agreement with the Justice Department. He is now in deportation proceedings. After more than a year of U.S. diplomatic protests, the Saudis relented last spring and allowed U.S. investigators to witness interrogations of people held in relation to the Khobar bombings. These sessions produced further indications of an Iranian role in the terrorist attack but no concrete evidence.
The U.S. government decided to send Sayegh back to Saudi Arabia where his head could be removed while refusing to reach any "conclusions" about the Government of Iran ....
October 5, 1999 The NY Times
The Clinton Administration announced Monday that it was deporting to Saudi Arabia a suspect in the terrorist bombing there that killed 19 American airmen three years ago. It also said it had information concerning the possible involvement of Iranian officials in the attack. The deportation of Hani el-Sayegh, a Saudi Arabian dissident who once lived in Iran, came after the Administration disclosed last week that President Clinton had sent a letter to President Mohammad Khatami of Iran, asking for help in finding those responsible for the bombing. "We do have information about the involvement of Iranian officials but have not reached the conclusion that this was directed by the Government of Iran," a senior State Department official said Monday. The Administration has "made it clear to Iran we want and expect its cooperation," the official said, referring to Clinton's message to Khatami. Until now, according to officials, the Administration has been reluctant to acknowledge possible Iranian involvement in the attack, in part because shortly after the bombing at the Khobar Towers apartments, the Administration threatened to retaliate with a military attack against any foreign government found to be responsible. A retaliatory attack against Iran, the officials said, would not be in the interests of neighboring Saudi Arabia, which is Washington's closest ally in the region and has markedly improved its relations with Iran. Such retaliation is not in the interests of the Clinton Administration, either, officials said, since Washington has been exploring ways of trying to improve relations with Iran and the relatively moderate Khatami. The one-page letter from Clinton, delivered through an Omani intermediary in August, appeared to be an effort to solve the Khobar Towers case, a move that could then help clear the way for warmer relations with Teheran, officials said. The Iranian Government responded to Clinton with a letter in which it denied any involvement in the Khobar bombing, an Administration official said. In their letter, the Iranians noted that the American Government had never brought to justice the captain of the Vincennes, the American warship that shot down an Iranian passenger airliner by mistake in the 1980's, the Administration official said. Law enforcement officers have long known that several Saudi men, believed to have been trained and possibly financed by the Iranians, fled to Iran after the bombing. The suspects in Iran are believed to have been members of the Saudi branch of Hezbollah, or Party of God, a terrorist group with strong ties to Iran. In the decision to deport Sayegh back to Saudi Arabia, Administration officials said that they did not have sufficient evidence to prosecute him in the American court system for the attack but that the Saudi Government believed that it had the basis for proceeding against him. Early on, Saudi intelligence officials identified Sayegh as the driver of a car that signaled the driver of the explosive-laden truck to the site of the blast. The Justice Department said Sayegh, who fled to Canada after the bombing and was arrested there, had failed to abide by an initial plea agreement with the Justice Department. The department then terminated his parole in October 1997 and placed him in removal proceedings. After initially suggesting that he was involved in the case, Sayegh -- who has been described by officials as being an opponent of the Saudi royal family -- changed his testimony. He then insisted that he had no information on the bombing, officials said. Sayegh has been fighting the proceedings to send him back to Saudi Arabia on the grounds that he is in severe danger for his life if he returns to his homeland. An Administration official said Washington had received assurances from the Saudi Government that Sayegh would not be tortured on his return. But there were no assurances about what would happen if he was convicted, the official said. In its announcement of the deportation of Sayegh, the Justice Department said the Saudi Government had several individuals awaiting trial in the case and has "in the past demonstrated resolve in the prosecution of terrorists."
October 12, 1999 NY Times
A Saudi who reneged on a deal to cooperate with American investigators was deported on Sunday to Saudi Arabia to face charges of helping in an attack that killed 19 American airmen. The Saudis suspect Mr. Al-Sayegh of having driven a car in June 1996 that signaled an explosives-filled truck when to pull up beside the Khobar Towers complex near Dhahran In 1996, al-Sayegh, who had been living in Iran, moved to Kuwait. He later went to Canada, where he cut a deal with American officials that called for him to plead guilty in an unrelated plot against Americans in Saudi Arabia. ... Reno allowed him into the United States solely for prosecution under the pact. But after arriving, he said he had not understood the accord, knew nothing about the Khobar attack and was out of Saudi Arabia when the bombing occurred.
The CIA had reached its' own conclusions long ago ...
November 15, 1999 NEWSWEEK
As Iran's islamic leader rallied demonstrators last week against reformist rapprochement with the United States, new evidence emerged tying Iranian officials to the truck bomb that killed 241 U.S. marines in Beirut 16 years ago, as well as to the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk told Congress last month that while there is "information about the involvement of some Iranian officials" in the Khobar bombing, none of it would hold up in court. But an official with access to the material says, "We have hard evidence on the Iranian government's role." CIA sources say terrorists received money and passports from Iran and that Iranian agents were casing American Facilities in 1995. Despite the evidence, lawmakers are concerned that Iran will go unpunished. "My big fear," says Kansas Sen. Dam Brownback, "is we won't pursue it because of some rapprochement with Iran."
But shortly after the Bush administration came to power the finger of blame was pointed directly at the Iranian culprit ....
February 23, 2001 Reuters
U.S. investigators have identified a senior Iranian official as one of some two dozen suspects responsible for the 1996 bombing at the Khobar Towers military complex in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. servicemen, CBS News reported on Friday. Citing unnamed sources, CBS said federal investigators had identified Ahmad Sherifi, a senior member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, as one of those responsible for planning and carrying out the attack in Dhahran. CBS said several of the suspects linked to the attack were believed to be in Iran. The White House and Pentagon have been briefed on the case and when the final elements of the investigation are complete, Attorney General John Ashcroft is expected to present the findings to President George W. Bush, CBS reported. In January, Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef said "a handful" of Saudi nationals had been detained for links to the bombing but that the main suspects were still at large. "There will come a day not far away when we will say who is behind Khobar," Nayef told a Saudi newspaper. "For the interests of the case and the investigation there is a delay due to the presence of some strong and important elements abroad. But we cannot specify or say who is the person or the side behind the incident until we have all the information," he said. The prince confirmed suspected links between Saudi dissident Hani al-Sayegh -- extradited from the United States -- and the bombing. "He is detained and if he was not involved he would not have been detained," Nayef said.
June 12, 2001 CBS News
Nearly five years to the day after terrorists blew up an American military barracks in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 servicemen, the federal government is finally preparing to hold someone accountable. Meanwhile, accusations are already flying that the true culprits may be getting a free ride. The evidence Iran was behind the deaths of 19 American servicemen and the wounding of 500 others is compelling enough to justify military retaliation or at least some form of diplomatic or legal action against Iran. And that evidence has been in hand for two years, according to Pentagon officials. Just before the five-year statue of limitations for attempted murder charges in the Khobar Towers bombing expires, a federal grand jury in the eastern district of Virginia next week is expected to charge 13 men, mostly Saudi citizens, with carrying out the attack. A Lebanese chemist who allegedly built the bomb will also be charged and sources say the indictment will be made public, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart. And although it will contain numerous references to Iran and its radical Revolutionary Guard, it will not name any Iranian official as either an indicted or unindicted co-conspirator to the attack. Such a finding appears to directly contradict previous conclusions reached by the FBI's own investigation of the attack and comes at a time when the U.S. is eager to improve relations with oil-rich Iran following the re-election there last week of President Muhammed Khatami, a political moderate. Despite statements by suspects in Saudi Arabia that they were recruited and trained by Iran, plus substantial physical evidence, sources say prosecutors have backed away from accusing anyone in Tehran for planning the attack and the reason is not clear. Law enforcement sources hint at State Department and White House second-guessing. Others suggest the FBI's case was never strong enough. Meanwhile, family members remain frustrated. "Every country here is dancing. No one wants to really find out who exactly was to blame for this bombing," said Catherine Adams, mother of a slain service member. This would appear to be a less-than-perfect ending for a case that has tormented the FBI. They got little help from Saudi Arabia in the case and distrusted the Clinton administration, which was also pursuing better relations with Iran at the time.
Now it appears that under the Bush administration, too, Iran will escape the ultimate blame.
June 23, 2001 NY Times
The United States has never known quite what to do about Iran's role in anti-American terrorism. From the embassy bombings and hostage taking in Lebanon during the early 1980's to the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia in 1996, Washington's response to evidence that Tehran was sponsoring violence against American interests has been marked by deep ambivalence and contorted internal debates among several generations of policy makers. To critics who advocate a harder line toward Iran, the government's indictment of 13 Saudis and a Lebanese in the Khobar Towers bombing, handed down Thursday, just short of Monday's five-year anniversary of the attack, once again revealed an American reluctance to tackle Tehran head-on on state-sponsored terrorism. United States officials have said they have evidence of Iranian involvement, and at a news conference announcing the indictment, Attorney General John Ashcroft charged that Iranian officials "inspired, supported and supervised members of Saudi Hezbollah" in the attack. But prosecutors stopped short of bringing charges against any individual Iranian officials. "Why haven't we been more forward leaning on Iran?" asked one former United States official familiar with the long debate in the government over the Khobar Towers case. "The intelligence on Iran is pretty strong, and they could have named names of Iranian officials." The Clinton administration was widely criticized for its failure to pursue evidence that Iran was behind the bombing, but now, the Bush administration has shown that same reluctance. Prosecutors did not cite Iranian officials by name despite what some officials said was the hope of Louis J. Freeh, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, that Iranian officials would be charged. Mr. Freeh, who had taken a personal interest in the case, said on Thursday that it would remain open, and Mr. Ashcroft made it clear that the United States would be willing to pursue charges against Iranian officials if more evidence emerged. The United States has often been willing to punish lesser nations when they step over the line into support for terrorist acts, often with less evidence of their involvement in specific acts than was the case with the Khobar Towers bombing. The United States bombed Libya in 1986 after it linked it to the bombing of a Berlin nightclub that killed American soldiers. The Clinton administration launched missile strikes against Afghanistan and Sudan in 1998 after the embassy bombings in East Africa. Yet, several administrations have hesitated to retaliate against Iran. By 1999, the evidence linking Iran to the bombing was strong enough so that President Clinton sent a secret letter to Iran's president, Mohammad Khatami, asking for help in solving the Khobar case. The letter was sent after the United States obtained convincing information that Iranian officials were behind the attack. The letter came in the midst of Mr. Clinton's broader efforts to reach out to Mr. Khatami and engage the reformist forces in Iran. But the Iranians refused to help on the case. Mr. Freeh reportedly concluded that the Clinton administration was not serious about solving the case, and he is said to have waited until Mr. Clinton left office in order to try to bring charges in the matter.
And so it goes .....
Strike One, Khobar Towers;
Strike Two, TWA 800;
Strike Three ......
Note to the reader: By November 1998 the United States had received Strike Three in Africa which finally forced it to act, though it did so without admitting the evidence surrounding Strike Two .....
November 5, 1998 The New York
The following is an excerpt from the indictment returned Wednesday in a Federal District Court in Manhattan against the Saudi exile, Osama bin-Laden:
At all relevant times from, in or about 1989 until the date of the filing of this indictment, an international terrorist group existed which was dedicated to opposing non-Islamic governments with force and violence. This organization grew out of the "mekhtab al khidemat" (the "Services Office") organization which had maintained offices in various parts of the world, including Afghanistan, Pakistan (particularly in Peshawar) and the United States, particularly at the Alkifah Refugee Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. The group was founded by defendants Osama bin Laden and Muhammad Atef, a.k.a "Abu Hafs al-Masry," together with "Abu Ubaidah al-Banshiri" and others. From in or about 1989 until the present, the group called itself "Al Qaeda"' ("the Base"). From 1989 until in or about 1991, the group (hereafter referred to as "Al Qaeda") was headquartered in Afghanistan and Peshawar, Pakistan. In or about 1991, the leadership of Al Qaeda, including its "emir" (or prince) defendant Osama bin Laden, relocated to Sudan. Al Qaeda was headquartered in the Sudan from approximately 1991 until approximately 1996 but still maintained offices in various parts of the world. In 1996, defendants Osama bin Laden and Muhammad Atef and other members of Al Qaeda relocated to Afghanistan. At all relevant times, Al Qaeda was led by its emir, defendant Osama bin Laden. Members of Al Qaeda pledged an oath of allegiance (called a "bayat") to defendant Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.
Al Qaeda opposed the United States for several reasons. First, the United States was regarded as an 'infidel" because it was not governed in a manner consistent with the group's extremist interpretation of Islam. Second, the United States was viewed as providing essential support for other "infidel" governments and institutions, particularly the governments of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the nation of Israel and the United Nations organization, which were regarded as enemies of the group. Third, Al Qaeda opposed the involvement of the United States armed forces in the [Persian] gulf war in 1991 and in Operation Restore Hope in Somalia in 1992 and 1993, which were viewed by Al Qaeda as pretextual preparations for an American occupation of Islamic countries. In particular, Al Qaeda opposes the continued presence of American military forces in Saudi Arabia (and elsewhere on the Saudi Arabian peninsula) following the gulf war. Fourth, Al Qaeda opposed the United States Government because of the arrest, conviction and imprisonment of persons belonging to Al Qaeda or its affiliated terrorist groups or with whom it worked, including Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman.
One of the principal goals of Al Qaeda was to drive the United States armed forces out of Saudi Arabia (and elsewhere on the Saudi Arabian peninsula) and Somalia by violence. Members of Al Qaeda issued fatwahs (rulings of Islamic law) indicating that such attacks were both proper and necessary.
Al Qaeda functioned both on its own and through some of the terrorist organizations that operated under its umbrella, including: the Al Jihad group based in Egypt, led by, among others, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, named as a co-conspirator but not as a defendant herein; the Islamic Group (also known as "El Gamaa Islamia" or simply "Gamaa't"), led by Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and later by Ahmed Refai Taha, a.k.a. "Abu Yasser al-Masri," named as co-conspirators but not as defendants herein; and a number of jihad groups.
Osama bin Laden, the defendant, and Al Qaeda also forged alliances with the National Islamic Front in the Sudan and with representatives of the Government of Iran, and its associated terrorist group Hezbollah, for the purpose of working together against their perceived common enemies in the West, particularly the United States. .
On Oct. 3 and 4, 1993, in Mogadishu, Somalia, persons who had been trained by Al Qaeda (and by trainers trained by Al Qaeda) participated in an attack on United States military personnel serving in Somalia as part of Operation Restore Hope, which resulted in the killing of 18 United States Army personnel. . . .
On at least two occasions in the period from, in or about 1992 until in or about 1995, members of Al Qaeda transported weapons and explosives from Khartoum in the Sudan to the coastal city of Port Sudan for transshipment to the Saudi Arabian peninsula. .
At various times from at least as early as 1993, Osama bin Laden, the defendant, and others known and unknown, made efforts to obtain the components of nuclear weapons. . . .
At various times from at least as early as 1993, Osama bin Laden, the defendant, and others know and unknown, made efforts to obtain the components of chemical weapons. . . .
On or about Aug. 7, 1998, in Nairobi, Kenya, and outside the jurisdiction of any particular state of district, Osama bin Laden . . . and others known and unknown . . . together with other members of Al Qaeda . . . detonated an explosive device that damaged and destroyed the United States Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, and as a result of such conduct directly and proximately caused the deaths of at least 213 persons. . . .
On or about Aug. 7, 1998, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and outside the jurisdiction of any particular state of district, Osama bin Laden . . . and others known and unknown . . . together with other members of Al Qaeda . . . detonated an explosive device that damaged and destroyed the United States Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and as a result of such conduct directly and proximately caused the deaths of at least 11 persons.