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Monday, 4 March, 2002, 19:49 GMT
Iraq attack 'will end in chaos'
The BBC's Tim Sebastian met Robert Baer
The BBC's Tim Sebastian met Robert Baer
A former CIA agent has said that a US invasion of Iraq could cause untold chaos in the Middle East.

Robert Baer, who belonged to the CIA's directorate of operations for more than 20 years, also said the US Government does not have a game plan when it comes to Iraq.

Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein has accused the US of being a bully
"There is no plan," he told Tim Sebastian in an interview for BBC HARDtalk.

"What terrifies me is that if the US attacks Iraq, destroys Saddam's army - which is what really holds the country together - it's going to break up ethnic and religious groups."

"If you destroy the army, the chances of Iran invading the south are very high."

US President George W Bush has demanded that Saddam Hussein allow checks by UN weapons inspectors, who left Baghdad in 1998 ahead of a US-led bombing campaign.

Evasion

Mr Baer who was part of the team that helped to organise an abortive coup attempt against Saddam Hussein in 1995, went on to say that it was likely the Iraqi president would evade a US attack.

"I think Saddam could pull a rabbit out of his hat, he could let the UN inspectors back," he said.


I think once the snow melts, people are going to start fighting.

Robert Baer
"If worse came to worse he could turn his army over to Arafat - I mean he's capable of doing anything - and say I'm going to liberate Jerusalem."

In the interview, Mr Baer also predicted the demise of the interim government in Afghanistan, saying that "it won't last until June".

He went on to call Afghanistan "ungovernable" and said that different warring groups will soon move in and carve up the country.

"I think once the snow melts, people are going to start fighting," he said.

"Not listening"

He also launched a scathing attack on the CIA, condemning the organisation for not listening to early intelligence warnings about the 11 September attacks.

Criminal Intelligence Agency
Mr Baer said there was a problem recruiting for the CIA
"They're not listening," he said.

"They'd made up their mind before 11 September that no terrorism was going to reach US shores and in 1993 the first World Trade Centre bombing was an accident, people got lucky and we don't have to worry about it."

However Mr Baer also claimed that responsibility does not just rest with the CIA.

"It's a cultural problem. It's not just the CIA, it's Immigration, the FBI, State Department, they're all broke," he said.

"Federal bureaucracy in the US is broke."

Recruitment

He went on to blame part of the CIA's problems on recruitment and intellect.

"Smart people in the US don't want to go into the CIA they want to go to Wall Street, they want to go some place else. So when 11 September came, no wonder we didn't know what was going on, " he said.

"The best minds in America go to Silicon Valley and New York, the financial sector, and not the CIA. That is one of the problems."

You can hear the HARDtalk interview in full at the following times:

BBC News 24 (times shown in GMT)
4 March 0430, repeated 2230

BBC World (times shown in GMT)
4 March 0430, repeated 1130, 1630, 1930, 0030

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Robert Baer
"I don't think anyone knows what will happen if we destroy his army."
See also:

22 Feb 01 | Middle East
Iraq hit by new air strikes
22 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Protesters seek to end Iraqi sanctions
01 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Britain backs US over Iraq
25 Feb 02 | Middle East
Annan to tackle Iraq over arms
24 Feb 02 | Middle East
Blair and Bush 'to discuss Iraq action'
23 Feb 02 | Middle East
Saddam scorns Bush 'baby talk'
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