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Senior Iraq Defector May Not Have Made It

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posted on Mar, 7 2003 @ 05:26 PM
All may not be well for Adib Shaaban, senior aide to Saddamís powerful son Uday and Iraqís highest-ranking would-be defector. Shaaban - charged with Udayís most sensitive missions - traveled to Jeddah in early February, saying he needed to put through some gold transactions ahead of the war. From Jeddah, he flew to Beirut and disappeared.

But he never really went to the Lebanese capital. Instead, he made his way undercover to Damascus Monday and was picked up by an unmarked plane that flew him out of the Middle East. At least, thatís how Shaaban scripted his plan.

Our sources suggest that upon landing at Damascus on Saturday, February 8, he walked straight into the arms of waiting Syrian military intelligence officers who took him to their isolated headquarters in the capital. He is probably still there under heavy guard, as Syrian leader Bashar Assad fights off conflicting demands from the White House and Saddam Husseinís presidential office for his handover.

Further discoveries by our intelligence sources of the defectorís secret duties would further enhance his value for Washington and make Saddam more anxious to keep him and the secrets in his head out of his enemiesí hands.

Shaaban was the senior go-between for Baghdadís business with Damascus.

He was privy to the clandestine movements of al Qaeda operatives from Iraq to Lebanon via Syrian sea and air ports.

His hand was on the contraband route along which smuggled Iraqi oil reached world markets through Syriaís Mediterranean terminals.

Saddam and Assad share a stake in keeping this intelligence bomb out of Western hands les he lay bare the full extent of Syriaís operational support for al Qaeda or the degree to which Assad violated UN sanctions against Iraq.

So why did Shaaban take the chance of heading for Damascus? He may have had no choice in the matter.

In Jeddah, the Saudis may have decided that this potato was too hot for them to hold and hustled him aboard the first flight out, which was bound for Damascus. Alternatively, the defector may have flown directly to Damascus ñ a kosher destination given his job as go-between ñ intending to continue from there in secret to Jeddah to knock at the door of a US consulate or make his way to the West under his own steam.

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