Andrea Mitchell, the NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent, reports that intelligence sources have told NBC that Saddam Hussein provides money for the families of suicide bombers, which is channeled through the extremist group Hamas.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has harshly criticized Iraq, as well as Iran and Syria, as supporters of terrorism and says, ?The Iraqis ? Saddam Hussein has announced that they?re offering stipends to families of suicide bombers. They?ve decided that?s a good thing to do. So they?re running around encouraging people to be suicide bombers. I would suggest that that is very actively trying to kill innocent men, women and children, and that?s exactly what the Iraqis intend to be doing by doing that.?

Before these young Palestinians blow themselves up, they get what amounts to a life insurance policy financed by Iraq ? cash annuities for their parents, subsidized food, scholarships for siblings and, since Israel usually destroys their family homes, replacement housing. Experts say Iraq also provides some weapons to Palestinians, smuggled through neighboring Jordan.

Ken Pollack of the Council on Foreign Relations says, ?This is useful for Saddam because he has recognized that the worse the violence between Israelis and Palestinians, the harder it is for the U.S. to come after him. By the same token, it builds up his own popularity in the Arab world.?

Iraq is not the only country supporting Hamas and other militant groups. They get sophisticated weapons from Iran. Israel captured one such shipment last January.?There?s no question but that the Iranians work with the Syrians and send folks into Damascus and down to Beirut … and then into south Lebanon, so that they can conduct terrorist attacks,? Rumsfeld says.

In addition to getting outside help, Hamas raises money itself?sometimes in the U.S. Until the government shut it down after September 11, Hamas raised $70 million in the United States through its Texas headquarters.

In the April 9 issue of Vanity Fair, David Rose reports on information from an Iraqi defector about Saddam Hussein?s hoard of weapons, including ?dirty? radioactive bombs, mobile bioweapons, and a ballistic missile that can reach Europe.

In the more than 3 years since Saddam Hussein expelled the U.N. weapons inspectors, he has gotten close to constructing a missile to deliver chemical, biological, and, eventually, nuclear payloads to the capitals of Turkey, Egypt, Cyprus, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. The defector identifies a site where nuclear weapons are being developed and seven sites where chemical and biological weapons are designed, manufactured, and tested. Iraq has a new generation of Scud missiles called ?Husseins? that are hidden from aerial surveillance on mobile launchers that run on four specially reinforced roads a total of about 500 miles long.

While he was a member of the Mukhabarat, Iraq?s intelligence service, he says he assembled a fleet of Renault trucks thatwere indistinguishable from trucks that transported refrigerated food, even though they carried biological weapons. ?They look like meat cars, yogurt cars,? he says, ?And inside is a laboratory, with incubators for bacteria, microscopes, air-conditioning.?

The defector says Iraq supports Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group, which it trains for suicide bombings in Israel. He talks about going on a shopping trip to Africa in search of radioactive material to put in a ?dirty? bomb.

According to the defector, Hussein keeps private jet and a helicopter in constant readiness at Saddam International Airport to facilitate his flight from Baghdad in case he needs to get out fast.

Although Vanity Fair couldn?t verify all his claims, the defector has been debriefed at least four times by U.S. officials from the Defense Intelligence Agency. ?I haven?t found anything to make me disbelieve him,? says Charles Duelfer, the former deputy chief of UNSCOM, the U.N. weapons-inspections mission in Iraq. ?His evidence tells us that Iraq’s weapons-of-mass-destruction program has only accelerated since UNSCOM was expelled.?

Vanity Fair has copies of the translated documentation that the defector supplied to his U.S. interrogators, including the paperwork he used to establish his cover as a journalist at the Mukhabarat newspaper, al-Iqtisadi, and a 22-page Mukhabarat report about military radar systems.

He talks about his trip to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, where he and other Iraqis metwith five Eastern Europeans, possibly Russian or Ukrainian. He describes a heavy metal trunk that contained ?glittery? pieces of black rock. One his colleagues opened his briefcase to display neat stacks of $100 bills, which he then gave to the Europeans. Nuclear experts tell Rose that the defector?s account of ?fingers? of black material sounds like a description of spent reactor fuel rods cut into sections, which could be used to surround a conventional explosive. This layer of radioactive waste would then spread fine dust across a wide area, putting those who inhaled or swallowed it at a high risk of contracting cancer.

The defector gives details of the Mukhabarat?s network of commercial companies set up to launder money through the U.N.?s ?food-for-oil? program. Mukhabarat’s dummy companies took the nonlethal items Iraq was permitted to trade for oil under the U.N. program (such as vehicles, food, building materials) and sold them for cash. Thousands of these deals took place in order to raise as much as $20 million which was used to buy arms. This network of dummy companies is controlled by Saddam?s son Uday, who takes a personal commission on every deal. Meanwhile, the citizens of Iraq do without basic necessities and the rest of the world criticizes the U.S. blockade of Iraq.

He explains how companies smuggle in fiber-optic cables and electronic components to be used for military purposes. In a Mukhabarat front-company warehouse in the United Arab Emirates, Iraqi agents dismantle the casings of refrigerators and televisions and stuff them with items banned under the U.N. sanctions. When the Iraqi military neededmissile covers, carbon fiber, supercomputers, missile ignition systems, electronic parts, thermal lenses for radar receivers, fuel for missiles, it was the defector?s job to ensure that these needs were met.

The defector?s testimony about Iraq?s sponsorship of Hamas, even without the added informtion about weapons of mass destruction, might be enough to justify a U.S.attack on Iraq. The defector says there is a full-time Hamas office in Baghdad. Classes of up to 30 students trained at a terrorist camp south of Baghdad, and at a similar facility in northeast Iraq. ?Many weapons were being supplied to Hamas, defector says, ?Guns, ammunition both heavy and light, detonators, and explosives. It was Iraq which trained Hamas in how to make bombs.?

In September 1998, the defector was one of 29 suspects in a plot to topple Saddam. He says he was tortured for the next six months, sometimes with an electrode clipped to his genitals. He was sexually abused and his tormentors punctured his veins and then compressed his thighs with bands in order to squeeze the blood from his legs. When he was shown a video of children from 5 to 10 being tortured, he was told that the same fate awaited his own family if he failed to confess to the plot. He never did confess and inAugust 1999 he was back at work at the Mukhabarat. ?They believe that if you?re jailedand you come out clean, they can use this as a warning,? he says.

The defector?s final job before he fled Iraq was to develop ballistic missiles for the Tammooz system. The rockets have been designed with an initial range of 600 to 700 miles. Later models may extend this range by up to another 500 miles–far enough to reach targets across southern Europe. It is possible, the defector says, that Iraq tested afinished Tammooz rocket in the middle of 2001. The opposition Iraqi National Congress is trying to rescue members of the defector?s family who remain inside Iraq.

To learn what?s behind the Mideast emergency, read ?The Last Days of Israel? by Barry Chamish,click here.

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