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Iran, Syria Not Promoting Terrorism, says Former US Official
Michael Drudge
VOA London
03 Dec 2003, 14:53 UTC

<b>Walter Slocombe</b>
Walter Slocombe
The former national security director for the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq says neither Syria nor Iran is actively promoting terrorist activity in Iraq. The former official, Walter Slocombe, has discussed the Iraq security situation at a lecture in London.

There has been much speculation about who exactly is behind the suicide bombings on civilian targets, and attacks on coalition forces in Iraq.

The former director for national security and defense in the Coalition Provisional Authority, Walter Slocombe, says it has been difficult to gather intelligence on the militants because their cells are tightly controlled.

But he told an audience at London's International Institute for Strategic Studies that a few thousand loyalists to deposed president Saddam Hussein are believed to be responsible for most of the trouble. As for the suicide bombers, he said they are thought to be primarily non-Iraqi terrorists.

Mr. Slocombe dismisses the possibility that the terrorists enjoy much official support from Iraq's neighbors, Syria and Iran.

"It is clear that the Syrian government could do a lot more to stop this if it wanted to," he said. "That's different from saying that the Syrian government is actively trying to promote it. The Iranians are being very careful to build and maintain their structure of influence in the country. There is very little evidence that they are actively supporting any of the attacks."

Mr. Slocombe says evidence has emerged about links between the Saddam Hussein regime and foreign terrorist groups, but there is no sign of Iraqi involvement in the September 11, 2001, attacks against the United States.

"The evidence is increasing of the degree to which Saddam de facto cooperated with terrorist organizations. Not that he was responsible for 9-11," Mr. Slocombe said. "I think there is no evidence for that at all. But there was a lot of cross talk, a lot of cooperation, probably some supplies of equipment, certainly provisions of sanctuaries and places to recuperate, and communicate and that sort of thing."

Mr. Slocombe says the best way to overcome the intelligence gaps and cultural differences that have hurt the coalition is to speed up the hand over of security responsibilities to Iraqis. To that end, he says, at least 35,000 new Iraqi soldiers, and 25,000 new policemen, will be trained over the next year.