By Chris Evans
May 1, 2006
The United States deliberately passed up repeated opportunities to kill the head of
al-Qaeda in Iraq, Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, before the March 2003 US-led invasion of that country.
The claim, by former US spy Mike Scheuer, was made in an interview to be shown on ABC TV's Four Corners tonight. (Australian)
Zarqawi is often described as a lieutenant of Osama bin Laden, whose supporters masterminded the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.
Mr Scheuer was a CIA agent for 22 years - six of them as head of the agency's Osama bin Laden unit - until he resigned in 2004.
He told Four Corners that during 2002, the Bush Administration received detailed intelligence about Zarqawi's training camp in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Mr Scheuer claims that a July 2002 plan to destroy the camp lapsed because "it was more important not to give the Europeans the impression we were gunslingers".
"Mr Bush had Zarqawi in his sights almost every day for a year before the invasion of Iraq and he didn't shoot because they were wining and dining the French in an effort to get them to assist us in the invasion of Iraq," he told Four Corners.
"Almost every day we sent a package to the White House that had overhead imagery of the house he was staying in. It was a terrorist training camp . . . experimenting with ricin and anthrax . . . any collateral damage there would have been terrorists."
During the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, Zarqawi's presence in the north of the country was used by US officials to link Saddam Hussein to terrorism.
Zarqawi has twice been sentenced to death by Jordan's state security court.
He was first sentenced in absentia in November 2004 for planning the murder of a US diplomat in Jordan. The second sentence, last December, concerned plans to attack a border post between Iraq and Jordan.