Newsmax’s chief Washington correspondent Ronald Kessler scooped “60 Minutes” by months with an exclusive interview with the FBI agent assigned to interrogate Saddam Hussein after his capture.
In his book “The Terrorist Watch: Inside the Desperate Race to Stop the Next Attack” (Crown Forum), Kessler quoted agent George Piro as saying that Saddam pretended to have weapons of mass destruction in order to deter an attack from Iran.
Kessler interviewed Piro, an Arabic-speaking agent who spoke with Saddam daily for seven months, in August. In an article he wrote for Newsmax.com, Kessler disclosed:
“Saddam confided to Piro why he had no weapons of mass destruction but pretended he did. Saddam said that because of the war of attrition he had with Iran, Iran always remained a threat to him. And if Iran thought he had serious WMD, it would be reluctant to engage him again. On the other hand, if he said he had them, Iran would never listen. But if the U.S. said he had them, Iran would believe it.
“So every time inspectors came, Saddam gave them the runaround, reinforcing for Iran’s consumption the notion that he had WMD.”
Saddam also told Piro he planned on developing a WMD program with nuclear capability within a year, Kessler revealed in his book, which was excerpted in the December issue of Newsmax magazine.
“His goal was to have the sanctions lifted,” Piro told Kessler. “And they likely would have been lifted if it were not for 9/11 … He told me he recognized that he miscalculated the long-term effects of 9/11. And he miscalculated President Bush.”
“60 Minutes” caught up with the story on Sunday night, when Piro confirmed the account he gave Kessler.
“He told me he initially miscalculated … President Bush’s intentions,” Piro told Scott Pelley.
“He thought the United States would retaliate with the same type of attack as we did in 1998 — a four-day aerial attack. He survived that one and he was willing to accept that type of attack.”
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