Saudis allege Iran behind bombing
No punishment expected for Air Force officials
December 12, 1996
Web posted at: 2:40 p.m. EST (1940 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Saudi investigators have given the United
States evidence of alleged Iranian involvement in a deadly
terrorist bombing of a U.S. military housing complex in Saudi
Arabia, CNN confirmed Thursday. But U.S. officials have not
yet concluded who was behind the incident and the White House
says President Clinton has made no decision about any
possible U.S. retaliation.
Separately, an Air Force review of the bombing being released
on Friday concludes that no Air Force personnel should be
punished for failure to do their jobs, CNN has learned. The
conclusion is opposite of an earlier Pentagon study.
Source: Evidence presented to U.S. last month
Iran denies involvement in the bombing of Khobar Towers, and
U.S. and Saudi officials refused to comment publicly on
alleged Iranian participation. But sources familiar with the
investigation told CNN the Saudis believe they have
substantial evidence that points to Iran.
Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef gave the alleged
evidence to FBI Director Louis Freeh last month when Freeh
visited Saudi Arabia, the sources said.
Nineteen U.S. Air Force personnel died when a truck loaded
with explosives blew up June 25 near the complex where the
servicemen were housed in Dhahran.
Report: Air Force personnel acted responsibly
According to Pentagon sources, who spoke on the condition
that they not be named, the Air Force review headed by Air
Force Lt. Gen. James Record concluded that "every person
acted in a reasonable and responsible way" to try to ensure
security at the housing complex.
Defense Secretary William Perry ordered the Record
investigation in September, following the release of the
earlier report. That investigation, headed by retired Army
Gen. Wayne Downing, found that the commander at Dhahran
failed to protect his forces adequately from terrorist
attacks, and that military staff ignored reports of an
Sources say Air Force investigators agree with the Pentagon's
assessment that commanders failed to protect their troops
enough, but concluded that it was not for lack of trying.
According to the new Air Force report, blaming Air Force
personnel for not noticing signs of danger is unfair, since
they are glaringly obvious only in hindsight. In the new
Force Brig. Gen. Terry Schwalier, who had direct
responsibility for the Khobar complex, was found to have
acted properly in taking 130 additional security measures.
The report to be released on Friday also says commanders
acted appropriately given the confusing intelligence they
received, and the unprecedented size of the fuel truck bomb.
Pentagon sources told CNN that Air Force Chief of Staff Gen.
Ronald Fogelman, in reviewing the report, has decided against
disciplining the officers involved. He decided that this was
a case in which punishing the officers would undercut
confidence in commanders in the field, and would create an
atmosphere in which commanders could not make decisions.
Although Fogelman is in the Air Force, and might therefore be
suspected of being biased, he has shown in the past that he
believes in accountability. In the Air Force T-43 plane
crash that killed Commerce Secretary Ron Brown and 34 others
in April, he took the opposite stance. Several senior Air
Force officers received career-ending letters of reprimand
for failing to follow orders.
Saudis detail alleged Iranian involvement
Iran's U.N. mission said on Wednesday that media reports
implying Iranian involvement were "cynical speculations,"
devoid of evidence.
Saudi officials cited the data provided to the United States
as proof the bombing was carried out by Saudi extremists of
the Shiite sect of Islam who were allegedly trained in
Lebanon and supported by Iran, sources said.
The alleged evidence includes statements by some of the 40
Saudi Shiite Muslims questioned as suspects by Saudi police
as well as evidence showing that suspects flew to and from
Iran through Syria.
Sources say the suspects apparently used Iranian passports
issued to them by the Iranian Embassy in Syria for segments
of the trip between Damascus and Tehran.
Saudi investigators believe the suspects, after returning to
Syria, went to Lebanon for training at Iranian-backed
terrorist camps and after that went to Saudi Arabia and
allegedly conducted the bombing attack.
Correspondents Jamie McIntyre and Anthony Collings
contributed to this report.
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