There has been something of a stir lately over Le Monde's revelation that France passed warning to the CIA in 2001 that Bin Laden was planning an aircraft hijacking.
Nobody has paid a great deal of attention to the fact that the French intelligence came from the Uzbek security services.
But the headlines about France warning the US of 9/11 are complete nonsense. The alleged intelligence was about a plan to hijack a plane at Frankfurt airport. Flying the plane into buildings didn't feature.
There was then (and is) intelligence cooperation between France and Uzbekistan, but in 2001 as now the Uzbek intelligence liaison relationship with Germany and the US was stronger than with France. It seems most improbable that the Uzbeks learnt of a plan to hijack a flight between Germany and the US, and told only the French.
An Associated Press report speculates that the Frankfurt plan was disinformation spread by Al-Qaida to distract attention from the 9/11 plot. That is obvious rubbish. Bin Laden would not want to give any indication that he was switching tactics to aircraft hijack, and have people looking at aviation security.
A far more likely explanation is that this was disinformation by the Uzbek security services. I have seen a great deal of intelligence passed on by the Uzbek intelligence services. It is inevitably self-serving, and almost always untrue.
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The purpose of the Uzbek intelligence services in passing intelligence to the West is to persuade us that they and the Karimov regime must be supported as a bastion against a massive Islamic terror plot. They seek to portray all domestic opposition as al-Qaeda linked.
It goes wider than that. Consider this - across a huge swathe of the Caucasus and Central Asia, Turkic peoples have been struggling to emerge from colonial occupation. This belt runs from the Chechens of the West through the Tatars, Turkmen, Uzbeks, Kazakh, Kirghiz and Mongols to the Uighurs of China in the East. The wave of struggles for national liberation of these peoples is perhaps the most important political fact since the fall of the iron curtain, yet completely neglected.
The Chechens and Uighurs are being brutally suppressed by the Russian and Chinese imperial powers respectively. Those like the Uzbeks who have achieved nominal nation status are suffering under the fierce regime of the surviving indigenous colonial cadres.
As it happens, these Turkic nations engaged in a struggle for liberation are Muslim. By one of history's unpleasant chances (and I would argue it is no more than that - there are transactions, but almost no causal relationship either way) their efforts at national re-emergence have coincided with a surge in fringe Islamic radicalism. This has enabled their opponents to attempt to tar them with that brush.
Uzbek intelligence is therefore primarily aimed at portraying Uzbek dissidents as Islamic terrorists, and linking them to Al Qaida and to Chechen and Uighur "terrorists". The governments of Russia and China are enthusiastic co-participants in building the same story to discredit their own Chechen and Uighur dissidents, and the other authoritarian governments of Central Asia join in too. The most important diplomatic entity in the region - the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement - functions entirely on this principle.
The sad thing is that, such is the appetite of Western intelligence agencies for any material that stokes the so-called "War on Terror", MI6, the CIA and others accept this self-serving dross as true, even when it is fabricated in Uzbekistan's notorious torture chambers. That is the issue over which I resigned from the diplomatic service, as detailed in my book "Murder in Samarkand".
The clue in the 2001 French intelligence causing the current stir is that the Uzbeks claimed that Bin Laden met with Chechen terrorists to plan the Frankfurt hijack. Of course there was no such plot. This so-called Uzbek/French intelligence was just part of the propaganda campaign to link the Chechen cause to Bin Laden.
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