Extraordinary Rendition And The Axis Of Evil, How 'Enemy' Nations Iran, Syria, Libya Cooperated With CIA

As US President George W Bush made his famous speech about the "axis of evil", and his administration named countries including Iran, Iraq, Syria and Libya as enemies of the US, his security forces were co-operating, directly and indirectly, with those same countries to kidnap, imprison and torture citizens.

A groundbreaking report published on Tuesday shows that more than 50 countries, a quarter of the world's nations, cooperated with the CIA's extraordinary rendition programme - many of them nations publicly hostile to the US.

Canadian citizen Maher Arar, who was tortured in Syria after his rendition, told HuffPost UK the report, by the Open Society Foundation, was further proof that the US government "cooperated with dictatorial regimes that they condemned publicly but cooperated with clandestinely."

An Iranian cleric walks past a mural on the wall of the former US embassy

The Open Society Foundation found that Iran, Syria and Libya all directly or indirectly transferred individuals into American hands.

In March 2002, in his State of the Union address, Bush accused three governments of supporting terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruction, the so-called Axis of Evil: Iran, Iraq and North Korea, which "threaten the peace of the world".

In May of that year, the list was expanded by Undersecretary of State John Bolton, who named Syria, Libya and Cuba as "beyond the Axis of Evil", an expansion of Bush's original claims.

But the report found that in the same month Bush named Iran as one-third of the Axis of Evil, Tehran, then under President Mohammad Khatami, was involved in capturing 15 individuals and transferring them to the Afghan government, 10 of which were later handed over the Americans.

At least six were later held in secret CIA detention.

The report's author Amrit Singh said: "Because the hand-over happened soon after the US invasion of Afghanistan, Iran was aware that the United States would have effective control over any detainees handed over to Afghan authorities."

Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi, a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition, told The Huffington Post UK it was indicative of a "two-pronged approach" to fighting terror.

"Beneath the surface, the countries are all carrying out their own agendas.

"Iran may have been happy to help hand over members of the Taliban or al-Qaeda to the US, behind the scenes or indirectly. Iran is predominantly Shia and they are Sunnis.

"The attitude is 'my enemy's enemy is my friend.' If it's in the country's interest, they will deal with their enemies in private, while decrying them in public."

Reprieve investigator Dr Crofton Black told HuffPost UK: "We don't understand nearly enough about the collaboration of all of the countries surrounding Afghanistan, with what went on in the early days.

"The power politics in the region is something we do not talk about enough."

Syria, named as part of the axis of evil in May 2002 by Bolton, was one of the “most common destinations for rendered suspects," according to the report.

But the CIA extraordinarily rendered at least nine individuals to Syria, whose government was headed by the current beleaguered leader Bashar al-Assad, between December 2001 and October 2002.

Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian who was tortured in Syria

One of the most well-known cases is Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian who was transferred to Damascus from New York by the CIA in 2002.

He received £7.3m in compensation from Canada, who issued an apology “inaccurate and unfairly prejudicial” intelligence provided by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to the US.

Arar told HuffPost UK: "The US government has for long had double standards in matters related to foreign policy.

"There is no better example than that of the practice of extraordinary rendition where the current and previous administrations cooperated with dictatorial regimes that they condemned publicly but cooperated with clandestinely.

"The OSF report is not a surprise to me, as I have experienced the fruits of this cooperation first hand, but this revelation may be a surprise to people who still believe the US government still adheres to the rule of law in matters related to national security."

Many of the extraordinary renditions coincided with George Bush's Axis Of Evil speech

Arar was detained for more than 10 months in a tiny grave-like cell seven feet high, six feet long, and three feet wide, beaten with cables, and threatened with electric shocks, among other forms of torture.

Libya, which was also named as part of the axis of evil by Bolton, "detained, interrogated, and tortured extraordinarily rendered individuals, and also permitted use of its airspace and airports for the CIA’s extraordinary rendition operations."

Human Rights Watch found in 2012, after the fall of Colonel Gaddafi, that Western governments cooperated with a "forcible return and subsequent interrogation of Gaddafi opponents in Libya.”

Several of the cases appear to have intimately involved the UK government.

Saadi was forced on board a plane in Hong Kong – having sought for years to avoid the agents of the Libyan dictator –with his wife and four young children, in an alleged joint UK-US-Libyan operation.


1. Afghanistan

2. Albania

3. Algeria,

4. Australia,

5. Austria,

6. Azerbaijan,

7. Belgium,

8. Bosnia-Herzegovina,

9. Canada,

10. Croatia,

11. Cyprus,

12. Czech Republic,

13. Denmark,

14. Djibouti,

15. Egypt,

16. Ethiopia,

17. Finland,

18. Gambia,

19. Georgia,

20. Germany,

21. Greece,

22. Hong Kong,

23. Iceland,

24. Indonesia,

25. Iran,

26. Ireland,

27. Italy,

28. Jordan,

29. Kenya,

30. Libya,

31. Lithuania,

32. Macedonia,

33. Malawi,

34. Malaysia,

35. Mauritania,

36. Morocco,

37. Pakistan,

38. Poland,

39. Portugal,

40. Romania,

41. Saudi Arabia,

42. Somalia,

43. South Africa,

44. Spain,

45. Sri Lanka,

46. Sweden,

47. Syria,

48. Thailand,

49. Turkey,

50. United Arab Emirates,

51. United Kingdom,

52. Uzbekistan,

53. Yemen,

54. Zimbabwe