- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 13, 2003

LONDON — Chinese military advisers played a key role in helping Iraqi air defenses withstand coalition air strikes in the months preceding Operation Iraqi Freedom, an Iraqi colonel says.

Lt. Col. al-Dabbagh, whose revelations about Saddam Hussein’s battlefield weapons of mass destruction capabilities were revealed exclusively last week in the Sunday Telegraph, said he worked with a number of Chinese air-defense specialists during 2002 and the early part of this year to devise methods to stop coalition air strikes from destroying Iraq’s air defenses.

“They arrived in the spring of 2002,” said Col. al-Dabbagh, who commanded an air defense unit in Iraq’s western desert. “They were personally greeted by Saddam and seemed very happy to be in Iraq. A couple of them even grew moustaches and wore [Arab scarves] around their heads so that they would look more like us.”

Saddam is believed to have made a secret military deal with Beijing — which opposed the Iraq war at the United Nations Security Council — in late 2001 after allied warplanes, which were then patrolling the no-fly zone in southern Iraq, attacked and destroyed several Iraqi radar installations.

“Saddam went absolutely crazy,” Col. al-Dabbagh recalled. “He said, ‘If we don’t do something fast there will be no radar left in Iraq.’”

Initially, the Iraqis recruited about a dozen Serbian air-defense specialists, who were each paid $100,000 a month to help devise a method to protect Iraq’s air defenses from attack.

But their contract was terminated when their attempts to devise a mobile radar system failed because they could not find a truck large enough to carry the equipment.

According to Col. al-Dabbagh, the Chinese were more successful and devised a sophisticated decoy device that directed missiles fired by allied warplanes to the wrong targets.

“The Chinese device only cost $25, but it was very successful,” said Col. al-Dabbagh. “The American pilot would return home thinking he had hit three of our radar units, when in fact all he would have hit were three $25 decoys.”

Col. al-Dabbagh, who is now in hiding in Iraq after death threats following last week’s revelations, said Saddam was delighted with the device and personally thanked the Chinese technicians, who performed an Oriental dance in honor of the dictator.

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