- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 7, 2003

BAGHDAD — An Iraqi colonel has revealed how he passed top-secret information to British intelligence warning that Saddam Hussein had deployed weapons of mass destruction that could be used on the battlefield against coalition troops in less than 45 minutes.

Lt. Col. al-Dabbagh, 40, who was the head of an Iraqi air defense unit in the western desert during the buildup to the war, said that cases containing warheads for weapons of mass destruction were delivered to front-line units, including his own, toward the end of last year.

He said they were to be used by Saddam’s Fedayeen paramilitaries and units of the Special Republican Guard when the war with coalition troops reached “a critical stage.”

The containers, which came from several factories on the outskirts of Baghdad, were delivered to the army by the Fedayeen and distributed to the front-line units under cover of darkness.

In an exclusive interview, Col. al-Dabbagh said he believes he was the source of the British government’s claim, published in September 2002 in the intelligence dossier on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, that Saddam could launch such weapons within 45 minutes.

“I am the one responsible for providing this information,” said the colonel, who now is working as an adviser to Iraq’s Governing Council.

He insisted that the information contained in the dossier relating to Saddam’s battlefield capability for weapons of mass destruction was correct. “It is 100 percent accurate,” he said after reading the relevant passage.

The devices, which were known by Iraqi officers as “the secret weapon,” were made in Iraq and designed to be launched by hand-held rocket-propelled grenades. They could also have been launched sooner than the 45 minutes claimed in the dossier, he said.

“Forget 45 minutes,” said Col. al-Dabbagh. “We could have fired these within half an hour.”

Local commanders were told that they could use the weapons only on the personal orders of Saddam. “We were told that when the war came we would only have a short time to use everything we had to defend ourselves, including the secret weapon,” he said.

The only reason they were not used, Col. al-Dabbagh said, was because the bulk of the Iraqi army did not want to fight for Saddam. “The West should thank God that the Iraqi army decided not to fight,” he said.

Col. al-Dabbagh, who was recalled to Baghdad to work at Iraq’s air defense headquarters during the war itself, believes the weapons of mass destruction have been hidden at secret locations by the Fedayeen and are still in Iraq. “Only when Saddam is caught will people talk about these weapons,” he said.

During a British government inquiry into the death of David Kelly, a British specialist on Iraqi weapons, Richard Dearlove, the head of MI6, said that the information contained in the intelligence dossier relating to the 45-minute claim had come from a single “established and reliable” source serving in the Iraqi armed forces. British intelligence officers have claimed privately that they believe the original source was killed during the war.

Mr. Kelly apparently killed himself in July after it was revealed that he was the source of a British Broadcasting Corp. radio report claiming the government had included the 45-minute claim against the wishes of MI6 to “sex up” the intelligence dossier.

Col. al-Dabbagh, who spied for the Iraqi National Accord (INA), a London-based exile group for several years before the war, said he provided several reports to British intelligence about Saddam’s plans to deploy weapons of mass destruction from early 2002 onwards.

The INA, which was made up of retired and serving Iraqi officers and Ba’ath Party officials, is known to have enjoyed a close relationship with MI6 and the CIA.

Ayad Allawi, the head of the INA who is now a prominent member of the Governing Council in Baghdad, confirmed he had passed Col. al-Dabbagh’s reports on Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction to both British and American intelligence officers “sometime in the spring and summer of 2002.”

Col. al-Dabbagh also provided details of Iraq’s troop and air defense deployments before the war.

Col. al-Dabbagh, who received two death threats from Saddam loyalists days after his interview with the Sunday Telegraph, said he was willing to travel to London to give evidence to the government inquiry. “I was there and I knew what Saddam was doing before the war,” he said.

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