- The Washington Times - Friday, October 8, 2004

Saddam Hussein’s intelligence service permeated nearly every aspect of Iraqi life, from running restaurants and hotels to overseeing a giant, multicountry smuggling operation that reportedly netted components for weapons of mass destruction.

The Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) even operated a laboratory that designed a variety of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The lab is a key reason the Iraq insurgency, which includes former IIS members, is so adept at building and setting off so-called IEDs, whose explosions have killed scores of American troops.

This rare look at the IIS, also known as the Mukhabarat, is contained in this week’s thick CIA report from chief U.S. weapons inspector Charles Duelfer.

The report is not only a look at Saddam’s weapons programs, but also a narrative of how he held onto power brutally and corrupted the U.N. oil-for-food program, with the help of the United Nations and the member states themselves.

No institution played a bigger role in enforcing Saddam’s Ba’ath Party rule, and in carrying out the illicit arms trade, than the feared Mukhabarat and its 31 directorates.

IIS agents took over border crossings from customs officials and supervised the flow of arms from Jordan and Syria.

Saddam used IIS, said Mr. Duelfer, “as a tool for the Military Industrial Commission and its illicit procurement efforts. … According to an Iraqi customs inspector with direct access, the IIS … used the border checkpoint system as a method of obtaining prohibited goods.”

IIS agents in foreign embassies planned assassinations of dissidents and paid bribes to government and industry officials to procure arms prohibited by U.N. resolutions.

Mr. Duelfer, bolstered by a staff of 1,700 military and civilian personnel, drew this stark picture of the Mukhabarat through interviews with top Saddam aides and thousands of pages of internal Iraqi documents.

The counterintelligence directorate, M-5, created a spin-off division specifically to monitor foreigners.

M-5 “operated more than 40 domestic businesses within Iraq, such as restaurants, hotels, travel services, souvenir shops, and truck service centers, in order to collect information on foreigners routinely entering Iraq,” the Duelfer report states.

The M-13 directorate handled overseas agents. Working out of embassies, they were ordered to commit break-ins, electronic eavesdropping and surveillance. The M-14 section was Saddam’s assassination bureau and trained foreign operatives from Syria, Yemen, Sudan and other Arab nations in explosives and marksmanship at a training facility called Salman Pak.

“[M-14], composed of foreign and domestic sections, performed government-sanctioned assassinations inside or outside of Iraq.”

Another directorate developed poisons and chemical agents to carry out the killings.

Although the report provides no examples, among the known IIS attempts was a 1978 bid to assassinate Iyad Allawi, now Iraq’s prime minister, when he headed anti-Saddam groups in London. He survived the ax attack.

More significant to U.S. troops under attack every day is the IIS’s M-21, or the “Al Ghafiqi Project.” This is the cell that produced the types of roadside bombs so deadly to coalition forces.

The Pentagon believes part of the anti-coalition insurgency includes former Mukhabarat members skilled in assembling makeshift IEDs. Soldiers tell of finding them in discarded tires, cardboard boxes or within cement blocks. They may contain an artillery or mortar shell and are ignited using cell-phone electronics.

The Duelfer report describes M-21:

“No one person constructed an entire explosive device alone. The construction process drifted through the sections of the directorate. An improvised explosive device began in the chemistry department which developed the explosive materials for the device. The electronics department prepared the timers and wiring of the IED and the mechanical department produced the igniters and designed the IED.

“Al Ghafiqi constantly invented new designs or methods to conceal explosives; books, briefcases, belts, vests, thermoses, car seats, floor mats and facial tissue boxes were all used to conceal” explosives.

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