Friday, March 24, 2006

Moscow had informants inside U.S. Central Command whose information on the March 2003 invasion of Iraq was relayed to dictator Saddam Hussein days before American troops ousted him from power, according to a Defense Department history released yesterday.

And, as U.S. troops encircled Baghdad in April, Russia’s ambassador fed information from Moscow’s intelligence service to Saddam’s regime regarding U.S. troop movements.

The new disclosures show that Moscow was working against the Bush administration in private, as it opposed in public the U.S. desire for a United Nations Security Council resolution explicitly authorizing the invasion.

The report was produced in book form by U.S. Forces Command, which studies “lessons learned” in military operations. This document, however, focused not on American units, but on how Saddam, his regime and military prepared for the March 19, 2003, attack and tried to blunt it. Titled “Iraqi Perspective Project: A View of Operation Iraqi Freedom From Saddam’s Senior Leadership,” it is based largely on postwar interviews and seized documents. It is in one of those documents that the Iraqis told of spies inside U.S. Central Command, which planned and executed the invasion.

“The information that the Russians have collected from their sources inside the American Central Command in Doha [Qatar] is that the United States is convinced that occupying Iraqi cities are impossible, and that they have changed their tactic,” states the Iraq intelligence report. Another part states, “Jordan had accepted the American 4th Mechanized Infantry Division.”

Although U.S. forces did avoid occupying towns and cities on the march to Baghdad, they did enter Tikrit, Mosul and other large cities. But as for Jordan, the 4th Infantry Division never docked there, instead traveling by sea to Kuwait.

The Forces Command report offered no information on whether Central Command ever identified and purged the spies.

The report also tells of a seized memorandum from Iraqi’s Foreign Ministry. The memo said Russia’s ambassador was relaying intelligence reports to Saddam aides, including one memo that stated that allied forces would not enter Baghdad until the 4th Infantry Division arrived. That turned out to be false.

In other report findings:

• The regime planned to restart production of weapons of mass destruction. It continued to hide scientists from U.N. inspectors right up to the time U.N. inspectors left and the war began.

A seized Dec. 15, 2002, memo, written by an Iraqi intelligence agent posing as a U.N. escort, states, “Inside Bader WMD inspection site, there are Russian and Turkish scientists. When we visited the site, they were forced to hide from inspectors’ eyes.”

And, Saddam continued to tell his commanders he still had such weapons. “For him, there were real dividends to be gained by letting his enemies believe he possessed WMD, whether it was true or not,” the report said.

• The quickly assembled air strike on one of Saddam’s residences, Dora Farms, in pre-dawn March 19, 2003, never had a chance of succeeding. Saddam had not stayed there since 1995.

• There was no evidence that Saddam or his top aides planned the insurgency, now in its fourth year; in fact, Saddam was sure the Americans would never advance on Baghdad.

“There were no national plans to transition to a guerrilla war in the event of military defeat,” the report states.

This fact helps explain why commanders did not predict, nor plan for, the robust insurgency and al Qaeda terrorists now spreading violence.

Saddam’s misguided belief that he would stay in power in 2003 was fed by the support he got from France and Russia, his top aide, Tariq Aziz, told U.S. investigators.

“France and Russia each secure millions of dollars worth of trade and service contracts in Iraq, with the implied understanding that their political posture with regard to sanctions on Iraq would be pro-Iraqi,” Mr. Aziz said. “In addition, the French wanted sanctions lifted to safeguard their trade and service contracts in Iraq.”

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