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Sun Aug 10 08:13:42 MDT 2003
NY Times, August 10, 2003
U.S. Moved to Undermine Iraqi Military Before War
By DOUGLAS JEHL with DEXTER FILKINS
WASHINGTON, Aug. 9 The United States military, the Central Intelligence
Agency and Iraqi exiles began a broad covert effort inside Iraq at least
three months before the war to forge alliances with Iraqi military leaders
and persuade commanders not to fight, say people involved in the effort.
Even after the war began, the Bush administration received word that top
officials of the Iraqi government, most prominently the defense minister,
Gen. Sultan Hashem Ahmed al-Tai, might be willing to cooperate to bring the
war to a quick end and to ensure a postwar peace, current and former
American officials say.
General Hashem's ministry was never bombed by the United States during the
war, and the Pentagon's decision not to knock Iraqi broadcasting off the
air permitted him to appear on television with what some Iraqi exiles have
called a veiled signal to troops that they should not fight the invading
But Washington's war planners elected not to try to keep him or other Iraqi
leaders around after the war to help them keep the peace, a decision some
now see as a missed opportunity.
General Hashem's fate is not known. Some Iraqi exiles say he was shot, and
perhaps killed, by Saddam Hussein's supporters during the war. Other exiles
and American officials say he survived the war. Two Iraqi leaders said his
family had staged a mock funeral to give the impression that he was dead.
Much more than that is uncertain about the murky operation not least, the
degree of its success.
People behind the effort, including Iraqis who were involved inside the
country, said in interviews that they had succeeded in persuading hundreds
of Iraqi officers to quit the war and to send their subordinates away.
Iraqi military officers confirmed that after Americans and Iraqis made
contact with them, they carried out acts of sabotage and helped disband
their units as the war began.
American officials and two Iraqi exiles who played central roles said the
American military spirited out of the country several high-level Iraqi
military and intelligence officers who had cooperated with the United
States and its allies.
But in interviews in Washington, Europe and the Middle East, more than half
a dozen people with direct knowledge of the events said the United States
might have missed an opportunity that might have stabilized Iraq as the
American and Arab officials said that as the war approached, the Bush
administration was skeptical of the idea of cutting a lasting deal with
high-level Iraqi officials like General Hashem. Washington, in the end, was
reluctant to leave any high-ranking officials from the Hussein government
in power after the war.
Such an agreement, they said, might have required that some officials with
ties to Mr. Hussein stay in power for a time, but might have eased the
entry of American troops into Baghdad and helped keep Iraq's infrastructure
"A lot of people in Baghdad saw their interest in not fighting, in
adapting, in getting rid of Saddam and moving forward," said Whitley
Bruner, a former C.I.A. station chief in Baghdad who is now a private
consultant. He is said by people involved in the operation to have helped
relay messages from people inside Iraq to the United States government.
Senior Arab officials and several United States officials said General
Hashem was identified as a potential ally as early as 1995, when he became
defense minister. The officials described him as a capable, well-liked
infantry officer who had no close connections to Mr. Hussein and his family.
"From the time he was appointed defense minister, he was always someone who
was looked at as being someone you could deal with," said a senior Saudi
official, whose government had long urged the United States to promote a
coup in Iraq rather than a military invasion as a way of toppling Mr.
Hussein's government. "Sultan Hashem was seen as someone who was more
sensible, who could reach rational conclusions, and was not a Baathist
ideologue or Baathist fanatic."
A senior Defense Department official refused to comment on any messages
passed between the United States and General Hashem. But he said there
might have been other reasons that the United States left his ministry intact.
"In any centralized, controlled society, soldiers will fight to the last
order," the official said. "If you cut off the head, the arms and legs will
keep going, so you want to keep in place the structure that could allow a
LA Times, August 10, 2003
Iraq Seen as Terror Target
Anti-Western extremists have been infiltrating, officials say, and may look
for opportunities to attack symbols of America and its allies.
By Alissa J. Rubin , Times Staff Writer
BAGHDAD The powerful car bomb that ripped through the Jordanian Embassy
here last week marked a turning point for Iraq, suggesting that the country
has become a terrorist target and raising the specter of spiraling violence
as anti-Western extremists seize the opportunity to attack symbols of
America and its supporters.
Although responsibility for the blast has yet to be determined, the
sophisticated attack on a key U.S. ally without regard for civilian
casualties brought into focus that the United States may be facing more
than angry remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime, which U.S. officials have
blamed for a series of shooting and grenade attacks on American soldiers.
U.S. and Iraqi government officials as well as terrorism experts say
anti-Western Islamic fighters have been infiltrating Iraq in significant
numbers since the end of the war, taking advantage of chaos on the borders
and the minimal police presence to establish themselves. Like Hussein
loyalists, their goal is to drive the U.S. out of Iraq.
Although experts caution that the attack may have been carried out by
Hussein's supporters, the reported influx of foreign fighters raises
serious concerns about the stability of Iraq.
"What we're seeing now is jihadis coming in from all over, from Albania to
Algeria," said Vincent Cannistraro, a former CIA counter-terrorism chief.
"They're answering the call from [Osama] bin Laden ... not to defend
Saddam, but to defend Islam," he said, noting that U.S. and allied
intelligence officials believe that 500 to 600 of these foreign fighters
have entered Iraq.
"In the future months and years, if the situation as far as Iraq's
stability remains the same, we will probably see a situation like in
Chechnya and Bosnia," in which Iraq becomes a new front for Islamic holy
warriors, said Jean-Charles Brisard, a French private investigator and
terrorism expert who has worked with the French intelligence services.
At one level, their appearance in Iraq is hardly a surprise. With 150,000
American troops on the ground as well as several thousand U.S. contractors
and an array of Western humanitarian and media organizations, Iraq now
offers a plethora of potential targets.
"The Iraqi government is an American proxy, and all of the public buildings
in Iraq are now American," said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org,
a research group. "Anyone who wants to strike an American target can blow
up something in Baghdad. They don't have to come all the way across the ocean."
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