Best-laid plans

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sun Aug 10 08:13:42 MDT 2003

NY Times, August 10, 2003
U.S. Moved to Undermine Iraqi Military Before War

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 
government crumbled.

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, 
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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