Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Iraqi Perspectives Project - Part VI

The Iraqi Perspectives Project is "an unclassified historical report in book form on the Iraqi view of coalition military operations conducted in Iraq." Published in book form by the U.S. Joint Forces Command’s Joint Center for Operational Analysis, the project "the perspectives of the Iraqi civilian and military leadership involved in major combat operations gathered through interviews conducted during the fall and winter of 2003/2004, and an extensive review of Iraqi historical documents done in the months since then."

You can download the report here. It is 230 pages and about 7.5Mb.

This series will summarize the report chapter by chapter. I will provide commentary at the end of each part.

Previous Posts
Iraqi Perspectives Project Summary from the Washington Times
Iraqi Perspectives Project - Part II - Introduction and Chapter I: The Nature of the Regime
Iraqi Perspectives Project - Part III: - Chapter II: Skewed Strategy
Iraqi Perspectives Project - Part IV - Chapter III: Military Effectiveness
Iraqi Perspectives Project - Part V - Chapter VI: Crippled Operational Planning


• The Iraqis were frustrated at how hard it was to talk face-to-face with American diplomats. We had no embassy in Baghdad after the Gulf War, and tried to work through a Polish diplomat. They complained that when they approached the United States to discuss “matters of concern”, “they always rejected us.”

• Because of their inability to communicate with the United States, they used oil to buy influence with “nations that would be key players in any Western military coalition”, including France, Russia, and to a lesser extent China.

• Iraq’s strategy was to use its oil to “gradually alleviate the UN-imposed sanctions and eventually have them lifted.” In fact this policy did have the effect of reducing the impact of the sanctions. However, in the end, countries such as France and Russia looked after their own self-interests and abandoned Iraq.

• Because his oil diplomacy was not sufficient, Saddam believed that he had to convince others of his military might. Weapons of Mass Destruction was an integral part of this campaign.

• Saddam was caught in a Catch-22. On the one hand, he wanted some countries to believe that he had WMD because “they lived in a very dangerous global neighborhood where even the perception of weakness drew wolves.”

• On the other hand, he had to convince the United States and other nations that he did not possess WMD. He did not want to be attacked and in order to get the sanctions lifted it was crucial that they believed that the threat of WMD was gone.

• “When it came to WMD, Saddam was simultaneously attempting to deceive one audience that they were gone, and another that Iraq still had them.”

• Saddam knew that once the sanctions were lifted, he could resume his production of WMD with little threat that they would be reimposed.

• Although it would have made more sense for him to have come clean completely with everyone with regard to WMD, he “found it impossible to abandon the illusion that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction – especially since the illusion played so well in the Arab world.”

• Many members of Saddam’s ruling circle believed that Iraq still possessed WMD in 2003.

• In late 2002, Saddam tried to move away from his policy of ambiguity, as at this time he feared attack by the United States. However, after so many years of deception, few if any believed him.

• The Iraqis tried to remove all evidence of WMD programs, even going so far as to direct that terms such as “nerve gas” be deleted from communications. However, when this was intercepted by Western intelligence agencies, it was viewed “through the prism of a decade of prior deceit.” As such, “what was meant to remove lingering traces of weapons fielded in the past appeared to Western intelligence agencies as attempts to conceal current WMD assets or operations.”

• Saddam feared that Americans or “Zionists” would use UN inspection teams to plant WMD evidence, and use this as an excuse for war. Saddam issued strict instructions to his agents that they were to closely watch the inspection teams. The United States, in turn, viewed this as an attempt to make sure that the teams did not find WMD.

• Prior to invasion, the United States initiated a psychological operations (“psyops”) campaign against Iraq. This included the use of dropped leaflets as well as “individually targeted messages directed at key military personnel.” The Iraqi regime viewed this with great alarm.

• Even when a coalition attack seemed imminent, Saddam’s primary concern was preventing internal revolt.

• The Iraqis expected the war to last as long as 6 months. As such, they stockpiled supplies at key locations. Much of this fell into the hands of insurgents after the initial invasion was over.

• There is no evidence to support the view that Iraqi leaders planned before the invasion to create an insurgency or a guerilla war.

• Although the Iraqis did have plans to destroy their oilfields, Saddam decided against doing so because he viewed them as a source of Iraq’s (and his) wealth.

• When Saddam finally realized that invasion was imminent, he “ordered what was essentially a raid on the Central Bank of Iraq” withdrawing one and one quarter billion dollars and euros. Saddam’s main concern was his personal survival.

My Take

This was the most fascinating chapter of the report. It also puts another nail in the coffin of the Bush Lied! claim. The report makes it quite clear that Saddam intentionally tried to make it appear that he had stockpiles of WMD.

Once it became clear that there were little or no stockpiles of WMD in Iraq, I started to wonder why, throughout the 1990s, Saddam had tried to make it appear that he had WMD so as to "look tough" in the eyes of both his countrymen and neighboring states. What I had not realized was that he was playing a dual game; trying to convince some that he had WMD and others that he did not.

That his policy failed should surprise no one. One's sympathy for Western intelligence analysts grows with the reading of every page of this document. "Does he or doesn't he?" they asked themselves. "What is he hiding?" Saddam's failure to come clean can only have appeared to them to be evidence that he was hiding something.

The analogy is simple; if you're a known criminal who, when confronted by a policeman, makes a quick move to grab something in your jacket, don't be surprised if you get shot. If it later turns out that you did not have a weapon, is it still not your fault?

So if a leader of a country tries to make some people believe that he has WMD, who's fault is it if they believe him?

Our intelligence agencies are not omnipotent. They do not have magical abilities to see all and know all. That most all of the world believed that Saddam had WMD was understandable because he tried to make some of them believe that he did.

Further, if Saddam could deceive members of his ruling circle, why could he not have deceived us? As I reported last week, even Iraq's last foreign minister believed his country had WMD.

I don't have the links handy, but I do clearly recall that one of the reports that looked at our intelligence failure concluded that the people in our agencies made honest mistakes. Far from deceiving or manipulating the evidence, they looked at what they had, took Saddam's past behavior into account, and concluded that he had stockpiles of WMD. I even recall what all the analyists said to the investigators; "in retrospect I now see that there was a different interpretation to the data." Hindsight is always 20/20.

One can see this clearly with the UN inspection teams. We took the Iraqi's close monitoring and interference with of the teams to be evidence that they were indeed hiding something. We knew we were dealing with a dictator, but how could we have known the depth of his paranoia?

Some will still claim that we believed what we wanted to believe. But given all that we know about Saddam's past behavior, and that he was wilfully trying to deceive at least some parties, this argument makes no sense.

None of this is to say that we do not need to revamp our intelligence agencies, or that President Bush should not have fired George Tenant in 2003; he should have. But that is the subject of another debate.

The evidence forces me to conclude that Saddam brought the invasion on himself.

Next up: Chapter VI - Doomed Execution