CIA activities in Iraq

CIA activities in Iraq

U.S. support of various Iraqi regimes was predicated upon the notion that Iraq was a key buffer state in geopolitical relations with the Soviet Union. A US-supported coup in 1963 ousted the Qassim government, which was believed to be leaning toward communism. There are U.S. court records indicating the CIA militarily and monetarily assisted Iraq during the Iran–Iraq War.[1] The Central Intelligence Agency also was involved in the failed 1996 coup against Saddam Hussein.[2][3]

Intelligence played an important and generally effective role in the 1990-1991 Gulf War, but was much more controversial with respect to justifying and planning the 2003 invasion of Iraq. See the appropriate chronological entries below.


Iraq 1959

According to Said Aburish, Saddam Hussein, as a minor Ba'ath party official, may well have been in contact with U.S. embassy personnel in Cairo, personnel who may have been CIA. "This is not strange, because alliances of convenience were taking place every day, and the United States was afraid that Iraq, under Qasim, might be going communist. So was the Ba'ath Party. So they had a common enemy, a common target -- the possibility of a communist take-over of Iraq... He was not terribly important. And he was really following in the footsteps of other people who are much more important.""[4] Both the Ba'ath and U.S. considered Kassem an enemy, so there were grounds for cooperation.

Roger Morris, a former National Security Council official who later became a journalist, states "The C.I.A.'s 'Health Alteration Committee,' as it was tactfully called, sent Qassim [Kassim in the article] a monogrammed, poisoned handkerchief, though the potentially lethal gift either failed to work or never reached it's victim."[5] Feb. 8, 1963, the conspirators staged a coup in Baghdad. For a time the government held out, but eventually Kassem gave up, and after a swift trial was shot; his body was later shown on Baghdad television. Washington immediately befriended the successor regime. "Almost certainly a gain for our side," Robert Komer, a National Security Council aide, wrote to President John F. Kennedy on the day of the takeover.

The poisoned handkerchief is mentioned in the Church Committee report.[6] The report included, "In February 1960, the Near East Division [of the Directorate of Plans (i.e., Clandestine Service)] sought the endorsement of what the Division Chief called the "Health Alteration Committee" for its proposal for a "special operation: to 'incapacitate' an Iraqi Colonel believed to be 'promoting Soviet bloc political interests in Iraq'." The Division sought the Committee's advice on a technique, "which while not likely to result in total disablement would be certain to prevent the target from pursuing his usual activities for a minimum of three months," adding: "We do not consciously seek subject's permanent removal from the scene; we also do not object should this complication develop." Memo, Acting Chief N.E. Division to DC/CI [organization code is unclear; CI is the usual abbreviation for counter-intelligence].

"In April, the [Health Alteration] Committee unanimously recommended to the DDP (Deputy Director for Plans, Richard Bissell)that a "disabling operation" be undertaken, noting that the Chief of Operations advised that it would be "highly desirable". Bissell's deputy, Tracy Barnes, approved the action on behalf of Bissell. (Memo. Deputy Chief CI to DDP. 4/l/62)

"The approved operation was to mail a monogrammed handkerchief containing an incapacitating agent to the colonel from an Asian country [i.e., country not yet named]. [James] Scheider [Science Advisor to Bissell] testified that, while he did not now recall the name of the recipient, he did remember mailing from the Asian country. during the period in question, a handkerchief "treated with some kind of material for the purpose of harassing that person who received it." (Scheider Affidavit. 10/20/75. pp. 52–56)

During the course of this Committee's investigation, the CIA stated that the handkerchief was "in fact never received (if, indeed, sent)." It added that the colonel: "Suffered a terminal illness before a firing squad in Baghdad (an event we had nothing to do with) after our handkerchief proposal was considered." (Memo from Chief of Operations, Near East Division to Assistant to the SA/DDO 10/26/75.)

Iraq 1963

In 1963, the United States backed a coup against the government of Iraq headed by General Qasim, who five years earlier had deposed the Western-allied Iraqi monarchy.

The way the U.S. assisted the 1963 Iraqi coup by Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party was financially. Writing in his memoirs of the 1963 coup, long time OSS and CIA intelligence analyst Harry Rositzke presented it as an example of one on which they had good intelligence in contrast to others that caught the agency by surprise. The Ba’ath overthrow “was forecast in exact detail by CIA agents.”

"Agents in the Ba’th Party headquarters in Baghdad had for years kept Washington au courant on the party’s personnel and organization, its secret communications and sources of funds, and its penetrations of military and civilian hierarchies in several countries… CIA sources were in a perfect position to follow each step of Ba’th preparations for the Iraqi coup, which focused on making contacts with military and civilian leaders in Baghdad. The CIA’s major source, in an ideal catbird seat, reported the exact time of the coup and provided a list of the new cabinet members. …To call an upcoming coup requires the CIA to have sources within the group of plotters. Yet, from a diplomatic point of view, having secret contacts with plotters implies at least unofficial complicity in the plot."[7]

“Unofficial complicity in the plot” indeed. The CIA would have paid a lot of money for this steady supply of information, especially because American planners had determined that the Ba’ath Party would be the best for U.S. policy in Iraq going forward in 1962.[8] Ed Kane was in charge of the Iraq Desk in Washington at the time of the coup.[9] Kane and Lakeland admitted that the CIA team led by Station Chief Art Callahan worked under cover in the Political Section of the Embassy at Baghdad in 1963.[10] The Iraqi Prime Minister Qassem was aware of the U.S. complicity in the plot before the coup and was continually railing against them publicly. The Department of State was worried that Qassem would harass American diplomats in Iraq because of this and so three days before the coup they cautioned the embassy against reacting lest, "Qasim might not proceed to length of expelling various officers of our missions, thus threatenting reduce "presence" which constitutes important US asset and possible disruption significant intelligence collecting operations."[11]

The best direct evidence that the U.S. was complicit is the memo from NSC staff member Bob Komer to President John F. Kennedy on the night of the coup, February 8, 1963. The last paragraph reads:

"We will make informal friendly noises as soon as we can find out whom to talk with, and ought to recognize as soon as we’re sure these guys are firmly in the saddle. CIA had excellent reports on the plotting, but I doubt either they or UK should claim much credit for it.[12]

This is consistent with Rositzke’s memoir that writes of the CIA having a “major source in an ideal catbird seat” and the "significant intelligence collecting operations" in the embassy. They would have had to pay money to Ba'athi plotters for this, but probably did not do too much more than fund the coup and this is why Komer wrote, “I doubt whether they [CIA] or UK [British Intelligence] should claim much credit for it.” They can claim some but not much credit for it. At least they helped fund it and gave assurances that the Ba’ath would be well received in Washington and as CIA analyst Harry Rositzke stated, they were "complicit in the plot."

This financial assistance was valuable, but equally encouraging to the Ba'ath were promises of early recognition and military support.[13] The CIA also provided the list of names of "communists" that the murderous Ba'ath used to gather up potential enemies and torture and kill about 5000 people in the days immediately following the coup.[14]

However, an alternative view can be made of Komer's memo to JFK. For instance, if the CIA had been complicit in the plot, why would Robert Komer, a senior NSC staffer and close presidential advisor on the Middle East, have needed to "find out whom to talk with"? If the CIA was behind this plot, they would have known precisely who to talk with. Documents show that the CIA was well aware of many plots within Iraq throughout 1962, not just the Ba'athist one. But by being aware of a plot does not mean complicity. Finally, the fact that Komer doubts whether the CIA or British should claim credit, is only further evidence that they knew of the plot's existence but also shows their lack of involvement. With respect to financing the plot, beyond anecdotal evidence of former CIA officers, there is no documentary evidence to support this conclusion. Financing covert operations requires a long paper trail and the typical documents needed to fund such an operation are not present in archival sources. Finally, they would require JFK's approval or knowledge of (ie. in the form of a memo or intelligence finding). The absence of these documents calls much of the above into question.

According to Roger Morris, CIA helped the new Ba'ath Party government in ridding the country of suspected leftists and Communists.[15] The Ba'athist government used lists of suspected Communists and other leftists provided by the CIA, to systematically murder opponents Iraq's educated elite—killings in which Saddam Hussein himself is said to have participated. The victims included hundreds of doctors, teachers, technicians, lawyers and other professionals as well as military and political figures.[5][16][17]

According to an op-ed in The New York Times, the U.S. sent arms to the new regime, weapons later used against the same Kurdish insurgents the U.S. supported against Qassim and then abandoned. American and UK oil and other interests, including Mobil, Bechtel and British Petroleum, were conducting business in Iraq.[4] [5] Aburish said the coup plotters offered technical intelligence to the US, in the form of certain models of MiG fighters and Soviet tanks.

Iraq 1968

The leader of the new Ba'athist government, Salam Arif, died in 1966 and his brother, Abdul Rahman Arif, not a Ba'athist, assumed the presidency.[15][18]

Iraq 1968, Ba'ath takes power

In 1968, some sources have alleged that the CIA backed the coup by Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr of the Baath Party,[19] although official CIA records do not indicate that it supported the coup.[20] David Wise, a Washington-based author who has written extensively about Cold War espionage, has disputed the notion that the CIA supported the 1968 coup, as has Middle East analyst James Phillips. According to a 2003 report by Common Dreams "many experts, including foreign affairs scholars, say there is little to suggest U.S. involvement in Iraq in the 1960s," although it is widely acknowledged that the CIA worked to destabilize the Qassem regime in the early part of the decade.[20] Robert Dreyfuss, in his book Devil's Game, maintains that the Johnson administration actually opposed the 1968 coup and used the Shah's Iran as a counterpoint to the Ba'athist regime it established. A 2006 study concluded that the CIA's alleged role in the coup "cannot be considered historical" in the absence of more compelling evidence.[21] The Church Committee and Pike Committee investigations did not find any evidence of CIA involvement in Iraq outside of a handful of plots against Qasim in the early sixties (Source???).

Iraq 1979

The United States allegedly gave Saddam Hussein the green light for attacking Iran. Then-Secretary of State Alexander Haig allegedly wrote:

"It was also interesting to confirm that President Carter gave the Iraqis a green light to launch the war against Iran through Prince Fahd" of Saudi Arabia." [22]

At the time of the Iran invasion, President Carter termed Iranian charges of U.S. complicity "patently false." In his memoir, Keeping Faith, he mentioned the Iranian allegation only obliquely in the context of mentioning the start of the war, writing: “Typically, the Iranians accused me of planning and supporting the invasion."[23] While Said K. Aburish has claimed that Hussein made a visit to Amman in the year 1979, before the Iran–Iraq War, where he met with King Hussein and, very possibly, three agents of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and that there is "considerable evidence that he discussed his plans to invade Iran with the CIA agents," the records of the meeting that occurred on this date between American officials and King Hussein suggest that Saddam himself was not present, that the border disputes between Baghdad and Tehran were not discussed, but that joint efforts between Jordan and the United States to oppose Iran were discussed.[24] Others have argued: "While the Europeans, Chinese and Russians sold Iraq weapons galore, the US alone did not. We even had a law proscribing the sale of weapons to Iraq. When attacking Iran in 1979 Iraq did not have a US made bullet in its arsenal."[25] Eric Alterman in The Nation has called the charge a “slander” and argued there is no credible evidence to back it up.[26] One argument against the alleged green light is: “In September 1980, the US did not even have diplomatic relations with Iraq, a state of affairs that had long been accompanied by a deep mutual hostility fostered by Iraq's chosen role as dependable Soviet client. Saddam surely thought the US—as the only power capable of stopping him—could hardly be expected to intervene in favor of Iran which was daily denouncing the US as the Great Satan and continuing to humiliate Carter by holding the embassy hostages. But that tacit acquiescence is the extent of any encouragement Saddam got from Carter of the US. One can subject the policy of a tilt toward Iraq to withering scrutiny and criticism, but it's more persuasive if one doesn't make stuff up in the process. And Jimmy had basically nothing to do with it. He was out before he had the chance.”[27]

That Iraq was the aggressor is also disputed. John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt argued in a paper titled "Can Saddam Be Contained? History Says Yes" that, as Iran took the first military action through its repeated cross-border attacks on Iraq, it was most responsible for starting the war. They went on to say that the war "was essentially defensive" rather than offensive. They noted: "...Given this history of animosity, it is not surprising that Saddam welcomed the Shah’s ouster in 1979. Indeed, Iraq went to considerable lengths to foster good relations with Iran’s revolutionary leadership. Saddam did not try to exploit the turmoil in Iran to gain strategic advantage over his neighbor and made no attempt to reverse his earlier concessions, even though Iran did not fully comply with the terms of the 1975 agreement. The Ayatollah Khomeini, on the other hand, was determined to extend his revolution across the Islamic world, starting with Iraq. By late 1979, Tehran was pushing hard to get the Kurdish and Shi’ite populations in Iraq to revolt and topple Saddam, and Iranian operatives were actively trying to assassinate senior Iraqi officials. Border clashes became increasingly frequent by April 1980, largely at Iran’s instigation. Facing a grave threat to his regime but aware that Iran’s military readiness had been temporarily disrupted by the revolution, Saddam launched a limited war against his bitter foe on September 22, 1980."[28] Dr. John David Lewis, senior research scholar in history and classics at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center, mocked the very idea that the war "was aggression by Saddam's Iraq" in an essay for Capitalism Magazine. He suggested that this was propaganda propagated by the Iranian government.[29] Jude Wanniski, in a piece pointing out that Iran launched the first military attacks (though Iraq was the first to declare war and invade), stated: "As for who started the war, you need only ask yourself why Saddam would take on a country three times the size of Iraq, 60 million to 20 million, without ever showing the slightest intent of carrying the fight to Tehran. When the escalating skirmishing grew into open war, the Iraqi army moved several dozen miles into Iran and stopped, seemingly ready to come to terms. It was the deranged Ayatollah Khomeini, who announced upon his return to Tehran from his exile in Paris, that Saddam Hussein was at the top of his list of enemies... and it was he who called upon his Shi'ite followers in Iraq to change the secular regime in Baghdad, replacing it with a fundamentalist regime that would make him happy."[30] Another essay noted that "most countries" agreed at the time to "label Iran as the aggressor" and that no one accused Iraq of aggression against Iran until after it invaded Kuwait. It pointed out that "Iraq had declared truces and ceasefires a few times, and on occasions unilaterally, hoping to end the war early...Finally in early 1988, Iraq sought to end the war through an escalation of the war effort. To achieve this, the Iraqis used chemical weapons on Halabja, recaptured the Fao peninsula and drove the Iranian forces out of Majnoon islands. Suddenly the Iraqis seemed "alive and rejuvenated" to continue the war effort when the Iranians seemed to have lost their initial zest. And when Iran accepted the UN Resolution 598 in July 1988, Iraq readily agreed to the ceasefire and abided to the resolution accordingly.....To Iran, the war was the main means of rallying popular support behind the regime. The sudden announcement by Tehran that it was accepting the ceasefire was greeted with astonishment in the outside world but a resigned bewilderment within Iran. In contrast to Iran's subdued reaction to the ceasefire, Iraq loudly praised this development."[31] Walt and Mearsheimer also quoted military analyst Efraim Karsh in their essay mentioned earlier as saying that "the war began because the weaker state, Iraq, attempted to resist the hegemonic aspirations of its stronger neighbor, Iran, to reshape the regional status quo according to its own image." Iran responded to Iraq's unilateral concessions in 1982 by invading Iraq and declaring "There are no conditions. The only condition is that the regime in Baghdad must fall and must be replaced by an Islamic Republic."[32]

Iraq 1980

Beginning in 1980, the CIA militarily and monetarily assisted Iraq during the Iran–Iraq War. This was the province of the South Asia Operations Group headed by Gust Avrakotos. Author George Crile, in his book Charlie Wilson's War, writes:

There was little the Agency could do directly against Khomeini. But indirectly it was doing tremendous damage by providing covert assistance to Saddam Hussein and the Iraqis for their bloody war with Iran. As explained by Ed Juchniewicz -- Avrakotos's patron and the number two man in the Operations Division at that time -- they were just leveling the playing field: "We didn't want either side to have the advantage. We just wanted them to kick the shit out of each other".[33]

This support continued until the end of the war in 1988

Iraq 1990

CIA stopped supporting Saddam Hussein with the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

Mohammed Abdullah Shawani's "saga illustrates a little-understood part of the Iraq story—the CIA's attempt to mobilize Iraqi officers. At the center was Shahwani, a Sunni from Mosul and a charismatic commander who made his reputation in 1984 with a helicopter assault on Iranian troops atop a mountain in Iraqi Kurdistan. His popularity made him dangerous to Saddam Hussein, and he was arrested and interrogated in 1989. He fled the country in May 1990, just before Iraq invaded Kuwait.[34]

On the US side, there was no single targeting organization for planning air campaigns at the theater level, as there is for the nuclear Single Integrated Operational Plan. "Targeting for the Gulf War air campaign encompassed the first modern joint effort to integrate and employ the joint services' air power. While generally perceived as a doctrinal and operational success, widespread parochialism between and within service components adversely affected air campaign planning, targeting, and execution."[35] "The national intelligence agencies are comprised of the Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency. Political and economic intelligence fall under the purview of the CIA. DIA provides all-source intelligence and operational support to unified commands, while NSA provides signals and electronic intelligence. Prior to 1990, no central authority existed to coordinate interagency target intelligence and combat assessments to support unified commands' operations.

"A critical shortfall that would impact the air campaign targeting for Operation DESERT STORM was the initial lack of a single focal point organization for providing interagency coordinated target intelligence and battle damage assessments. At the initiative of Rear Admiral "Mike" McConnell, JS-J2 [then Intelligence Director for the Joint Staff, now Director of National Intelligence], the National Military Joint Intelligence Center was established to act as a clearinghouse for all national-level intelligence support to CENTCOM. The NMJIC was manned by CIA, DIA, and NSA personnel with the intent to coordinate and pass all-source intelligence to CENTCOM J2. What actually happened was that these same organizations bypassed CENTCOM J2 and forwarded—via direct communications links—uncoordinated target intelligence to CENTAF. Resulting uncoordinated national intelligence efforts caused the emergence of conflicting and erroneous targeting data. This, in turn, would later lead to contradictory battle damage assessment reports that impaired CINCCENT's decision-making processes, causing a 3-day delay in the ground forces offensive.

Iraq 1991

CIA provided intelligence support to the military in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm.[36] In 1991, Shahwani began efforts to organize a military coup utilizing former members of the special forces, which Hussein had disbanded.[34]

Iraq 1992

A 1992 CIA map of southeastern Iraq with oilfields, airfields, and other strategic locations identified.

After the Gulf War, CIA took steps to correct the shortcomings identified during the Gulf War and improve its support to the US military, beginning improved communications with major US military commands. In 1992, CIA created the Office of Military Affairs (OMA) to enhance cooperation and increase information flow between the CIA and the military. OMA is subordinate to the Associate Director of Central Intelligence for Military Support and is jointly staffed by CIA officers from all directorates and military personnel from all the services.[36]

According to former U.S. intelligence officials, the CIA orchestrated a bomb and sabotage campaign between 1992 and 1995 in Iraq via one of the resistance organizations, Iyad Allawi, leader the Iraqi National Accord, was installed as prime minister by the U.S.-led coalition after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. According to the Iraqi government at the time, and former CIA officer Robert Baer, the bombing campaign against Baghdad included both government and civilian targets[citation needed]. The campaign had no apparent effect in toppling Saddam Hussein's rule.

According to this former CIA official, the civilian targets included a movie theater and a bombing of a school bus and schoolchildren were killed. No public records of the secret bombing campaign are known to exist, and the former U.S. officials said their recollections were in many cases sketchy, and in some cases contradictory. "But whether the bombings actually killed any civilians could not be confirmed because, as a former CIA official said, the United States had no significant intelligence sources in Iraq then."[37]

Iraq 1993

Funding Kurdish organizations,[38] the CIA worked to create a new Kurdish-led intelligence agency in Iraq called Asayesh (Kurdish for "security").[39]

Iraq 1994

U.S. and Iraqi sources provided an account of the unsuccessful strategy of deposing Saddam by a coup d'état during the 1990s, an effort reportedly known within CIA by the cryptonym "DBACHILLES" . The failed coup efforts carry some important lessons. They show that Iraqi intelligence penetrated the Iraqi exile-based operations. And they illustrate the damage caused by a long-running feud between Iraqi exile groups and their patrons in Washington. A media-based report follows.[40]

According to the Washington Post,[41] the CIA appointed a new head of its Near East Division, Stephen Richter, who assumed that large parts of the Iraqi army might support a coup. A team met with Gen. Mohammed Abdullah Shawani,[34] a former commander of Iraqi Special Forces, and a Turkmen from Mosul. As the CIA was drafting its plans, the British encouraged the agency to contact an experienced Iraqi exile named Ayad Alawi, who headed a network of current and former Iraqi military officers and Ba'ath Party operatives known as wifaq, the Arabic word for "trust."

Iraq 1995

The AFIO notes that an Iraqi source says that by late 1995, some of Shawani's and Alawi's operatives were already controlled by Iraqi intelligence).[40]

The CIA was attempting two coups, the wifaq and a similar effort in northern Iraq by Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress; an officer sent to Iraq to coordinate the efforts had no success. Chalabi launched his coup attempt in March 1995, but it was unsuccessful.

Iraq 1996

The CIA was involved in the failed 1996 coup against Saddam Hussein.

Chalabi was convinced that the military-coup plan had been compromised and traveled to Washington in March 1996 to see the new CIA director, John Deutch, and his deputy, George Tenet. He told them the Iraqis had captured an Egyptian courier who was carrying an Inmarsat satellite phone to Shawani's sons in Baghdad. When the CIA officials seemed unconvinced, Chalabi then went to his friend Richard Perle. Perle is said to have called Tenet and urged that an outside committee review the Iraq situation.

But the coup planning went ahead. DBACHILLES succeeded in reaching a number of senior Iraqi military officers, but was compromised and collapsed in June 1996. The Iraqis began arresting the coup plotters on June 26. At least 200 officers were seized and more than 80 were executed, including Shawani's sons. Top CIA officials reportedly blamed Chalabi for exposing the plot, and the recrimination has persisted ever since.

As a follow-on to the coup plotting, in the run-up to, and during the invasion, both Alawi and Shawani played important roles in the US/UK effort to encourage Iraqi officers to surrender or defect. It did not quite work out that way. The Iraqi military did not defect or surrender, they just went home.[40]

Also in 1996, Amneh al-Khadami, who described himself as the chief bomb maker for the Iraqi National Accord, recorded a videotape in which he talked of the bombing campaign and complained that he was being shortchanged money and supplies. Two former intelligence officers confirmed the existence of the videotape. Mr. Khadami said that "we blew up a car, and we were supposed to get $2,000" but got only $1,000, as reported in 1997 by the British newspaper The Independent, which had obtained a copy of the videotape.[37]

The campaign was directed by Dr. Iyad Allawi,[42] later installed as interim prime minister by the U.S.-led coalition that invaded Iraq in 2003.

Iraq 2002

CIA Special Activities Division paramilitary teams were the first teams in Iraq arriving in July 2002. Once on the ground they prepared the battle space for the subsequent arrival of US military forces. SAD teams then combined with US Army Special Forces (on a team called the Northern Iraq Liaison Element or NILE).[43] This team organized the Kurdish Peshmerga for the subsequent US-led invasion. They combined to defeat Ansar al-Islam, an ally of Al-Qaeda. If this battle had not been as successful as it was, there would have been a considerable hostile force behind the US/Kurdish force in the subsequent assault on Saddam's Army. The US side was carried out by Paramilitary Operations Officers from SAD/SOG and the Army's 10th Special Forces Group.[43][44][45]

SAD teams also conducted high risk special reconnaissance missions behind Iraqi lines to identify senior leadership targets. These missions led to the initial strikes against Saddam Hussein and his key generals. Although the initial strike against Hussein was unsuccessful in killing the dictator, it was successful in effectively ending his ability to command and control his forces. Other strikes against key generals were successful and significantly degraded the command's ability to react to and maneuver against the US-led invasion force.[43][46]

NATO member Turkey refused to allow its territory to be used by the US Army's 4th Infantry Division for the invasion. As a result, the SAD, US Army Special Forces joint teams and the Kurdish Peshmerga were the entire northern force against Saddam's Army during the invasion. Their efforts kept the 1st and 5th Corps of the Iraqi Army in place to defend against the Kurds rather than their moving to contest the coalition force coming from the south. This combined US Special Operations and Kurdish force soundly defeated Saddam's Army, a major military success, similar to the victory over the Taliban in Afghanistan.[43] Four members of the SAD/SOG team received CIA's rare Intelligence Star for their "heroic actions".[47]

Iraq 2003

U.S. intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction(WMD) had been the focus of intense scrutiny in the U.S. See CIA activities in the Near East, North Africa, South and Southwest Asia#Iraq 2004 for after-the-fact analysis of this threat. Successive chronological entries deal with the resistance in Iraq.

Richard Kerr, a 32-year CIA veteran who served three years as deputy director for intelligence, was commissioned to lead a review of agency analysis of Iraqi WMD claims, and produced a series of reports, one of which is unclassified.[48] Kerr told journalist Robert Dreyfuss that CIA analysts felt intimidated by the Bush administration, saying, "A lot of analysts believed that they were being pressured to come to certain conclusions … . I talked to a lot of people who said, 'There was a lot of repetitive questioning. We were being asked to justify what we were saying again and again.' There were certainly people who felt they were being pushed beyond the evidence they had."[49] In a January 26, 2006 interview, Kerr acknowledged this had resulted in open antagonism between some in the CIA and the Bush White House, saying, "There have been more leaks and discussions outside what I would consider to be the appropriate level than I've ever seen before. And I think that lack of discipline is a real problem. I don't think an intelligence organization can kind of take up arms against politics, or a policy-maker. I think that will not work, and it won't stand."[50]

Evidence against Iraq having a WMD program included information from CIA officer Valerie Plame, who, in a July 14, 2003 The Washington Post newspaper column by Robert Novak, was identified publicly as "an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction." Plame's husband, Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV had been sent by CIA to the African nation of Niger to investigate claims that Iraq intended to purchase uranium yellowcake from that country, which was incorporated in President George W. Bush's 2003 State of the Union address to support waging a preventive war against Iraq. See Iraq 2007 investigations for the aftermath of this claims and disclosures about them.

Kenneth Pollack, a former National Security Council expert on Iraq, who generally supported the use of force to remove Saddam Hussein,[51] told Seymour Hersh that what the Bush administration did was

"... dismantle the existing filtering process that for fifty years had been preventing the policymakers from getting bad information. They created stovepipes to get the information they wanted directly to the top leadership.... They always had information to back up their public claims, but it was often very bad information," Pollack said.[52]

Some of the information used to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq came from a discredited informant codenamed "Curveball" by CIA, who falsely claimed that he had worked as a chemical engineer at a plant that manufactured mobile biological weapon laboratories as part of an Iraqi weapons of mass destruction program. Despite warnings to CIA from the German Federal Intelligence Service regarding the authenticity of his claims, they were incorporated into President Bush's 2003 State of the Union address and Colin Powell's subsequent presentation to the UN Security Council.[53][54]

Iraq 2004

In 2004, the lack of finding WMD, the continuing armed resistance against the U.S. military occupation of Iraq, and the widely-perceived need for a systematic review of the respective roles of the CIA, the FBI, and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

On July 9, 2004, the Senate Report of Pre-war Intelligence on Iraq of the Senate Intelligence Committee reported that the CIA exaggerated the danger presented by weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, largely unsupported by the available intelligence.[55]

New Iraqi intelligence forms

In February 2004,[34] the new Iraqi National Intelligence Service, or INIS, was established in February 2004 "as a nonsectarian force that would recruit its officers and agents from all of Iraq's religious communities. Its chief, Gen. Mohammed Shahwani, is a Sunni from Mosul. He is married to a Shiite and his deputy is a Kurd. Shahwani, a commander of Iraqi special forces during the Iran–Iraq War, has worked closely with the CIA for more than a decade -- first in trying to topple Saddam Hussein, then in trying to build an effective intelligence organization."

There is a competing intelligence service "called the Ministry of Security, was created last year under the direction of Sheerwan al-Waeli. He is a former colonel in the Iraqi army who served in Nasiriyah under the old regime. He is said to have received training in Iran and to be maintaining regular liaison with Iranian and Syrian intelligence officers in Baghdad. His service, like Shahwani's organization, has about 5,000 officers."

The CIA had hoped that Shahwani's INIS could be an effective national force and a deterrent to Iranian meddling. To mount effective operations against the Iranians, Shahwani recruited the chief of the Iran branch of the Saddam Hussein-era Mukhabarat. That made the Iranians and their Shiite allies nervous.

Shahwani's operatives discovered in 2004 that the Iranians had a hit list, drawn from an old Defense Ministry payroll document that identified the names and home addresses of senior officers who served under the former regime. Shahwani himself was among those targeted for assassination by the Iranians. To date, about 140 officers in the INIS have been killed.[34]

Though many in Maliki's government regard Shahwani with suspicion, his supporters say he has tried to remain independent of the sectarian battles in Iraq. He has provided intelligence that has led to the capture of several senior al-Qaeda operatives, according to U.S. sources, as well as regular intelligence about the Sunni insurgency. Several months ago, Shahwani informed Maliki of an assassination plot by a bodyguard who secretly worked for Shiite militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr. Shahwani's service uncovered a similar plot to assassinate Iraq's deputy prime minister, Barham Salih, a Kurd.

"Shahwani's coup plans suffered a setback in June 1996, when the Mukhabarat killed 85 of his operatives, including three of his sons. But he continued plotting over the next seven years, and on the eve of the American invasion in March 2003, Shahwani and his CIA supporters were still hoping to organize an uprising among the Iraqi military. Shahwani's secret Iraqi network was known as "77 Alpha," and later as "the Scorpions."

"The Pentagon was wary of the Iraqi uprising plan, so it was shelved, but Shahwani encouraged his network in the Iraqi military not to fight—in the expectation that the soldiers would be well treated after the American victory. Then came the disastrous decision in May 2003 by L. Paul Bremer#L. Paul "Jerry" Bremer and the Coalition Provisional Authority to disband the Iraqi military and cut off its pay. The rest, as they say, is history.

"Instead of the one good intelligence service it needs, Iraq today has two—one pro-Iranian, the other anti-Iranian. That's a measure of where the country is: caught between feuding sects and feuding neighbors, with a superpower ally that can't seem to help its friends or stop its enemies.[34]

Abu Ghraib

Also in 2004, reports of Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse surfaced. In the subsequent investigation by MG Antonio Taguba, he stated "I find that contrary to the provision of AR 190-8, and the findings found in MG Ryder's Report, Military Intelligence (MI) interrogators and Other US Government Agency's (OGA) interrogators actively requested that MP guards set physical and mental conditions for favorable interrogation of witnesses." OGA is a common euphemism for the CIA. Further, "The various detention facilities operated by the 800th MP Brigade have routinely held persons brought to them by Other Government Agencies (OGAs) without accounting for them, knowing their identities, or even the reason for their detention. The Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center (JIDC) at Abu Ghraib called these detainees "ghost detainees." On at least one occasion, the 320th MP Battalion at Abu Ghraib held a handful of "ghost detainees" (6-8) for OGAs that they moved around within the facility to hide them from a visiting International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) survey team. This maneuver was deceptive, contrary to Army Doctrine, and in violation of international law."[56]

At the Abu Ghraib prison, while CIA interrogator Mark Swanner was supervising a prisoner named Manadel al-Jamadi, the prisoner died.[57] Apparently, al-Jamadi was suspended from his wrists until he choked to death. Swanner was not charged with any crime.

Iraq 2006

Tyler Drumheller, a 26-year CIA veteran and former head of covert operations in Europe, told CBS News 60 Minutes correspondent Ed Bradley in an April 23, 2006 interview that there was widespread disbelief within the agency about the Bush administration's public claims regarding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. According to Drumheller, the CIA had penetrated Saddam Hussein's inner circle in the fall of 2002, and this high-level source told CIA "they had no active weapons of mass destruction program." Asked by Bradley about the apparent contradiction with Bush administration statements regarding Iraqi WMDs at that time, Drumheller said, "The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming. And they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy, to justify the policy."[58]

Iraq 2007

As of June 2007, "Shahwani is now in the United States. Unless he receives assurances of support from Maliki's government, he is likely to resign, which would plunge the INIS into turmoil and could bring about its collapse.[34]

Iraq 2007 investigations

The disclosure of Mrs. Wilson's then-still-classified covert CIA identity as "Valerie Plame" led to a grand jury investigation and the subsequent indictment and conviction of Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, Lewis Libby, on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements to federal investigators.[59]


  1. ^ Statement by former NSC official Howard Teicher to the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida. Plain text version
  2. ^ Exclusive: Saddam key in early CIA plot -
  3. ^ Galbraith, Peter W. (August 31, 2006). "The true Iraq appeasers". The Boston Globe. 
  4. ^ a b Aburish, Said K., "secrets of his [Saddam Hussein life and leadership: an interview"], PBS Frontline, 
  5. ^ a b c Morris, Roger (March 14, 2003), "Remember: Saddam was our man. A Tyrant 40 Years in the Making", New York Times, 
  6. ^ Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (20 November 1975), "C. Institutionalizing Assassination: the "Executive Action" capability", Alleged Assassination Plots involving Foreign Leaders, p. 181, 
  7. ^ Harry Rositzke, The CIA’s Secret Operations: Espionage, Counterespionage, and Covert Action (Boulder, CO: 1977), 109-110.
  8. ^ United States, Department of State, Nina J. Noring and Glenn W. LaFantasie eds. Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963, vol. XVII: Near East 1961-1962, 364-365.
  9. ^ Ibid, 14.
  10. ^ Ibid, 49.
  11. ^ Kennedy Library, "Telegram from Department of State to Embassy Baghdad of February 5, 1963," National Security Files, Countries, Box 117, Iraq 1/63-2/63.
  12. ^ JFK Library, Memorandum for The President from Robert W. Komer, February 8, 1963 (JFK, NSF, Countries, Iraq, Box 117, "Iraq 1/63-2/63", document 18), p. 1.
  13. ^ Ibid, 59-60.
  14. ^ Zeman, 56-57.
  15. ^ a b Morris, Roger (June 26, 2007), "THE GATES INHERITANCE, Part 2: Great games and famous victories", Asia Times, 
  16. ^ Batatu, Hanna (1978), The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq, Princeton University Press 
  17. ^ Sluglett, Peter and Farouk-Sluglett, Marion (1990), Iraq Since 1958, I.B. Taurus 
  18. ^ Morgan, David (April 20, 2003), "Ex-U.S. Official Says CIA Aided Ba'athists, CIA offers no comment on Iraq coup allegations", Reuters, 
  19. ^ Aburish, Said K. "Saddam Hussein, The Politics of Revenge". PBS Frontline. 
  20. ^ a b
  21. ^ William J. Zeman, "U.S. Covert Intervention in Iraq 1958-1963: The Origins of U.S. Supported Regime Change in Modern Iraq," (Thesis (M.A.)--California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Dept. of History, 2006).
  22. ^ In These Times, December 16, 2003, "Missing U.S.-Iraq History" by Robert Parry, including links to web postings of Haig's talking points,
  23. ^
  24. ^ Timmerman, Kenneth R. The Death Lobby: How the West Armed Iraq. New York, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^ Wright, Robin (1989). In the Name of God: The Khomeini Decade. Simon and Schuster. p. 126.
  33. ^ George Crile, "Charlie Wilson's War", 2003, Grove Press, p. 275
  34. ^ a b c d e f g Ignatius, David (June 14, 2007), "A Sectarian Spy Duel In Baghdad", Washington Post, 
  35. ^ Christian, Mark C.; Dillard, James E. (6 January 2000), "Why we need a National Joint Targeting Center", Air & Space Power Journal - Chronicles Online Journal, 
  36. ^ a b CIA Support to the US Military During the Persian Gulf War, 16 June 1997, 
  37. ^ a b Joel Brinkley (2004-06-09), "Ex-C.I.A. Aides Say Iraq Leader Helped Agency in 90's Attacks", The New York Times,, retrieved 2007-04-15 
  38. ^ Taylor, Scott (June 14), "A detour with Kurdish secret police", Halifax Herald, 
  39. ^ Miller, Judith (January 3, 1993), "Iraq Accused: A Case of Genocide", New York Times, [dead link]
  40. ^ a b c Association of Former Intelligence Officers (19 May 2003), US Coup Plotting in Iraq, Weekly Intelligence Notes 19-03, 
  41. ^ Ignatius, David (May 16, 2003), "The CIA And the Coup That Wasn't", Washington Post 
  42. ^ Wurmser, David (November 12, 1997), "Iraq Needs a Revolution", Wall Street Journal,,filter.all/pub_detail.asp 
  43. ^ a b c d Plan of Attack, Bob Woodward, Simon and Shuster, 2004.
  44. ^ Tucker, Mike; Charles Faddis (2008), Operation Hotel California: The Clandestine War inside Iraq, The Lyons Press, ISBN 9781599213668 
  45. ^ An interview on public radio with the author
  46. ^ Behind lines, an unseen war, Faye Bowers, Christian Science Monitor, April 2003.
  47. ^ Operation Hotel California: The Clandestine War inside Iraq, Mike Tucker, Charles Faddis, 2008, The Lyons Press |isbn=9781599213668
  48. ^ Richard Kerr, Thomas Wolfe, Rebecca Donegan, and Aris Pappas. "Issues for the US Intelligence Community: Collection and Analysis on Iraq". Central Intelligence Agency Center for the Study of Intelligence. Retrieved 2008-03-01. 
  49. ^ Dreyfuss, Robert (2006-05-08). "The Yes Man". The American Prospect. Retrieved 2008-03-01. 
  50. ^ "PBS:FRONTLINE The Dark Side". Public Broadcasting System. 2006-01-25. Retrieved 2008-03-01. 
  51. ^ Pollack, Kenneth (2002), The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq, Random House, ISBN 0375509283 
  52. ^ Hersh, Seymour M. (2003-10-27). "The Stovepipe: How conflicts between the Bush Administration and the intelligence community marred the reporting on Iraq's weapons". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2007-10-06. 
  53. ^ "The Record on CURVEBALL: Declassified Documents and Key Participants Show the Importance of Phony Intelligence in the Origins of the Iraq War". National Security Archive, The George Washington University. 2007-11-07. Retrieved 2008-04-17. 
  54. ^ Drogin, Bob (Spring, 2008). "Determining the Reliability of a Key CIA Source". Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. Archived from the original on 2008-04-21. Retrieved 2008-04-16. 
  55. ^ Jehl, Douglas (July 9, 2004), "Report Says Key Assertions Leading to War Were Wrong", New York Times,, retrieved 2007-04-15 [dead link]
  56. ^ Taguba, Antonio (May 2004), Article 15-6 Investigation of the 800th Military Police Brigade (also called the Taguba report), 
  57. ^ "Reports detail Abu Ghraib prison death; was it torture?". Associated Press. February 17, 2005. 
  58. ^ "A Spy Speaks Out - Former Top CIA Official On "Faulty" Intelligence Claims", CBS News "60 Minutes", 2006-04-23,, retrieved 2007-10-06 
  59. ^ Janet Maslin (2007-10-22), Her Identity Revealed, Her Story Expurgated, The New York Times, 

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