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[casi] U.S. Recruiting Hussein's Spies

Dear List Members,

The following important piece - which appeared in yesterday's Washington
Post - contains further information about a story first reported in the New
York Times last month (U.S. Said to Seek Help of Ex-Iraqi Spies on Iran, 21

The WP article reports that 'U.S.-led occupation authorities have begun a
covert campaign to recruit and train agents with the once-dreaded Iraqi
intelligence service to help identify resistance to American forces.' This
move, which the Post describes as 'extraordinary' is taking place 'despite
sometimes adamant objections by members of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi
Governing Council.'

US officials acknowledge the 'sensitivity' of cooperating with a force that
'embodied the ruthlessness of Hussein's rule' and was 'renowned across the
Arab world for its casual use of torture, fear, intimidation, rape and
imprisonment' but claim that 'an urgent need for better and more precise
intelligence has forced unusual compromises.' [Christopher Simpson's book
'Blowback: America's Recruitment of Nazis and its effects on the Cold War'
details one earlier precedent for such 'unusual compromises.']

The 'emphasis' in recruitment (which US officials descibe as 'extensive')
'appears to be on the intelligence service known as the Mukhabarat... whose
name itself inspired fear in ordinary Iraqis' though the Post claims that
'it is not the only target for the U.S. effort.' The Post also reports
claims that at least one member of 'the dreaded fifth section ... was sent
to the United States for training last month.'

Shorter versions of this story appear in today's Guardian and Independent
(and possibly elsewhere).

Best wishes,

voices uk

U.S. Recruiting Hussein's Spies
Occupation Forces Hope Covert Campaign Will Help Identify Resistance

By Anthony Shadid and Daniel Williams
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, August 24, 2003; Page A01

BAGHDAD, Aug. 23 -- U.S.-led occupation authorities have begun a covert
campaign to recruit and train agents with the once-dreaded Iraqi
intelligence service to help identify resistance to American forces here
after months of increasingly sophisticated attacks and bombings, according
to U.S. and Iraqi officials.

The extraordinary move to recruit agents of former president Saddam
Hussein's security services underscores a growing recognition among U.S.
officials that American military forces -- already stretched thin -- cannot
alone prevent attacks like the devastating truck bombing of the U.N.
headquarters this past week, the officials said.

Authorities have stepped up the recruitment over the past two weeks, one
senior U.S. official said, despite sometimes adamant objections by members
of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, who complain that they have
too little control over the pool of recruits. While U.S. officials
acknowledge the sensitivity of cooperating with a force that embodied the
ruthlessness of Hussein's rule, they assert that an urgent need for better
and more precise intelligence has forced unusual compromises.

"The only way you can combat terrorism is through intelligence," the senior
official said. "It's the only way you're going to stop these people from
doing what they're doing." He added: "Without Iraqi input, that's not going
to work."

Officials are reluctant to disclose how many former agents have been
recruited since the effort began. But Iraqi officials say they number
anywhere from dozens to a few hundred, and U.S. officials acknowledge that
the recruitment is extensive.

"We're reaching out very widely," said one official with the U.S.-led
administration, who like most spoke on condition of anonymity because of
sensitivity over questions of intelligence and sources.

Added a Western diplomat: "There is an obvious evolution in American
thinking. First the police are reconstituted, then the army. It is logical
that intelligence officials from the regime would also be recruited."

Officials say the first line of intelligence-gathering remains the Iraqi
police, who number 6,500 in Baghdad and 33,000 nationwide. But that force is
hampered in intelligence work by a lack of credibility with a disenchanted
public, and its numbers remain far below what U.S. officials say they need
to bring order to an unruly capital. Across Iraq, walk-in informers have
provided tips on weapons caches and locations of suspected guerrillas, but
many Iraqis dismiss those reports as haphazard and sometimes motivated by a
desire for personal gain.

The emphasis in recruitment appears to be on the intelligence service known
as the Mukhabarat, one of four branches in Hussein's former security
service, although it is not the only target for the U.S. effort. The
Mukhabarat, whose name itself inspired fear in ordinary Iraqis, was the
foreign intelligence service, the most sophisticated of the four. Within
that service, officials have reached out to agents who once were assigned to
Syria and Iran, Iraqi officials and former intelligence agents say.

For years, U.S. relations with both Syria and Iran have remained tense and,
if anything, have deteriorated since American forces overthrew Hussein's
government on April 9. Once-vigilantly patrolled borders stretching hundreds
of miles are remarkably porous, and L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. civilian
administrator of Iraq, has openly accused Syria of allowing foreign fighters
to enter Iraq. A senior American official said those fighters inside Iraq,
mainly from Saudi Arabia and Syria, number between 100 and 200.
The emphasis on intelligence mirrors a decision earlier this month by Lt.
Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of U.S. ground forces, to minimize large
military sweeps to the north and west of Baghdad. Launched in June and July,
the sweeps rounded up hundreds of Iraqis, but angered residents who
complained of mistreatment, arbitrary arrests and humiliation at the hands
of U.S. soldiers.

Sanchez and others have suggested that the anger caused by those raids could
bolster the support for guerrillas, who are thought to number in the
thousands, mainly in the Sunni Muslim-dominated regions that provided
Hussein much of his support.
The guerrilla tactics have grown in sophistication over the four months of
the occupation. But U.S. officials said the guerrillas remain decentralized,
with no sign yet of national coordination. In the view of Bremer, a former
counterterrorism specialist, and other U.S. officials, their amorphous
nature makes them harder to stamp out, and makes more pressing the need for
intelligence to pinpoint raids and create the possibility of infiltrating
the groups.

"The expectation is that we're going to have to fight it out," one senior
official said.

The official said it might require 500,000 U.S. troops, perhaps far more, to
secure every potential target in the country -- an unlikely prospect, given
that many U.S. allies are balking at the prospect of sending more soldiers,
especially without a U.N. mandate. The United States has 132,000 troops in
the country, and there are 17,000 other soldiers, the majority of them
"The key is to try to stay ahead of this game and prevent it from
happening," the senior official said.

At a news conference today, Bremer repeatedly stressed the need for better
intelligence, saying that U.S. authorities were "constantly working to
refine and upgrade our intelligence capabilities."

The goal, he said, was "to find and, if necessary, kill as many of them as
possible before they find and kill us."
Hussein's security forces were a suffocating presence in Iraq and still cast
a long shadow.

Of the four security branches, the Mukhabarat was the best-treated and often
supplied agents for the other branches. The largest was internal security,
known as Amn al-Amm, which focused on domestic intelligence. The third was
special security, which protected government officials. These three answered
to the presidency. Only military intelligence was nominally independent of
Hussein's inner circle and operated within the Defense Ministry. The Baath
Party, with membership in the millions, provided a check of sorts, with its
almost endless network of informers in every town and village.

Within the Mukhabarat, former intelligence officers say, the branches
dedicated to Iran, Israel and, during the 1990s, the United Nations were the
most important. One officer, a 23-year veteran who spied on the United
Nations, said about 100 agents worked on Iran, between 75 and 100 on the
United Nations and 50 each on Israel and Syria, in addition to their
networks and contacts.
Earlier this summer, Bremer dissolved those services, along with the
information and defense ministries. But Wafiq Samarrai, a former military
intelligence chief who went into exile in 1995 and retains contacts, said
U.S. officials were seeking to reconstitute them in some form. "They are
trying to rebuild it very quietly," he said.

One officer, who was not contacted by the Americans, said he believed that
about 300 people were being recruited. Adil Abdul Mahdi, the director of the
political bureau for the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq,
one of the groups taking part in the Governing Council, said his
organization has a list of almost 20 names of recruited officers from the
dreaded Fifth Section, an organ inside military intelligence that focused on
Iran. He said his group believed that at least one of those agents was sent
to the United States for training last month. An official with the U.S.-led
administration said he was not aware of agents having been sent to the
United States.

While not disclosing how they check the operatives, U.S. officials said they
believed some agents remained "fairly untainted" by Hussein's government.
But they said they recognized the potential pitfalls in relying on an
instrument loathed by most Iraqis and renowned across the Arab world for its
casual use of torture, fear, intimidation, rape and imprisonment.

"We have to be very careful in how we vet them, in how we go through their
backgrounds," the senior American official said. "We don't want to put a
cancer right in the middle of this."

Another official called the recruitment part of an ongoing struggle between
principle and what he called the practical needs of the occupation.
"Pragmatically, those are people who are potentially very useful because
they have access to information, so you have to compromise on that," he
said. "What we need to do is make sure they are indeed aware of the error of
their ways."

While many Iraqi officials say they are aware of the recruitment, some have
spoken against the use of former operatives, and others have warned against
reconstituting an intelligence service before an independent Iraqi
government takes charge. Former exiles who cooperated with the Americans
were trailed by Iraqi intelligence for years, and among them the issue is
particularly sensitive. "We've always criticized the procedure of recruiting
from the old regime's officers. We think it is a mistake," Mahdi said.
"We've told them you have some bad people in your security apparatus."

The objections come in the context of a struggle between Bremer and the
Governing Council over the degree of Iraqi control over the security
services. Bremer said today that despite Iraqi objections, security will
remain in the hands of U.S. forces. But many Iraqis, both former operatives
and U.S.-allied officials, are dismissive of the U.S. ability to run
intelligence inside the country. They say U.S. officials lack the means to
recruit effective networks and are overwhelmed with information of dubious

"There's a difference between how we perceive things and how they react,"
said one council member. "There's no quick response to intelligence. The
Americans have huge quantities of it, most of it nonsense. They have no
means of distinguishing."

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