Intelligence Bulletin #2

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 12 months ago

The Intelligence Bulletin is an aggregation and commentary series, and this is the second entry in that series.

Intelligence Bulletin #2 covers the following subjects: [1] victories and violence in Sunni areas, [2] Baghdad security operations: promise and problems, [3] Iraq awash in munitions, [4] distributed operations and snipers on the roof tops, [5] HUMINT and information warfare in Iraq, [6] update on Austrian sniper rifles in Iraq, [7] U.S. military preparedness degraded (special ops to grow?), [8] hard times at Walter Reed and the VA, [9] U.S. funding Iranian insurgency, and [10] update on international legal war against the CIA.

Victories and Violence in Sunni Areas

There is indication that AQI — and those who have chosen to align with them — may be wearing out their welcome in Iraq.  On Wednesday there was significant combat action near Fallujah, and the remarkable thing about this action was that it didn’t involve U.S. forces.

Iraqi security forces killed dozens of al Qaeda militants who attacked a village in western Anbar province on Wednesday, during fierce clashes that lasted much of the day, police officials said on Thursday …

Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul Karim Khalaf said foreign Arabs and Afghans were among some 80 militants killed and 50 captured in the clashes in Amiriyat al Falluja, an Anbar village where local tribes had opposed al Qaeda.

A police official in the area, Ahmed al-Falluji, put the number of militants killed at 70, with three police officers killed. There was no immediate verification of the numbers.

A U.S. military spokesman in the nearby city of Falluja, Major Jeff Pool, said U.S. forces were not involved in the battle but had received reports from Iraqi police that it lasted most of Wednesday. He could not confirm the number killed.

Another police source in Falluja put the figure at dozens.

“Because it was so many killed we can’t give an exact number for the death toll,” the police source told Reuters.

Witnesses said dozens of al Qaeda members attacked the village, prompting residents to flee and seek help from Iraqi security forces, who sent in police and soldiers.

Stars and Stripes gives us a similar recent report on population involvement in defeating the insurgency in the Sunni town of Hawijah.  It is so significant that large portions are reproduced below.

… even for a city with a “roughneck? reputation, the insurgent attack on Feb. 14 was ambitious.

Insurgents targeted five locations in the city and an American base nearby, destroying an Iraqi police station in the process.

“It was the first time we had seen such a large attack,? said 1st Lt. Gerald Lozauskas of the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry. “Hawijah is violent, to say the least, but usually it’s very simple attacks. (Insurgents) were trying to take back the city.?

The assault backfired, U.S. military leaders said. Residents of Hawijah, who had been ardently anti-American, turned on the insurgents, to the shock of American forces.

“I have never seen anything like that before,? said 1st Lt. Nathanael Joslyn.

Hawijah is overshadowed in most ways by the more prosperous and strategically important Kurdish-led enclave of Kirkuk, about 43 miles to the northeast. But Hawijah has outstripped its neighbor in one dubious respect: the number of American casualties. The Hawaii-based 2-27 has lost 12 soldiers in seven months.

Lt. Col. Drew Meyerowich, the unit’s commander, has shaped many of the changes in Hawijah. But even for a commander who exudes tough assertiveness and confidence, there were moments when he wondered if the town was beyond repair.

“You begin to question almost immediately once you start losing soldiers if you will ever see success,? he said.

Hawijah is almost exclusively Sunni Arab, the ousted ruling class of the former regime, and residents took their fall from grace hard.

“The people were bitter,? Meyerowich said. “We were seen as occupiers.?

U.S. officials estimate coalition forces saw somewhere between 70 to 80 roadside bombs a month.

“There was a general mistrust,? Lozauskas said. “The city was such a hotbed.? Because of that, U.S. soldiers did a lot of “kicking in doors and tossing houses? when they first arrived.

But they shifted tactics and emphasized intelligence operations and humanitarian aid to win over residents. Residents received food and fuel along with messages that troops were there to help.

“That’s how this war has to be fought,? Lozauskas said. U.S. leaders also pushed the Iraqi army to take a more active role, stationing them on McHenry. The collaboration has not always been easy.

“All a U.S. soldier knows is to take the lead, take charge,? Lozauskas said. “It’s hard to understand that Iraqis need to be in the lead.?

Slowly results trickled in. Attacks once directed at U.S. troops shifted toward the Iraqis. Whether or not insurgents believed in the viability of the Iraqi army, it was clear that U.S. forces were determined to have them share the risks of policing Hawijah.

The culmination was a drive for police recruits that attracted more than 400 men, more than double the number expected.

Apparently, insurgents also had taken notice. The recruiting drive took place on Feb. 14.

When the first wave of attacks occurred that day, the would-be police officers had already left for the training academy in Kirkuk. “The insurgents didn’t know that,? Lozauskas said.

The article goes on to describe the battle scene, and then observes:

Their havoc complete, the insurgents began to melt away. Three attackers fled by car west out of the city with a U.S. helicopter close behind. A mile outside the city, they continued by foot and ran for the reeds.

The helicopter pilots later reported that while in pursuit, they noticed a crowd of 20 to 30 Iraqis gathering. Some men in the crowd had taken their shirts off and waved them in the air to attract the attention of the aircraft.

The crowd, their arms extended in unison, pointed to the reeds. Not content to just point out the men, however, the crowd took matters into their own hands. Armed with only sticks and their fists, they went after the insurgents and managed to drag one of the fugitives out, while the other two slipped away.

The crowd clubbed and tied the man until American forces arrived to take custody.

Rich Lowry’s ‘Pentagon Intel Guy’ notes the transition occurring in Anbar:

The recent bombings in ANBAR demonstrate red on red kinetic operations. Something which has been rare until the last few months. More and more Sunni tribes are pledging fealty to the Iraqi government and the Coalition and turning their back on the insurgents/AQI. This has caused them to be targeted.

We have seen the enemy bomb police recruitment drives, and now mosques of “apostate” Imams and Sheikhs who have sided with the Americans. This has happened twice in the last week. While the mainstream media considers this more proof of failure- it is actually a sign of the precarious position the terrorists are in. They need the Sunni population to protect them and shelter them. If they are now butchering them like everyone else- this could be a turning point in the relationship. This is crucial to watch. We need to protect the tribal leaders who have come over to us- and AQI knows that it is a death sentence for them if they can’t stop it.

Since the battle in Sunni areas is one for the heart and soul of Iraq by AQI and AAS, just as we have observed in the past, there will be an increase in the terror and brutality against the Sunnis who have aligned with the government, since brutality is the primary weapon of AQI.  There has also been an increase in U.S. casualties over the past couple of months, attributable directly to the end-battle with AQI.

So there are positive aspects to the operations in Anbar, but AQI is still in existence and will fight furiously for survival.  In Ramadi, there are still snipers everywhere, and Anbar is still the most dangerous place on earth.

Baghdad Security Operations: Promise and Problems

There has previously been action taken against the Sadrists, but no concerted effort to clear the Shi’ite neighborhoods of the rogue elements.  This is all changing.  The Baghdad security plan shifts into fourth gear in the coming weeks, targeting not only AQI, but Sadr City as well.

U.S. and Iraqi troops will soon launch a major sweep in the Shi’ite militia bastion of Sadr City, military officials said on Thursday, a pivotal moment for the make-or-break security crackdown in Baghdad.

American-led forces have conducted targeted raids in the Mehdi Army militia stronghold of anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr aimed at death squad leaders, but have so far held off from a concerted push into the teeming slum.

In the new campaign, U.S. and Iraqi troops will set up joint checkpoints in Sadr City and conduct large-scale door-to-door operations on houses and buildings, a significant escalation in a plan regarded as the last chance to avert sectarian civil war …

“We have conducted special operations in Sadr City for some months but this will be the first time we will launch full-scale operations there and the first time we will have a permanent presence there,” said Colonel Billy Don Farris, coalition forces commander for Sadr City and Adhamiya neighborhoods.

“There will be no sanctuaries in Iraq. We are going to go to every building and every house and incrementally clear the area. We will target any group that attacks Iraqi and U.S. troops,” he told Reuters.

But this is still primarily a U.S. operation.  Many of the Iraqi troops deployed to Baghdad are no-shows, and the some of the ones who have shown up are Kurds who face a language and culture barrier.  Ralph Peters has a slightly optimistic but still sober assessment of the current Baghdad situation.  But here at TCJ, we believe that the most important question remaining to be answered is not whether temporary security can be brought to Baghdad.  With enough effort Baghdad can be pacified.  The real question is whether it will remain this way after “the surge,” and in order to answer that question, we must first answer the question “will Sadr be allowed to return?”  If the answer is “no,” then permanent security may result from these operations, assuming that the Sunni insurgency is quieted.  If the answer is “yes,” then in our assessment it is a strategic blunder of epic proportions to continue to expend American lives and resources to pacify Baghdad.  If Sadr returns, the ethnic purging will continue when the U.S. stands down and the surge has ended.  After that, Iraq will be tightly allied to Iran and thus the U.S. will not have Iraq as an ally in the global war on terror.  This result is not worth another American life.

Iraq Awash in Munitions

Within the past couple of weeks, the Multi-National Force web site has focused a dizzying amount of attention on weapons caches, including (but not limited to) the following six press releases:

This is of course partially a result of the increased kinetic action as part of the security plan.  But the weapons, in addition to being shipped in from Syria and Iran, were there under the previous regime.

Four years after the Iraq war began, the country remains awash in Saddam-era munitions that provide key ingredients for homemade bombs used against U.S. troops, according to administration documents and military officials.

More than $1 billion has been spent to clear about 15,000 sites of the unsecured weapons. To clear the remaining 3,391 sites, the Pentagon says it needs part of a $1.2 billion request for items to protect U.S. troops in Iraq …

More than 400,000 tons of weapons have been destroyed, and another 19,000 tons have been set aside for the Iraqi army, he said.

“There’s no telling how many soldiers and Iraqi civilians that we’ve saved by the amount of stuff we’re taking off the streets,” Sargent said.

In yet another reminder of the effects of inadequate force size, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and former Army officer, said there weren’t enough U.S. troops in Iraq to destroy the weapons.  Here at TCJ we agree with that assessment.

This is why the Small Wars Manual recommends increasing force size until no longer necessary and disarming the population, counsel that wasn’t followed after OIF1.

Distributed Operations and Snipers on the Roof Tops

We have been a proponent of the robust use of non-conventional assets in the counterinsurgency in Iraq, and this is not intended to point to the use of Special Operations Forces.  In Snipers Having Tragic Success Against U.S. Troops and Unleash the Snipers! (where it was recommended that Marines use their rifle skills as snipers, augmenting or adding to the teams of snipers) we proposed a method for addressing the sniper threat in Anbar that should be seen in the light of a recent entry at the Strategy Page on distributed operations:

SOCOM (Special Operations Command), the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps are trying to come up with a working version of “distributed operations.” What they are looking for is a way to let many small (from 10-30) groups of infantry operate out of sight (and thus mutual support of) each other. This is nothing new. It’s actually an ancient practice, and the troops doing it have come to be called “light infantry.” That term has also come to mean infantry who don’t operate out of armored vehicles, but just ignore that one for now. Classic light infantry were used to harass the enemy, or just keep an eye on the opposing troops. Light infantry were just that, light, and not capable of standing up to the advance of regular infantry.

Ever since the 1920s, generals have tried to develop a modern version of classic light infantry, one that could use distant artillery, or warplanes overhead, to handle just about anything. By the 1960s, the concept finally found a way to work, in the form of elite recon or Special Forces troops. These small teams (usually less than dozen men) had radios and knew how to call in air or artillery strikes. These guys also knew how to stay out of sight, and evade contact with enemy troops. This last skill was essential, even more so than it always has been for light infantry.

While SOCOM has lots of troops who can do this sort of thing, the marines and the army do not, and they want to change that. The marines and the army do have long range recon units, who can handle this modern “light infantry” sort of thing, but the LRRP (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol) troops are not supposed to be calling in firepower, but mainly collecting information. The problem with training more modern light infantry is just that, it requires lots of additional skills. That takes more time, and only a fraction of current infantry could absorb all those new skills. That’s why there are so few Special Forces and LRRP troops.

This kind of thinking is seen as risky partly because it is, but also because it does not comport with the doctrine of force protection.  But rather than see the danger in this type of tactic, we recommend seeing it as crucial to the success of OIF.  In fact, it is being currently implemented in the Baghdad security plan by the use of snipers:

While some areas of Baghdad are calm, house-to-house searching and deadly attacks continue in others. American forces conducted several raids in Baghdad al-Jadida. In the Sha’ab area, IEDs are a particular danger, even though the US is patrolling for them. US forces have stationed snipers on many buildings in the area.

Distributed operations.  Just so. 

HUMINT and Information Warfare in Iraq

The Guardian and Aljazeera published the same report several days ago, where a bomb was alleged to have killed eighteen children at a playground.  Here at TCJ, we saw this story as being dubious from the beginning for reasons to lengthy to detail here.  As it turns out, Stars and Stripes (and other news outlets) gives us the real story behind this incident:

RAMADI, Iraq — When it comes to the fog of war, things don’t get any clearer when viewed through the Internet’s deadline-a-minute news cycle. At least that’s the conclusion some may draw from a recent blizzard of confusing reports on an explosion in Ramadi’s violent downtown Tuesday evening.

One widespread report — that 16 children were killed by a car bomb while playing soccer in downtown Ramadi — was offered up by Iraqi police sources and local tribal leaders. According the U.S. military, it is entirely false.

While insurgents have repeatedly used car bombs to kill Ramadi officials and civilians (15 people, mostly adults, died in a car bomb blast Monday), the U.S. military said no car bombings occurred in southeast Ramadi at the time of the reported soccer field bombing.

What did happen, they said, was that 31 men, women and children were injured when U.S. bomb disposal technicians conducted a “controlled detonation? of seized explosives and propane tanks and misjudged the size of the blast. The blast occurred around 5:30 p.m., and all but one of the injured were civilians.

“The blast was much larger than expected, shattering glass in surrounding buildings and injuring the civilians,? a U.S. news release read. The victims were struck by flying glass and debris; none of the injuries appeared to be life threatening.

Despite the fact that no soccer field bombing occurred, media across the globe seized on the story. Both the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times carried quotes from the offices of President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki condemning the bombing. Maliki blamed “criminal gangs? for the “crime against children in their innocent playgrounds.?

At best, the confusion was the result of simple coincidence. Tuesday’s controlled blast by U.S. forces occurred after the discovery of a dump truck containing explosives. Experts disabled the truck bomb and searched for more ordnance, discovering 15 rice bags filled with a substance that appeared to be explosives as well as a dozen propane tanks.

The story is important not just because of its own merit, but also in that it shows that information warfare is occurring in Iraq.  This specific example is the first tier, but there is a higher tier that is even more important, and it involves human intelligence.  At a recent symposium on Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict, the following viewpoint was expressed:

ARLINGTON, Va., Feb. 28, 2007 – The United States should approach the global war on terrorism as it would an insurgency, a senior military official said today at the 18th annual Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict Symposium here.

“If we look at is as terrorism, we have a tendency to think that the solution is to kill or capture all the terrorists. That’s a never-ending process,? Army Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, undersecretary of defense for intelligence and warfighting support, said.

“We’ll never be successful, we’ll never get there, if we think that’s the primary solution,? he said. “But if we approach it from the perspective of an insurgency, we use the seven elements of national power.?

The general defined the seven elements of national power as diplomacy, military, economy, finance, law enforcement, information and intelligence. Focusing on the latter two elements in a keynote speech here, Boykin first discussed the shortcomings of the U.S.’s information capability.

“In the information age,? he said, “information should be something we’re good at, … and I do not believe that to be the case.

For the Defense Department, human intelligence is “much broader than clandestine operations,? Boykin said. “Interrogations and debriefings, the things our attaches do, two guys in a spider hole putting eyes on a target is human intelligence? …

Boykin said the Defense Department has been working “hand in glove with the CIA? on rebuilding DoD’s HUMINT capabilities. “Now that we’re in an insurgency, there’s nothing more important than human intelligence,? he said. “We need to leverage every HUMINT capability.

Here at TCJ we agree wholeheartedly with this opinion.  HUMINT — and the means to develop it — was eviscerated in the Clinton years, and rebuilding it has been difficult.  The article cited above goes on to argue for the centralization of HUMINT resources, a position that we do not necessarily advocate.  But we do concur with the need for resourcing and cooperation in order to maximize the value of the information upon which we act.  We especially like the notion of “two guys in a spider whole putting eyes on a target” as being the best intelligence.

Update on Austrian Sniper Rifles in Iraq

In Intelligence Bulletin #1, we covered the issue of the Austrian sniper rifles, eight hundred of them, ordered by Iran, with one hundred of them said to be recently captured inside Iraq.  We are still following this story, but it is noteworthy that IraqSlogger has posted an article questioning the accuracy of the report (perhaps to the point of excoriating the Telegraph article).  We believe that IraqSlogger was too hard on the Telegraph, and may not be privy to the evidence they possess or sources they use.  However, more significant in our opinion is the interesting Stratfor article on the same subject, amended with the following editorial note at the beginning of the article:

Editor’s Note: In our ongoing investigation of the presence of Steyr HS.50 sniper rifles in Iraq, we have been unable to confirm an initial report that any of the specific weapons referred to in the following analysis have, in fact, turned up in the country. We will continue to examine this issue.

One source indicates to me that the number of rifles captured (at one hundred) is likely highly inflated.  We will continue to follow this story and report on what we learn.

U.S. Military Readiness Degraded

We have earlier noted that a confluence of things has caused a degradation in the military readiness and the ability to conduct concurrent campaigns, including (what we believe to be) over-commitments of troops and resources in the Far East and Europe, and the effect of more than four years of warfare in the Middle East on men, morale and equipment.  The so-called “surge” has had troubling ramifications for men and equipment as shown by recent testimony before the Congress:

Boosting U.S. troop levels in Iraq by 21,500 would create major logistical hurdles for the Army and Marine Corps, which are short thousands of vehicles, armor kits and other equipment needed to supply the extra forces, U.S. officials said.

The increase would also further degrade the readiness of U.S.-based ground forces, hampering their ability to respond quickly, fully trained and well equipped in the case of other military contingencies around the world and increasing the risk of U.S. casualties, according to Army and Marine Corps leaders.

“The response would be slower than we might like, we would not have all of the equipment sets that ordinarily would be the case, and there is certainly risk associated with that,? the Marine Corps commandant, Gen. James Conway, told the House Armed Services Committee last week.

President Bush’s plan to send five additional U.S. combat brigades into Iraq has left the Army and Marines scrambling to ensure that the troops could be supported with the necessary armored vehicles, jamming devices, radios and other gear, as well as lodging and other logistics.

Trucks are in particularly short supply. For example, the Army would need 1,500 specially outfitted — known as “up-armored? — 2 1/2 -ton and five-ton trucks in Iraq for the incoming units, said Lt. Gen. Stephen Speakes, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for force development.

“We don’t have the [armor] kits, and we don’t have the trucks,? Speakes said in an interview. He said it will take the Army months, probably until summer, to supply and outfit the additional trucks. As a result, he said, combat units flowing into Iraq would have to share the trucks assigned to units now there, leading to increased use and maintenance.

General Peter Pace has made it even clearer that the warfighting capability of the U.S. armed forces is eroding:

Strained by the demands of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a significant risk that the U.S. military won’t be able to quickly and fully respond to yet another crisis, according to a new report to Congress.

The assessment, done by the nation’s top military officer, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, represents a worsening from a year ago, when that risk was rated as moderate.

The report is classified, but on Monday senior defense officials, speaking on condition on anonymity, confirmed the decline in overall military readiness. And a report that accompanied Pace’s review concluded that while the Pentagon is working to improve its warfighting abilities, it “may take several years to reduce risk to acceptable levels.”

Pace’s report comes as the U.S. is increasing its forces in Iraq to quell escalating violence in Baghdad. And top military officials have consistently acknowledged that the repeated and lengthy deployments are straining the Army, Marine Corps and reserve forces and taking a heavy toll on critical warfighting equipment.

The review grades the military’s ability to meet the demands of the nation’s military strategy — which would include fighting the wars as well as being able to respond to any potential outbreaks in places such as North Korea, Iran, Lebanon, Cuba or China.

The debacle concerning readiness didn’t come about ex nihilo.  It has been years in the making.  As stated by one officer,

The politicians mentally went to war with the Army built by Reagan when in actuality they went to war with the Army which was decimated by Bush 41/Clinton.

More here.  Also, concerning special operations, Major Cliff Gilmore sends us notification of the first aniversary of Marines special forces, and sends us to the MARSOC web site.  In an attempt to elicit a reaction, several years ago we asked a marine if there were marine special operations, and he replied, “sir, we are special.”  Indeed.  Major Gilmore has worked hard to convince us of the rationale for MARSOC, while we still politely question whether the idea of recon that has to be “attached” to a unit really comports with the doctrine of the self-contained expeditionary force that trains together.  But Major Gilmore reminds us that there is a difference between “special,” and “specialized.”  Major Gilmore informs us that the work has paid dividends, and there are currently small units of Marine special ops already deployed and active.

Concerning special operations, there is expected to be a growth in the size of special operations in the future.  But Michael Fumento has a good reality-check of this idea, and his article is recommended reading.

Hard Times at Walter Reed and the VA

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was troubled by reports a few weeks ago concering out-patient care of wounded veterans, and the threats started:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Friday branded the outpatient care of U.S. troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan “unacceptable” and promised officials would be held accountable for the failings.

The Bush administration has scrambled to address problems at the flagship Walter Reed Army Medical Center after newspaper reports showed wounded troops were living in shoddy conditions and struggling with bureaucratic procedures.

“After the facts are established, those responsible for having allowed this unacceptable situation to develop will indeed be held accountable,” Gates said on a visit to the hospital, making his first public comments on the issue.

The stunning and troubling exposé done by Bob Woodruff on traumatic brain injury — and the lack of readiness to deal with out-patient care even at this late date — probably didn’t help matters.  It appears that when Bob Gates threatens, he is not merely engaging in chest-pounding.  The head of Walter Reed Medical Center has been sacked:

The Army on Thursday fired the general in charge of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, saying he was the wrong person to fix embarrassing failures in the treatment of war-injured soldiers that have soiled the institution’s reputation as a first-class hospital.

Less than a week after Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Walter Reed and said those responsible would be “held accountable,” the Army announced it had relieved Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman of command. He is a physician who had headed the hospital for only six months.

In defense of Weightman, six months is probably not long enough to get the lay of the land, and the Woodruff story on TBI showed the hard work by Walter Reed, as opposed to the awful state of affairs with out-patient care back home after discharge by Walter Reed.  It doesn’t matter now: Weightman is sacked.  And for the foreseeable future, there will likely be some blood-letting at Walter Reed and the VA.  On the issue of out-patient care of veterans suffering from TBI, there is absolutely no excuse for loss of paperwork with veterans sitting at home unable to get care.  None.  Look for a very much needed revamping of the procedures and protocol for out-patient care.

U.S. Funding Iranian Insurgency

As we discussed in The Covert War with Iran, there is significant Iranian activity inside of Iraq, and currently Iran is actively recruiting Shi’ite elements in Iraq for their insurgency.

Iran has recruited its own network of Iraqi Shi’ite extremists to use armor-piercing weapons against U.S. and coalition forces rather than against Sunni rivals, current and former intelligence officials say.

The secretive Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has circumvented Shi’ite organizations like the Mehdi Army to enlist individual militants and train them in the use of explosively formed penetrators, the officials said.

The weapons, known as EFPs, have killed 170 U.S.-led coalition troops, according to the Pentagon. U.S. officials have said these weapons have come into greater use over the past year.

“The purpose appears not to be to shore up Iran’s political partners in Iraq against the Sunnis, but to cause problems for American troops,” said a former intelligence official who closely monitors events in the Middle East.

There may be dual motives in the Iranian-fueled insurgency.  Continuing:

Some experts believe Iran has supplied traceable weapons to show the United States what ground troops might face in any military intervention.

“Tensions between these two countries have escalated dramatically since 2003, and everybody has suspected for a long time that Iraq could become a battlefield,” said Vali Nasr, Middle East expert at the Naval Postgraduate School.

“I’m sure these (munitions) have been used to let it be known that the Iranians have these capabilities in Iraq.”

Added an intelligence source: “They could be saying, ‘This is the merest taste of what you would face if you came across the border or bombed us or knocked out our nuclear reactors’.”

Iran is under pressure to abandon enrichment activities that Washington believes are aimed at developing nuclear arms, a charge Tehran denies. Bush has said repeatedly the United States is not planning a war and the administration this week opened the door to dialogue with Iran and Syria over Iraq.

But combative U.S. rhetoric and America’s military build-up in the Gulf have fueled worries about a U.S. attack.

Others believe the increasing use of EFPs may be linked to Tehran’s suspicions of covert U.S. and British operations inside Iran, where tensions among minority Arabs, Kurds and others have led to violence.

Former intelligence officials who monitor the Middle East said a covert Pentagon operation set up by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld used ethnic separatists as U.S. proxies in Iran.

“Incidents, particularly among the Arab minority inside Iran, have caused the Iranians some problems,” said one former official. “Speculation is that this is their tit-for-tat.”

Seymour Hersh has recently reported that the U.S. is funding radical Sunni groups to counter the Shi’ite groups backed by Iran (note that Hersh routinely writes without sourcing his articles, and we question the main thesis of this one).  When asked whether the Shi’ite police in Iraq were being trained, Hersh responded:

Well — the Shia police, no. Here’s the wonderful irony of it, of course, is that after 9/11, after we invaded Iraq, the neoconservatives in Washington wanted nothing to do with the Baathist party — that’s Saddam’s party, most of them were Sunnis — disbanded the Baathist party, disbanded the military — a lot of Sunnis, a lot of Shia in the military, too, of course — and threw in our weight with the Shia.

Within months, the American intelligence community was raising a lot of questions internally. I was talking to people about this by the late spring of ’03. They were trying to tell the White House: you guys are making a big mistake, because Iran is the big winner of this war, particularly when we began to see signs of the insurgency, and the Shia are going to support Iran. The Shia are going to go with the Shia of Iran over you.

And the neocon mantra — there had been a war between Iran and Iraq for eight years during the 1980s, a very, very devastating war, thousands killed in any one set-piece battle. They would just rush each other. And the assumption of the neoconservatives was that the Iraqi Shiites, having fought the Iranian Shiites for so long and so brutally, would be loyal to Iraq.

Well, it turned out the Shia tie, particularly when the occupation began and the American troops began, like all occupiers, became hated, I don’t think there was much we could do. We certainly — our activities and the bombing and the violence didn’t help, but no matter how we behave, occupiers historically are always hated. And so, once that happened, and we became — the Americans became essentially the 200-octane fuel that drove the resistance, once that began, the Shiite immediately began to work with the Iranians much more. And all of this was ignored by the White House for years, because it didn’t fit in with their preconceptions.

We thoroughly disagree with Hersh’s absurd description of the U.S. as the “200-octane fuel that drove the resistance,” and it seems that Hersch is as biased as he accuses the “neocons” of being.  Furthermore, there have been serious questions raised as to the journalistic merit of Hersh’s article.  But it is of interest that the American IC saw this early on — or at least, so says Hersh.  If true, this is one more way in which proper planning for the war after the war was not done, adding to the already long list including IEDs, the sniper threat, the lack of State Department involvement in Iraq reconstruction, and the lack of troop size to provide a blanket of security in Iraq so that politics could have a chance to take root.

Update on International Legal War Against the CIA

In Intelligence Bulletin #1 we covered the legal action against CIA agents in both Germany and Italy, the wet blanket that this type of thing throws over the international intelligence community, and the possibility that extradition of these agents would be requested.  As a brief followup to this, it should be noted that recent indications are that the “war” against the CIA might be active in the legal communities but not in the seats of power.

The United States will refuse any Italian extradition request for CIA agents indicted in the alleged abduction of an Egyptian cleric in Milan, a senior U.S. official said Wednesday.

“We’ve not got an extradition request from Italy. If we got an extradition request from Italy, we would not extradite U.S. officials to Italy,” John Bellinger, legal adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, told journalists after meeting legal advisers to EU governments.

Milan prosecutors want the Italian government to forward to Washington their request for the extradition of the 26 Americans, mostly CIA agents. The previous government of Silvio Berlusconi refused, and Premier Romano Prodi’s center-left government has indicated it would not press Washington on the issue.

The 26 are accused in the abduction of Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr from a Milan street in 2003.

Nasr allegedly was taken to Aviano Air Base near Venice, Ramstein Air Base in southern Germany, and then to Egypt, where he was held for four years and, according to his lawyer, tortured. He has been freed by an Egyptian court that ruled his detention was “unfounded.”

In a newspaper interview earlier this month, Justice Minister Clemente Mastella suggested the government would not seek the Americans’ extradition, saying that the friendship with Washington needed to be safeguarded.

The decision on whether or not to forward an extradition request would normally be made by the Justice Ministry. But in this case, Mastella has said the decision will be made by the whole government because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Still holding true, however, is our earlier observation that the careers of the CIA agents in question essentially become straight-jacketed.  They cannot enter countries that have extradition treaties with the Italy.  It is one thing for Italy not to force extradition from the U.S.; it is entirely another for the rest of the world.

  • Michael Fumento

    Seymour Hersh over the decades has proved extremely reliable. If he says there’s not a cloud in the sky, you can be sure of the need for an umbrella!

  • Dave N.

    It’s good to see that some of the political energy opposing the war on terror may be channeled into investigating and improving the long-troubled VA. Losing veterans’ paperwork is terrible; sadly, it’s not a new error (or tactic?). I recall there was a fire back in the 1950’s in a St. Louis military medical records archive, that conveniently destroyed the records of many veterans.

    The VA should come clean by having a non-partial (i.e. conducted by an outside group) census taken of all living US veterans, and surviving spouses of deceased veterans. They should be asked things like:

    Before and during their discharge process, were they ever in any way intimidated or warned against making any service-related medical claims?

    Were they ever offered any service-related medical claim compensations or “deals” that turned out to have short-changed them, compared with what they were legally entitled to?

    Were they able to obtain competent legal representation for any service-connected medical claim case they brought? Is there anything in the Code of Federal Regulations, regarding compensation of lawyers representing veterans presenting claims to the VA, that would tend to make it difficult for disabled veterans to find such representation?

    That would be just a start. The results of such a census of veterans might be pretty shocking to the country. I wouldn’t hold my breath. Even a Congress that wants to puff about improving the VA probably wouldn’t dare to look into it too deeply.

    It’s one thing to fire people who have only been working with the VA for a short time. It’s another thing entirely, to really dig down and discover the structural and organizational reasons for why the veterans have problems with the VA. For some of those reasons, Congress needs to look no farther than the laws, regulations, budgets, and systems they themselves have created over many decades.

  • http://W mark

    The new Clinton bill calls for a pre evaluation of soldiers before deployment. The Regimental Surgeon of the U.S. Marines in Iraq, Dr.Manuel Tanguma has already devised a plan of evaluating and fitting soldiers with a medical device proven to help prevent concussion in the NFL. MGH and Harvard professor Dr. Jeffery Shaefer suggests an MRI confirmation of an orthopedic TMJ/TMD therapy will greatly benefit the troops. The forces on the helmet chin strap in football have been found to be identical to those causing the rash of mtbi in our soldiers. Last week a confirmation from Walter Reed medical center, confirmed the project was put on the back burner because of their extensive managerial problems. This, proven procedure, will help our soldiers, for more information supporting this developing story contact or go to

You are currently reading "Intelligence Bulletin #2", entry #474 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Department of Defense,Intelligence Bulletin,Iran,Iraq and was published March 2nd, 2007 by Herschel Smith.

If you're interested in what else the The Captain's Journal has to say, you might try thumbing through the archives and visiting the main index, or; perhaps you would like to learn more about TCJ.

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