lligence from sourcesinside the American military command as the U.S. mounted the invasion of
Iraq, and the Russians fed information to
Saddam Hussein on troop movements and plans, according to Iraqi documents
cited in a
Pentagon report released Friday.
The Russians relayed information to Saddam during the opening days of the
war in late March and early April 2003, including a crucial time before the
ground assault on Baghdad, according to the documents.
The unclassified report does not assess the value of the information or
provide details beyond citing two captured Iraqi documents that say the
Russians collected information from sources “inside the American Central
Command” and that battlefield intelligence was provided to Saddam through
the Russian ambassador in Baghdad.
A classified version of the Pentagon report, titled “Iraqi Perspectives
Project,” is not being made public.
In Moscow, a duty officer with Russia’s Foreign Ministry declined to
comment on the report late Friday. No one answered the phones at the
A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Barry Venable, referred inquiries seeking
comment to Central Command. At Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla.,
officials did not immediately respond to a request.
State Department spokesman Adam Ereli declined to comment.
In addition to citing the Iraqi documents on the matter of Russian
intelligence, the report also directly asserted that an intelligence link
“Significantly, the regime was also receiving intelligence from the
Russians that fed suspicions that the attack out of Kuwait was merely a
diversion,” the report’s authors wrote. They cited as an example a document
that was sent to Saddam on March 24, 2003, and captured by the U.S.
military after Baghdad fell.
The report said the Iraqi document was titled, “Letter from Russian
official to presidential secretary concerning American intentions in Iraq.”
The Iraqi document said, “The information that the Russians have collected
from their sources inside the American Central Command in Doha is that the
United States is convinced that occupying Iraqi cities are impossible,” and
that as a result the U.S. military would avoid urban combat.
“The strategy is to isolate Iraq from its western borders,” the document
Central Command’s war-fighting headquarters is at an encampment in the
desert just outside Doha, Qatar.
The lead author of the Pentagon report, Kevin Woods, told reporters at a
briefing that he was surprised to learn that the Russians had passed
intelligence to Saddam, and he said he had no reason to doubt the
authenticity of the Iraqi documents.
“But I don’t have any other knowledge of that topic,” Woods added,
referring to the Russian link.
Brig. Gen. Anthony Cucolo, who appeared with Woods and also was closely
involved in the project, said he believed such a link reflected a long-
standing close economic relationship between Moscow and Baghdad.
“I don’t see it as an aberration,” Cucolo said. “I see it as a follow-on to
economic engagement and economic interests.”
In the end, one piece of Russian intelligence actually contributed to an
important U.S. military deception effort. By telling Saddam that the main
attack on Baghdad would not begin until the Army’s 4th Infantry Division
arrived around April 15, the Russians reinforced an impression that U.S.
commanders were trying to catch the Iraqis by surprise.
The attack on Baghdad began well before the 4th Infantry arrived, and the
government collapsed quickly.
As originally planned by Gen. Tommy Franks, the Central Command chief who
ran the war, the 4th Infantry was to attack into northern Iraq from Turkey,
but the Turkish government refused to go along. Meanwhile the 4th
Infantry’s tanks and other equipment remained on ships in the eastern
Mediterranean for weeks – a problem that Franks sought to turn into an
advantage by attacking Baghdad without them.
Based on a captured Iraqi document – a memo to Saddam from his Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, dated April 2 – Russian intelligence reported through its
ambassador that the American forces were moving to cut off Baghdad from the
south, east and north, with the heaviest concentration of troops in the
Karbala area. It said the Americans had 12,000 troops in the area, along
with 1,000 vehicles.
Indeed, Karbala was a major step on the U.S. invasion route along the
Euphrates River to Baghdad. A key bridge over the Euphrates, near Karbala,
was seized on April 2, permitting U.S. forces to approach Baghdad from the
southwest before Iraq could move sufficient forces from the north.
The Pentagon report also said the Russians told the Iraqis that the
Americans planned to concentrate on bombing in and around Baghdad, cutting
the road to
Syria and Jordan and creating enough confusion to force residents to flee.
The Pentagon report, designed to help U.S. officials understand in
hindsight how Saddam and his military commanders prepared for and fought
the war, paints a picture of an Iraqi government blind to the threat it
faced, hampered by Saddam’s inept military leadership and deceived by its
“The largest contributing factor to the complete defeat of Iraq’s military
forces was the continued interference by Saddam,” the report said.