Newly released documents reveal how already by 1999 Saddam & Co were producing easy to use improvised explosive devices — IEDs.
Among the Iraqi documents released to the public, at least five deal with the construction of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). One such document (CMPC-2003-005914) is a ten-page worksheet.* The first two pages are entitled, “Annual Plan for the Mechanical Workshop, Sheen-27 — 1999”; the last eight are entitled “First Season Report of the Sheen-27 Work Plan for 1999.” The report of the CIA’s Iraq Survey Group explains that “Sheen-27” was a section of the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) responsible for producing explosives. It had a Chemistry Department, which “developed the explosive materials for the device,” an Electronics Department, “which prepared the timers and wiring of the IED,” and a Mechanical Department, which “produced the igniters and designed the IED.”
The Annual Plans of “Sheen 27” for Producing and
In the period of this report (the “First Season” of 1999**), Sheen-27 produced twenty bombs, “varied in their type and their detonation devices,” and it developed “innovative ways of arming them,” among other tasks. These bombs went to Saddam’s Fedayeen and to two other sections of Iraqi intelligence: M-40, the directorate dealing with the Iraqi opposition, including in Iraqi Kurdistan, and M-5, whose responsibility was counter-intelligence. It also trained representatives of those organizations on how to use these bombs (Sheen-27 had a training unit.)
Another Sheen-27 document (CMPC-2003-005935) from November 1999 details plans to improve bomb-making skills in 2000. A study is to be done on the epoxy used in making the IEDs to find an alternative that does not affect them and research is to be conducted on materials that increase the power of an explosion. This document also deals with training and calls for “preparing theoretical and practical lessons on popular [shaabi, literally, ‘of the people’] bombs.” Presumably, these IEDs were designed to be relatively easy to use. And it proposes “training Arab Fedayeen as part of the plan for 2000” (“Saddam’s Fedayeen” are Iraqis; the “Arab Fedayeen” come from other countries.)
This document is consistent with Stephen Hayes’ report that other documents (which have not yet been released) reveal that in 1998, Iraq began training 2,000 Arab Islamic terrorists a year and that this training continued through 2002. It is also consistent with what U.S. forces found at Salman Pak, a site used for such training, when they captured the area. As Centcom spokesman General Vincent Brooks stated on April 6, 2003:
[T]hat’s just one of a number of examples we’ve found where there is training activity happening inside of Iraq. It reinforces the likelihood of links between his regime and external terrorist organizations, clear links with common interests. Some of these fighters came from Sudan, some from Egypt, and some from other places, and we’ve killed a number of them and we’ve captured a number of them [emphasis added].
As a U.S. intelligence official explained to this author, the United States has interrogated the Iraqis who trained the foreign terrorists and has their accounts of that training, along with material like group pictures of the graduating classes.
Clarifying this key point — the involvement of Saddam’s regime with foreign terrorists— is not simply a matter of justifying the Iraq war to the American public, vital as that task is. It is also a question of understanding the nature of the enemy we are still fighting. This includes the enemy outside Iraq: what happened to the 8,000 foreign terrorists trained by Iraq from 1998-2002; what have they done already; and what might they do in the future?
This also includes the enemy inside Iraq. What is the relationship between the expertise that the IIS developed in IEDs, their training of terrorists, and the present Iraqi insurgency? Indeed, a third document (CMPC-2003-005745) details plans for improving IEDs in 2003 and includes such points as triggering bombs at a distance and by light, as well as “studying the improvement of the explosive power of RDX.” We can reasonably infer that such plans existed for 2001 and 2002 as well.
The Iraqi Insurgency
Until early 2005, U.S. authorities understood that the Iraqi insurgency consisted primarily of FRE’s or Former Regime Elements. As then Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz told the Atlantic Monthly, “[T]hey’re allied with people who want to help them win, by which I mean the jihadis on the one side and the Syrian Baathists on the other.”
In the spring of 2005, however, the U.S. understanding of the insurgency shifted. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi came to be seen as the most dangerous part of the violence, and he was understood to act independently of the Baathists. Yet the Baathists and Islamic radicals have been working together for a number of years — at least since 1998, according to the documents cited here. Why should that cooperation have stopped in 2005?
Iraqi officials understand the insurgency quite differently from U.S. officials. In late 2005, the Iraqi Defense Minister instructed the embassy in Washington to tell the Americans that the Baathists were the enemy. His warning, which followed a mortar attack targeting General George Casey and Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, evidently fell on deaf ears.
Similarly, another senior Iraqi politician told a small group of Americans last fall that Zarqawi was “nothing.” Zarqawi’s operation is essentially run by the Syrian mukhabarrat, this Iraqi figure explained. Jihadis are recruited through the mosques to Syria, where they are trained by individuals from Afghanistan. They then cross into Iraq, all the time under the watchful eyes of Syrian authorities, without realizing that they are, in fact, part of a major Syrian intelligence operation.
Most recently, Jawad al-Maliki, Iraq’s new Prime Minister — in his first television interview after assuming that post — warned neighboring states that Iraq would not tolerate “security interference” or involvement with “certain movements inside Iraq.”
“[I]f you don’t see who the enemy is and why they’re fighting,
you can’t win,” Wolfowitz told the Atlantic Monthly.
Indeed, “know the enemy” is ancient and axiomatic. A critical
link is missing in the current U.S. understanding of the violence
in the Middle East, namely how the intelligence agencies of
terrorist states interact with the jihadi networks. We
consistently see the jihadis, indeed, they are front and
center, but we are blind to the intelligence agencies that use
them, support them, and hide behind them.
* In addition to the three documents cited here, the two others dealing with IEDs are CMPC-2003-005934, which was posted earlier, but now has apparently been taken down, and CMPC-2003-011038.
** It is not clear how long a “season” is, but it refers to some
number of months of the year.
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