Blueprint for the Iraqi Insurgency Where are the documents from Saddam's foreign ministry? by Stephen F. Hayes 02/20/2006, Volume 011, Issue 22 http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/006/719vvigq.asp IN LATE APRIL 2003, some two weeks after the world watched jubilant Iraqis and U.S. Marines topple the tall statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad's Firdos Square, a small group of American officials began the thankless and dangerous task of recreating the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The team, led by Ambassador David Dunford, had been eager to get into the ministry sooner. They were told, however, that there were not yet enough U.S. troops in the Iraqi capital to secure that neighborhood. So they waited. When the Americans saw a BBC reporter broadcasting live from inside the ministry, or MoFA as it became known, they pushed to get a military escort so that they might begin their job. It worked. This small team soon got bigger--adding a military civil affairs officer, Iraqi-Americans under contract with the Pentagon, a British foreign service officer, a Romanian diplomat, and several Iraqis who had worked for the MoFA under Saddam Hussein. In interviews, several of them described the ministry when they arrived. The building had been looted, stripped of many fixtures and even some of its electrical wiring. Iraqis described as "militias" were living in makeshift barracks on the ground floor. The looting was haphazard and opportunistic, but the destruction of documents and torching of offices appeared to be well-planned. Still, some important items survived. Among the papers the MoFA team discovered was a map of the ministry with names of ministry officials and the suites they occupied. Offices of several senior officials had been severely damaged by fire; in others the team found piles of papers sitting untouched in the middle of the rooms, apparently awaiting destruction. Last summer, almost by accident, I spoke to an Iraqi who had been in the ministry in those early days. I had sought him out to discuss another subject when he rather casually mentioned two documents the Americans had recovered. One was a memo from the director of Iraqi Intelligence, the Mukhabarat, from February 2003, with instructions to senior regime and intelligence officials in anticipation of a U.S. invasion. The other was a long list of jihadists who had been brought to Iraq before the war. I called around to check on his claims and received only vague confirmations of the documents' existence. No one else I spoke with had seen the documents or could provide more specific information, so I didn't report on them. Then I saw Paul Bremer, former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, interviewed about his new book My Year in Iraq on the January 15 Meet the Press. Host Tim Russert asked Bremer about a document he describes in the book. Said Russert: "You went back to Iraq, and they found a memo which they presented to you about the insurgency and again, it's in your book and this is a very important document. It's quite interesting." Russert read Bremer's words: "The document . . . listed orders for point-by-point strategy to be implemented after the probable collapse of the regime beginning with the order of 'Burn this office.' I read the translation. It did indeed call for a strategy of organized resistance which included the classic pattern of forming cells and training combatants in insurgency. 'Operatives' were to engage in 'sabotage and looting.' Random sniper attacks, ambushes to be organized. The order continued, 'scatter agents to every town. Destroy electric power stations and water conduits. Infiltrate the mosques, the Shiite holy places.'" The contents of the document were virtually identical to the one described to me by the Iraqi, but Bremer told me he didn't know where the Mukhabarat document was found. At the suggestion of an Iraqi source, I called Ambassador Dunford and asked him about the Mukhabarat document Bremer describes in his book. Said Dunford: "We pulled stuff out of there very early on. We gave it to something they were calling the fusion cell in the palace [CPA headquarters], but those guys just couldn't handle it. We never got a good sense of what was in all of the documents other than what we translated on the spot." Dunford said he thought he had heard of a document like the Mukhabarat document but didn't remember any of the details. Then, without prompting, he added this: "I do remember one document that we found that was a list of jihadists, for want of a better word, coming into Iraq from Saudi Arabia before the war. That suggested to me that Saddam was planning the insurgency before the war." The Iraqi who had described the jihadist document to me indicated that "hundreds and hundreds" of these fighters had come from several countries in the region including Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Sudan and Syria. So I asked Dunford about this. "It may have been that folks in Saudi Arabia--not the Saudi government--were organizing these jihadists from elsewhere and sending them into Iraq." Dunford is hardly a Bush administration apologist. In an August 25, 2004, interview published by the U.S. Institute of Peace, he criticizes many aspects of the U.S. presence in Iraq and piles scorn on the "ideological" aspects of the reconstruction. And in a speech before the war, Dunford was highly critical of Bush administration policy in the Middle East. DOCUMENTS SUCH AS THE ONE allegedly listing jihadists in Iraq raise more questions than they answer. Who are these jihadists? Where did they receive their training? What was their relationship to the Iraqi regime before the war? Which "folks in Saudi Arabia" made arrangements for their travel to Iraq? How many of them have been captured or killed in Iraq? Are we even keeping track? What have they told interrogators about the insurgency? And about the early cooperation between foreign fighters and the broader Baathist networks? Interesting questions. But let's back up: Does the U.S. intelligence community even know it has this document? If so, do the counter-insurgency teams in Iraq have this information? We know that less than 3 percent of the overall document take from Afghanistan and Iraq has been exploited. Is this document part of that small fraction of exploited data, or part of the much larger mass of information that sits unexamined on U.S. government hard drives and in warehouses in Doha, Qatar? Senior U.S. intelligence officials tell The Weekly Standard that they are working from lists like the one found in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. What remains unclear is what happened to the other materials collected at that ministry. Among them, according to officials who were in the MoFA in April 2003, were 16 or 17 floppy disks from the personal computer of Naji Sabri al-Hadithi's office manager. Sabri was Iraq's minister of foreign affairs from August 2001 through March 2003. As his important position might suggest, he was close to Saddam Hussein. A cursory field-examination of the disks suggests they might be quite valuable to those interested in understanding the activities of the Iraqi regime in the months and years leading up to the U.S. invasion. They included Sabri's personal correspondence with other senior Iraqi regime officials, his talking points for meetings with U.N. inspectors, and other documents described simply as "position papers." In those early days of the new Iraq, according to an American official working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a "very reliable source" provided U.S. intelligence officials with several compact discs. The CDs contained correspondence between senior Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials and Iraqi embassies throughout the world from January 1, 2003, through the eve of war in mid-March 2003. This material is potentially even more significant than it sounds, when one considers that Iraq, like many other countries, used its embassies to run its foreign intelligence operations. Have these documents been exploited? What do they tell us? One day after the floppy disks from Naji Sabri's office manager were passed to a representative of "another U.S. government agency"--presumably the CIA--the recipient reported back that the find was "a treasure trove." That was the last that any of these officials have heard about the recovered documents. It may be that documents like the list of jihadists should not be released to the American public. It's harder to make that case about the documents found in Naji Sabri's office. And what about the nearly 2 million captured Iraqi documents that have not yet been exploited? Representative Pete Hoekstra, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has continued to press the case for freeing the documents with both the Defense Intelligence Agency and the director of national intelligence, John Negroponte. In November, Hoekstra requested 40 Iraqi documents from the U.S. intelligence community. Three weeks ago, Hoekstra received 39 of those documents--some 3,000 pages of information--in two large cardboard boxes. His staff is reviewing the documents and Hoekstra is pushing both the DIA and DNI to allow him to release them to the public. A spokesman for Negroponte says the documents provided to Hoekstra are "FOUO," for official use only, and are "still being reviewed for any sensitive intelligence-related information that might result in reclassification. They are, therefore, not for public release." For now, anyway. Hoekstra says that he hopes these documents--again, just a fraction of the nearly 2 million Saddam-era documents in the possession of the U.S. government--will be released within two weeks. Nearly three years after the U.S. invasion, and with the nature of the deposed Iraqi regime still the subject of a highly politicized debate, it will be none too soon. Stephen F. Hayes is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard. As time roll`s by, more, and more of this type of discovery will continue to surface. The Bush administration IS taking the right course, and not releasing this type of evidence just to justify their actions. When all is said and done, there will have been better ways to handle this whole affair, but hind sight is always 20-20.