November 30, 2015
“Where Are the Weapons of Mass Destruction?”
Posted on Aug 11, 2008
By Scott Ritter
“This was very real,” Mohammed said. “I had made several important contacts in regards to your trip.” I asked him to elaborate. “As you know, the situation inside Iraq is very dangerous and confused, and many people were hesitant to meet with you.” Who were they afraid of? “The Americans,” he said. “They were afraid of what the Americans might do if it was found out that they had met with you.”
One of the contacts Mohammed had arranged for me to meet with while in Baghdad was a former official in the Iraqi Mukhabarat, the intelligence arm of Saddam Hussein’s regime, who was intimately familiar with that organization’s surveillance of U.N. weapons inspectors, both in Iraq and in New York. “The Mukhabarat never went away,” Mohammed said. “They just disappeared into the shadows. They are still very much a presence in Baghdad and Iraq.”
Mohammed had passed on my proposed schedule to the Mukhabarat official, who told Mohammed he “would check with his sources” to see if my visit was feasible or not. On the evening of Dec. 5, 2003, the Mukhabarat agent appeared at Mohammed’s home. “You must cancel the visit,” he told Mohammed. “Mr. Ritter’s life is at risk if he comes here, as well as the life of any Iraqi he meets with.”
The Mukhabarat had been preparing for the American occupation of Iraq for months before the initiation of hostilities in March 2003. By January 2003, orders had been issued to the various Mukhabarat departments to begin preparations for an American occupation. Mukhabarat personnel were instructed that in the case of the occupation of Iraq by the United States, they were to return to their homes and await further instructions. Those agents who were able to do so were encouraged to join the ranks of the various opposition parties that were expected to follow the Americans into Iraq, and to actively cooperate with the American occupiers. In this manner, the Mukhabarat was able to establish a network of informers inside the very ranks of the organizations that were seeking its demise. According to Mohammed, the Mukhabarat had been very successful in this regard. And it was this success, he said, that led to the warning from the Mukhabarat about the threat to my life, and the lives of those who cooperated with me, if I were to go to Baghdad.
Square, Site wide
According to Mohammed, Baghdad in late 2003 crawled with assassination squads. In addition to simple criminal gangs interested in extortion and murder, there were squads of killers who worked on behalf of the various political forces vying for power inside occupied Baghdad, settling old scores and eliminating potential competitors. One of the major themes among those positioning themselves for a leading role in post-Saddam Iraq was de-Baathification, a policy of identifying and neutralizing the members of the former ruling party, which was associated with the most horrific abuses of the regime of Saddam Hussein. De-Baathification was a primary objective of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), and major policy initiatives were passed to remove the Baathists from positions of power and influence. Opponents of the regime of Saddam Hussein were only too willing to aid and assist the CPA in its crusade against the Baathists, using their own networks of informants to locate Baathist members and sympathizers for the American occupiers. Given the abuses of power that occurred in Iraq under the Baathists, however, oftentimes the members of the newly empowered opposition took matters into their own hands, meting out street justice in the form of targeted assassination.
Among the more effective, and brutal, of these politically motivated assassination units were those run by SCIRI (the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) and its armed militia, the Badr Brigade. Their efforts to exterminate Baath Party remnants still loyal to Saddam Hussein, or those who were accused of committing crimes against SCIRI or its sympathizers, attracted the attention of the “black” side of the CPA-run de-Baathification efforts —covert operations run by the CIA and elite Special Operations units of the United States military. An abortive effort to formally acknowledge the role played by the various anti-Saddam militias in confronting the Baath holdouts offered a glimpse into what is an unspoken element of the U.S. policy regarding de-Baathification —let the Iraqis do the dirty work. And the Badr militia stood out among those willing and able to take the fight to the Baathist holdouts. For that reason, the Badr militia not only attracted the attention of the CPA but also the Mukhabarat, which, according to Mohammed, had infiltrated the SCIRI-run militia.
Mohammed’s Mukhabarat connection had disturbing news. According to the source, the CPA had passed to the Badr militia my name, the dates of my planned trip to Baghdad, my proposed agenda and a list of Iraqis I had planned to meet with, including Mohammed. This information was in turn passed on to the unit in the Badr militia which specialized in targeted assassination in Baghdad. “Mr. Ritter cannot come to Iraq,” the Mukhabarat agent told Mohammed. “If he does, his life is at risk, your life is at risk, and everyone associated with his visit’s life will be at risk.” And so Mohammed sent his e-mailed warning to me.
On the surface, Mohammed’s story was too much to believe. I was willing to accept any account that held that specific Iraqi groups, such as Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress, were opposed to my visit to the extent that they might issue threats in an effort to intimidate me from coming. But the concept of the United States government being involved boggled the mind.
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