Germany Gave U.S. Iraq Defense Plans Before War
Michael Gordon reports that the German government gave the United States Iraq’s defense plans prior to the start of the war.
Two German intelligence agents in Baghdad obtained a copy of Saddam Hussein’s plan to defend the Iraqi capital, which a German official passed on to American commanders a month before the invasion, according to a classified study by the United States military. In providing the Iraqi document, German intelligence officials offered more significant assistance to the United States than their government has publicly acknowledged. The plan gave the American military an extraordinary window into Iraq’s top-level deliberations, including where and how Mr. Hussein planned to deploy his most loyal troops.
The German role is not the only instance in which nations that publicly cautioned against the war privately facilitated it. Egypt and Saudi Arabia, for example, provided more help than they have disclosed. Egypt gave access for refueling planes, while Saudi Arabia allowed American special operations forces to initiate attacks from its territory, United States military officials say.
But the German government was an especially vociferous critic of the Bush administration’s decision to use military force to topple Mr. Hussein. While the German government has said that it had intelligence agents in Baghdad during the war, it has insisted it provided only limited help to the United States-led coalition. In a report released Thursday, German officials said much of the assistance was restricted to identifying civilian sites so they would not be attacked by mistake. The classified American military study, though, documents the more substantive help from German intelligence. Reached by telephone, Ulrich Wilhelm, the chief spokesman for the German government, declined to comment on Sunday on the role of the German agents.
The prelude to the Iraq war was a period of intense strain in German-American relations. In his 2002 political campaign, Gerhard SchrÃ¶der, then the German chancellor, warned against an invasion and vowed that Germany would not participate. President Bush declined to make the customary congratulatory phone call to Mr. SchrÃ¶der when he won re-election that September. Annoyed by the antiwar stances of Germany and France, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld offended the two nations by labeling them “old Europe” shortly before the war in March 2003.
Longstanding relations between American and German intelligence agencies, however, persisted. As the American military prepared to invade Iraq, the German intelligence agents operated in Baghdad.
I have maintained since the earliest point of the division within the Western alliance on Iraq that Germany would remain a strong American ally despite the political machinations of the Schroeder government. Still, that they were providing this level of help–which doubtless saved both American and Iraqi lives–despite their public stance is a pleasant surprise, indeed.