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 Schröder, 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. Schröder 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.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. legion says:

    I could not agree more. Regardless of how I felt about the war itself, I always got ticked when people beat on Germany for not supporting the US… When I deployed from Ramstein during the run-up to OIF, I like to point out, it was German Army troops guarding the base’s gates – since so many of our own Security Forces personnel had already been deployed forward.

    They may not have agreed with our decision to invade, but they’ve damn sure been on our side.

  2. M. Murcek says:

    NYT already has an editorial up that castigates Germany for doing this BAD THING and telling them and other countries that they better not do this sort of BAD THING (helping American interests) again, or the NYT will expose them.

  3. Herb Ely says:

    I scanned the story. Not a word about Iraqi plans to use WMD. Or did I miss something?

  4. Jack Ehrlich says:

    Yes Herb, you always miss something. While it is hard for most of us to imagine why Saddam would document something that would make him a war criminal in a fight he had little chance of winning. I also recognize why your side does so poorly at war fighting. The use of WMD in your own population centers would be historically stupid, but not to you. Another inconsistency is attributing to Saddam the ability to fool most of the best Intel agencies into believing he had WMD yet stupid enough not to come clean about them with U.S. invasion troops on his border. No wonder your side can’t win an election.

  5. Stevely says:

    It was jarring to see the source document a classified report published by the command where I work.

    I see the NYT continues its fine tradition of treason and working actively to sabotage the country. It’s sadly too much to hope for that Bill Keller et al would be thrown in jail like the sniveling traitors they are, but Lord do I hope they catch the person(s) responsible for the leak. Talk about cutting off the nose to spite the face – do these leakers really think that once their guy is in office, these foreign intelligence services are just going to forget leaks like this and will work with us again?