Putin Says Russia Warned U.S. on Saddam

Reuters — Putin Says Russia Warned U.S. on Saddam

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in comments sure to help President Bush, declared Friday that Russia knew Iraq’s Saddam Hussein had planned terror attacks on U.S. soil and had warned Washington.

Putin said Russian intelligence had been told on several occasions that Saddam’s special forces were preparing to attack U.S. targets inside and outside the United States.

“After the events of September 11, 2001, and before the start of the military operation in Iraq, Russian special services several times received information that the official services of the Saddam regime were preparing ‘terrorist acts’ on the United States and beyond its borders,” he told reporters.

“This information was passed on to our American colleagues,” he said. He added, however, that Russian intelligence had no proof that Saddam’s agents had been involved in any particular attack.

Jon Henke isn’t sure what to make of this but asks some reasonable questions:

1: How much credibility did Russia assign to that information?
2: How much credibility does the US assign to that information?
3: Why are we just hearing this now?
4: Are we just hearing about this now because the information was dubious?
5: Through what kind of sources did Russia get this information? If they came from Russia’s own intelligence work, they would have more credibility than if they came from Iraqi (dis)informants (read: Chalabi’s INC)

These are fair points.

Honestly, I’m not sure how to read this, either, although I’m more than a bit skeptical. For one thing, given that we loudly proclaimed some rather sketchy intelligence in bolstering our case for the war, one would think we would have shooted this from the rooftops. After all, it would constitute an “imminent threat” that would more easily have justified pre-emptive action. Secondly, this is especially odd given Putin’s adamant opposition to our invasion.

Speaking to reporters in the capital of ex-Soviet Kazakhstan, he went out of his way, however, to say that Russia’s view of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was unchanged.

“Our position has not changed. We indeed passed this information on to our American partners but we consider that there are rules, defined by international law, for using force in international affairs and these procedures were not observed,” he said.

Still, this is a story worth following.

FILED UNDER: Intelligence, Iraq War, Terrorism
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dodd says:

    I think that this and a few other recent stories (i.e., his comments excoriating critics of Bush’s Iraq policy who supported the Kosovo invasion) tend to indicate who the Russian Federation President would prefer to be dealing with after next January 20.

  2. Jim G. says:

    Keep in mind that many times in order to allow Intelligence organizations to share information, that information remains “classified” at the “owners” behest. In other words the US may not have been free to “de-classify” information provided by Russian operatives. This information could only be released by the “owner”, and what better forum to de-classify something than in a news conference.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Jim–A possibility, I guess.

  4. Jem says:

    Actually, James, it’s standard procedure for foreign-provided information. It’s practically always classified and almost never released (and then only after we’ve obtained approval from the providing government) openly. If we didn’t protect the source, how long do you think we’d keep getting the information? (think Joe Piscopo in “Johnny Dangerously”: “ONCE!”)

  5. James Joyner says:

    Jem,

    Sure. Sources and methods and all that. Still, one would think Bush would have gotten the all clear to announce something like “we have credible evidence that Saddam is planning an attack.”

  6. Cybrludite says:

    Could be that until now the Russians were concerned with protecting thier sources in Iraq.

  7. pennywit.com says:

    Finally, a Justification

    CNN reports on Putin’s statements that Russia warned the U.S. that Saddam Hussein’s regime planned to attack U.S. interests at home or abroad:

    Russia