Tony Blair's favorite Iraqi

From Fox News

Saddam Hussein (search) had weapons of mass destruction and his army was capable of firing them off in less than 45 minutes, according to statements from an Iraqi colonel.

Lt. Col. al-Dabbagh told the London Telegraph that cases of WMD warheads were shipped under cover of darkness to front-line units, including his own, near the end of 2002, in a report published in Sunday editions.

In September of 2002 the British government published a controversial intelligence report on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, claiming WMD could be launched within 45 minutes. Al-Dabbagh said he believed he was the source of the claim, which was widely criticized as being a ploy by British Prime Minister Tony Blair (search) to gain support for military action in Iraq (search).

"I am the one responsible for providing this information," al-Dabbagh, 40, told the Telegraph when shown the dossier. "It is 100 percent accurate."

"Forget 45 minutes, we could have fired these within half-an-hour," he was quoted as saying.

Al-Dabbagh told the paper that the weapons were Iraqi-manufactured and were designed to be launched from hand-held rocket-propelled grenades. Whether the weapons contained biological or chemical agents was not made clear by al-Dabbagh, the report said.

It may take a while, but it's all coming together...

Again, if they were disperesed to front line units, why weren''t any recovered when these troops surrendered, were captured, or killed? If these troops hated Saddam so much, why didn''t they turn over these weapons to the Coalition, or lead them to where they were hidden?

You shouldn''t ask questions you really don''t want answered...

I have a feeling that when more information comes out from this guy and more like him, we''ll get the answers to at least some of those questions. Either we''ll finally find some weapons to supplement the programs we have been finding so far, or we''ll find that people were being duped, including Saddam''s soldiers, and maybe Saddam himself, into thinking that there were WMDs. There have already been reports that everybody was lying - Saddam was being lied to by his scientists and generals and Saddam was lying to the world... If so, this is in hindsight the worst idea a world leader has ever come up with.

One other thing to remember - unlike the first Gulf War, we captured very few enemy fighters, as most of the army dissipated rather than fight.

"ralcydan" wrote:

I have a feeling that when more information comes out from this guy and more like him, we''ll get the answers to at least some of those questions. Either we''ll finally find some weapons to supplement the programs we have been finding so far, or we''ll find that people were being duped, including Saddam''s soldiers, and maybe Saddam himself, into thinking that there were WMDs. There have already been reports that everybody was lying - Saddam was being lied to by his scientists and generals and Saddam was lying to the world... If so, this is in hindsight the worst idea a world leader has ever come up with.

So, if the latter is true, than this entire conflict was predicated on a lie anyway.

So, if the latter is true, than this entire conflict was predicated on a lie anyway.

Unlikely, given the programs and violations we have already found. But even if partially true, it is great irony that Saddam, who we couldn''t trust not to develop and proliferate WMD because of his history of lying about them, was taken from power because either he or his subordinates were lying about the extent of them leading up to the war.

More, from the Daily Telegraph

Registration required, so here is the whole article. very interesting stuff:

It was the claim Tony Blair used to justify war, but who was the source? Con Coughlin, in Baghdad, tracked him down

Lieutenant-Colonel al-Dabbagh is not a man who is easily frightened. Having spied on Saddam''s regime for British and American intelligence for more than seven years, the 40-year-old former Iraqi air defence commander lived with the constant fear that he might be caught, tortured and executed.

So when last week, shortly after I had interviewed him in Baghdad about his involvement in the infamous 45-minute claim, he received two death threats from Saddam''s loyalists, his determination to describe his involvement in revealing details of the former Iraqi dictator''s deployment of weapons of mass destruction remained undiminished.

The threats - one verbal and one written - warned him not to divulge any secrets about Saddam''s regime, on pain of death. The week before our meeting, members of Saddam''s Fedayeen had sprayed his house with machinegun fire.

""Saddam''s people are doing this all the time,"" he said. ""That is why it is so difficult to find the weapons of mass destruction. I am sure the weapons are hidden in Iraq just like I see you now. I am concerned that the chemical and biological weapons are there.""

So why was he prepared to risk his life by disclosing to The Telegraph his involvement in smuggling top secret information about Saddam''s WMD capability out of the country?

""I admire Mr Blair because he made Iraq secure from Saddam. If Saddam''s people kill me for saying this, I do not mind. I have done my duty to my country and we have got rid of Saddam.

""And if the British Government wants me to come to London to tell the truth about Saddam''s secret weapons programme, I am ready to help in any way I can.""

Although Lt Col al-Dabbagh agreed to talk freely about his spying activities, he asked that we only publish his family name and that we did not photograph his face. In Arab culture, men are better known by their first name and patronym. ""I have to protect my family somehow,"" said Lt Col al-Dabbagh, who is married and has several children.

In common with the rest of the Iraqi armed forces under Saddam, Lt Col al-Dabbagh was dismissed after the war as part of the de-Ba''athification programme introduced by Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary.

""I don''t know why they did this to me. My name was passed to the US six months before the war as someone who was helping them."" He now works as an adviser to Iraq''s Governing Council.

Despite the threats, Lt Col al-Dabbagh reacted without hesitation when I showed him the controversial section of the British Government''s intelligence document that claimed that Saddam''s WMD could ""be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them"".

When I asked him whether the information in the document relating to the 45-minute issue was 100 per cent accurate, he responded with characteristic Iraqi enthusiasm: ""It is 200 per cent accurate!"" he exclaimed. ""And forget 45 minutes. We could have fired them within half an hour.""

When I asked him whether he was the original source of the intelligence, he replied simply: ""I am the one responsible for providing this information.""

British intelligence has admitted that it relied on a single source for the 45-minute claim, prompting several intelligence experts at the Ministry of Defence, including Dr David Kelly, to question its veracity.

Lt Col al-Dabbagh''s claim to be the source of the 45-minute claim, however, is backed up by General A.J.M. Muhie, his brother-in-law, who helped to smuggle the intelligence out of Iraq to the Wimbledon headquarters of the Iraqi National Accord (INA), which was then one of the leading Iraqi exile groups and is now a key member of Iraq''s Governing Council. ""We only had one source for this information and that was Dabbagh,"" said Gen Muhie.

Dr Ayad Allawi, the head of the INA who is now a leading figure in Iraq''s Governing Council in Baghdad, also confirmed that he personally made sure al-Dabbagh''s reports were received by British and American intelligence.

""Yes, we passed this information on to the British and Americans,"" he said. ""It was part of a constant stream of intelligence we passed on to both intelligence agencies. And I still believe it is true. You must remember the dedicated efforts that were undertaken by Saddam and his institutions to hide and conceal [WMD] was gigantic.""

It was during the second phase of the Hutton inquiry in September that I realised it might be possible to track down the original source of the 45-minute claim.

In particular it was in the cross-examination of Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of Britain''s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) - more commonly known as MI6 - that the likely origin of the controversial intelligence report - the one whose veracity a number of experts, including Dr Kelly, had questioned - started to emerge.

During cross-examination by James Dingemans, QC, counsel to the inquiry, Sir Richard confirmed that the intelligence had ""come from an established and reliable source . . . a senior Iraqi military officer who was certainly in a position to know this information"".

Like most people who have been closely involved with Iraq for many years, I was aware that both SIS and America''s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had relied heavily on Iraqi exile groups for intelligence on what was going on inside Saddam Hussein''s Iraq. Of those the most reliable were generally held to be the Kurds and the INA. Information provided by the Kurds was limited because, as their region was under the protection of the international no-fly zone, they had little if any direct contact with Saddam''s regime.

The INA, on the other hand, was highly regarded at both the SIS''s London headquarters in Vauxhall and the CIA in Langley, Virginia, and in the 1990s had been involved in a failed CIA attempt to overthrow Saddam. The INA''s intelligence depended on a number of serving and retired Iraqi military officers and Ba''athists prepared to risk their lives to rid the country of Saddam. As Lt Col al-Dabbagh told me last week: ""At any moment I could have been caught and hanged.""

Of all the groups known to have provided intelligence on Iraq pre-war, the INA was the one that best suited Sir Richard Dearlove''s description.

I also recalled an intriguing encounter that I had had with a retired Iraqi general in Baghdad in late May when I was reporting on the post-war situation in Iraq. The officer was introduced to me by Dr Allawi as ""our great war hero"".

Dr Allawi was referring to recent remarks that had been made by President George W. Bush in which he had paid tribute to ""the brave soul"" who had risked his life to help the coalition forces overthrow Saddam.

Dr Allawi told me that the general had provided a great deal of ""priceless information"" that had greatly assisted Western intelligence agencies, including the location of Saddam''s main bunker during the conflict, which was bombed during the opening hours of the campaign.

Because of the uncertain security situation in Baghdad last spring, the general declined my request to be interviewed about his role in the war effort, and so I made a mental note to look him up next time I was in Baghdad.

As Sir Richard Dearlove gave his evidence to the Hutton inquiry, my thoughts went immediately back to the general and whether he was responsible for providing the information that lay at the heart of the increasingly bitter dispute over whether the British and American governments, during their respective attempts to justify the war with Iraq, had been misinformed in claiming that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction at his disposal, and that they could be ""ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them"".

The claim formed the cornerstone of the intelligence document issued by the British Government on September 24, 2002, called Iraq''s Weapons of Mass Destruction. The intelligence dossier, and in particular the 45-minute claim, was also taken up by President Bush and Ari Fleischer, his then press aide, to justify the war on Iraq.

It was this claim that Dr Kelly questioned during his now infamous interview with the BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan, in which he is alleged to have said that the 45-minute claim was deliberately inserted by the British government to ""sex up"" the intelligence dossier.

To get to see the general, however, was no easy task. With communications in post-war Iraq notoriously difficult, it took several weeks to establish that he was involved in providing pre-war intelligence on Iraq to London and Washington; and that he was prepared to talk to me.

Nor were my efforts to establish the general''s bona fides in any way assisted by the British intelligence community. When I asked one senior official why, in view of the torrid political debate that had erupted over the validity of the British government''s intelligence dossier on Iraq''s weapons of mass destruction, more was not being done to trace the original source, I was informed: ""I don''t think that''s feasible. In all probability he was killed during the war.""

Even after I had established that it would be possible to meet the general in Iraq, the journey to Baghdad was not without incident. Shortly before the 10-seat, twin-propelled plane in which I was travelling prepared to land at Baghdad airport, the two South African pilots were informed that the aircraft flying immediately in front of us, a DHL cargo plane, had been hit by a Strella surface-to-air missile fired by Saddam''s Fedayeen, and had managed to make an emergency landing.

Without bothering to consult the decidedly nervy passengers, the pilots - veterans of similar missions to Angola, it later transpired - unilaterally opted to take us into Baghdad in a manoeuvre known as a ""drop spiral descent"", where the plane descends in a controlled, circular dive immediately over the air strip to avoid enemy fire.

Thankfully, the tactic worked, and as we taxied towards the terminal building we could see the still smoking remnants of the DHL cargo plane''s fuselage.

My hunch about the general proved to be only half right. When I finally got to see him at the INA''s new headquarters in Baghdad - a former Ba''ath party training college - it transpired that Gen Muhie had in fact been the middle man in the affair, and not the primary source.

Born in 1941 in Najaf, Gen Muhie enrolled at the prestigious Baghdad Military Academy aged 19 and spent the rest of his career in the Iraqi army, including a year seconded to Camberley Staff College in Surrey (in 1979 - when relations between London and Baghdad were more cordial).

He served in various positions during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, frequently falling foul of Saddam for criticising his leadership of the military campaign. After the 1991 Gulf war he was summarily discharged from the army by Saddam.

From 1995 onwards Gen Muhie worked secretly for the INA in Baghdad, smuggling hand-written information to the INA''s office in Jordan on handwritten pieces of paper, which were then transmitted to the INA''s London headquarters.

From there it was passed by Dr Allawi to intelligence officers at the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) in Vauxhall and the CIA station chief at the US embassy in Grosvenor Square, from where it went to the CIA''s headquarters in Langley.

Gen Muhie says he joined the INA because he believed Saddam was ruining the country. ""We never knew the reason why we went to war with Iran, which was a military disaster for Iraq. We had dreadful relations with every other country in the region, countries that should have been our friends. And then Saddam invaded Kuwait.""

There was also a personal reason for the general''s involvement with the INA. In 1995 his nephew Ahmed, a 23-year-old computer science undergraduate at al-Mansour University in Baghdad, was shot dead by Iraqi security agents four hours after he had voted ""no"" in a plebiscite on Saddam Hussein''s continued presidency - which in Saddam''s Iraq almost amounted to writing a suicide note.

Gen Muhie, like many other disillusioned Iraqis who worked for the INA under Saddam, was prepared to risk his life to smuggle material out of Iraq. ""One of my relatives would travel to Amman with small pieces of paper hidden in his luggage. In seven years they never got caught,"" he said.

Although he was retired from the army, as a former staff commandant in Baghdad, Gen Muhie had many contacts in senior positions in the Iraqi military. ""I could get a lot of information about what was going on within the Iraqi military. All this information was passed to Dr Allawi''s office in London.""

During our first meeting Gen Muhie revealed that he had one particular officer who had been a valuable source of information, especially on the issue of Saddam''s WMD capability. At first he seemed reluctant to let me meet him, claiming the security situation in Baghdad made such a meeting too dangerous. But after a few days he relented and set up a meeting with Lt Col al-Dabbagh.

Apart from confirming that he passed information about Iraq''s ability to launch WMD within 45 minutes to Gen Muhie, Lt Col al-Dabbagh was able to provide a fascinating insight into the war preparations undertaken by Saddam in the months leading up to the war.

According to one document that Lt Col al-Dabbagh sent to London - the minutes of a meeting Saddam held in Baghdad in December 2001 after the Afghan conflict - Saddam called a meeting of his top commanders to discuss how Iraq could defend itself against an attack that Saddam believed was ""inevitable"".

Saddam was well aware that Iraq could not possibly win a conventional military conflict against a US-led coalition, and in early 2002 he gave orders for large quantities of weapons to be hidden at strategic locations throughout the country. ""The battle with America is inevitable,"" the document states. ""What is of paramount importance is how to sustain the continuation of war after occupation.""

To that end Saddam ordered that 30 per cent of the country''s weaponry be hidden at secret locations which were to be marked by Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) co-ordinates. These were to include guns, rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank weapons and Strella surface-to-air missiles (such as the one fired at the DHL cargo plane last month).

The only people who knew the precise location of all the arms caches were Saddam, his son Qusay and Abid Hamid Mahmud, his private secretary, since captured by coalition forces. ""Saddam Hussein said that if any of these weapons were found by ordinary Iraqi people then the head of the military unit would be hanged immediately,"" said Lt Col al-Dabbagh.

According to Lt Col al-Dabbagh, it was at about this time that he and other senior commanders were informed that Saddam intended to deploy his WMD arsenal to defend the country against an American-led attack. At a meeting that took place six months before the war, one of Saddam''s senior officials told a group of Iraqi air defence commanders that they had many weapons that could be used to attack the US and UK.

""They told us that they [coalition troops] cannot pass across Iraq because we will use everything, from the knife to nuclear weapons, to defend ourselves,"" said Lt Col al-Dabbagh.

At this juncture Lt Col al-Dabbagh was commanding one of four air-defence units based in the western desert, and managed to smuggle a detailed map of Saddam''s troop deployments along Iraq''s border with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia back to the INA''s south London headquarters.

""It was very difficult to get this information out,"" he told me. ""The Ba''athists never trusted the military, and as a senior officer I had two Ba''athist officials watching me 24 hours a day.""

Lt Col al-Dabbagh cannot remember precisely when he sent information about Saddam''s decision to deploy WMD, but thinks it was probably sometime in the spring. As a frontline officer, he had no way of knowing how long it would take information that he passed to Gen Muhie to reach London.

The weapons themselves were finally deployed at his own unit towards the end of last year. ""They arrived in boxes marked ''Made in Iraq'' and looked like something you fired with a rocket-propelled grenade,"" Lt Col al-Dabbagh explained.

""They were either chemical or biological weapons; I don''t know which, because only the Fedayeen and the Special Republican Guard were allowed to use them. All I know is that we were told that when we used these weapons we had to wear gas masks.""

According to information he learnt subsequently from his military colleagues, the weapons were made at factories at Habbaniyah, al-Nahrawan, Nabbai and al-Latifia.

Saddam''s officials also gave elaborate instructions on how to use the weapons. Because of their limited range, those responsible for firing them were to dress in civilian clothes and drive in civilian vehicles with yellow number plates.

""Each military unit was given two four-wheel drive Isuzu cars,"" said Lt Col al-Dabbagh. ""We were not allowed to use them and they had to be kept in good condition."" If the war reached a critical stage and Iraq''s forces were in danger of being overrun, then designated officers would be given the task of driving the vehicles towards coalition positions and firing the weapons.

""We were instructed that when we got the order we must use these cars and use the secret weapon. We were also told that if any of us discussed this weapon with any of our colleagues we would be hanged immediately.""

He believes that the only reason these weapons were not used during Operation Iraqi Freedom last spring is that the bulk of the Iraqi army refused to fight for Saddam.

""The West should thank God that the Iraqi army decided not to fight,"" he said. ""If the army had fought for Saddam, and used these weapons, there would have been terrible consequences.""

Lt Col al-Dabbagh has no idea what became of the weapons because shortly before hostilities commenced he was recalled to Iraq''s air defence headquarters in Baghdad, although he believes that most of them were taken away by Saddam''s Fedayeen and hidden away.

He did, however, see a group of Fedayeen attempt to use one of the warheads against an American position on the outskirts of Baghdad on April 6. ""They were going to use this weapon, but then they realised that they would kill lots of Iraqis who did not have masks, so they put them in their cars and drove off.""

Convinced that the weapons are still hidden in Iraq, Lt Col al-Dabbagh doesn''t believe any of them will be found until Saddam is caught or killed. ""All the people who worked on these weapons have either escaped or disappeared. Only when Saddam is captured will these people talk openly about these weapons. Then they will reveal where they are.""

If you''ve got a Lieutenant Colonel air defense commander who has spied for the British for the past seven telling the government that Iraq can launch WMD''s in 45 minutes, that is sufficient justification to include that information in an intelligence report.

Nuff said