US Special Forces and CIA agents have been working inside Iraq for months to lay the groundwork for a possible U.S. invasion, The Boston Globe reported on
Sunday. The Globe, citing intelligence officials and military analysts who claim first-hand knowledge of the operations, said the American teams are searching for
Scud missile launchers, monitoring oil fields, marking minefield sites and helping U.S. pilots bomb Iraqi air-defense systems. The report said Jordanian, British and Australian
commandos have on occasion joined the Americans. But a spokeswoman for the Australian Minister for Defence,
Robert Hill, rejected the suggestion that Australians - even individual soldiers attached to US or British commando units - had been involved in covert incursions.
"Australians haven't been operating in Iraq," she said. This is despite the Bush Administration agreeing to the
schedule of United Nations weapons inspections. Theaction by special forces in Iraq breaches international
law because it is not sanctioned by the UN but reflects Bush's new warfare of pre-emptive strikes.
US operatives are said to be active in Iraq
Agents target sites, gather intelligence
[Boston Globe] By John Donnelly, Globe Staff, 1/5/2003
WASHINGTON - About 100 US Special Forces members and
more than 50 Central Intelligence Agency officers have
been operating in small groups inside Iraq for at least
four months, searching for Scud missile launchers,
monitoring oil fields, marking minefield sites, and
using lasers to help US pilots bomb Iraqi air-defense
systems, according to intelligence officials and
military analysts who have talked with people on the
The operations, which also have included small numbers
of Jordanian, British, and Australian commandos, are
considered by many analysts to be part of the opening
phase of a war against Iraq, even though the Bush
administration has agreed to a schedule of UN weapons
On Jan. 27, the UN team will report on whether it has
found evidence of a program to develop chemical,
biological, or nuclear weapons. Soon after, the Bush
administration is expected to announce whether Iraq is
in ''material breach'' of UN resolutions and whether
that is a trigger to an invasion aimed at toppling the
Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, and his government.
War preparations have been in full swing for months. The
Pentagon says that 60,000 troops are now in the Persian
Gulf region; that number could double in coming weeks.
Even as President Bush reiterated on Friday that it is
not too late to avert war if Saddam Hussein fully
complies with the weapons inspections by the United
Nations, military analysts say that the bombing, almost
daily, by US jets over the mandated no-fly zone, coupled
with Special Forces and CIA officers operating inside
Iraq, means that a quiet, barely noticed fight has been
''We're bombing practically every day as we patrol the
no-fly zones, taking out air defense batteries, and
there are all kinds of CIA and Special Forces operations
going on. So I would call it the beginning of a war,''
said Timur J. Eads, a former US special operations
officer for 20 years who took part in missions inside
Iraq in the 1990s.
A US intelligence official said that the Iraq missions
are separate from the work of the UN inspectors, but
that the two operations may be moving in parallel.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said
that some Special Forces members were following
suspicious movements around suspected weapons sites and
that information could be turned over to the UN teams.
The administration refuses to do so, out of concern that
the reports might be passed to Iraqi officials.
The Iraqi government has also been highly suspicious of
the UN inspection teams, dating to 1998 when it found
that a few people on the teams were US Special Forces
members, according to Eads and a current Special Forces
officer, who declined to be identified.
In the 1990s, Special Forces and CIA officers traveled
undercover to various parts of Iraq, mostly in the
northern areas dominated by the Kurds, where distrust of
US intentions runs deep because of Washington's
unwillingness to remove Hussein in the early part of the
A large contingent of CIA and Special Forces is reported
to be operating relatively freely in northern Iraq,
where Hussein's reach has been weakened because the area
falls under a no-fly zone and because of the Kurds'
antipathy toward a regime that has gassed their people.
The Americans are reportedly working alongside fighters
belonging to Kurdish factions. They are also said to be
identifying potential leaders to work with in case of an
That tactic was used successfully in Afghanistan with
the Northern Alliance before the war there in 2001.
In another parallel to the covert operations in
Afghanistan, CIA and Special Forces members also are
paying thousands of dollars to those who cooperate with
them, according to the official and the analysts.
In other parts of Iraq, Special Forces members are
operating in small teams on a variety of missions. These
are taking place in areas populated largely by Shiite
Muslims around Basra, in the south, where mistrust of
the Baghdad government is rife; in the western desert
near the Jordanian border; and even close to Baghdad,
according to the analysts.
''Just as we did prior to the Gulf War, they are getting
as absolutely close to the urban areas as they can,''
said an analyst who spoke with a Special Operations team
leader after he returned from Iraq in late November.
''They are extremely careful, of course, and they're
getting only as close to Baghdad as the commands will
let them go.
''They also have been a big help in the air strikes over
the last several months,'' the analyst said. ''Many of
the strikes on radar sites have been directed by guys on
the ground using lasers. British, Australian and
Jordanian commandos are also inside, too, although not
in huge numbers.''
One goal of the operations will probably be to have
spies in Baghdad to watch Iraqi military movements, the
''I would be very shocked if people are not already in
Baghdad,'' said Eads, chief Washington lobbyist for EMC
Corp., the Hopkinton data storage company. ''Somebody is
sitting there watching what defenses are being built,
how they guard key structures. Whether that's a US
citizen watching, I don't know. But there are a lot of
computer salesmen passing through Baghdad now.'' He was
referring to business executives who may also double as
Near Jordan, the effort is ''to identify likely areas
for mobile missile operations,'' said Daniel Goure of
the Lexington Institute, a Washington-area think tank.
Goure, who during the Gulf War worked in the Pentagon
under Paul Wolfowitz, now the deputy defense secretary,
said he received his information from ''friends in the
''They want to see if there are tracks, if there are
hide sites for the Scuds, and all the rest,'' Goure said
of a mission designed to protect Israel, Jordan, and
Saudi Arabia from Scud attacks.
Such retaliatory Iraqi missile launchings were unleashed
on Israel and Saudi Arabia during the 1991 Gulf War.
''The Special Forces teams are also doing prep work in
case they have to do extended operations,'' including
searching for suitable areas for bases.
US military and CIA officials continued to decline
comment officially on the activities.
''We do not comment about current operations, ongoing
operations, supposed or otherwise,'' Lieutenant Colonel
Martin Compton said at US Central Command in Tampa.
The activity, Goure and others said, surely has not
escaped notice of the Iraqis. Several articles in the
British press have referred to US and British commandos
inside Iraq. Mohammed al Douri, Iraq's ambassador to the
United Nations, was in Baghdad late last week and could
not be reached for comment, a spokesman for the Iraqi
The analysts said that acknowledging the presence of
Special Forces and CIA officers inside Iraq would not
put the troops or operatives at increased risk. The
Boston Globe is withholding details of recent operations
that may compromise future missions.
''The Iraqis won't like this activity, obviously, but
they expect some of this as well,'' Goure said. He also
said that if the Special Forces and CIA members were not
''shooting at someone, I think you can view this as no
different than what we are doing from the air, spying on
them. You wonder what's the big deal with this.''
But Naseer H. Aruri, professor emeritus of political
science at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth,
said the Bush administration was being duplicitous in
conducting undercover operations while agreeing to the
UN weapons inspections.
''Certainly, the Arab world and the Islamic world would
see it as being inconsistent with the weapons
inspections, as well as an infringement on Iraq's
sovereignty,'' Aruri said. ''It makes clear that the
public acceptance of the UN mission and inspection
process was more of a tactic than anything else.''
James M. Lindsay, a senior fellow at the Brookings
Institution who was a member of the National Security
Council during the Clinton administration, said that few
countries outside the Middle East would object.
''They are doing this in parallel with the UN weapons
inspectors,'' he said. ''These efforts are not going to
come as a surprise to the Brits, or the French, or the
Russians, or the Chinese. What really matters is whether
they are caught doing it publicly, because that would
create political problems for the administration.''
Lindsay also said, however, that this could change if
the operations became more visible. ''It's one thing to
go in and make contacts with potential opposition
leaders,'' he said. ''It's another thing to go in and
blow up economic installations.''
Ruth Wedgwood, a specialist on international law and a
member of the Defense Policy Board, an advisory panel to
the Pentagon, said that Iraq was in a ''legally unique
situation, in that it is the one country in the world
forbidden... to develop capabilities of producing
weapons of mass destruction.''
If Iraq violates the terms of UN Security Council
Resolution 687, enacted April 3, 1991, which was
reinforced by another resolution passed late last year,
''one has a perfectly plausible legal argument that the
cease-fire is over,'' Wedgwood said.
She also said that from a US policy standpoint, she
understood the need for the Special Forces. ''If we are
going to go in at some point, we need to make
appropriate preparations. You don't build up 30,000 or
60,000 troops for nothing,'' added Wedgwood, who is a
professor of international law and diplomacy at Johns
A key part of the current US strategy is the willingness
to spend money to bribe Iraqi military leaders rather
than attack or kill them, Eads said. ''I bet we're
approaching many of those commanders now and saying. ...
`We'll give you $10,000 and a trip to Morocco, or
wherever you want, as long you lay down your arms when
we come through here,''' he said.