Iraq War 2003: Background & Lessons

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June 2, 2003

Reports Place Saddam, Scientists in Libya, But GIS Sources Believe Only Qusay in Libya; Uday in Belarus

Exclusive. Analysis. By Gregory R. Copley, Editor, GIS. With input from resources in Libya and elsewhere. Reports from several credible intelligence sources have placed former Iraqi Pres. Saddam Hussein, along with some 400 former Iraqi officials and scientists, in Libya. It was understood from those sources that he arrived in the country late in May 2003. GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily sources, however, in both Tripoli and elsewhere, said that it appeared that only Qusay Saddam Hussein — the son of Saddam — was in Libya with the other Iraqi officials.

GIS sources believed that Saddam had remained in his prepared, secure site inside Iraq, largely because it would be difficult for him to be able to return to Libya if he did, in fact, leave the country at this time.

It was believed, by the GIS sources, that Saddam dispatched Qusay and his other son, Uday, on missions abroad to build the network through which Saddam hoped to revive his fortunes. Uday was now, according to good sources, in Belarus — which had traditionally been a major supplier of defense technology to the Saddam Administration, in defiance of UN embargoes — possibly in or near the capital, Minsk.

Even the authoritative Middle Eastern web-based information service,, which clearly has strong sources within the Israeli intelligence community, reported in its Hebrew service on May 31, 2003, and its English-language service on June 1, 2003, that Saddam was in Libya and that Uday “remained” in Belarus.

As GIS exclusively reported on April 11, 2003, a Al Quwwat al Jawwiya al Jamahiriyah al Arabiya al Libya (Libyan Arab Republic Air Force) — Ilyushin Il-76 Candid transport aircraft departed the former US Air Force base at Wheelus Field, now known as Okba bin Nafa, just outside of Tripoli, on April 10, 2003, and flew to Syria, where, under conditions of extreme secrecy, it embarked a group of seven “VIP” cars, along with considerable baggage and security. The aircraft then returned to Okba bin Nafa where the passengers were disembarked and taken to an undisclosed destination.

[See Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily, April 11, 2003: Libyan Aircraft Collects “VIP Group” From Syria; Flies Back to Libya]

GIS reported at the time that the Iraqis appeared to have gone to Saddam Hussein’s private compound in Libya, near Benghazi, in Cyrenaica. GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily subsequently reported on April 15, 2003, that “a second Libyan Air Force transport aircraft flew into, and out of, al-Mazah AB [Damascus] on Sunday, April 13, 2003, collecting an Iraq-related cargo of people and baggage”.

That Saddam remained inside Iraq, at least through late May 2003, and was regrouping was highlighted in the May 30, 2003, GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily report entitled Iranian Clerics Meet With Iraqi Ba’athists to Form New Terrorist Operation; Bin Laden/Islamists Team With Ba’athists. Equally, the fact that the Saddam Administration had, for at least a decade or more, maintained between 10,000 and 20,000 Iraqi engineers, scientists, workers and specialists inside Libya working on weapons of mass destruction, and particularly delivery systems such as the NoDong-1 ballistic missile (IRBM) program, has been repeatedly documented by GIS.

GIS Washington analysts believed that the US Bush Administration was now paying the price for having deliberately excluded, or discouraged, discussion of the strategic and weapons links of the Saddam Administration to Syria, Libya, the bin Laden terrorist, and Iran, in the build-up to the US-led Coalition war against Saddam. This narrowly-focused approach was designed to ensure that the Bush Administration won a political/public mandate for its war against Saddam, but has resulted in a post-conflict situation in which the US and international audience is asking the US to produce Saddam’s “weapons of mass destruction”, or the links between Saddam and al-Qaida/bin Laden terrorism.

GIS has consistently — and well in advance of the current conflict period — highlighted these links. Even during the build-up to the 2003 Iraq War, GIS, on October 28, 2002, in a report entitled Iraq Moves WMD Matériel to Syrian Safe-Havens, highlighted the Syrian links with Saddam. This was only one of many reports, including reporting on the Iraqi involvement in the Libyan-based missile programs. As well, when it became apparent that the US, UK and Australia were not highlighting the Saddam links with bin Laden terrorists, GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily published a report on March 28, 2003, entitled: Strategic Trends in Iraq War Show Coalition Success and Concerns; Linkages Between Osama bin Laden/al-Qaida and Iraq Outlined.

Acknowledgement of these links — viewing the situation in a broader perspective — would have alleviated many of the problems now facing the Bush and Blair administrations. Even in Australia, terrorism “experts” have briefed the Australian Government on the terrorism situation and have failed to either understand or acknowledge the historic and current linkages between Saddam, the Iranian clerical Administration, Libya and the loose Osama bin Laden network of terrorism, which GIS has consistently documented back into the early 1990s. Failure to understand how “secular” Middle Eastern leaders, such as Saddam Hussein, Libyan leader Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi, and the Palestinian Authority’s Yasir Arafat, could work in close harmony with radical Islamists with whom they also share a large measure of mutual distaste, has largely been at the core of the failure of Western intelligence to comprehend the nature of the threats they face.

This is currently working strongly against the US, in particular, in resolving the Iraq situation, and in dealing with Libya and Iran. The fact that some people in the US Government were now contemplating an alliance with the anti-clerical Iranian terrorist organization, the Muhajedin e-Khalq, highlighted the desperation in Washington policy circles in coping with the challenges. [See Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily, May 27, 2003: Iranian Opposition Sources Warn of Dangers of Ill-Judged US Strategic Moves Against Clerics.]

The new developments with regard to Libya accentuate the problem. And significantly, the 30th session of the Islamic Conference foreign ministers meeting which ended in Tehran on May 31, 2003, renewed its call for the immediate lifting of the “unjust sanctions” which were imposed against Libya as a result of Libyan involvement in the December 1988 bombing of the Pan Am PA103 flight over Lockerbie, Scotland. In their final communiqué, the ministers renewed their call for releasing Abdelbaset al-Megrahi — the Libyan former intelligence officer imprisoned over links to the bombing — and affirmed their rejection of the unilateral actions and attempts to impose sanctions against member countries. The Tehran call for this action in support of Qadhafi highlighted the new “solidarity” re-emerging between Tripoli and Tehran.

In some ways, this reflects the re-emerging defensive mechanism between Saddam, Qadhafi and the Iranian clerics, but as this alignment reasserts itself, including the fact that Qadhafi has allowed a growing number of Iraqi Ba’athist officials safe haven in Libya, Qadhafi has demonstrated that he is prepared to risk US hostility.

Meanwhile, on May 30, 2003, it became clear that Libya, at the suggestion of Col. Qadhafi, was considering renaming the state. The official name of the country, the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriyya, would be abbreviated. A new variant of the official name has not yet been published, although it was understood that the word “Jamahiriyya” (essentially meaning “mass-based state”) would be preserved. All this reflects that Qadhafi, who is terminally ill, is attempting to re-shape his image and approach in the face of increasing domestic opposition, including strong criticism from his own tribal leaders with the Gadadfa (Qadhadfa) tribe.

Essentially, however, Qadhafi has, like many other Middle Eastern leaders, taken his cue from the fact that the US has failed to take action against him over his direct weapons support and safe-haven for Iraqi Pres. Saddam Hussein, and the fact that the US has — despite its massive efforts — failed to capture or kill its principal opponents: Saddam and his sons, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri.