The biggest intelligence failure of all, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence sources stress, was the inability of any Western agency to uncover the military preparations Saddam and his sons made in the run-up to the war to counter the allied invasion.
The CIA and the intelligence services of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Oman and Israel were equally deficient on this score.
Nine days into the war, the preparatory intelligence campaign turns out to have been misdirected. It focused on a partially successful attempt to penetrate the Special Republic Guards and the regular army’s command structure in a bid to tempt officers and men to surrender, defect or rebel against Saddam. However, they did not reach far enough into the militias and security bodies running the guerrilla war behind US and British frontlines, the “hornets” assault programmed to inflict heavy loss of men and materiel and ultimately undermine the allied offensive by intense harassment.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence sources, the CIA and allied agencies discovered that Saddam Hussein had charged his elder son Uday with establishing a guerrilla force – but nothing more than the general directive.
In fact, from April 2002, Uday was busy for many months putting together an 800,000-strong guerrilla army. DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources report that its largest component is the Baath militia of 650,000 members with chapters in every corner of Iraq. In addition to a regular paycheck, each member drew an extra $200 a month for attending military training three times a week. Party members earned another $50 a head for any relative over 14 he recruited.
Their training included dare-devil driving tactics on a battlefield behind the wheels of pickup trucks, usually Toyotas, while firing heavy machineguns or light mortars. They were taught how to plant and detonate explosives, mount ambushes and take part in coordinated sorties by groups of armed vehicles.
The militiamen were transformed into guerrilla fighters by an estimated 700 Iraqi military intelligence officers who had been in Chechnya in the 1990s for long training stints in guerrilla warfare with al Qaeda experts.
Uday is rumored to have made secret trips to Iran, Lebanon, Bosnia and Macedonia to bring 300 al Qaeda instructors over to Iraq. These rumors will remain unconfirmed until allied forces actually capture an al Qaeda instructor. What is not in dispute is that Saddam and Uday copied the deadliest practices al Qaeda and Taliban perfected in Afghanistan.
Both used dozens and sometimes hundreds of fast pickups armed with light and heavy weapons to crisscross the country and repress Afghan tribes and warlords. Tribal chiefs were intimidated and kept obedient by their fear of the vehicles popularly known as “white devils” suddenly darting out at them.
When the United States invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, al Qaeda sold the pickups to finance its fighters’ getaway when they saw the vehicles charging up and down Afghanistan’s winding mountain roads were easy prey for US aircraft and drones.
All the same, Uday chose the fast pickups to bedevil US troops in the open Iraqi desert. He knew the allied forces would be passing through since the US war command made no attempt to hide its preparations for invading Iraq from Kuwait and Qatar in the south.
In late 2002, Iraqi agents in Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia, bought 7,500 pickups and shipped them by sea to Iraq in small, inconspicuous lots. The purchasing agents were briefed to order trucks with front-wheel drives. Anyone curious about Saddam’s wholesale purchase of pickup trucks was told they were for the use of farms newly established to make the desert bloom.
Ruling Baath Converted to Guerrilla Army
Painting them in the drab colors of the desert, Iraqi mechanics fitted the pickups with heavy machine guns, handing them to the Baath militiamen whose local cells have spearheaded the strikes at US military routes, small convoys which lose their way and US military camps bedded down for the night. In this project, Uday made history. Apart from the Soviet Union, Mao’s China and North Vietnam in the communist era, no political party had converted itself into a vast guerrilla army until Saddam Hussein’s son’s brainchild was born. Its members are moreover highly motivated fighters.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence sources add that, after borrowing al Qaeda’s raiding tactics, Uday took a leaf out of Yasser Arafat’s suicide terror strategy. They report that while US intelligence officers were taking notes of the large-scale battles Israel conducted in Palestinian towns from April to September 2002 – especially in Nablus and Jenin, Iraqi intelligence agents studied Palestinian combat tactics and sent in their reports to Uday by couriers passing through Jordan or Syria.
The Americans made a study of Israeli combat in the densely populated areas of Arab cities; Uday’s informants focused on the Palestinians’ failure to keep Israeli troops out of their Casbahs and the refugee camps of Nablus and Jenin, despite alleyways no more than a few feet broad and underground tunnels connecting the houses.
Uday’s conclusion was that the Palestinians had booby-trapped only a part of their honeycombed towns and camps, while Israeli intelligence knew precisely which alleys and buildings had been trapped, enough to keep their troops out of harm’s way. To be on the safe side, IDF soldiers initiated the method of passing from house to house by breaking through internal walls instead of exposing themselves to attack on the outside.
Saddam’s son was also informed that the Palestinians had not prepared sufficient suicide bombers to stop the Israelis from seizing their cities. Only in Jenin, in the battle fought on April 7, 2002, did a group of Palestinian and Hizballah suicide fighters blow themselves up and inflict heavy Israeli casualties.
After making a thorough study of these techniques, Uday ordered the 100,000 troops of Saddam’s Fedayeen suicide fighters to set up small suicide units of 3-5 men in every Iraqi city including Baghdad and Tikrit. These men were ordered to greet US forces entering their towns by blowing themselves up in sequence.