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March 25, 2006
The Media As Semaphore

Today's Washington Post coverage of the Russian perfidy in 2003 contains an interesting revelation from the Russians themselves which makes clear the administration's fury over their espionage on behalf of Saddam Hussein during the invasion. The release of the Pentagon study came before the US informed the Russians that they had discovered the smoking guns in the captured Iraqi intelligence:

Russian officials collected intelligence on U.S. troop movements and attack plans from inside the American military command leading the 2003 invasion of Iraq and passed that information to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, according to a U.S. military study released yesterday.

The intelligence reports, which the study said were provided to Hussein through the Russian ambassador in Baghdad at the height of the U.S. assault, warned accurately that American formations intended to bypass Iraqi cities on their thrust toward Baghdad. The reports provided some specific numbers on U.S. troops, units and locations, according to Iraqi documents dated March and April 2003 and later captured by the United States.

"The information that the Russians have collected from their sources inside the American Central Command in Doha is that the United States is convinced that occupying Iraqi cities are impossible, and that they have changed their tactic," said one captured Iraqi document titled "Letter from Russian Official to Presidential Secretary Concerning American Intentions in Iraq" and dated March 25, 2003.

A Russian official at the United Nations strongly rejected the allegations that Russian officials gave information to Baghdad. "This is absolutely nonsense," said Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian mission to the United Nations. She said the allegations were never presented to the Russian government before being issued to the news media. [emphasis mine -- CE]

Under normal circumstances with a country viewed as a diplomatic partner, if not an ally, both nations would engage in discussions about this kind of information before making it public, probably through high-ranking diplomats. The aggrieved nation would at least demand an explanation prior to showing its hand. The failure to do so by the US shows that this development has George Bush mad enough to expose Vladimir Putin and his government to the kind of political damage that could restart the Cold War. That may be because Bush understands that, just as with 9/11 and its precursor attacks, that war has already been declared by our enemy.

Make no mistake about it, this goes far beyond just a little friendly coaching and the protection of Russian assets. Ann Tyson and Josh White point out one specific battle where the Russians supplied excellent intelligence not only about our positions but the strategy we used to isolate Baghdad. The Russians accurately predicted that we would make a dangerous move across the Karbala Gap, where the US expected an attack in force by the supposedly premiere Republican Guard forces. An Iraqi commander took the information to Saddam and his sons, where his counsel was ignored. Had they reacted properly to the Russian data, we could have lost a lot of men in the Karbala Gap.

The Post quotes Michael O'Hanlon from the center-left Brookings Institute:

Michael E. O'Hanlon, a defense expert at the Brookings Institution, said the passing of information on U.S. troop movements during combat, if true, constituted "a stark betrayal." He added: "I think we should be demanding a fairly clear explanation from Moscow."

It's telling that we didn't do so before we made this public. The message we sent the Russians says that we will not trust them in the next international crisis -- the one in Iran. The remote nuclear-fuel processing deal is dead regardless of the Moscow-Teheran talks, and the US will probably push them out of the negotiations altogether from this point forward.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 25, 2006 7:02 AM

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» Lies, Spies And Allies from Riehl World View
Captain Ed at CQ points out that a new Washington Post article indicates that our government released information on Russian spying to the media before diplomatically confronting Russia. He goes on to assert it's a sign of Bush's anger over [Read More]

Tracked on March 26, 2006 12:17 PM


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