The Guardian (UK) reports that a classified US military report states categorically that German intelligence provided the Coalition with vital information on Saddam Hussein’s plans for the defense of Baghdad. This has long been rumored to be true, and the additional evidence has the Germans backpedaling at home:
Germany’s government faced renewed pressure to order an inquiry yesterday after fresh evidence emerged that Germany supplied military intelligence to the United States in the run-up to the Iraq war.
A classified US military study states categorically that the Germans provided details about Saddam Hussein’s plans for the defence of Baghdad. Since the spy issue first arose last month, the Berlin government has been repeatedly forced on the defensive. It issued a denial yesterday.
A copy of the US study was obtained by Michael Gordon, chief military correspondent of the New York Times, who has co-written Cobra 11: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq, to be published by Pantheon in America and Atlantic Books in Britain next month. A New York Times report yesterday was based on the book.
The study, which reconstructs Saddam’s military strategy, was prepared in 2005 by the US Joint Forces Command. It says that two German agents based in Baghdad gained access a month before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 to a sketch, covered in clear plastic, showing the proposed defensive lines for Baghdad, and that a German intelligence officer based in Qatar handed it to US intelligence. The sketch is identified as a plan presented at a meeting of Saddam and his senior commanders in December 2002.
If one recalls, the question of liberating Baghdad weighed heavily on the minds of military planners. America anticipated a block-by-block battle, putting the millions of Baghdadis at risk while potentially costing thousands of American lives. This was one of the points on which critics of the invasion predicted a disaster for the operation. Some publicly predicted that Baghdad would never fall to invading forces and that even if it did, it would resemble Berlin in May 1945 once the battle ended.
If the Germans assisted us in the effort to spare all of that, then their role in the war should be re-evaluated by Americans. However, the Germans apparently would prefer not to have their role re-evaluated at all, as their own people are furious with this alleged breach of their proclaimed neutrality. They question the honesty of former administration officials such as Joschka Fischer, who publicly stated that they would not provide any such assistance to the US and in fact had not done so. Fortunately for Angela Merkel, the new Chancellor, none of these allegations reflect on her new government, and she may be tempted to order an inquiry into the effort for political purposes.
One hopes that the furor will die down quickly. If the report turns out to be true, German intelligence saved the lives of both Iraqis and Americans in Baghdad, and helped to keep the city from the extensive damage that an all-out defense may have caused. If true, we should all be grateful for that outcome.