Lt. General Michael DeLong discusses intelligence behind U.S. concern over Ansar al-Islam terror/poison camp in Northern Iraq
A recent conversation Lt. General Michael DeLong revealed new information on prewar intelligence on Iraq that has received little, if any, public attention thus far. General DeLong was the deputy commander of U.S. Central Command during the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and was directly involved with the pre-invasion preparation for Operation Iraqi Freedom. He offered the observation that Bush administration officials appear to have been reluctant thus far in explaining the prewar intelligence and evidence tying members of Saddam Hussein’s regime to the al-Qaeda-linked Ansar al Islam terrorist group.
One of the reasons cited in justifying the Iraq invasion was concern over an Ansar al Islam camp in Northern Iraq and its role chemical weapons production. While the camp was often cited by political leaders, the camp was also of specific concern to U.S. military strategists and leaders. What was particularly worrisome to military planners was the reports of possible links between Saddam Hussein’s regime and Ansar al Islam. What was (and continues to be) debatable is how high up Iraqi knowledge of and contact with the camp had been, if at all. According to Gen. DeLong, the United States had credible intelligence reports of Senior Iraqi leaders and Ministry Officials not only being aware of the camp, but meeting with terrorist leaders involved with the camp.
These comments are nearly identical to what Gen. DeLong told PBS Frontline during their interviews for their special “The Dark Side.”
“When are you first aware that Iraq and Saddam Hussein are on somebody's gun sights somewhere and that it may be job two?”
“We also knew we had thoroughly good intelligence that there was an Al Qaeda base on the Iraq-Iran border, that the Al Qaeda were coming through Iran into Iraq. We'll call it a dual-use base; in other words, chemicals that could be used for putting on your crops or chemicals that you could mix together and make a chemical weapon out of. We had on the ground intelligence that they were coming through there, and then some of them were meeting with some of the senior people in the Saddam administration, not with Saddam himself. We knew there was a tie to Saddam, to Iraq. And nothing happens in Iraq without Saddam knowing about it, so we knew that was true.”Were you aware that by the 21st of September, say, Tenet and the CIA had already delivered to the president and to others that there was no Al Qaeda-Saddam connection? (Regimeofterror.com note: Tenet's 2002 testimony to Congress was actually quite supportive of an al Qaeda-Saddam connection)
Yeah, we didn't agree. Now, the only place we saw it was this one compound on the Iraq-Iran border, which was so troubling to us. We almost took them out three months before the Iraq war started. We almost took that thing, but we were so concerned that the chemical cloud from there could devastate the region that we chose to take them by land rather than by smart weapons. ...
DeLong, who briefly mentions the intelligence on the camp in his book "Inside Centcom" (new paperback "A General Speaks Out"), says that the camp on the Iran-Iraq border had been in existence for a "long time" and the intelligence indicated that it was indeed a dual use chemical factory intended for AG (agricultural) and warfare. Some background on what AG warfare might look like has been detailed by Mark Wheelis of the University of California.
DeLong also said that there were enough concerns about the amount of chemicals in the area( bombing could produce a lethal chemical cloud large enough to affect numerous civilians in the region), that ground troops were used to check the place for chemical weapons early in 2003 . By the time the troops got there "most" of the chemicals had been removed and the site was more or less sanitized.
“A General Speaks Out”, by Zenith Publishing, can be ordered through Amazon.com.