The New York Times

Saddam Hussein's plan for the defense of Baghdad, obtained by German agents and provided to the United States in February 2003, a month before the war, according to a study by the American military.


February 27, 2006

German Intelligence Gave U.S. Iraqi Defense Plan, Report Says

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27 — Two German intelligence agents in Baghdad obtained a copy of Saddam Hussein's plan to defend the Iraqi capital, which a German official passed on to American commanders a month before the invasion, according to a classified study by the United States military.

In providing the Iraqi document, German intelligence officials offered more significant assistance to the United States than their government has publicly acknowledged. The plan gave the American military an extraordinary window into Iraq's top-level deliberations, including where and how Mr. Hussein planned to deploy his most loyal troops.

The German role is not the only instance in which nations that publicly cautioned against the war privately facilitated it. Egypt and Saudi Arabia, for example, provided more help than they have disclosed. Egypt gave access for refueling planes, while Saudi Arabia allowed American special operations forces to initiate attacks from its territory, United States military officials say.

But the German government was an especially vociferous critic of the Bush administration's decision to use military force to topple Mr. Hussein. While the German government has said that it had intelligence agents in Baghdad during the war, it has insisted it provided only limited help to the United States-led coalition.

In a report released Thursday, German officials said much of the assistance was restricted to identifying civilian sites so they would not be attacked by mistake. The classified American military study, though, documents the more substantive help from German intelligence.

The chief spokesman for the German government, Ulrich Wilhelm, said today that he had spoken to the German foreign intelligence agency, known as the B.N.D., and that he was told the Times account was wrong "in all its details."

He said "the B.N.D., and with it the German government, were unaware of such a plan until now."

Bill Keller, The Times's executive editor, said in response that the report published today was attributed to a classified Joint Forces Command study on the development of Iraq's military strategy, dated 2005, and that on the matter of German involvement, "the Joint Forces Command study is explicit and unqualified." [ Full text of statement ]

The prelude to the Iraq war was a period of intense strain in German-American relations. In his 2002 political campaign, Gerhard Schröder, then the German chancellor, warned against an invasion and vowed that Germany would not participate. President Bush declined to make the customary congratulatory phone call to Mr. Schröder when he won re-election that September. Annoyed by the antiwar stances of Germany and France, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld offended the two nations by labeling them "old Europe" shortly before the war in March 2003.

Longstanding relations between American and German intelligence agencies, however, persisted. As the American military prepared to invade Iraq, the German intelligence agents operated in Baghdad.

Among their tasks, they sought to obtain Mr. Hussein's plan to defend Baghdad, the United States study asserts. For years, the Iraqi military had relied on a strategy that called for deploying Iraqi forces along the invasion route to Baghdad in the hope of bloodying and weakening an invading army before it arrived at the capital.

But on Dec. 18, 2002, Mr. Hussein summoned his commanders to a strategy session where a new plan was unveiled, former Iraqi officers and government officials told American interrogators. Among those attending were Qusay Hussein, the Iraqi leader's son who oversaw the Republican Guard; Lt. Gen. Sayf al-Din Fulayyih Hasan Taha al-Rawi, the Republican Guard chief of staff, and other Republican Guard generals. Mr. Hussein's instructions were to mass troops along several defensive rings near the capital, including a "red line" that Republican Guard troops would hold to the end.

Mr. Wilhelm, the German spokesman, denied the Germans knew of the meeting.

An account of the German role in acquiring a copy of Mr. Hussein's plan is contained in the American military study, which focuses on Iraq's military strategy and was prepared in 2005 by the United States Joint Forces Command.

After the German agents obtained the Iraqi plan, they sent it up their chain of command, the study said.

In February 2003, a German intelligence officer in Qatar provided a copy to an official from the United States Defense Intelligence Agency who worked at the wartime headquarters of the overall commander, Gen. Tommy R. Franks, according to the American military study. Officials at the agency shared the plan with the Central Command's J-2 office, or intelligence division. That division supplied information for the report.

The classified study contains a copy of the sketch supplied by the Germans. "The overlay was provided to the Germans by one of their sources in Baghdad (identity of the German sources unknown)," the study notes. "When the bombs started falling, the agents ceased ops and went to the French Embassy."

That account of German assistance differs from one the German government has provided publicly. After the election of a new government led by Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2005, German officials insisted that they had not provided substantial help to the United States-led coalition. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was Mr. Schröder's chief of staff during the invasion, denounced news media reports last month that German agents had picked targets for American warplanes as "absurd."

On Thursday, the German government released a new report that acknowledged that German agents had provided some intelligence but suggested it was very limited. The 90-page report is the public version of a much longer classified account. The public report, for example, stated that the agents provided information on "civilian protected or other humanitarian sites, such as Synagogues and Torah rolls and the possible locations of missing U.S. pilots." It said that agents also provided the United States with descriptions of "the character of military and police presence in the city" and "descriptions in isolated cases of Iraqi military forces along with geographic coordinates." The report noted that as the war approached, the German diplomatic corps was evacuated, but on March 17, just days before the invasion, the German agents were instructed to remain in Baghdad.

The public report, however, did not mention anything about securing the Baghdad defense plan or passing it to the United States military, nor has the German government released any information about that.

A majority of the German Parliament did not support a call for a formal inquiry into any German intelligence assistance last week. "The issue has been cleared up, and all allegations dispelled," said Norbert Röttgen, chairman of the parliamentary control committee, which reviewed the classified version of the German report. Some opposition politicians, however, have argued that a further investigation is needed.

Germany is not the only case in which a government that warned against the invasion quietly helped United States forces wage the war. The Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, publicly warned that the invasion of Iraqi might lead to a human catastrophe and insisted that Egypt would not provide direct help to a United States-led military coalition. "It is not the case, and it won't be the case," he said in late March 2003.

But Mr. Mubarak quietly allowed United States aerial refueling tankers to be based at an Egyptian airfield, according to a United States military official involved in managing the air war against Iraq, who asked to remain anonymous because he was speaking about delicate diplomatic arrangements.

The tankers were used to refuel Navy aircraft in the Mediterranean and land-based warplanes on their missions to and from Iraq. United States warplanes also flew through Egyptian airspace to carry out missions over Iraq, American military officials said. United States nuclear-powered vessels were allowed to quickly move through the Suez Canal, and cruise missiles were fired at targets in Iraq from the Red Sea.

The Saudis have played down the extent of their cooperation with the Bush administration. But they allowed the Delta Force and other American Special Operations Forces to mount attacks in Iraq from a secret base at Arar, Saudi Arabia, according to United States commandos who asked not to be identified because their operations were secret. The public Saudi explanation was that the area was being cordoned off for a potential flood of Iraqi refugees.

In the months before the war, military aides to the Joint Chiefs of Staff began to write a classified list of which nations had joined President Bush's "coalition of the willing" to topple Mr. Hussein and soon discovered that they had to add categories. While Germany had loudly opposed the war, it did not obstruct the United States military's efforts and even offered limited cooperation. So Germany was listed as "non-coalition but cooperating," said a Pentagon official who asked to remain anonymous because the list was not public. Saudi Arabia and Egypt were more supportive but did not want to be perceived as facilitating the attack. They were listed as "silent partners."

Besides the support by German intelligence, the German government cooperated with the United States military in other ways.

German ships guarded the sea lanes near the Horn of Africa as part of Task Force 150, an effort to deter terrorist attacks in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, for example. The patrols helped safeguard the waterways the United States used to build up its forces in the Persian Gulf for the invasion of Iraq.

German troops were also part of a "consequence management" team, at the United States military base at Camp Doha, Kuwait, which was charged with protecting Kuwaitis after a chemical attack. The measure was justified as defensive. German personnel also guarded American military bases in Germany, freeing United States soldiers to go to Iraq.

When NATO debated whether to send Awacs radar planes and Patriot missile batteries to Turkey, a move the United States was promoting to help persuade Ankara to open a northern front in Iraq, Germany initially was opposed. But it soon dropped its objections. Germany later provided the missiles for the Patriot batteries sent to Turkey.

The Iraq defense plan passed on to General Franks's command was the subject of considerable debate in the Iraqi military. Some officers contended it did not sufficiently account for terrain or the capabilities of the United States military.

American intelligence thought before the war that crossing the "red line" on the plan would be the trigger for an Iraqi chemical attack. But after the war, United States intelligence determined that the use of chemical or germ weapons had never been contemplated in the plan, according to the Iraq Survey Group, a task force set up by the Central Intelligence Agency to investigate what had happened to Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear programs.

The Baghdad Defense Plan, the Iraqi Survey Group reported, had its origins in tactics taught to Iraqi officers in Britain in the 1950's and in British-style training in Pakistan.

There is no question, however, that it reflected the thinking of Mr. Hussein and his top aides, according to United States government interviews of senior Iraqi officers. According to the United States military study, an Iraqi general responsible for defending the southern approaches to Baghdad raised concerns about the wisdom of the plan. Qusay Hussein cut off the discussion.

"Qusay said the plan was already approved by Saddam and 'it was you who would now make it work,"' the Republican Guard commander told his American interrogators.

Richard Bernstein contributed reporting from Berlin for this article.