U.S. intelligence: Saddam gave insurgents money but few orders

Thursday, December 18, 2003

BAGHDAD U.S. military intelligence has concluded that Saddam Hussein financed the Sunni insurgency in Iraq but did not provide orders to the underground command.

U.S. military commanders and officials said the interrogation of Saddam and an examination of documents found with the deposed Iraqi president have formed a picture of his role in the Sunni insurgency. They said Saddam continued to finance the insurgency even while on the run from U.S. forces in the Tikrit area.

Saddam outlined the goals of the Sunni insurgency command soon after he escaped Baghdad in April, the officials and commander said. Insurgency commanders provided reports to Saddam on attacks on U.S. and coalition interests in Iraq.

"Our expectation was that Saddam was probably involved in intent and in financing," Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, head of the U.S. forces in Iraq, said according to a report by Middle East Newsline. "And so far, that is still my belief. And more to follow from the interrogations. At this point, we have nothing further."

The deposed Iraqi president obtained reports of Sunni insurgents via courier. The courier brought minutes of meetings of Sunni insurgency commanders, who often comprised former high-ranking military officers.

"What the capture of Saddam Hussein revealed is the structure that existed above the local cellular structure -- call it a network," Brig. Gen. Martin Dempsey, commander of the 1st Armored Division, said. "We now know how the cells are financed and how they are given broad general guidance."

Dempsey said the capture of Saddam bolstered a longstanding assessment by the coalition that the Sunni insurgency was a loose network that did not possess a firm command structure. He said insurgency cells operated in most regions of the Sunni Triangle, with up to 14 cells operating in Baghdad alone. Eight of the Baghdad cells were believed to have been exposed.

"We still believe their actions against us are conducted locally, and with very little guidance from above other than 'impede progress,'" Dempsey said.

In Samarra, the Army's 4th Infantry Division, backed by helicopters and fighter-jets, has captured 73 suspected Sunni insurgents and a large amount of material required to assemble roadside bombs. Division commander Gen. Raymond Ray Ordierno said the Iraqi suspects captured on Wednesday were believed to have represented all of the members of the Samarra cell, who had gathered for a meeting.

To conceal the Sunni insurgency link to the deposed president, Saddam loyalists established an Islamic group meant to suggest a liasion with Al Qaida, commanders said. The group was called Mohammad's Army and was largely composed of former Saddam agents.

The documents found with Saddam provided U.S. military intelligence with an outline of the structure of Mohammad's Army and its sponsors, commanders said. They said about 1,000 members of Mohammad's Army have operated in Baghdad.

"I'd say 100 of those, maybe 200, are passionate about it," Dempsey said. "And the others are just taking advantage of the situation for money or whatever."

Central Command chief Gen. John Abizaid said the Saddam capture has led to the arrest of numerous loyalists and some insurgency financiers over the past two days. Abizaid said the U.S. military has deemed the capture of mid-level Ba'ath commanders as the key to ending the campaign against the coalition in Iraq.

"From fighting this particular enemy, [we've learned that] knocking out the mid-level leadership is the key to success," Abizaid said. "If they were to take out our lieutenant colonels and colonels, we would have trouble, too. That's what we're doing to them."

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