April 18, 2007:
While Israel is universally
denounced by Iraqis, the most successful intelligence gathering efforts in the
country play by Israeli rules. It's the price of success. Israel developed
tactics to defeat years of Palestinian terrorist attacks, and U.S. troops were
the first to try and adapt these tactics to Iraqi conditions. This wasn't easy.
The key to Israeli success was an informant network within the Palestinian
community. The Israelis have hundreds of police and military operatives who can
pass as Arabs (their families came from Arab countries shortly after Israel was
founded in 1947). These Israelis speak fluent Arabic (with a Palestinian
accent) and are Arab in appearance. These agents dress as Palestinians and enter Palestinian areas and, backed up by
regular troops, grab suspects and hustle them off, or kill them if they resist.
But these agents also move about recruit and run Palestinian informants. Many
of these Palestinian informants are doing it for the money. Israelis pay for
information. They also use other inducements (help with the bureaucracy,
medical care, etc). If that fails, they use blackmail and threats. Palestinian
terrorist organizations have been unsuccessful in their attempts to shut down
the informant networks, and many innocent Palestinians have died simply because
they were falsely accused of being informants.
Actually, the Israelis gain a lot of information on
terrorists via electronic intelligence work and UAVs that are constantly in the
air over Palestinian neighborhoods. They seek to make the terrorists think that
its the gadgets, not informants, that is gathering the information. To the
Israelis, inducing paranoia among the Palestinians is seen as a successful
weapon. All this has kept helped keep the terrorists out of Israel for the last
three years, something no one thought was possible.
In Iraq, the U.S. has very few military
intelligence people who can pass for Iraqis (and those they do have, often are
Iraqis, or the children of Iraqis, who migrated to the U.S.) Using Iraqis as
informant recruiters has proved difficult because the enemy, often veterans of
Saddam's security services, are expert at intimidating and terrorizing Iraqis.
This has made it difficult to keep the identity of informants secret.
But the Iraqis have been able to make the Israeli
tactics work, or at least work better than
for the Americans. The problem here is that, all too often, Iraqis are
easy to bribe. Money has been in short supply in Iraq for over a decades, and
too many people are willing to sell whatever they got in order to make a buck.
Even when there is a family connection (which is why recruiting several members
of a family as informants is so useful), people will get sold out.
And then there's the religion thing. Nearly all the
former Saddam intel people are Sunni Arabs, and there little trust between them
and the majority Shia Arabs. The head of the INIS (Iraqi National Intelligence
Service) is a Sunni Arab, selected by the CIA because he had worked for
American intelligence while Saddam was in power, and new how to run an
intelligence organization. While the CIA trusted this guy, most Shia Arabs do
not. So the Shia Arabs, using their control of another government agency, have
set up their own national intelligence agency.
The problem here is that, members of both
organizations can be reached by bribes, or threats to their immediate families.
Worse, too many people, once bought, don't stay bought. The two agencies will
not cooperate with each other, and the Shias are reluctant to work with the
Americans. It takes American intel specialists a few months to get used to the
way these things operate in Iraq, and the fact that they are the only ones who
can operate in both Shia and Sunni areas. But despite it all, the basic Israeli
emphasis on lots of intel, then lightning raids, and the acquisition of more
intel (prisoners, documents, laptops) has remained the one successful approach
to shutting down terrorist operations.