Intelligence: October 2, 2003

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Coalition forces fighting in Iraq last April thought they had destroyed the Iraqi military communications system. They did. But after interviewing lots of Iraqi and coalition officers, it was revealed that the Iraqis had another military intelligence system. This one, based on Baath Party loyalists and the use of cell phones, satellite phones, regular phones and couriers, enabled Iraqi spies (often soldiers in civilians clothes, but mainly Baath Party civilians) just watching what the advancing coalition troops were up to and reporting it back to Baath Party intelligence headquarters in Baghdad, or local Baath leaders. The damage to the Iraqi military communications system did have an impact, because the Baath Party intelligence officials could not get much of what they knew back down to the Iraqi troops still ready, able and willing to fight. Iraqi senior commanders (about a dozen men, mostly corps commanders) did get good intelligence. But the Iraqi division and regimental commanders were generally groping around without any information on the location of coalition, or friendly, forces. But the improvised intelligence system enabled Baath to mobilize and send south thousands  of irregulars south to confront the advancing coalition troops. There were over ten thousand of these Baath Party loyalists, of which at least a third were killed fighting coalition troops. Some are still fighting. This use of telephone systems and couriers are not unknown. It was seen in all major wars since the 1930s. At the end of World War II, the German telephone system often still functioned, even though there appeared to be extensive damage to infrastructure. In wartime, never underestimate the enemy's ability to improvise. Currently, the Baath Party probably still has a good intelligence system working, and this is what coalition forces are finding in their low level battle with Baath.

 


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