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BREAKING IN ITALY- How the Iraq War was Prepared

by de Gondi Wed Nov 2nd, 2005 at 08:15:52 AM EST

From the front page, edited for front page format ~ whataboutbob

While Berlusconi dishes out his intergalactic bullshit (Title of il Manifesto yesterday: Balle spaziale) as a latter-day peacenik, the Bonini- D'Avanzo team publish a new series that promises to have far-reaching consequences. The first installment reveals what happened at the secret Rome meetings starting in December 2001, involving Sismi agents, Ledeen, Franklin, Rhode and the crucial protagonists, Aras Habib Karim and Francis Brooke. Ghorbanifar, according to Sismi sources, had a minor role, more as a decoy, to divert attention.

The scoop reveals the behind the scene preparation of the war and the key role of the Italian secret services in infiltrating southern Iraq to prepare the terrain for the land invasion through their long-standing network in Iraq.

The Rome meetings were arranged at the behest of the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans in collaboration with the Iranian regime which certainly had converging interests to eliminate Saddam and expand their influence in Southern Iraq.

Update [2005-11-1 3:41:19 by de Gondi]: Here follows the full translation of the first installment of the Repubblica scoop by Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe d’Avanzo, published on October 31st. The first block is a corrected version of the translation put up by Nur-al Cubicle on her blog.

Part I: From Chelabi to Iranian Agents--SISMI's War in Iraq A strategic summit in Rome with the Pentagon.

ROME: He’s another politico-military intelligence chief. He’s a SISMI man. He slowly saunters down the narrow hallway of the bar at the Hotel Eden in via Ludovisi. He stops to admire the sky and the attractive skyline of Rome in the April sun (it is 22 April 2003) through the hotel’s large windows. He looks elegant as far as the drabness of “a functionary of the President’s Council” allows. [Berlusconi presides over the “President’s Council”--Nur]. He selects a table at the center of the terrace. The waiter walks over and solicitously takes his order. The gentleman orders a freshly-squeezed orange juice and a double espresso. The Anglo-American invasion of Iraq began on the night of 19-20 March, thirty-three days earlier.

Today, as Silvio Berlusconi reveals that he never supported the military intervention in Iraq, it is fitting to tell the story of how our country, Italy, although supposedly opposed to war as our Premier now claims, was an active protagonist in war preparations and operations.

We will reveal the different arrangements and plans of action, as well as who planned them and with whom they were planned.

“For us Italians,” recounts the high-ranking SISMI official to La Repubblica, “the war on Iraq was already underway before Christmas, 2002.” He smiles. He is animated with a glint of excitement in his eyes and for once seems to have no qualms about letting his personal satisfaction slip from behind a frozen mask.

Our man is too disciplined to crow about his successes and too stubborn to be discouraged by defeat. He tells us: “It was a novelty, a revolution for our intelligence services. Never before in its history has SISMI been so prominently involved in military ground operations and a major role in a war campaign, to boot. The Italian Government? Of course our work was authorized by the Italian Government—are you kidding? It was real war, not an exercise! The twenty men we sent to Iraq were risking their lives.” He pauses. The espresso arrives. He sips it slowly, his eyes half-closed with satisfaction.

He continues. “Twenty men from three SISMI departments were involved: Military Intelligence, Operations, and Counterterrorism. They were divided into small groups which were to operate in the areas of Kirkuk, Baghdad and Basrah using outlandish covers. Each unit was unaware of the identities and the mission of the others. Each unit was ordered to operate within a sector of territory and to work with intelligence “assets” who had already been selected and trained. The objectives were twofold: To identify Iraqi defenses and to evaluate the readiness to fight of the Iraqi armed forces’ upper echelons.If the war we fought there wasn’t as cruel as expected, it’s thanks to the job we did there, which of course we didn’t do alone. If we won the war before firing a shot, it was due to our successes at infiltration and intelligence-gathering.”

The story of Italian military intervention in Iraq begins when the resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Michael Ledeen, sponsored by Defense Minister Antonio Martin, debarks in Rome with Pentagon men in tow to meet a handful of “Iranian exiles.” The meeting is organized by SISMI. In an agency “safe house” near Piazza di Spagna (however other sources told us it was a reserved room in the Parco dei Principi Hotel).

About twenty-five men are gathered around a large table, covered by a maps of Iraq, Iran and Syria. Those who really count are Lawrence Franklin and Harold Rhode of the Office of Special Plans, Michael Ledeen of the AIE, a SISMI station chief accompanied by his assistant (the first is a balding man between 46 and 48 years of age; the second is younger, around 38, with braces on his teeth), and some mysterious Iranians.

Pollari confirms the meeting to La Repubblica: “When [Defense Minister Martino] asked me to organize the meeting, I became curious. But it was my job and I wasn’t born yesterday. It’s true—my men were also present at the meeting. I wanted to know what was boiling in the pot. It’ also true that there were maps of Iraq and Iran on the table. I can tell you those Iranians were not exactly “exiles”. They went back and forth from Teheran with their own passports with no difficulty whasoever as if they were invisible to the pasdaran...”

So the Iranians were not exiles. They were not opponents of the regime of the ayatollahs. These men are members of the regime, sent by Tehran. If people in Washington are wondering what the devil they were doing there on the eve of the invasion, in Rome, elbow-to-elbow with people from the Pentagon, we can tell you something. In order to make some sense out of the confusion, it’s best to listen to an American intelligence source, who has requested anonymity. He tells us: “You Italians have always underestimated the amount of intoxication carried out by Ahmed Chalabi, the head of Iraqi National Congress. You tend to omit this chapter from your side of the story because you think Ahmed concerns only the Americans. But that’s not the way it is: he was also your business, far beyond anything you currently imagine or know.”

My original translation, slightly retouched.

We must say who Ahmed Chalabi is. A neo-con darling, Chalabi was charged by Pentagon hawks to funnel information to European intelligence services on WMDs obtained from so-called scientists that had defected from the [Iraq] regime. The man responsible for gathering together and constructing the "legends" [spin] was Chalabi's intelligence chief, Aras Habib Karim. Aras is a key figure. He coordinates the Intelligence Collection Programme. He runs and confections dissident "material." He's a Shiite Kurd, just under 50, crafty, mean, a master at double-crossing and falsification of documents. With a peculiarity: the CIA has always considered him "an Iranian agent." The second key player is Francis Brooke. The false Niger Uranium dossier ended up in his hands although it is not known how. Brooke holds the strings to Condoleeza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz and between the Iraqi National Congress and the Pentagon. His ties to Iran are excellent, far more than Chalabi's.

The American intelligence source continues: "Ahmed Chalabi and his best men- Karim, Brooke- work as a team with the Pentagon and the American Enterprise Institute. An example to understand better. In 2004 the three [sic] men who alternate in Baghdad together with Chalabi as "liason officers" are Michael Rubin, president of the American Enterprise Institute; [and] Harold Rhode, Douglas Feith's assistant at the Office of Special Plans and Paul Wolfowitz's "advisor for Islamic Affairs." Just as in Italy before the war. The meetings in Rome brought together representatives of the whole team: Michael Ledeen, of the American Enterprise Institute; Larry Franklin and Harold Rhode of the Office of Special Plans; the colonels of the Iraqi National Congress; and the Iraqi Shiites of the Supreme Council of the Iraqi Islamic Revolution, and of course "the Guardians of the Revolution." That was the situation in Rome. Interesting, isn't it?" [Yes,] interesting.

Again, Nur-al Cubicle, with correction.

We discover that the trump card played in the conflict in terms of the involvement of Iran in post-9/11 planning is Shi’ite. Tehran decides to get involved “to reasonably preserve Iranian strategic interests in the region”. The pragmatic Americans must realize the extent of the Iranian influence on the Shi’a community in Iraq (65% of the population). The ayatollahs have a vested national interest in regime change in Baghdad. An Iraq liberated from Sunni power means major political influence by Tehran and good prospects for the handover of government to the Shi’a of the Supreme Revolutionary Council led by Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, who is both supported and protected by Iran, together with the military wing, the Sadr Brigades (7 to 15 thousand militiamen). It is no surprise that Chalabi’s team (no matter if his colonels are Iranian agents or not), are welcomed in Tehran as dignitaries and are feted with ceremony usually reserved for a foreign diplomatic delegations.
My translation of the rest of the article.

This is the political context that permits the Sciri to collaborate with the Bush administration to manufacture the pretext to go to war. Together with the Intelligence Collection Programme, Aras Habib Karim organizes the revelations of Iraqi deserters. Sciri offers the Pentagon a confirmation of their apparently “independent” revelations, in reality put together with the Chalabi group under the supervision of Teheran’s secret services.

If a defector, “worked over” by the INC in London, declares that Saddam Hussein “is trying to develop a new chemical weapon,” the military leader of the Sadr Brigade, Abdalaziz al-Hakim, while visiting Washington, consigns to American functionaries “a document from the Iranian intelligence demonstrating how the dictator has authorized his regional commanders to use chemical and biological weapons against any Shiite uprising in the case of an American attack.”

We’ve learned to recognize the mechanisms of disinformation. But now protagonists appear to walk the Italian stage just before the war of whom we were not aware. We now see them, one next to another. They participate in the Rome meeting. Programmed by Michael A. Ledeen for the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans. Politically sponsored (according to Pollari) by the Minister of Defense, Antonio Martino. Technical organization by the Sismi.

What a bunch of nonsense about this meeting. It was organized, we’ve been told over the years, “to save human lives in Afghanistan.” Then, “to program together with Iranian exiles popular support from the Iranian masses,” with the nebulous idea of an uprising capable of sweeping away the Ayatollahs’ regime. It’s been said that it was useful to “pin-point Iranian interests in Afghanistan.” And at last, according to a Sismi “note,” to “obtain information on the alleged ties with Al Qaeda and the role played by certain Mideast governments in their relation to international terrorism.”

In each one of these interchangeable scenarios Manucher Ghorbanifar has a leading role. Iranian by birth, resident- as far as is known- between Paris and Genève, Ghorbanifar doesn’t have a great reputation. For some, he’s an arms dealer. For others, a forgerer. For the civil branch of our intelligence, he’s a secret agent for Teheran. For American intelligence, he’s a Mossad agent. For others, he’s an accomplished bullshit artist. Still for others, he’s all this rolled into one. But to the contrary, the Iranian appears to be a minor figure. He’s the decoy that the meeting’s organizers throw out to stir nosey busybodies away from the scene of the crime, and above all, away from the motives.

The American source tells la Repubblica: “Manucher Ghorbanifar only offered a London source who apparently was able to show us in Baghdad where Saddam stocked enriched Uranium just before the war.Ledeen embelished the story by referring that Ghorbanifar’s contact also knew that Iran was trying to buy the Uranium and that the radiation emitted by the material had contaminated Iraqi technicians whose identities he knew. After a series of blows between the CIA and the Pentagon, Ghorbanifar’s London source was taken to Baghdad at the Agency’s expense to localize the place where the Uranium was stashed. After dragging Langley’s men around for a few days, the guy asked for fifty thousand dollars to refresh the memories of some people in Baghdad who could help him in the hunt. Obviously, the jerk was ridden of with a kick in the ass...”

So forget Manucher Ghorbanifar.

The meeting in Rome at the [Hotel] Parco di Principi or in the house in Piazza di Spagna- most likely in both- has to coordinate three intelligence services. Nicolò Pollari’s Sismi. Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress. “The Supreme Council for the Revolution,” the Sadr Brigade of Mohammed and Abdalaziz al-Hakim. The coordination of the work and the “material” produced by the three “networks” can offer essential information for the planning of the Anglo-American military campaign, and above all a concrete evaluation of state of Saddam’s defences; his generals’ will to fight; the real state of Saddam’s arsenal of arms, beyond [allied] influence operations. Each one of the intelligence networks has something to offer that would be useful to the Pentagon.

The Sismi can boast of its good contacts with the officials who were trained in Italy in the Eighties. With the passage of time, they have become informants and “sources.” The Iraqi National Congress can count on regime defectors. The Sciri constantly monitors the territory since, as Muhammad Baqir al Hakim explained to la Repubblica before being killed on March 18th, 2003, “The Sadr Brigade, with its autonomous militias, is in Baghdad, Iraqi Kurdistan and Southern Iran.” Above all in the area that encompasses Kerbala and Najaf to Bassora and the peninsola of al Faw up to the Kuwait border, everything that happens is reported by the invisible Sciite network that covers the no-fly zone below the 33rd parallel, a strategic territory for any land invasion.

The operative plans of the Pentagon foresee that the terrestrial campaign will rely on intelligence gathered behind the front. The information will be gathered by the Joint Anglo-American Command in real time, analyzed, elaborated and transformed into instructions for the fighting units. The concept is elementary. Signal strategic objectives from within enemy territory, the nature of defences and the capacity for offensive measures of the enemy military forces whose exact location is not known, as well as the [state] of militia dispersed among the civil population. There is also a second work project, more important than this. Behind the lines, infiltrated agents must prepare the terrain for a “secret pact” (safqa, in Arab) “for the capitulation of nation.” The pact includes “safe conduct for commanders of the Republican Guard, the Baath militia and the president’s fedayn.” In a second phase the Americans intend “to offer rich compensations, the possibility to reside in the United States, together with their families, and above all, to offer a significant operational role together with factions of the Iraqi opposition, especially the Iraqi National Congress.

Together with the Sciri and Chalabi’s men, Italy will have its role in the spoils’ auction of Baghdad and Bassora- places all too familiar to Italian military counter-espionage. Besides, the campaign in Mesopotamia, in its first phase (up to Bush’s “Mission Complete”) was nothing more than “simple corruption of a rotten system whose functionaries sold themselves in mass to the CIA.” The Sismi agents get to work. It’s time to go back to the terrace of Hotel Eden and listen to the Sismi agent.

(part 1, to continue)

The original work-in-progress version of this diary is posted at Booman Tribune.

de Gondi,
Can you provide a citation for that?

Also, what is likely to be the follow-up in Italy? Is anyone pressuring the gov't to investigate?

by Upstate NY on Mon Oct 31st, 2005 at 08:48:36 AM EST
I have provided the link to la Repubblica article in the updated version. For the beginning of the article Nur-al Cubicle has put up her translation.

Follow-ups. The opposition has asked that Berlusconi report on the affair in parliament. After the previous Nigergate scoop, Pollari asked to be received by Copaco, parliament's joint oversight committee. He will be auditioned on November 3rd. There is not at the moment, nor has there ever been, a parliamentary investigation of the Niger forgeries or the present Italian administration's role in the Iraqi prewar "combine" contrary to reports in the US press.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Mon Oct 31st, 2005 at 09:17:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have the distinct impression that someone back in Langley is giving us a virtuoso performance on the mighty Wurlitzer, which might also explain Berlusca's recent
conversion to pacificism: presumably he is getting signals that, at the very least, it's time to put some distance between himself and his erstwhile pal from
the White House.  I can scarsely believe that Dad's old pals are really going to take sonny down for the count,
but it's pretty clear that the rats are starting to jump off what looks like a badly listing, if not actually sinking ship.

Hannah K. O'Luthon
by Hannah K OLuthon on Mon Oct 31st, 2005 at 11:25:45 AM EST
Funny, the exactly same diary, titel and word by word, is on the front page of Booman by rom wyo. No mention of ET.

BREAKING IN ITALY: How the Iraq War was Prepared

by Fran on Mon Oct 31st, 2005 at 12:32:03 PM EST
Same person, different names? Or, someone stealing Di Gondi's articles? Or...

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Mon Oct 31st, 2005 at 02:06:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The underlying emails point to the same person. It would have been appropriate, indeed, to point out that the diary was crossposted.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Oct 31st, 2005 at 03:33:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It would be appropriate. I apologize, but these happen in internet cafés during lunch break. I run back to work after an on-hour speed translation, far more interested in the developments of this scoop, and forget the little rule, already used in the past, to acknowledge cross-posting.

I would appreciate it if the diary would go back up at Booman, preferably with any comments. You have my permission.

You did not have my permission to reveal that we both use the same email address. Am I to conclude that Booman and Eurotrib are the same site, and handles must be identical?

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Mon Oct 31st, 2005 at 03:41:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I made a voluntarily vague comment on your e-mails so as not to reveal anything specific, in any case nothing more than what was revealed by posting the exact same diary on two sites. If the text had been posted by the same name on both sites, it might have mattered less, but as it was posted by two online identities, there is a question of attribution and "ownership" which is not unreasonable to ask.

I simply commented, on the basis of information I have as administrator and which I did not make public that it was likely the same person, or someone related enough, that posted both texts.

For the record, Booman and European Tribune are sister sites, managed by the same company, although the editorial control is partly separate. There is no policy with regards to crossposting, so you can feel free to crosspost or not. Cross referencing is also optional, but appears a necessary courtesy if you do not have the same identity on the two sites.

FYI - your post on Booman was put on the front page to give it more exposure!

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Oct 31st, 2005 at 05:04:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Post it in Kos!!!
by lawnorder (lawnorder / texasturkey.us) on Tue Nov 1st, 2005 at 01:46:22 AM EST
I can't help but wonder if Sgrena's shooting in Iraq wasn't aimed at the SISMI guy.. And if this is not all tied up in some way.
by lawnorder (lawnorder / texasturkey.us) on Tue Nov 1st, 2005 at 01:49:56 AM EST
Diary posted @BooMan by Oui
Fri Aug 26th, 2005 at 01:46:23 AM PST

Italy 'did deal to free hostages'

Italian aid workers, Simona Pari and
Simona Torretta, were held hostage
for three weeks in September 2004.

The Italian Red Cross treated four Iraqi insurgents to secure the release of two Italian women held hostage last year, a Red Cross official has said.

Maurizio Scelli, the outgoing head of the Italian Red Cross, said the deal had been kept secret from the US.

Mr Scelli - who first revealed the story to the Italian daily La Stampa - said Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's right-man man, Gianni Letta, was aware of the deal. "He acknowledged it and - albeit with a thousand recommendations - he told me to go ahead with it."

Mr Scelli said Mr Calipari had been consulted about the deal to free Ms Torretta and Ms Pari.


Italy 'did deal to free hostages' ◊ by Fran @ EuroTrib

Does this story tie into Nicola Calipari assassination, by providing motive?


"Treason doth never prosper: what's the reason?
For if it prosper, none dare call it treason."

▼ ▼ ▼ MY DIARY

by Oui on Thu Nov 3rd, 2005 at 02:07:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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