Russia denies leaking US intel to Iraq

Independent Moscow-based military analyst calls report 'quite plausible.'

saddam in cage 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
saddam in cage 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service on Saturday denied that Moscow provided information on US troop movements and plans to Baghdad during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Interfax news agency reported. "Similar, baseless accusations concerning Russia's intelligence have been made more than once," Interfax quoted Foreign Intelligence Service spokesman Boris Labusov as saying. "We don't consider it necessary to comment on such fabrications." Pavel Felgenhauer, a respected independent Moscow-based military analyst, said Friday that the report was within the realm of possibility. "It's quite plausible," he told The Associated Press. He said a unit affiliated with the Defense Ministry's Main Intelligence Department, known by its abbreviation GRU, was actively working in Iraq at the time of the US invasion of Iraq. The unit apparently was shut down after the fall of Baghdad. The Russian government collected intelligence from sources inside the American military command as the US mounted the invasion of Iraq, and the Russians fed information to deposed President Saddam Hussein on troop movements and plans, according to Iraqi documents cited in a Pentagon report released Friday. The Russians relayed information to Saddam during the opening days of the war in late March and early April 2003, including a crucial time before the ground assault on Baghdad, according to the documents. The unclassified report does not assess the value of the information or provide details beyond citing two captured Iraqi documents that say the Russians collected information from sources "inside the American Central Command" and that battlefield intelligence was provided to Saddam through the Russian ambassador in Baghdad. A classified version of the Pentagon report, titled "Iraqi Perspectives Project," is not being made public. A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Barry Venable, referred inquiries seeking comment to Central Command. At Central Command headquarters in Florida, officials did not immediately respond to a request. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli declined to comment. In addition to citing the Iraqi documents on the matter of Russian intelligence, the report also directly asserted that an intelligence link existed. The report said the Iraqi document was titled, "Letter from Russian official to presidential secretary concerning American intentions in Iraq." The Iraqi document said, "The information that the Russians have collected from their sources inside the American Central Command in Doha is that the United States is convinced that occupying Iraqi cities are impossible," and that as a result the US military would avoid urban combat. "The strategy is to isolate Iraq from its western borders," the document added. Central Command's war-fighting headquarters is at an encampment in the desert just outside Doha, Qatar. The Pentagon report also said the Russians told the Iraqis that the Americans planned to concentrate on bombing in and around Baghdad, cutting the road to Syria and Jordan and creating enough confusion to force residents to flee. "The largest contributing factor to the complete defeat of Iraq's military forces was the continued interference by Saddam," the report said.