Nur al-Cubicle has posted quick and dirty translations of two brand new articles by Carlo Bonini and Giuseppi d'Avanzo in La Repubblica on Italy's SISMi's role in the Iraq Attaq.
So, once more we venture into the Funhouse of Italians, Iraqis, Iranians, Michael Ledeen, Larry Franklin, Ahmed Chalabi, and Manucher Ghorbanifar! God alone knows how much of these articles is truthful, but, compared to the average veracity of Ledeen's efforts for National Review Onloan, well, I know who I'd bet on.
The first article revolves around yet another meeting in Rome, this time not long before the invasion. It raises the old question of whether or not the neocons' Iraq Attaq agitation was in part a false-flag operation run by the ayatollahs' spy agency in Tehran (what I call the Manchumpian Candidate scenario):
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 Martino, 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 have told us it was a reserved room in the Parco dei Principi Hotel).
Twenty men are gathered around a large table, covered by maps of Iraq, Iran and Syria. The big cheese are Lawrence Franklin and Harold Rhode of the Office of Special Plans, Michael Ledeen of the AIE, a SISMI chief accompanied by his assistant (the former is a balding man between 46 and 48 years of age; the latter 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 cooking. It’s also true that there were maps of Iraq and Iran on the table. I can tell you those Iranians were not exactly “exiles”. The came and went from Tehran with their passports with no difficulty whatsoever as if they were transparent to the eyes of 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 someone in Washington is 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 supply some elucidation. But to make some sense out of the confusion, you have to listen to an American intelligence source, who has requested anonymity. He tells us: You Italians have always underestimated the work of conversion carried out Ahmed Chalabi, the chairman 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 is also your business, far beyond anything you currently believe or imagine.
So what do we know about Ahmed Chelabi? The darling of the Neocons, Chalabi has been charged by the hawks in the Pentagon to pass intel on WMD proliferation to European intelligence agencies supposedly garnered from presumed scientists, who have defected from Baghdad. The person charged with “intelligence gathering” and story invention is Aras Habib Karim, Chalabi’s personal intelligence man.
Aras is a key player. He coordinates the Intelligence Collection Programme. He supervises and fabricates the “output” of the dissidents. He is a Shi’ite Kurd just under 50, extremely clever, consumately evil and a magician of double-cross and document forgery. But there is something peculiar about him. The CIA has long considered him an “Iranian agent.” A second key player is an American, Francis Brooke.
The bogus Italian dossier on the Niger uranium turns up [at the meeting] also—and we don’t know exactly why--because Chalabi is in possession of it.
The second article concerns SISMI's self-congratulation in helping subvert the Iraqi army before the invasion. The background is that the Italians had lots of links to the Iraqi military going back decades. Back in the old days, Iraqi officers would go to get their advanced military training in ... Italy! (That may explain a lot about the Iraqi army's performance in the wars of 1980-1988, 1991, and 2003). So, SISMI apparently infiltrated 20 men into Iraq a few months before the American invasion to report on the status of the Iraqi war machine and bribe Iraqi officers to surrender in return for money, American residency, and the like.
But, that effort produced an unwelcome side effect that had to be hushed up: it quickly emerged that no invasion was needed. Iraq had not WMDs and was utterly contained as a convention power.
What this [Italian] cabinet official [the reporters' source] does not say—what he cannot say— is that our military intelligence service--and therefore the Italian Government (similar to, Iraqi National Congress—and therefore the Pentagon), knows for certain as early as the month of January 2003 (and probably in December 2002) that there are no WMDs in the arsenals of Saddam Hussein. There is no nuclear weapon. There are no long-range missiles. There is no possibility of arming missile warheads with chemical or biological agents. There is only a military which does not want to engage the enemy and a General Staff waiting to surrender at the highest possible price.
And this is the most valuable information which the SISMI agents, integrated into SCIRI’s Shi’ite underground intelligence network led by Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Akim and Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress web of spies given to Coalition Unified Command in Doha. The Iraqi army is made out of paper- mâché and poorly armed—even for a small-scale conventional war, the consequences of the drawn-out war with Iran, the invasion of Kuwait in the 1991 Gulf War, the long-lasting imposed no-fly zones, the embargo and the sanctions. In conversations between Italian agents and the Iraqi officers trained in Italian military academies, at Finmeccanica [Italian defense industry] and at Selenia [a defense communications company] who eventually became generals, demolishes any hypothesis of Saddam’s WMD with a sneer and a dismissive wave of the hand.
The Iraqi officers explain how their tanks and armored carriers are relics of the 1980-88 war with Tehran and lack spare parts. They are basically unusable pieces of junk. They reveal to our agents that Saddam’s Armed Forces, from the lowliest regiment to the General Staff, are completely demoralized, inadequately equipped and shoeless.