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January 7, 2005
Notes from the Pentagon

CIA in Iraq
The CIA has been given a leading role in developing the Iraqi intelligence service in Baghdad.

U.S. officials say the new spy agency reflects the same institutional weaknesses as the CIA, including poor operational security, bad counterintelligence and an emphasis on process over results.

U.S. officials say the biggest problem is that at least 5 percent of the new intelligence agency members were recruited from the former Mukhabarat, Saddam Hussein's repressive security and intelligence service that had about 15,000 members. The service began last summer and has about 1,000 members.

The director is Muhammad Abdullah Shahwani, who was a general under Saddam. He defected from Iraq in 1990 and set up a U.S.-backed opposition military group. Three of his sons were executed by Saddam in retaliation for the defection.

U.S. officials believe the Iraqi spy service is penetrated by former regime members who are working with insurgents.

Gen. Shahwani has spoken out about Iranian influence in Iraq. U.S. officials estimate that Iran has dispatched "hundreds" of intelligence agents and Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps agents to destabilize the would-be democracy.

Gen. Shahwani told an Arabic newspaper reporter in Baghdad this week that between 20,000 and 30,000 terrorists and insurgents are operating in Iraq, mainly in Sunni-dominated areas. The insurgents are backed by about 200,000 sympathizers.

A senior State Department official in Baghdad challenged this estimate, noting: "There are obviously many people in it. But as to numbers, I don't think anyone knows, including General Shahwani."

The Bush administration's emergency spending request for Iraq may look as much like a recapitalization fund as it does an operating budget.

Supplementals, as they are called in Washington, normally deal with expendables such as bullets, fuel and spare parts. Big-ticket weapons are left for the yearly defense appropriations bill.

But Senate aides tell us they are hearing from the administration that the next supplementals, due in days or weeks, will ask Congress to replace Army and Marine Corps equipment that wore out in Iraq.

Last year's supplemental reached $87 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan. This year's may total $100 billion. The Pentagon figures it spends at least $5 billion a month in Iraq.

Not 'stingy'
Author and defense analyst Jed Babbin substituted this week for an Indianapolis radio host and was able to snare Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld as his guest.

Mr. Babbin asked the secretary about criticism from U.N. official Jan Egeland that Western countries were "stingy" in their aid pledges to tsunami-struck Asia. More than 13,000 American sailors, soldiers, Marines and airmen have converged on the region to help survivors.

"It is a dangerous part of the world," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "When there are that many people dead something in the neighborhood of 100,[000] to 150,000 and where disease is rampant, where water is not clean and it is a dangerous circumstance for the people that are assisting there, and they're doing it happily and with a great deal of skill and a great deal of courage. And our country is certainly blessed to have these wonderful volunteers, men and women in uniform, who are out doing that.

"I was stunned by the comments by the person from the United Nations. They reflected, of course, if not a total lack of information or accuracy or a total lack of judgment or else a bias."

New chairman
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers is entering the last year of his four-year term as Joint Chiefs chairman, and some in the defense establishment already are handicapping replacement candidates.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has thrown out the rule book in naming four-star officers. After all, he appointed the first Marine as the top officer in NATO, and named a Marine for the first time as Joint Chiefs vice chairman.

Mr. Rumsfeld also kept Adm. Vern Clark as chief of naval operations for a third two-year term. Service chiefs normally serve four years. He proposed an Air Force general as the next Pacific commander, a job historically safeguarded a Navy officer.

But don't look for Gen. Myers to stay past four years, insiders say.

Among candidates: Adm. Clark; Gen. Peter Pace, the Joint Chiefs vice chairman; and Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, the head of U.S. Central Command.

"He's always looking at a four-star depth chart," a defense source said of Mr. Rumsfeld, who has taken a hands-on approach in selecting senior officers for promotion. "Never rule out anything when it comes to personnel."

Clean sweep
Maj. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, who commands the 1st Cavalry Division and is thus the unofficial "mayor" of Baghdad, is the latest top officer to meet with reporters and complain about the press coverage about Iraq.

"What I think is missed back there," he told the Washington press corps this week in one of his criticisms, "is the fact that Iraqis continue to want to join the national guard and want to join the Iraqi police."

Gen. Chiarelli noted that in Sadr City, the Shi'ite slum long oppressed by Saddam Hussein, there has been a lack of violence for several months. He has put 18,000 Iraqis to work building for amenities Sadr City never had: sewers and clean, running water.

"I can't even imagine what it would be like to not have clean, potable water at my disposal, let alone live in a neighborhood that hasn't had it for 35 years; to live in a house where sewage is standing right outside your home," the two-star general said. "And we're going into these neighborhoods. And many of the folks in [the Baghdad press room] we've taken out to Sadr City to show them what's going on, and many of them have told me, at least privately, they cannot believe the change in Sadr City."

Moving time
Although much of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's core staff is staying in place in the second Bush term, Pentagon chatter tells us some folks are moving or looking to move.

Insiders say Stephen Cambone, the Pentagon's top intelligence official and a close adviser to Mr. Rumsfeld, is thinking about private-sector employment. The same for Powell Moore, the building's top liaison to Congress.

Air Force Secretary James Roche, the architect of the Boeing tanker-lease deal that got caught up in scandal, has announced his resignation, effective Jan. 20. Sources say he wants to go back to the defense industry, perhaps at his old employer, Northrop Grumman.

Olson honored
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has bestowed the Defense Department's Medal for Distinguished Public Service on Ted Olson, the former solicitor general of the United States.

The Pentagon honored Mr. Olson for defending the department before the Supreme Court and federal courts.

"We are very pleased that Ted was recognized for his exemplary government service," said Ken Doran, managing partner of Gibson Dunn law firm. "Ted is one of the country's most sought-after appellate lawyers, to whom clients turn when they are facing a crisis. We are thrilled to have him back at the firm, leading our appellate and crisis management teams."

  • Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at

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