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January 10, 2003
Notes from the Pentagon

Russia-Iraq ties
U.S. intelligence agencies recently uncovered information indicating Russia's foreign intelligence service is covertly cooperating with Iraq's spy agencies.

The cooperation involves unspecified intelligence sharing between the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, known as the SVR, and Iraq's Mukhabarat.

The discovery has raised alarms in some U.S. spy agencies. There are concerns that intelligence information shared with the United Nations on Iraq will be leaked to Saddam's agents from Russia.

U.S. officials familiar with reports of the Russia-Iraq intelligence ties said the connections appear to be left over from the Soviet period, when Yevgeni Primakov was the Kremlin's top Middle East specialist and later when he was head of the KGB.

Mr. Primakov harbors hard-line anti-American views. He backed Iraq in the early 1990s and unsuccessfully attempted to avert the 1991 Persian Gulf war through last-ditch negotiations in the Middle East.

Russian intelligence remains opposed to the use of force in Iraq. SVR Director Sergei Lebedev told reporters in Moscow last month that any use of military force against Baghdad "could significantly complicate the situation in the region and in the world." He said Moscow supports "political and diplomatic methods" to prevent an escalation of the crisis.

"It is crucially important now to ensure that Iraq on one hand and the U.S. and its allies on the other refrain from taking any steps that would lead to a military catastrophe," Mr. Lebedev said.

Speed talking
The Air Force has issued talking points to personnel to defend the practice of giving amphetamines to pilots to combat fatigue on long missions. The practice of dispensing what the Air Force calls "go pills" has emerged in the "friendly fire" criminal cases against Majs. Harry Schmidt and William Umbach. The two F-16 pilots had taken amphetamines the night they mistakenly bombed a live-fire training exercise in Afghanistan, killing four Canadian soldiers.

The two will cite the use of "speed" as a defense when their pretrial hearing begins Monday at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.

On Monday, the Air Force's "Aim Points," a daily digest of news reports, contained seven talking points to defend the practice. The Air Force describes Aim Points as "a daily summary of news, messages and communication tactics to help AF people tell the AF story."

The seven-point defense:

•"Use of prescribed stimulants by aircrew member is completely voluntary." [Inside the Ring: the consent form states that failure to take the pills may cause the pilot to be taken off flight status.]

•"Those who decline to use stimulants face no penalty."

•"Doctors prescribe 'go pills' only in consultation with the aircrew member and the local commander."

•"Aircrew members are ground-tested with the medicine."

•"Decades of study and evaluation substantiate the efficacy, safety and practicality" of giving the drug.

•"There are no reported safety incidents involving aircrew members' use of 'go pills.'"

•"Fatigue and sleep deprivation are especially dangerous for aviators."

Aim Points state that 18 hours of "sustained wakefulness" equals a blood alcohol level of .05 percent.

The Schmidt-Umbach mission had them in the air about 10 hours, making a round trip from the al Jaber air base in Kuwait to Afghanistan.

The next day's Aim Points had this message to officers: "Always be straight with the American people; their support is rooted in trust, understanding and common purpose."

U.S.-Taiwan exercise
The Pentagon is sending a military team to Taiwan to observe a Taiwanese military exercise.

"We routinely interact with Taiwan's military in order to carry out our obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.

Cmdr. Davis said, "All of our contacts with Taiwan are consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act."

U.S. military personnel will be "observing and assessing" the Taiwanese military's role in a military operation set for this summer, a defense official said. The U.S. military observers will try to help Taiwan with improving civilian control and helping with defense acquisition.

The Pentagon wants to see how well Taiwan's military operates so that U.S. arms sales can be tailored to meet the island's needs. It will be the third time a small group of U.S. military personnel will be watching the major Taiwanese war games.

The participation marks a sharp departure from the policy of the Clinton administration, which treated Taiwan as a pariah state and tilted its policies toward Beijing.

By contrast, President Bush in 2001 announced that the United States would do "whatever it takes" to defend Taiwan from a mainland attack. He authorized the sale of Kidd-class destroyers, diesel submarines and high-technology weaponry to address the growing military imbalance between communist China and democratic Taiwan.

The disclosure of the U.S. participation in the Taiwan exercise, first reported in Taiwan's China Daily News, drew an angry response from Beijing. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue told reporters Tuesday that "any kind of military cooperation or exchanges between Taiwan and the U.S. is a violation of the three Sino-U.S. joint communiques and also damages China-U.S. relations."

Target practice
U.S. Central Command, the Air Force and the Pentagon's Joint Staff have put together an air campaign that calls for bringing down Saddam Hussein's regime using surgical strikes.

What's not known generally to the public is the painstaking complexity in matching the right target in Iraq with the right aircraft (platform), munition and time envelope.

"The effectiveness of each type of weapons on each target needs to be considered," a Navy pilot tells us. "The key considerations are accuracy compared to target size, warhead lethality versus target's structural strength, weapon range versus air defense at the target and, for guided weapons, the guidance methodology versus target signature."

Unfortunately, our source notes, the weapon of choice these days is the weatherproof JDAM, or Joint Direct Attack Munition. The Navy nearly ran out of the satellite-guided bomb during the Afghan war. The Pentagon is furiously buying more, but must be wary of running low if an all-out war begins against Iraq.

"The perfect munitions for a particular target is usually also the preferred munition for many others, and we may need to make sacrifices in the allocation," the aviator says.

Then planners must select the right aircraft for the right target. A communications building in downtown Baghdad would likely require stealthy platforms, or unmanned cruise missiles. Targets outside the city would likely be hit by tactical aircraft, saving B-2s and F-117 stealth fighters for higher-value prey.

"The matching problem becomes that of finding optimal aircraft-weapon-target triplets, rather than just weapon-target pairs," the pilot says.

Bartlett's promotion
Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, a strong defender of traditional military values and combat readiness, has ascended to his first chairmanship on the House Armed Services Committee.

The Maryland Republican will head the projection forces subcommittee, one of six subcommittees that reflect a committee reorganization by Chairman Duncan Hunter, California Republican.

Other subcommittee chairmen: tactical air and land forces, Rep. Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania; readiness, Rep. Joel Hefley of Colorado; terrorism, unconventional threats and capabilities, James H. Saxton of New Jersey; total force, Rep. John M. McHugh of New York; and strategic forces, Rep. Terry Everett of Alabama.

The committee said the projection forces panel will be "Responsible for Navy and Marine Corps programs (except strategic weapons and space programs, special operations and information technology accounts), deep strike bombers and related systems, strategic lift programs and naval reserve equipment."

•Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters.

  • 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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