Profile: Iraq Operations Group
Iraq Operations Group was a participant or observer in the following events:
CIA case officers stationed all over Europe attend a mandatory special conference in Rome. Officials from the CIA’s Iraq Operations Group inform the case officers that Iraq has been on the administration’s agenda from the very beginning. One officer who attends the conference later tells author James Risen: “They said this was on Bush’s agenda when he got elected, and that 9/11 only delayed it. They implied that 9/11 was a distraction from Iraq. And they said Bush was committed to a change of leadership in Iraq, and that it would start with kinetic energy—meaning bombs. Meaning war.” Officials in the Iraq Operations Group are openly supportive of the administration’s goal. At the conference, they give presentations about the evils of Iraq, most of which is based on information from the public record. One attendee likens it to a “pep rally” aimed at building support within the agency for an invasion of Iraq. “We were supposed to go out and tell our liaison contacts how bad Saddam was,” the officer later says. During the meeting, it is proposed that the CIA plant stories in the European media in support of a war with Iraq. [Risen, 2006, pp. 183-184]
In Athens, a number of Iraqi security officials get snagged in an arms bust arranged by the CIA. The CIA made it appear as though the Iraqis were buying guns for terrorists. The operation was part of an effort by the CIA’s Iraq Operations Group to exacerbate the tension between the US and Saddam Hussein in the lead-up to war with Iraq. [Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 161]
CIA station chiefs from all over the Middle East meet at the United States Embassy in London for a secret conference. Deputy Director for Operations James Pavitt has called the meeting because certain people in the CIA are disappointed with a lack of action in the field on Iraq-related tasks. John Maquire of the Iraqi Operations Group has repeatedly criticized field operatives for being too timid (see, e.g., (October 2002)). [Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 161] “After several worldwide cables from IOG [Iraqi Operations Group], the Near East front office, and the DDO’s office, we found little movement in the field on the Iraq issue.… This lack of movement on the Iraq target triggered the call by the ADDO [the assistant deputy director of operations] for the London meeting,” an official from the CIA’s Iraqi Operations Group (IOG) later tells author James Risen. The problem is that many CIA officers, especially those in the Near East division, simply do not support the administration’s plan to invade Iraq. So one of the meeting’s objectives is to get everyone on board. The IOG official explains: “We kept saying that the president has decided we are going to war, and if you don’t like it, quit.” During the meeting, the officials say that the agency is interested in developing a plan for sabotage that will undermine the Iraqi regime. The chief of the IOG describes a plan to prevent the shipment of goods to Saddam Hussein and his family with the hope that it might cause Hussein to become paranoid and distrustful of those around him. One young station chief suggests sinking a ferry that imports these goods into Iraq from neighboring Arab countries. An IOG official present at the meeting will later tell Risen that this plan is dismissed because the vessel also transports passengers. But two station chiefs tell Risen that they left the meeting with the impression that IOG officials were open to the plan. Risen also reports in his book that another plan for sabotage was to equip “low-level Iraqi agents with special spring-loaded darts that they could use to destroy the windshields of cars owned by members of the Iraqi regime. Large supplies of the darts were later delivered to forward CIA stations, but nothing was ever done with them.” [Risen, 2006, pp. 183-184]
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