The strategy, led by the neocons in the Pentagon, was to throw out then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, replace him with a government favorable to the US, and then proceed to regime change in Syria, Iran, and Libya, due to their close ties to Hussein.
Given the pro-Israeli neocons running the Pentagon at the time, such as then-Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and his undersecretary of defense, Doug Feith, their strategy had the effect of having the Pentagon become an instrument of carrying out the foreign policy of Israel, which regarded these Middle East countries as a threat to its survival.
Even prior to becoming the deputy secretary of defense, Wolfowitz had designs of taking out Hussein.
He sought to develop a basis for invasion, based initially on Iraq’s support for terrorism and later possession of weapons of mass destruction, or WMD.
There was a time constraint – the United Nations was about to lift years of sanctions that had been imposed on Iraq following Desert Shield/Desert Storm, actions the US and its allies took to kick Iraq out of Kuwait.
In the spirit of transparency, I was director of Technology Security Operations in the Office of the Secretary of Defense during this period. Despite having WMD inspectors in and out of Iraq for a decade, however, my office at the time, which monitored technology to Iraqi research and development facilities over the years, had determined that there was no evidence of operational WMD left in Iraq.
However, that didn’t stop the Central Intelligence Agency, then led by George Tenet, to publish in October 2002 a National Intelligence Estimate that Iraq indeed had WMD. Then in December 2002, Tenet briefed President George Bush, saying that the evidence was a “slam dunk.”
The CIA’s own determination is interesting, since there has been a mantra for years that the Pentagon cherry-picked intelligence to come up with the Iraqi WMD scenario. It was Tenet who sat directly behind then-Secretary of State Colin Powell at the United Nations when he sought to make the case for Hussein’s removal. The spotty information was gleaned from intercepts which Tenet’s analysts pieced together but was, at best, incomplete and often misleading.
Even though the US went ahead with its invasion in March 2003, it didn’t need to happen.
Three months prior to the US invasion of Iraq, the Syrians had approached a Lebanese-American in Beirut, Dr. Imad Hage, who was a friend of mine, seeking to open a back channel with Pentagon policymakers in the Office of the Secretary of Defense where I worked. At the time, I was reporting directly to Feith and to a special assistant to Wolfowitz