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Wednesday, July 13, 2005 

Part 1- Timeline to War 2001: The opening moves, January to April

This is the first installment of a multi-part series courtesy of IRAQFACT working group. Their research is also going into a timeline project organized by Congressman John Conyers.

On January 29, 2001, just nine day after his inauguration, George Bush sat down in the White House with Imam Sayed Hassan al-Qazwini, the leader of the Islamic Center of America in Detroit. This would be the last of six meetings that were held between the two men prior to the first meeting of the NSC. Their mutual desire for regime change in Iraq was one of the main topics of discussion that chilly winter day. Over the following three days, Bush met with his new National Security Council twice. By the evening of Feb. 1, decisions had been made that would forever change the course of the history. A path to war had been set, and as the events of the following year unfolded, the desires of the two men would start to become a reality. By late the following December, Bush would meet at his Crawford Ranch with Tommy Franks to finalize the plans for war with Iraq. The events of September 11 would pave the way to justifying the invasion to the American people, and it would only be a matter of time before the plans that began on that brisk January day would come to fruition Over the course of the year military planners and security analysts discussed various plans and scenarios for war with Iraq, but four constant themes emerged from every plan:

1. The need to pre-position military equipment and forces in the region.
2. A desire to encourage an armed opposition force within Iraq.
3. The necessity to soften-up or destroy Iraqi defense capabilities.
4. A means to justify the need to go to war to the American people.

When viewed in the light of these themes, many of the events and decisions of 2001 clearly demonstrate a concerted effort on the part of the Administration to take the country to war and the military making preparations for that war long in advance of the American public's knowledge.

January 30-February 1, 2001
The first National Security Council meeting of new administration was held on Jan. 30, 2001.
The removal of Saddam Hussein was a central topic of the meeting. According to then Treasury Sec. Paul O'Neill: "From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go, that going after Saddam was topic "A" 10 days after the inauguration." At the second NSC meeting on Feb.1 the topic of regime change again became the center of discussion. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld spoke at the second meeting about how removing Mr. Hussein would "demonstrate what U.S. policy is all about" and help transform the Middle East. Rumsfeld talked at the meeting "in general terms about post-Saddam Iraq, dealing with the Kurds in the north, the oil fields, the reconstruction of the country's economy, and the `freeing of the Iraqi people"

Feb. 3rd, 2001
One of the first policy changes coming out of the NSC meetings was the Bush administrations issuing an order permitting Iraqi opposition groups to begin limited moves inside Iraq using US government funding.
The moves were limited to a program described as the "collection of informational materials", but they signaled a change in direction and crossed a line which the Clinton administration was exceptionally reluctant to pass. It marked the first time since 1996 that the US had directly funded Iraqi opposition activities inside Iraq itself. The new order allowed the Iraqi National Congress (INC) - the main umbrella opposition group in the north of the country - to draw on $4m which was authorized by the US Congress in late 2000 to compile information inside Iraq relating to Baghdad's war crimes, military operations and other internal developments.

Feb.12th, 2001
A program to train Iraqi dissidents begins in College Station, Texas as dissidents receive a first round of weapons training from federal lawmen and members of the military's Special Forces under a U.S. plan to support insurgency activities inside Iraq.
The INC, under a $98,000 contract with the Guidry Group, a consulting firm comprised of ex-secret service agents, were to learn the fine art of "diplomatic security". What distinguished this training from previous courses for the INC, is that the rebels attending the five-day seminar also learned how to use pistols, Kalishnikov rifles, 12-gauge shotguns and a variety of other fire-arms. Previous U.S.-backed training for the INC had been limited to "non- lethal" activities, such as emergency medical care, public relations and war crimes investigations. While the State Department still classified this assistance to be of the non-lethal variety, the INC clearly did not. "This is important because this is the first time we are receiving lethal training with the United States government funding," said Francis Brooke the Washington adviser for the INC. Retired Gen. Wayne Downing, the commander of the joint special operations task force during the Gulf War, concurred. He told United Press International "This is significant because this is the first lethal training. It is designed to protect, so the significance is that this is the first time they are being trained to do anything on this level."

Feb. 16th, 2001
U.S. and British aircraft attacked targets near Baghdad.
U.S. Defense officials said 24 American and British planes struck six Iraqi military targets five to 20 miles from Baghdad using various long-range precision-guided weapons. The attack was the first Western strike against the capital since December 1998, during Operation Desert Fox. Sirens wailed over Baghdad, loud explosions were heard and anti-aircraft systems opened fire. The Defense Department said the planes struck Iraqi radar systems at about 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Baghdad time. Bush said the attack was a routine mission but had required the President's personal authorization. The British Defense Ministry said British and American planes attacked six sites, comprising part of Iraq's integrated Air Defense System. The raid was the first excursion outside the no-fly zone since 1998.

Feb. 26th, 2001
Two events occur demonstrating a step up in anti-Iraq rhetoric coming out of the White House.
"[The] sanctions against Iraq are like Swiss cheese - that means they are not very effective," President George Bush said after his weekend meeting with Tony Blair "We're going to work together to figure out a way to make them more effective,". At the same time, Sec. Of State Colin Powell, attending a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of Kuwait's liberation from Iraqi occupation said "[Our] quarrel is not with the people of Iraq. It is with the regime in Baghdad.''

Late February, 2001
"Cooperative Belt" early warning network started.
The network provided radar, early warning and secure communications links between the six GCC (Gulf Cooperative Council) nations. (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) all of whom (with the exception of Saudi Arabia) would become crucial allies in the War in Iraq.

1st wk. of March, 2001
VP Dick Cheney meets with major energy and oil interests to formulate US energy policy.
Cheney's Energy Task Force authors a variety of documents relating to the oil industries of Iraq, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield contracts"—This document, dated March 5, 2001, includes a table listing 30 countries which have interests in Iraq's oil industry. The document also includes the names of companies that have interests, the oil fields with which those interests are associated, as well as the statuses of those interests. "Map of Iraq's oil fields"—The map includes markings for "supergiant" oil fields of 5 billion barrels or more, other oilfields, fields "earmarked for production sharing," oil pipelines, operational refineries, and tanker terminals.

Late Feb. or Early March, 2001
Pentagon begins planning to move assets out of Saudi Arabia.
Tension between the US and the Saudis had become a more acute in February, after the allies mounted a large air raid from Prince Sultan Air Base against air defense targets around Baghdad, apparently without providing prior notice to the Saudi government. Following this episode, the Saudis imposed operational restrictions on allied warplanes operating out of PSAB, forbidding them to conduct further offensive operations against Iraq. U.S. military formulates a contingency plan for reducing its presence in Saudi Arabia The movement to gain greater basing flexibility—and reduce Washington's dependence on Riyadh—started by Gen. Anthony Zinni.

March 5th, 2001
State Department announced that a sum of five million dollars was allocated to the Iraqi National Congress
, noting that talks continue with this organization to provide it with extra aid estimated at 29 million.

March 17th, 2001
Rumsfeld tells Congress of plan to use Qatar as base of future operations.
In particular he discusses plans to use Al Udeid air field as a US base of operations. The unused air field in the desert of Qatar which sat idle since 1996, would become in little more than a year the largest US Air Base in the Gulf and the headquarters for all USAF operations in the region. The tiny nation of Qatar, which had no more than 50 US service personnel stationed in it as of October of 2000, would be transformed by the fall of 2002. It not only became the major base of operations for the USAF, it obtained two major Army bases; Camp Snoopy and Camp As Sayliyah, along with numerous smaller supply and pre-positioning centers and became, with Kuwait, our major ally in "The War on Terror."

For the complete story of Al-Udeid airbase see: "Secret" Air Base for Iraq War started prior 9-11.

Mid March, 2001
Ahmad Chalabi visits Iran to establish a base for sending roughly 100 INC operatives into northern Iraq
to gather intelligence and distribute "humanitarian aid". The Iraqi National Congress secured necessary licenses from the Office of Foreign Asset Control in early 2001 to spend U.S. government grant funds inside Iran as a specific activity within their overall grant. In April the government of President Mohammad Khatami agrees to permit INC forces and their military equipment to cross the Iranian border into southern Iraq. The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control gives special approval to open a liaison office in Tehran. According to an INC official, "We did it with U.S. government money."

March 24th
Iraqi opposition group holds conference in London, attended by delegations from US State Dept. and British Foreign Office.
The two-day gathering is organized by the INC to emphasize the importance of toppling the Iraqi regime and bringing a democratic and accountable government in Baghdad Both the U.S. and the British reiterate their support for the INC and the removal of Saddam Hussein. Tom Warrick, a State Department Official, told the INC in a brief address, the Bush administration was seeking the removal of Saddam Hussein and the creation of a democratic pluralistic regime in Baghdad. Martin Hetherington, of the British Foreign Office, added that the British government appreciates the role played by the INC in providing an alternative for the Iraqi people and working towards the establishment of a democratic system in the country.

April 10th
A report commissioned by former US Secretary of State James Baker and the Council on Foreign Relations titled; "Strategic Energy Policy Challenges For The 21st Century" is submitted to Vice President Cheney.
It warns that the US is running out of oil, with a painful end to cheap fuel already in sight. It argues that "the United States remains a prisoner of its energy dilemma," and that one of the "consequences" of this is a "need for military intervention" to secure its oil supply. It argues that Iraq needs to be overthrown so the US can control its oil.

April, 2001
During a National Security Council deputy principals meeting, Paul Wolfowitz first floats the idea of tying Iraq to terrorism.
He asserts that Iraq must be involved in terrorism, since Bin Laden couldn't possibly have attacked the World Trade Center in '93 alone. "One little terrorist group like that couldn't possibly have staged that operation. It must have been Iraq."

As the first four months of the Bush Administration came to a close, plans that were first dreamed up in Washington think tanks and only whispered in the corridors of power, began to become US foreign policy. A concerted effort to embark on regime change in Iraq was well underway. Changes in US policy towards the Iraqi opposition had been made that would hopefully allow an armed insurgency to take hold in Iraq. It was believed that at the very least, such an insurgency would aid in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Some even believed it possible that the opposition might initiate and execute an overthrow on their own with only limited air support coming from the US. (As would become the model in Afghanistan). The military began to eliminate the uncertainty of Saudi cooperation in a major offensive against Iraq by making a shift in basing and pre-positioning to its more friendly and acquiescent Gulf neighbors. This shifting of forces would become a key feature of the pre-war period. By the time the war had officially begun, the military map of the region had been almost entirely re-written. The air operations of Southern and Northern watch began to shift tactics to a more preemptive posture, targeting radar, communication and command and control facilities. The raids outside the No-Fly zone would only increase throughout the period, culminating in the massive pre-war air campaign of Operation Southern Focus in the summer of 2002. The propaganda campaign to sell the war had also started. After years of being a mute issue for most of the American public and media, Iraq, sanctions, weapons inspectors and Saddam Hussein were once again being raised in public discourse. As the faint beating of war drums along the Potomac began, the American people were being prepped for a new chapter in the story of American intervention in Iraq.

In the second installment in this series we will look at the following four-month period as the nation marched forward to war. Data compiled by the IRAQFACT working group. iraqfact@yahoo.com


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