From Act III, Chapter 4
The story of the United States and the Iraqi intelligence chief ends with hubris and deception.
But it starts, though, with a modest, rather humbling, search for truth. The key, in the fall of 2002, was that liberating admission "I don't know."
"We didn't really know whether Saddam had weapons or not. There was a lot of stuff assembled; everyone knew that. Everyone was sure he had them. But it was more assumption than hard facts. This was about a last attempt to find out what we could."
That's Rob Richer. he was at the center of this mess--a final effort by the clandestine intelligence community to unearth something verifiable on the issue of Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction. . . .
Richer's goal was preparation. He brought in the man he considered just about the best intelligence officer covering the region: Michael Shipster, the Mideast intelligence chief for SIS, British intelligence. . . .
Richer and Shipster huddled. They'd known each other for years, having walked similar paths: both had been stationed in the middle east and Persian Gulf. In the 1990s, both had overseen operations in Russia for their respective services.
Now Richer leveled with Shipster. The United States had plenty of assumptions about Iraq and its weapons, but still, somehow, lacked the hard, irrefutable evidence it needed to make a case for war. Richer had unloaded on his chiefs because he viewed this as a failure of intelligence gathering, of clandestine operations.
Shipster agreed. More important, he had a plan.
He had a source inside Iraq whom the British had worked with before over the years: Habbush.
The Iraqi first emerged as a public figure in the early '90s, when he was the governor of Dhi Qar, a province in southern Iraq that historically had given Saddam's regime trouble. By the mid-'90s, Habbush had moved into the ministry of the interior, where he was undersecretary for security affairs, and worked as the country's police chief prior to taking over as head of Iraqi intelligence in 1999. His predecessor, Rafi Dahham al-Tikriti, died under mysterious circumstances, most likely killed on orders from Saddam. Habbush took over as head of the Iraqi intelligence service, or the Mukhabarat, as it's commonly known. Like many of Saddam's senior officials, he had blood on his hands. Saddam respected those who would kill on command. Habbush was such a man.
But he could be reasoned with, Shipster said, and he knew how to get to him. . . .
Tahir Jalil Habbush was the head of Iraqi intelligence up until the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. The Way of the World reveals, for the first time, the story of revelatory and secret prewar British contact with Habbush. The book details the intelligence passed to the British and U.S. from Habbush and his shocking fate in the aftermath of the invasion.