In late March, the Moscow newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported that Russian intelligence agents were holding daily meetings with Iraqis, possibly with the intent of gaining control of the Mukhabarat archives if Saddam Hussein's regime falls.
The newspaper said the archives could be highly valuable to Russia in three major areas: in protecting Russian interests in a postwar Iraq; in determining the extent to which Hussein's regime may have financed Russian political parties and movements; and in providing Russia access to intelligence that Iraqi agents conducted in other countries.
The close relationship between the two countries is largely economic. Iraq and Russia are major trading partners and Russia has billions of dollars tied up in deals with Iraqi businesses -- including debts Iraq has owed to the Russians since the Soviet era.
In addition, the two countries were parties to an agreement that gave Russia a stake in developing new Iraqi oil fields as well as electricity generation facilities and other types of crucial infrastructure.
Finally, the Iraqis were a major consumer of Russian military equipment and material before 1991. Most of Iraq's weapons systems are Russian, from its tanks and missiles to the assault rifles issued to its infantry troops.
Marashi, who has written a detailed study of the Iraqi security apparatus for the Monterey Institute, said Russia's training of Iraqi intelligence agents started in 1973.
"That was when the first exchanges were made. The level of cooperation increased in 1981 after the Israelis bombed the Iraqi nuclear facility," Marashi said, referring to Osirak, a French-built atomic power plant outside Baghdad.
1. Nov. 12, 2001:
Benito Que was said to have been beaten in a Miami parking lot and died later.
2. Nov. 16, 2001:
Don C. Wiley went missing. Was found Dec. 20. Investigators said he got dizzy on a Memphis bridge and fell to his death in a river.
3. Nov. 21, 2001:
Vladimir Pasechnik, former high-level Russian microbiologist who defected in 1989 to the U.K. apparently died from a stroke.
4. Dec. 10, 2001:
Robert M. Schwartz was stabbed to death in Leesberg, Va. Three Satanists have been arrested.
5. Dec. 14, 2001:
Nguyen Van Set died in an airlock filled with nitrogen in his lab in Geelong, Australia.
6. Feb. 9, 2002:
Victor Korshunov had his head bashed in near his home in Moscow.
7. Feb. 14, 2002:
Ian Langford was found partially naked and wedged under a chair in Norwich, England.
8. 9. Feb. 28, 2002:
San Francisco resident Tanya Holzmayer was killed by a microbiologist colleague, Guyang Huang, who shot her as she took delivery of a pizza and then apparently shot himself.
10. March 24, 2002:
David Wynn-Williams died in a road accident near his home in Cambridge, England.
11. March 25, 2002:
Steven Mostow of the Colorado Health Sciences Centre, killed in a plane he was flying near Denver.
12. David Kelly, the British microbiologist who was found dead this morning,
13. Perhaps #13 will die by lethal injection.
Scientists' Deaths are Under the Microscope compiled by Alanna Mitchell, May 4, 2002