U.S. intel 'unable to rule out' WMD transfers to Syria

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

WASHINGTON The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Iraq and Syria discussed WMD cooperation, including the transfer of WMD out of Iraq, but that "firm conclusions on actual WMD movements" may never be known.

A U.S. intelligence report called for further investigation, and did not rule out unofficial efforts to move Iraqi WMD assets into Syria.

The Iraq Survey Group stated, in a report sponsored by the CIA, that it "was unable to complete its investigation and is unable to rule out the possibility that WMD was evacuated to Syria before the war."

The report marked the official end of a two-year weapons hunt led most recently by former U.N. weapons inspector Charles A. Duelfer and was published on the Government Printing Office's Web site ( ). It concluded that the ISG had failed to confirm reports that Syria received "official" WMD shipments from Iraq in late 2002 and early 2003, Middle East Newsline reported.

In 2003, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency reported the arrival of numerous convoys in Syria from the Iraqi border prior and during the U.S. invasion. Agency director James Clapper, acting on what he termed an "educated hunch," said he was confident that the Iraqi convoys contained WMD components.

The ISG appeared to echo Clapper's assessment and detailed the extensive military cooperation between Baghdad and Damascus. The report, in which several pages were deleted, said it did not obtain material evidence of an Iraqi WMD transfer to Syria, but refused to reject such a possibility.

"ISG was unable to complete its investigation and is unable to rule out the possibility that WMD was evacuated to Syria before the war," the report, completed in March 2005, added. "It should be noted that no information from debriefing of Iraqis in custody supports this possibility."

"Based on the evidence available at present, ISG judged that it was unlikely that an official transfer of WMD material from Iraq to Syria took place," an addendum to a September 2004 report, released on Monday, said.

"However, ISG was unable to rule out unofficial movement of limited WMD-related materials."

The report said the Sunni insurgency in Iraq limited and eventually halted the investigation of whether Iraq moved WMD assets to Syria. ISG said the results of the probe "remain inconclusive, but further investigation may be undertaken when circumstances on the ground improve."

Still, ISG asserted that the Saddam regime sought to transfer WMD assets to Syria, which served as the leading way-station for the transfer of illegal weapons from Europe to Iraq. The report said Syria initiated efforts to obtain the Iraqi WMD.

The report said the group spent several months examining documents, interviewing former Iraqi officials, reviewing intelligence reports and inspecting sites.

"There was evidence of a discussion of possible WMD collaboration initiated by a Syrian security officer, and ISG received information about movement of material out of Iraq, including the possibility that WMD was involved," the report, entitled "Comprehensive Report: Addendums to the of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq's WMD," said. "In the judgment of the working group, these reports were sufficiently credible to merit further investigation."

The U.S. intelligence team found no Iraqi senior policy, program, or intelligence officials who admitted any direct knowledge of the movement of Iraqi WMD into Syria.

ISG said the issue might never be resolved.

"It is worth noting that even if ISG had been able to fully examine all the leads it possessed, it is unlikely that conclusive information would have been found," the report said.

"At best, barring discovery of original documentary evidence of the transfer, reports or sources may have been substantiated or negated, but firm conclusions on actual WMD movements may not be possible."

Copyright 2005 East West Services, Inc.

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