U.S. intelligence: Iraq switched engines in missiles it destroyed

Friday, March 7, 2003

U.S. intelligence has concluded that Iraq deceived the United Nations by destroying stockpiled Al Samoud missiles with old engines.

U.S. officials said the regime of President Saddam Hussein has not destroyed any Al Samoud missile deployed in forward bases in southern Iraq.

Instead, they said, Iraq has brought out missiles from military warehouses and replaced the engines with those from the Soviet-origin SA-2 surface-to-air missile, developed in the 1950s.

[On Friday, the Kuwaiti daily Al Rai Al Aam quoted senior military sources as saying that Iraq has beefed up forces in the south around the city of Basra. The newspaper said the Iraqi soldiers, dressed in civilian clothes, were ordered to prepare for an urban warfare campaign against U.S. forces, Middle East Newsline reported.]

"From recent intelligence, we know that the Iraqi regime intends to declare and destroy only a portion of its banned Al Samoud inventory and that it has, in fact, ordered the continued production of the missiles that you see being destroyed," U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies on Wednesday. "Iraq has brought its machinery that produces such missiles out into the daylight for all to see.

But we have intelligence that says, at the very same time, it has also begun to hide machinery it can use to convert other kinds of engines to power Al Samouds."

Iraq has declared that it has 100 Al Samoud missiles, half of them deployed by the military. So far, the UN Monitoring,Verification, and Inspection Commission reports that 34 such missiles have been destroyed.

But U.S. officials said UN inspectors have not been allowed to actually inspect most of the missiles. They said the destruction of the Al Samoud takes place far from UN observation sites.

"It is one big deception and the UN knows it," a U.S. official said. "The entire Al Samoud episode is being stage-managed by the Iraqis. They find the missiles and they destroy them."

Most of Iraq's Al Samoud missile arsenal contains a new engine termed Volga, officials said. The Volga gives the Al Samoud a range of between 300 and 600 kilometers.

The Al Samoud is partly based on the SA-2, which can also be used in a surface-to-surface role. The SA-2 has been used by such countries as China, India and Iraq as the basis for missiles with ranges of up to 500 kilometers.

Richard Speier, a former Pentagon official who specializes in missile nonproliferation issues, said Iraq, using Scud technology, tried to adapt the SA-2 as a secret missile after the 1991 Gulf war. But Speier said all of the missile tests failed.

"The Al Samoud could be incorporated into a two-stage missile," Speier wrote in a recent study for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

"Depending on the specifics of the design, a 300-kilogram payload could be delivered to a range in excess of 1,000 kilometers. Such a missile is not publicly reported to exist at present, but many former UNSCOM inspectors fear that it may be the next step."

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