U.S. military intelligence: Saddam transferred WMD to Syria

Friday, September 24, 2004

The U.S. military continues to back its estimate that the former Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq transferred much of its weapons of mass destruction arsenal to neighboring Syria.

U.S. officials said that U.S. Army Intelligence does not share the conclusion that Saddam had abandoned his WMD program before the U.S.-led war against Iraq in 2003. They said military intelligence has attributed the U.S. failure to find Iraqi WMD platforms or munitions to Saddam's transfer of these systems to Syria in late 2002 and early 2003.

Over the last year, U.S. Central Command has helped the Iraqi Survey Group in the search for WMD in Iraq. The group has wound down its activities in Iraq without any success, Middle East Newsline reported.

"The Iraqi Survey Group has yet to submit its final report," Lt. Gen. Lance Smith, deputy chief of U.S. Central Command, said. "Besides, who knows what we will find in two years, who knows what was moved to countries like Syria. What we know for certain is that Saddam Hussein had carried out research into an array of weapons of mass destruction."

Smith said Syria was a major ally of Saddam before and after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He told a briefing in Qatar on Sept. 5 that Syria helped fuel the current insurgency war in Iraq by enabling the flow of combatants and weapons into Iraq to fight U.S. and allied forces.

The military's assessment that Syria has received Iraqi WMD has been shared by the Defense Department, officials said. They said U.S. reconnaissance satellites had detected the entry of Iraqi convoys of suspected WMD and missile cargo into Syria and Lebanon's Bekaa Valley in early 2003.

"It's a clear fact that the deposits of weapons of mass destruction have not been found since the end of the major combat operations," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said. "Another possibility is they gave them to some other country or hid them in some other country."

Officials said Saddam agents have sought to kill Iraqis with knowledge of the former regime's nuclear weapons program. They cited the assassination of Iraqi nuclear scientist Mohammed Toki Hussein Al Talakani on Sept. 4 in the Sunni city of Mahmudiya.

In contrast, the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission for Iraq said it failed to find evidence that Saddam had developed unmanned air vehicles capable of deliverying biological or chemical weapons. The agency said the UAVs found in Iraq did not violate UN restrictions.

"The information available to us doesn't indicate Iraq had these drones for the delivery of chemical or biological weapons agents, nor had they gone beyond the 150 kilometer range," UN commission spokesman Ewen Buchanan said. "But we're open to new information and looking forward to the Iraq Survey Group's findings."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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