Dr. Kay Had Maps with Coordinates of WMD Hiding Places in Syria
Setting up an inquiry commission is the political leader’s favorite dodge for burying an embarrassing problem until the pursuit dies down. President George W. Bush will this week bow to election-year pressures from Democrats and his own Republicans alike and sign an executive order to investigate US intelligence failings regarding Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction on the eve of war. Both his senior war partners, the Australian and British prime ministers, face the same public clamor ever since WMD hunter Dr. David Kay resigned, declaring there were probably no stockpiles in Iraq and “we were all wrong.”
At the same time, the CIA and other intelligence bodies accused of flawed performance do not look particularly dismayed by the prospect of facing these probes. They point to the cause of the political flap, Dr Kay, as contradicting himself more than once in the numerous interviews he has given since he quit as head of the Iraq Survey Group.
In the last 24 hours, debkafile went back to its most reliable intelligence sources in the US and the Middle East, some of whom were actively involved in the subject before and during the Iraq war. They all stuck to their guns. As they have consistently informed debkafile and DEBKA-Net-Weekly, Saddam Hussein’s unconventional weapons programs were present on the eve of the American-led invasion and quantities of forbidden materials were spirited out to Syria. Whatever Dr. Kay may choose to say now, at least one of these sources knows at first hand that the former ISG director received dates, types of vehicles and destinations covering the transfers of Iraqi WMD to Syria.
Indeed the US administration and its intelligence agencies, as well as Dr Kay, were all provided with Syrian maps marked with the coordinates of the secret weapons storage sites. The largest one is located at Qaratshuk at the heart of a desolate and unfrequented region edged with marshes, south of the Syrian town of Al Qamishli near the place where the Iraqi, Syrian and Turkish frontiers converge; smaller quantities are hidden in the vast plain between Al Qamishli and Az Zawr, and a third is under the ground of the Lebanese Beqaa Valley on the Syrian border.
These transfers were first revealed by debkafile and DEBKA-Net-Weekly in February 2003 a month before the war. We also discovered that a Syrian engineering corps unit was detailed to dig their hiding places in northern Syria and the Lebanese Beqaa.
A senior intelligence source confirmed this again to debkafile, stressing: “Dr. Kay knows exactly what was contained in the tanker trucks crossing from Iraq into Syria in January 2003. His job gave him access to satellite photos of the convoys; the instruments used by spy planes would have identified dangerous substances and tracked them to their underground nests. There exists a precise record of the movement of chemical and biological substances from Iraq to Syria.”
Armed with this knowledge, Kay was able to say firmly to The Telegraph’s Con Coughlin on January 25: “We are not talking about a large stockpile of weapons. But we know from some of the interrogations of former Iraqi officials that a lot of material went to Syria before the war, including some components of Saddam’s WMD program. Precisely what went to Syria and what has happened to it, is a major issue that needs to be resolved.
Yet in later interviews, the last being on February 1 with Wolf Blitzer on CNN’s Late Edition – and for reasons known only to himself – Kay turned vague, claiming there was no way of knowing what those convoys contained because of the lack of Syrian cooperation.
What caused his change of tune?
Since he began talking to the media, interested politicians have been rephrasing his assertions on the probable absence of stockpiles, by dropping the “probable” and transmuting “no stockpiles”, to “no WMD.” These adjustments have produced a telling argument against Bush’s justification for war and a slogan that has deeply eroded public confidence in US credibility in America and other countries. Tony Blair and John Howard will no doubt set up outside inquiry commissions like Bush. In Israel too, opposition factions have seized the opportunity of arguing that if Israel’s pre-war intelligence on Iraq’s arsenal was flawed, so too was its evaluation of Yasser Arafat’s role as the engine of Palestinian suicidal terror. The fact that intelligence was not flawed – UN inspectors dismantled missiles and Iraq fired missiles at Kuwait – is easily shouted down in the current climate.
By the same token, no connection is drawn between the Iraqi WMD issue and the grounding this week of transatlantic flights from Europe to America by credible intelligence of an al Qaeda plot. The Washington Post spelled the threat out as entailing the possible spread of anthrax or smallpox germs in the cabin or planting of poison chemicals in the cargo.
It was also suggested that suicidal pilots might crash an airliner on an American city and drop payloads of toxic chemicals and bacteria.
Two questions present themselves here. One: if minute quantities of weaponized biological and chemical substances dropped by Osama bin Laden’s killers from the air are menacing enough to trigger a major alert, why would Saddam need stockpiles to pose an imminent threat to world security and his immediate neighbors? Would not a couple of test tubes serve his purpose? Two: Where did al Qaeda get hold of the WMD presumed to be in its possession and who trained its operatives in their use?
Once again, debkafile‘s senior intelligence sources recall earlier revelations. The ex-Jordanian terror master Mussab al Zarqawi is key director of al Qaeda’s chemical, biological and radioactive warfare program. In late 2000, we reported him operating WMD laboratories under the supervision of Iraqi intelligence in the northern Iraqi town of Bayara. Since then, the same Zarqawi has masterminded some of the deadliest terrorist attacks in Iraq, such as the blasts at the Jordanian embassy and the murder of Italian troops in Nassariya.
Zarqawi is and was the embodiment of the link between Saddam and al Qaeda going back four years, long before the American invasion of Iraq – which indicatges the source of Osama bin Laden’s unconventional weapons purchases.
In another interview, the former ISG director expanded on his statement that Iraq was falling apart “from depravity and corruption.” The Saddam regime, he said, had lost control. Saddam ran projects privately and unsupervised, while his scientists were free to fake programs.
A senior debkafile source commented on this assertion:
“That’s one way of describing the situation – and not only on war’s eve but during all of Saddam Hussein’s years of ruling Iraq. We are looking at institutionalized corruption of a type unfamiliar in the West; it was built up in a very special way in Iraq.” The country was not falling apart, but it was being looted systematically. Just imagine, he said, Saddam and the two sons the Americans killed in July 2003 had their own secret printing press for running off Iraqi dinars and other currencies including dollars for their own personal use. The central bank went on issuing currency in the normal way, unaware that it was being undermined from within by the ruler’s private press. “Saddam’s corruption was structured, a hierarchical pyramid with the ruler, his sons and inner circle at the top and the petty thieves at the bottom making off with worthless paper.”
Some of our sources challenged two more of Dr. Kay’s assertions to Wolf Blitzer: a) After 1998 when the UN left, there was no human intelligence on the ground, and b) “There were no regular sources of information, not enough dots to connect.” If this is true, how does he explain another statement in the same interview that the US entered the war on the basis of “a broad consensus among intelligence services – not just the CIA, but also Britain, France and Russia?”
On what did this consensus rest if there were no informants on the ground?
And furthermore, how were the American and British invading armies able to advance at such speed from Kuwait to Baghdad with no obstructions and without blowing up a single bridge, road or other utility, including oil fields, ports and military air fields? Every obstruction had clearly been removed from their path by intelligence agents on the ground, who reached understandings with local Iraqi commanders before the war began.
In the face of this evidence, the question must be asked: Why does Bush take David Kay’s assaults and demands with such stoicism instead of going after Damascus – as defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld has proposed from time to time?
One theory is that he does not trust any of the evidence. Saddam was famous among UN inspectors for his deception techniques; he may have practiced a double deception. Hard and fast facts are likewise hard to come by in Damascus. Above all, Bush may simply be determined to adhere to his plan of action come what may, whatever crises happen to cross his path, in the confidence that his path will lead to a November victory at the polls.
Three inquiry commissions will most likely be set up to examine the American, British and Australian intelligence assessments of Saddam’s weapons of destruction in the run-up to the Iraq war. In the meantime, the actual weapons will continue to molder undisturbed in the ground of Syria and Lebanon