On April 17, the convoluted tale of Saddam Hussein‘s weapons of mass destruction, which raised a storm in America after President George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq five years ago, may finally reach closure due to an unexpected turn of events.
The US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs started this hare by insisting that US national intelligence agencies present a full account of North Korea’s nuclear ties with Iran and Syria.
Up until early 2005, the Bush administration stoically and mutely faced the charge of misleading the American public and the world about Saddam’s WMD and going to war on the basis of wrong information.
From 2004, the administration began to admit that the Iraqi dictator’s unconventional arms arsenal had not been found. The official word was that Washington had acted on information provided by US and many foreign intelligence agencies. The world media reached a general consensus that it had not been found because it was non-existent.
Most US intelligence and military branches accepted this conclusion as settling the debate once and for all.
But now, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Washington sources report, this estimate has been stood on its head. Various branches of the US government have reassessed the earlier estimate. They have decided that the Saddam Hussein regime not only possessed chemical and biological weapons (used against its own population), but also the elements of an active nuclear weapons program.
They have also come round to accepting that Saddam secretly transferred these materials to Syria in January 2003, prior to the US invasion of Iraq.
Suddenly, five years into the Iraq war, an unforeseen discovery has removed the blinkers of long skepticism.
How did this come about?
Obedient to the House committee’s requirements, US intelligence agents delved deep into North Korea’s nuclear ties with Iran and Syria. New input came from Israel’s raid of Sept 6, 2007 on the plutonium reactor Pyongyang sold Syria. Among the findings there were nuclear materials and apparatus identified as of North Korea products shipped to the Middle East as far back as 2000 – or earlier.
Five years later, the WMD case against Saddam Hussein completed
The investigators then traced the materials to their purchaser – Iraq.
The obvious next step was to track down and interview the Iraqis who drove the trucks to Syria for the last link in the chain of evidence to complete the WMD case against the Iraqi dictator.
So far, 40 Iraqi drivers have been located for interviews out of the full number who drove 100 trucks to Syria.
They all gave the same account:
Saddam’s security officers had recruited them for a special mission without telling them its true nature. They were sent to a special course for training in the transportation of hazardous materials. The drivers and their relatives signed confidentiality pledges and were given to understand that any breach would carry a death sentence for them and their family members.
In early January, six weeks before America’s March 19, 2003, invasion of Iraq, the drivers were told their mission would start within a few days. Each was handed two anti-contamination suits – one for protection against chemical and biological substances and the other against radioactive fallout.
They were given no information other than a caution to drive with the utmost care because an accident involving any of the vehicles could bring down an environmental catastrophe on many parts of Iraq and Syria.
The 100 trucks set out on Jan. 10, 2003. When they reached the Syrian border, they were handed over to Syrian drivers similarly clad in protective suits, who disappeared with the vehicles and headed to an unknown destination.
The case was complete: Saddam had been running a clandestine nuclear weapon program and, just before the US invaded Iraq, had removed the entire project, lock, stock and barrel, to Syria with the full connivance of his ally, Bashar Assad.
The Israeli file on the WMD transfer to Syria
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence sources point out that the information US intelligence is uncovering today corroborates the data put before them in 2003 by Israel’s undercover agencies. This file contained maps marking precisely the coordinates of the burial sites in northern Syria not far from the Iraq border where Saddam’s nuclear project had been secreted. Washington’s Israeli informants advised at the time that the desert hiding place was uninhabited and unguarded by Syrian troops. Therefore, an American raid of the site would not have run into resistance and the materials could have been recovered easily and discreetly.
But it was not to be. Five years ago, the Bush administration replied that the operation would be extremely hazardous and not worth the candle.
On February 7, 2003 – and again on February 14 – in issues 96 and 97, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s exclusive sources were the first to divulge the existence of Iraq’s WMD and its removal to Syria. This was published five weeks before the US invasion of Iraq.
Then, on May 2, 2003, under the caption “So Where Are They?” military sources described to DEBKA-Net-Weekly 107 how the clandestine transfer was carried out.
Our only error was to report that part of Iraq’s banned materials was taken to Syria and part to the Lebanese Beqaa Valley, when in fact it all ended up in the Syrian Desert.
Today, we know that Syrian officers did indeed check out the Beqaa Valley, but then decided against it and opted for a burial place closer to the Iraqi border.