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More Concerns About Weapons, Expertise Available to Iraqi Insurgents
Published on Tuesday, November 2, 2004 by
More Concerns About Weapons, Expertise Available to Iraqi Insurgents
by Jim Lobe

More evidence of a major failure by the Bush administration to adequately prepare for the possibility of insurgency in post-war Iraq has surfaced amid claims by some rebels that they have acquired chemical weapons and are preparing to use them against U.S. forces in the besieged Sunni stronghold of Falluja.

The claims, which come on the heels of the worst one-day losses for U.S. soldiers in more than six months, suggested that chemical-weapons specialists are lending their expertise to the guerrillas, a development that is causing growing anxiety in Washington.

Such a possibility was noted in the Central Intelligence Agency Duelfer Report last month which detailed in an annex that a group of insurgents, called the “Al-Abud Network,” had worked with a civilian Iraqi chemist to build chemical weapons for use against Coalition forces.

The report, which was noted by Michael Roston at Columbia University in a paper published by Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF) last week said U.S.-led troops had nipped the plot in the bud but that al-Abud “was not the only group planning or attempting to produce CBW (chemical or biological weapons) agents …”

“(A)vailability of chemicals and materials dispersed throughout the country, and intellectual capital from the former WMD (weapons of mass destruction) programs increases (sic) the future threat to Coalition forces,” according to the Annex.

That possibility looms large as U.S. Marines prepare a major assault on Falluja where up to 3,000 insurgents are believed to be holed up. It was just outside the city that nine Marines were reportedly killed Saturday when a suicide bomber drove his truck into their convoy.

ince last week’s revelation that some 380 tons of high explosives – just a few pounds of which can blow up an airplane -- that had been sealed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at the former nuclear site of Al Qaqaa south of Baghdad, concern has grown over the likelihood that that stockpile was only a small fraction of as much as 250,000 tons of munitions that remain unaccounted for.

The al Qaqaa discovery has fuelled charges by the presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry that the Pentagon had made a major strategic error in not sending into Iraq nearly enough troops to secure Iraq’s well-stocked arsenal some of which is now almost certainly be used to kill U.S. and coalition forces.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported Friday that it had repeatedly given U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq detailed information about enormous stockpiles of unsecured explosives and munitions located throughout the country but that coalition forces had taken little or no action at all to secure them.

“Immediately after the fall of Baghdad, our researchers were finding massive stockpiles of weapons and explosives throughout Iraq,” said Kenneth Roth, HRW’s director. “But when we informed coalition forces, they us they just didn’t have enough troops to secure these sites.”

In May, 2003, for example, a HRW researcher found a huge stockpile of warheads, anti-tank mines, anti-personnel mines, and other weaponry that were being looted at the Second military College located on the main road between Baghdad and Baquba. Included in the weaponry were hundreds of high-explosive surface-to-surface warheads.

He immediately provided the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Baghdad the precise GPS coordinates of the sites, as well as photographs of the looting and followed up with several trips there over the following days. But U.S. and coalition forces never secured the site, and the road has since become one of the main locations for suicide attacks and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) against passing military convoys.

In the same month, when clashes had already broken out between U.S. forces and Falluja residents, HRW reported that weapons markets in the city were operating openly with buyers testing all manner of assault weapons and machine guns by firing them in the air. When the researchers asked U.S. intelligence officers about the markets, they were unaware of their existence.

“While the U.S.-led coalition deployed more than 1,000 people to search for WMD, they weren’t organized to neutralize the threat of conventional weapons right under their noses,” Roth said. “Now, Iraqi civilians are paying a deadly price for the failure to secure the vast weapons stocks in Iraq during and after the invasion.”

imilarly, the International Herald Tribune reported last week that a French journalist who visited the Al Qaqaa site more than six months after the fall of President Saddam Hussein had seen “vast supplies of explosives” being looted from bunkers.

“I was utterly stupefied to see that a place like that was pretty much unguarded and that insurgents could help themselves for months on end,” Sarah Daniel was quoted as telling the Tribune. She added that the looters who were loading truckloads of material from what had been the biggest explosives factory in the Middle East admitted that they, too were surprised, that no effort had been made by the coalition forces to close it off.

The situation regarding Iraqi unconventional weapons scientists is even more puzzling, according to Columbia’s Roston, if only because the administration itself appeared to be aware of the threat posed by their expertise being shared with insurgents or terrorist groups.

In early June 2003, for example, Undersecretary of state for Arms Control and International Security, John Bolton, warned in Congressional testimony that “The biggest threat that we now face from Iraq’s defunct WMD program is …that other rogue states or terrorist organizations will hire and offer refuge to these WMD experts.”

But, according to Roston, writing last week for Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF), it was Bolton’s fellow-hawks in the Pentagon that ignored pre-war State Department recommendations to quickly hire Iraq’s WMD specialists to ensure that they did not go elsewhere for work.

In his article, Roston cited the CIA’s former chief weapons-hunter, David Kay, as blaming the government’s failure to launch such a program on “some of the worst (and) most pointless inter-agency wrangling I’ve ever seen.”

Since then, the State Department, which has tried to wrest control over the US$18 billion in reconstruction money that Congress approved for the Pentagon one year ago, has found only $2 million from an unrelated non-proliferation budget in funding to put Iraqi weapons scientists to work.

“The shortsightedness of this policy,” according to Roston, “is only making it more likely that the worst of America’s fears about WMD in Iraq will finally come true.”

Copyright © 2004


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