Jets Insider VIP JetsInsider.com Legend Charter JI Member
Russians ‘may have taken Iraq explosives’
By Demetri Sevastopulo and Guy Dinmore in Washington and James Harding in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
Published: October 28 2004 00:45 | Last updated: October 28 2004 00:45
The controversy over Iraq’s missing explosives intensified on Wednesday as the Bush administration rejected charges of incompetence and a senior Pentagon official claimed the munitions may have been removed by Russians before the US-led invasion.
Breaking his silence over an issue that has dominated headlines since Monday, President George W. Bush accused John Kerry, his Democratic challenger, of making “wild charges” over the 350 tonnes of explosives and weapons.
The Pentagon is still investigating their disappearance. But Scott McClellan, White House press secretary, said there was a “very real possibility” the munitions were taken by the Saddam Hussein regime before US troops arrived at the munitions facility at al-Qaqaa, south of Baghdad.
At a rally in Iowa on Wednesday, however, Mr Kerry claimed that Mr Bush had allowed the explosives to fall into the hands of Iraqi rebels. Later, his campaign conceded that the Hussein regime might have removed the munitions before the invasion.
But in a further development, John Shaw, a deputy under-secretary of defence, suggested that “Russian units” had transported the explosives out of the country.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Shaw said: “For nearly nine months my office has been aware of an elaborate scheme set up by Saddam Hussein to finance and disguise his weapons purchases through his international suppliers, principally the Russians and French. That network included. . . employing various Russian units on the eve of hostilities to orchestrate the collection of munitions and assure their transport out of Iraq via Syria.”
The Russian embassy in Washington rejected the claims as “nonsense”, saying there were no Russian military in the country at the time.
Mr Shaw, who heads the Pentagon’s international armament and technology trade directorate, has not provided evidence for his claims and the Pentagon distanced itself from his remarks.
“I am unaware of any particular information on that point,” said Larry Di Rita, Pentagon spokesman. The issue has dominated the presidential campaign since the International Atomic Energy Agency raised it at the UN Security Council on Monday. The Iraqi government says the explosives disappeared during looting after US forces seized Baghdad. But Colonel Dave Perkins, who commanded the first troops into al-Qaqaa, yesterday said it was “highly improbable” someone could have removed the munitions after US forces had taken control of the area.
The US has in the past raised concerns about Russian activities in Iraq before the invasion. During the war, Mr Bush called Vladimir Putin, Russian president, to voice concerns that Russian companies at least one state-owned had provided Iraq with anti-tank guided missiles, satellite jamming devices and night-vision goggles. Russia denied the charges and promised an investigation.
Jets Insider VIP JetsInsider.com Legend Charter JI Member
Interesting article from 4/7/2003
Russian Convoy Caught In Crossfire
(CBS) Russian diplomats who came under fire while trying to flee Iraq entered Syria on Monday, after leaving behind an injured diplomat in an Iraqi-controlled hospital, the Foreign Ministry said.
It was unclear whether U.S. or Iraqi forces were responsible for the attack Sunday.
Nine Russian diplomats, including Ambassador Vladimir Titorenko, left the Iraqi city of Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghdad, on Monday en route to Syria, where a medically-equipped Russian plane was headed to bring them back to Moscow.
Syrian border officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the delegation from the Russian Embassy in Baghdad crossed the Tanef crossing point on the Syrian-Iraqi border. Tanef is 187 miles northeast of Damascus.
"They are on the Syrian side of the border," said the officials.
One diplomat injured in the attack was left behind in a Fallujah hospital, Alexander Yakovenko, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, told Russia's NTV television. Another diplomat also stayed behind to help the injured Russian, who underwent surgery in the Iraqi hospital, Yakovenko said. Others among the 23 diplomats and journalists in the convoy traveled to the Jordanian border on Sunday.
The Russian convoy was fired upon as it headed out of Baghdad toward the Syrian border, injuring at least four. A journalist in the convoy said it was caught in crossfire while passing Iraqi positions near the city's outskirts.
Alexander Minakov of state-run Rossiya television said it appeared that the U.S. forces had fired first, unleashing a heavy barrage on the Iraqi positions, and the two sides then exchanged fire.
The United States had been aware of the Russian diplomats' evacuation plans, and the convoy was flying a Russian flag.
Yakovenko did not comment on Russian media reports that bullet holes in the vehicle and a bullet removed from an injured diplomat matched the caliber of bullets from an American M-16 rifle.
He said Russia had not yet received any official information from either side, and was awaiting their conclusions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on Monday to keep him informed of the convoy's movements and the status of the injured, Russian news agencies reported.
Dmitri Rogozin, head of the lower house of parliament's international affairs committee, suggested that Russia should have evacuated its diplomats from Baghdad earlier. Russia, which firmly opposes the war, had been reluctant to close its embassy, and announced the decision to evacuate the ambassador only Saturday.
The evacuation came three days after Russia alleged that American airstrikes had targeted a Baghdad neighborhood where the Russian Embassy is located.
"Clearly there was a desire to have full and objective information about developments in Iraq," Rogozin was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying. "In this case, it would have probably been sufficient to keep a smaller group of diplomats and not leave the ambassador until the last moment, because he is a political representative of the country, after all."
In spite of Russia's opposition to the war, Putin has adopted a softer tone toward the United States in recent days, saying a U.S. defeat would not be in Russia's interests and pledging continued cooperation with Washington.
U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice was in Moscow for talks Monday on deepening U.S.-Russian cooperation.
Russian special forces troops moved many of Saddam Hussein's weapons and related goods out of Iraq and into Syria in the weeks before the March 2003 U.S. military operation, The Washington Times has learned.
John A. Shaw, the deputy undersecretary of defense for international technology security, said in an interview that he believes the Russian troops, working with Iraqi intelligence, "almost certainly" removed the high-explosive material that went missing from the Al-Qaqaa facility, south of Baghdad.
"The Russians brought in, just before the war got started, a whole series of military units," Mr. Shaw said. "Their main job was to shred all evidence of any of the contractual arrangements they had with the Iraqis. The others were transportation units."
Mr. Shaw, who was in charge of cataloging the tons of conventional arms provided to Iraq by foreign suppliers, said he recently obtained reliable information on the arms-dispersal program from two European intelligence services that have detailed knowledge of the Russian-Iraqi weapons collaboration.
Most of Saddam's most powerful arms were systematically separated from other arms like mortars, bombs and rockets, and sent to Syria and Lebanon, and possibly to Iran, he said.
The Russian involvement in helping disperse Saddam's weapons, including some 380 tons of RDX and HMX, is still being investigated, Mr. Shaw said.
The RDX and HMX, which are used to manufacture high-explosive and nuclear weapons, are probably of Russian origin, he said.
Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita could not be reached for comment.
The disappearance of the material was reported in a letter Oct. 10 from the Iraqi government to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Disclosure of the missing explosives Monday in a New York Times story was used by the Democratic presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry, who accused the Bush administration of failing to secure the material.
Al-Qaqaa, a known Iraqi weapons site, was monitored closely, Mr. Shaw said.
"That was such a pivotal location, Number 1, that the mere fact of [special explosives] disappearing was impossible," Mr. Shaw said. "And Number 2, if the stuff disappeared, it had to have gone before we got there."
The Pentagon disclosed yesterday that the Al-Qaqaa facility was defended by Fedayeen Saddam, Special Republican Guard and other Iraqi military units during the conflict. U.S. forces defeated the defenders around April 3 and found the gates to the facility open, the Pentagon said in a statement yesterday.
A military unit in charge of searching for weapons, the Army's 75th Exploitation Task Force, then inspected Al-Qaqaa on May 8, May 11 and May 27, 2003, and found no high explosives that had been monitored in the past by the IAEA.
The Pentagon said there was no evidence of large-scale movement of explosives from the facility after April 6.
"The movement of 377 tons of heavy ordnance would have required dozens of heavy trucks and equipment moving along the same roadways as U.S. combat divisions occupied continually for weeks prior to and subsequent to the 3rd Infantry Division's arrival at the facility," the statement said.
The statement also said that the material may have been removed from the site by Saddam's regime.
According to the Pentagon, U.N. arms inspectors sealed the explosives at Al-Qaqaa in January 2003 and revisited the site in March and noted that the seals were not broken.
It is not known whether the inspectors saw the explosives in March. The U.N. team left the country before the U.S.-led invasion began March 20, 2003.
A second defense official said documents on the Russian support to Iraq reveal that Saddam's government paid the Kremlin for the special forces to provide security for Iraq's Russian arms and to conduct counterintelligence activities designed to prevent U.S. and Western intelligence services from learning about the arms pipeline through Syria.
The Russian arms-removal program was initiated after Yevgeny Primakov, the former Russian intelligence chief, could not persuade Saddam to give in to U.S. and Western demands, this official said.
A small portion of Iraq's 650,000 tons to 1 million tons of conventional arms that were found after the war were looted after the U.S.-led invasion, Mr. Shaw said. Russia was Iraq's largest foreign supplier of weaponry, he said.
However, the most important and useful arms and explosives appear to have been separated and moved out as part of carefully designed program. "The organized effort was done in advance of the conflict," Mr. Shaw said.
The Russian forces were tasked with moving special arms out of the country.
Mr. Shaw said foreign intelligence officials believe the Russians worked with Saddam's Mukhabarat intelligence service to separate out special weapons, including high explosives and other arms and related technology, from standard conventional arms spread out in some 200 arms depots.
The Russian weapons were then sent out of the country to Syria, and possibly Lebanon in Russian trucks, Mr. Shaw said.
Mr. Shaw said he believes that the withdrawal of Russian-made weapons and explosives from Iraq was part of plan by Saddam to set up a "redoubt" in Syria that could be used as a base for launching pro-Saddam insurgency operations in Iraq.
The Russian units were dispatched beginning in January 2003 and by March had destroyed hundreds of pages of documents on Russian arms supplies to Iraq while dispersing arms to Syria, the second official said.
Besides their own weapons, the Russians were supplying Saddam with arms made in Ukraine, Belarus, Bulgaria and other Eastern European nations, he said.
"Whatever was not buried was put on lorries and sent to the Syrian border," the defense official said.
Documents reviewed by the official included itineraries of military units involved in the truck shipments to Syria. The materials outlined in the documents included missile components, MiG jet parts, tank parts and chemicals used to make chemical weapons, the official said.
The director of the Iraqi government front company known as the Al Bashair Trading Co. fled to Syria, where he is in charge of monitoring arms holdings and funding Iraqi insurgent activities, the official said.
Also, an Arabic-language report obtained by U.S. intelligence disclosed the extent of Russian armaments. The 26-page report was written by Abdul Tawab Mullah al Huwaysh, Saddam's minister of military industrialization, who was captured by U.S. forces May 2, 2003.
The Russian "spetsnaz" or special-operations forces were under the GRU military intelligence service and organized large commercial truck convoys for the weapons removal, the official said.
Regarding the explosives, the new Iraqi government reported that 194.7 metric tons of HMX, or high-melting-point explosive, and 141.2 metric tons of RDX, or rapid-detonation explosive, and 5.8 metric tons of PETN, or pentaerythritol tetranitrate, were missing.
The material is used in nuclear weapons and also in making military "plastic" high explosive.
Defense officials said the Russians can provide information on what happened to the Iraqi weapons and explosives that were transported out of the country. Officials believe the Russians also can explain what happened to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs.
Jets Insider VIP JetsInsider.com Legend Charter JI Member
Originally posted by TheBrodyMan@Oct 28 2004, 09:53 AM I am someone who does believe that there were WMD's and they were somehow shipped out of Iraq before the inspections.
With that said, does anyone else find the timing of this fishy? Right before the election, another source to defend our presidents claim is brought.
Not saying this isnt true, I am just a little suspicious of the timing.
But you are telling half the story...this is all in a respones to the erroneous story the NY Slimes ran on Monday which the kerri campaign then jumped all over....it is also apparent that the Slimes and kerri campaign were in coordination on this and kerri knew the story was coming well in advance.
If the President wanted to use this to his advantage -Russians moving weapons- it would've come out prior to the debates.
ED SAYS: LET'S LOWER THE EXECUTION AGE TO 6
AND STOP KILLER BRATS PERMANENTLY
I'M MADDER than a French executioner with a dull guillotine at how namby-pamby liberals are trying to make it illegal to execute anyone under 18!
In case you haven't heard, that wuss Jimmy Carter and a bunch of his bleeding-heart-liberal buddies have been begging the Supreme Court to ban the death penalty for killers who committed their crimes before the age of 18. As the Gipper used to say,
"There he goes again!" That meddling goody twoshoes keeps sticking his fool nose where it doesn't belong.
This is no time to be coddling murderers, folks. If anything, we ought to LOWER the execution age right down to 6 or 7. That way we can snuff out these killer brats in the cradle -- before they grow up to be big-time serial killers like Ted Bundy and Aileen Wuornos.
The pompous do-gooders filed a brief with the court babbling that by continuing to execute minors, "The United States is not just leaving itself open to charges of hypocrisy, but is also endangering the rights of many around the world."
Besides Carter, the document was signed by former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev -- who I guess is supposed to be some kind of expert on human rights on account of running the Evil Empire for so long.
I reckon peanuts-for-brains Carter and his wimpy pals think a little "time out" is all that's needed for a boy who chops his parents to bits with an ax. Or maybe we should all just feel sorry for Junior and let him off the hook because he's an orphan now.
Think about it, friends. Even if you give some 10-year-old whippersnapper who strangles his baby sister 25 years in the slammer, when he gets out he'll be just 35 -- in the prime of his life, rested and ready to kill again.
These sanctimonious jerks who are so dead-set against executing juvenile delinquents love to point out that America is about the only country in the world that does it.
They say the only four others are "barbaric" countries -- Congo, China, Pakistan and Iran.
Well, buckaroos, the fact is we could learn a whole lot from studying the criminal justice system of places like Iran. I'll tell you this much: There aren't too many three-times-convicted pickpockets -- since the penalty for thieving is getting your gol-durned hand chopped off.
Now, we don't have to be mean to these young killers. While they're on death row, they ought to be allowed to watch all the cartoons they want instead of listening to some guy monkey around with a harmonica.
Heck, we can even have the guards dress as clowns or as Barney to put a smile on the kids' faces. And for their last meal, the young'uns can have all the ice cream, M&Ms and cotton candy they want.
But they'll still have to sit their scrawny behinds in Ol' Sparky and take their medicine -- even if they need one, two or three phone books under them to do it.
all of them asses that decided to turn their backs on us were all buddy buddy with saddam. they had contracts with him, and who knows how many of those politicians were bribed by him so that they would vote against the war. oil for food was a joke...i dont understand how kerry says hes going to have us pass a global test for us to defend ourselves, when the people hes asking for help are some of the most corrupt bastards in the world.
In PA their trying to block the military vote and get the lock up prisoners to vote. The Democrats will do anything to turn our country into socialist and then to communism. I wouldn't be suprised id Edwards asked his buddies in Russia through France to take the weaponds. They want this New World Communist Order.