January 29, 2006

Iraqi WMD in Syria?

In a new book, former Iraqi Air Force General Georges Sada claims that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD), specifically chemical and biological weapons, were moved from Iraq to Syria months before the U.S. invasion in March 2003.

According to the general, the weapons were moved by commercial aircraft and trucks in mid 2002 when it became apparent that the American administration was serious about Iraqi compliance with United Nations resolutions. The transfer was made using Iraqi Airways Boeing 727 and 747 aircraft purportedly making over 50 flights delivering relief supplies in reponse to the Zayzun dam collapse in northwestern Syria in June of 2002.

On January 26, General Sada spoke to the New York Sun. A few days later, he appeared on MSNBC. He explained that he received the information on the flights from two pilots who were personally involved in the operation, flying the aircraft to Damascus in 2002. It was the time required to complete the flights that caused a delay in Saddam Husayn agreeing to the re-introduction of United Nations inspectors. The general said that he had not yet passed on to either U.S. (or Israeli intelligence) the names of the pilots and others involved in the weapons transfer.

If what the general claims is true and can be substantiated, this is potentially a blockbuster. It is the proof the administation would need to validate its pre-war claims that Iraq possessed WMD.

The general is not the only one who believes that Iraqi WMD found its way to Syria.

  • It has been the position of the Israeli intelligence service since 2003 that the material was moved prior to the American invasion.
  • A Syrian journalist, Nizar Najaf, reported that Iraqi WMD was being stored in tunnels near the Syrian air base at Shayrat (Daghdaghan).
  • The Director of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, said satellite images showed a heavy flow of traffic from Iraq into Syria just before the American invasion in March 2003. Retired Air Force Lieutenant General James Clapper Jr. said he believed "that illicit weapons material was transported into Syria and perhaps other countries. ... I think probably in the few months running up to the onset of the conflict an intensive effort to disperse into private hands, to bury it, and to move it outside the country's borders."