Monday, September 9, 2013

I Wonder Where Syria's Chemical Weapons Came From?

From the October 29, 2003 Chicago Tribune:
WASHINGTON — The director of a top U.S. spy agency said Tuesday that he believes that material from Iraq's illicit weapons program had been transported into Syria and perhaps other countries as part of an effort by the Iraqis to disperse and destroy evidence immediately before the recent war.
The official, James Clapper Jr., a retired lieutenant general, said satellite imagery showing a heavy flow of traffic from Iraq into Syria, just before the U.S. invasion in March, led him to believe that illicit weapons material "unquestionably" had been moved out of Iraq.

"I think people below the Saddam-Hussein-and-his-sons level saw what was coming and decided the best thing to do was to destroy and disperse," Clapper, who leads the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, said at a breakfast with reporters.
He said he was providing a personal assessment. But he said "the obvious conclusion one draws" was that there "may have been people leaving the scene, fleeing Iraq, and unquestionably, I am sure, material."
UPDATE: A reader mentioned that Syria has had a chemical weapons program since the 1970s, as this web site indicates.  It is all rather curious, however, that all this stuff went to Syria, and former Iraqi Vice-Air Marshal Georges Sada's claims.


  1. Syria has had a chemical weapons program since the mid-seventies.


  2. I've always considered there was a high probability that a lot of Iraq's WMD went to Syria. Now I have to reconsider. In my opinion, Clapper shows the least evidence that there are any operating synapses in his brain than almost any other person in the administration. Maybe it didn't happen after all...

  3. Why did Iraq disperse its CW, instead of just using it, like,they threatened?

  4. After the war, Hussein admitted that the refusal to allow inspection was to keep Iran scared -- not the U.S. I think Hussein realized that use of chemical weapons would have likely resulted in far harsher treatment by the U.S. Bush scared the wits out of a lot of tinpot dictators (like Khadaffi); perhaps Hussein was afraid of seeing us use nuclear weapons.

    During World War II, the U.S. passed word to Japan through diplomatic intermediaries that any use of chemical weapons by Japan would result in massive use of them by the U.S. -- and we had way more capacity to do that than Japan did. Even my tree-hugging Congressman of the time found that a persuasive case against unilateral chemical weapon disarmament.

  5. Clayton, all of that is a reason why Iraq would not use CW, not a reason why they would disperse them to a neighbor. Take your example of Japan ... they simply did not use CW, but they didn't ship them to another country (although, granted, there was no one in the area they would have trusted).

  6. The Diplomad, a retired US ambassador, says in his blog that Iraqi diplomats told him first hand that Saddam had moved the chemical weapons to Syria just prior to the invasion.

  7. asdf: you are making a very logical argument, and it may be right. But logic would have had Hussein privately inform the U.S. and the U.N. that the chemical weapons were mostly destroyed, and the reluctance to admit that was just to bluff Iran -- with the threat of exposing that such information had been supplied if the U.S. went to war. That would have been far worse for American prestige than "No WMDs found."

  8. I faintly remember blogging about the topic, so I searched my blog for the word "sarin." Found this post, a reaction to Mel Gibson's 2006 remark, "What's human sacrifice,if not sending guys off to Iraq for no reason?" i listed the reasons, General Sada's claim among them. But that's not the only story featuring (Iraqi) Sarin:

    In April 2004, Jordanian officials seize 20 tons of WMDs from al-Qaeda containing 70 different chemical agents, including Sarin and VX gas. King Abdullah announced on April 17 the stockpiles originated in Iraq. If detonated as planned, they would have killed at least 80,000 people.

    The following month, Saddam loyalists fired a "chemical binary projectile" filled with Sarin gas at U.S. troops in Iraq.