Monday, February 16, 2015

NYT: CIA bought, destroyed undeclared Iraqi chemical weapons demanded by UN

NYT: CIA bought, destroyed undeclared Iraqi chemical weapons demanded by UN


The topic of WMD in Iraq has been a hot potato for more than two decades, ever since the end of the first Gulf War and the procession of 17 UN Security Council resolutions demanding that Saddam Hussein verifiably destroy them. Hussein ignored those demands and committed numerous violations of the 1991 cease-fire agreement that suspended the war. In 2003, the US went back to war in part over the issue of WMD, deposing Hussein but coming up empty on the accusations of chemical and biological weapons, which prompted the “Bush lied” arguments that have echoed ever since. Occasionally, caches of chemical weapons have been found in Iraq, reviving the debate, but they have been weapons that had already been declared and transferred to UN control before the 2003 invasion.

If the WMD existed in Iraq, what happened to it? Many suspected that it got transferred to Syria prior to the 2003 invasion, but the New York Times reports today that the CIA actually did find at least some of the suspected and undeclared caches of chemical weapons — and destroyed them:

The Central Intelligence Agency, working with American troops during the occupation of Iraq, repeatedly purchased nerve-agent rockets from a secretive Iraqi seller, part of a previously undisclosed effort to ensure that old chemical weapons remaining in Iraq did not fall into the hands of terrorists or militant groups, according to current and former American officials.

The extraordinary arms purchase plan, known as Operation Avarice, began in 2005 and continued into 2006, and the American military deemed it a nonproliferation success. It led to the United States’ acquiring and destroying at least 400 Borak rockets, one of the internationally condemned chemical weapons that Saddam Hussein’s Baathist government manufactured in the 1980s but that were not accounted for by United Nations inspections mandated after the 1991 Persian Gulf war.