Who leaked Iraq's arms declaration?
Posted: Tuesday, January 28, 2003
By Firas Al-Atraqchi, YellowTimes.org
In recent weeks, much has been made of the Iraqi weapons declaration, which Iraqi officials have claimed is final and comprehensive.
The world will never really know because the report was seized en route to the United Nations Security Council from Cyprus by U.S. officials who claimed that the declaration contained vital information and military technology secrets that could not be distributed to the rest of the non-permanent members of the Security Council. And definitely not to the rest of the world, who would love to see how Iraq's weapons procurement program had gotten so advanced, so discreetly.
The weekend preceding the handing over of the declaration, the U.N. Security Council had decided that the report would be distributed simultaneously to the permanent members, followed by the non-permanent members. (France, China, Russia, the U.S. and the U.K. are the permanent members.)
However, in an about face, the Security Council later decided (was it a decision or a unilateral decree?) that the U.S. would effectively receive the report first and foremost.
An extremely suspicious affair since it is the U.S. that is leading the call to wage war against Iraq, much to the disillusionment and chagrin of the rest of the Security Council.
Since December 11, when the declaration was handed over to UNMOVIC, little has been made of the declaration except to be lambasted by U.S. officials as incomplete and in clear material breach. UNMOVIC head Hans Blix has said that some issues remained unresolved and that he would press the Iraqis to answer some questions. This has since happened as of January 19, 2003, when Blix and IAEA head Mohammad Al-Baradei visited Iraq and obtained some answers (and documents) to their queries.
Prior to December 12, the deadline for the Iraqi declaration, mainstream media, at the behest of the Bush administration, taunted the date as a fulcrum for going to war. That date has since passed. Why then has there been no war?
Mainstream media quickly jumped in and reported that White House officials, although dismayed by the lack of information and citing it as a material breach, would give Iraq another final chance.
Some media analysts dared to challenge this change in the U.S. position, but within a few days the focus shifted to such entertaining stories as how the White House was preparing for Christmas and the Trent Lott alleged racism fiasco.
In Europe, however, where media is a lot more risqué and intrusive, another theory surfaced.
Die Tageszeitung, one of Germany's leading alternative newspapers, claimed it had secretly obtained vital information contained within the Iraqi declaration. The information consisted of a list of nations who had discreetly equipped, supported, and engaged in aiding Iraq's weapons procurement program. The list included 24 leading and highly successful American companies who were directly involved in arming Iraq during the 1970s leading up to the eve of the 1991 Gulf War. The list also includes some 80 German companies as well as others from the U.K., Russia, China, France, Sweden, and Belgium.
Ironically, the list highlights the level of "cooperation" between the U.N.'s permanent members of the Security Council, most notably, the U.S., with Iraq. It would be naïve to believe that many of these countries acted without explicit U.S. support.
The Iraqi declaration was eventually "edited and abridged" to 3,000 pages much to the shock and abjection of the non-permanent members of the Security Council.
The reasons are clear: Should the American public demand to know why such companies as IBM, DuPont, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard and Eastman Kodak armed and supplied Iraq with vital chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons related information, the entire state of the U.S. economy would undergo massive upheaval.
The U.S. economy is already reeling from widespread layoffs, the Enron and WorldCom scandals, and the weakening of the NASDAQ. A quick look at the "contributors" list reveals that many of the aforementioned companies are prominent, and indeed, sustaining the vitality of the NASDAQ.
The U.S. economy could not handle such a blow. Neither could the White House, which has tried to stave off numerous rumors of duplicity in the Enron (and Halliburton, among others) scandals.
Furthermore, an increasing number of U.S. Gulf War veterans are demanding an investigation into mysterious illnesses they have contracted since their return from Iraq. Stories of exploding chemical munitions storage facilities in Khamisiyah (southern Iraq), in the sight of unprotected U.S. army divisions, have surfaced in mainstream media in recent months.
A 1997 CIA White Paper, titled Khamisiyah: A Historical Perspective on Related Intelligence, admitted for the first time that chemical munitions were stored at the 25-square kilometer weapons storage facilities.
To date, nearly 88,000 U.S. Gulf War Veterans have reported mysterious ailments since their return from the theatre of operations. Of those, nearly 5,000 have launched a class action suit, led by attorney Gary Pitts in Brazoria County, Texas, against U.S. companies claiming they helped Iraq purchase chemical agents.
Should the American public get its hands on information within the Iraqi declaration, which links U.S. companies to Iraq's weapons procurement program, the fallout would be catastrophic. Company CEOs would face criminal negligence suits; financial payouts in the hundreds of billions would be sought, and many of these companies would no longer exist.
Solution? Seize the report, edit it, call it incomplete, and move on.
Europe, however, did not move on. Europe (except for a few former East European nations groveling to join NATO) is firmly united against a unilateral, un-sanctioned war. Go through the U.N.; give the inspectors more time, they say.
This author has received several emails begging the questions: Why didn't Iraq release the list to embarrass the U.S.?
It is likely that Iraq did release the report to the press, but in a Machiavellian gesture of suspicion and paranoia, was careful who would receive its contents.
Several developments point to why Iraq may have released the list, and why Germany, or the German press, was determined to be the best recipient.
Firstly, German companies have been featured prominently in several Iraqi trade shows in recent years. The latest was held in November and included the greatest number of German companies in over 12 years. One hundred German firms (greater than France's 86) participated in Iraq's International Trade Fair, mainly operating in the oil, electricity and industrial sectors.
Germany is also one of the few European countries that have full diplomatic relations with Iraq.
While France and Russia seem to fall in and out of favor with Iraqi officials, Germany has been gaining commercial and logistical influence in Iraq.
In late 2001, Germany sought to create an economic sector between Iraq and Egypt by exporting German-licensed products in Egypt to Iraq.
"Marketing products manufactured in Egypt under German licenses is a way to enhance trade ties between Germany and Iraq," Peter Goepfrich, director of the German Chamber of Commerce in Cairo, told reporters in August 2001.
Secondly, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's ruling coalition streaked to an election win this fall by campaigning against a U.S.-led war in Iraq. Schroeder went so far as to indicate that Germany would not support in any way an invasion of Iraq even if it were mandated by the U.N. He has even threatened to withdraw the chemical weapons analysts Germany currently has stationed in Kuwait.
This greatly impressed the Iraqis.
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz told reporters in September that he wished Arab countries would support Iraq's plight in the same manner as Germany was increasingly doing.
The above is a stark statement; that Iraq trusts Germany more than it does its Arab neighbors.
In addition, Germany this month becomes a member of the 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council. Germany's vote will be crucial should the Security Council take up the issue of another resolution on Iraq.
Iraq has also switched to dealing in Euros rather than dollars, giving European economies a slight nudge.
The report may also have been leaked to Germany to embarrass German Intelligence (nearly 80 German companies are listed in the declaration), who late last year made the claim that Iraq already possessed a nuclear device.
Andreas Zumach, a reporter for the German daily Die Tageszeitung to the United Nations, obtained an unedited copy of the Iraqi document submitted to the U.N. Security Council outlining the status of Saddam Hussein's weapons arsenal.
In 1997, Zumach also broke the story of French involvement in the sacking of the Bosnian village of Srebrenica, where thousands of Muslim males disappeared.
Further analysis that Iraq leaked the report to Zumach, or through third parties, can be derived from the fact that the report was in UNMOVIC's guarded possession from Baghdad to Cyprus and finally to New York, where it was immediately seized by U.S. delegates to the U.N.
However, Zumach announced almost immediately after December 11th that he would be publishing information from highly classified portions of the Iraq declaration.
If Iraq had not been the source of the report Zumach received, likely suspicion will fall either on UNMOVIC (unlikely) or U.S. officials themselves.
It is highly unlikely that U.S. officials would presume to torpedo their own plans.
[Firas Al-Atraqchi, B.Sc (Physics), M.A. (Journalism and Communications), is a Canadian journalist with eleven years of experience covering Middle East issues, oil and gas markets, and the telecom industry.]
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