By J. Edgar Williams
Were weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) smuggled out of Iraq into Syria and Lebanon just before the US invasion in 2003? This is a subject I find interesting. Our forces found only a few small stashes of WMDs, so a mantra has grown up, incessantly repeated by those opposed to that war (and other US policies):- “There were NO WMDs in Iraq!!” Lt. Gen James R. Clapper, Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, who has been selected by Pres. Obama as Director of National Intelligence, was, in 2003, head of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency. The NY Times reported that he said “satellite imagery showing a heavy flow of traffic from Iraq into Syria just before the American invasion in March” led him to believe that illicit weapons material had “unquestionably” been moved out of Iraq.
John Shaw, former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Technology Security, said Russian Spetsnaz units moved WMDs out of Iraq into Syria and the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon to conceal Russia’s role in supplying Saddam with materials and know-how to produce biotoxins, especially weaponization of anthrax, botulism and smallpox. Other major WMDs were VX nerve gas and mustard gas.
Iraqi Gen. Georges Sada published a book entitled “Saddam’s Secrets” (2005-06) saying that there were 56 flights by large aircraft (civilian converted to cargo) from Iraq to Syria carrying WMDs, and also ground convoys of trucks just before the invasion. Syrian journalist Nizar Nayouf pinpointed locations in Syria of WMD storage areas. He found it prudent to move to Europe.
Recently I attended a party at which the guest of honor was Michael Corbin, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq Issues in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, who has served in Baghdad, Damascus, and other parts of the Arab world. He gave an interesting talk, and then took questions. I told him about the above things that I had read, and asked him about his views on the subject. His response was very pleasant, but he gave no credence at all to the reports. He said, seriously, that he believed the truck convoys and flights from Iraq to Syria were largely transporting personal belongings of senior Iraqis!