Saddam Hussein moved his chemical weapons to Syria six weeks before the war started, Israel's top general during Operation Iraqi Freedom says.
The assertion comes as President Bush said yesterday that much of the intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was incorrect.
The Israeli officer, Lieutenant General Moshe Yaalon, asserted that Saddam spirited his chemical weapons out of the country on the eve of the war. "He transferred the chemical agents from Iraq to Syria," General Yaalon told The New York Sun over dinner in New York on Tuesday night. "No one went to Syria to find it."
From July 2002 to June 2005, when he retired, General Yaalon was chief of staff of the Israel Defense Force, the top job in the Israeli military, analogous to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the American military. He is now a military fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He made similar, but more speculative, remarks in April 2004 that attracted little notice in America; at that time he was quoted as saying of the Iraqi weapons, "Perhaps they transferred them to another country, such as Syria."
The Israeli general's remarks came on the eve of Mr. Bush's speech to the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, in which the president addressed the issue of intelligence and defended the decision to go to war. "When we made the decision to go into Iraq, many intelligence agencies around the world judged that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction. This judgment was shared by the intelligence agencies of governments who did not support my decision to remove Saddam. And it is true that much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong," Mr. Bush said in remarks that were one of a series of speeches he has given recently on the war.
Mr. Bush's defense of the war echoed themes he has been pressing since before the war began and through his successful campaign for re-election. "Given Saddam's history and the lessons of September the 11th, my decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision. Saddam was a threat - and the American people and the world is better off because he is no longer in power."
An official at the Iraqi embassy in Washington, Entifadh Qanbar, said he believed the Israeli general's account, but that the Iraqi government is "basically operating in the dark" because it does not have its own intelligence agency. He said the issue underscored the need for the new Iraqi government to have control of its own intelligence service. "We don't have any way to find anything out about Syria because we don't have intelligence," Mr. Qanbar said. He said there is a high-rise building in Baghdad with 1,000 employees working on intelligence but that it has no budget appropriation from the Iraqi government and "doesn't report to the Iraqi government."
"Nobody knows who it belongs to, but you should understand who it belongs to," he said, in what was apparently a reference to American involvement.
An Iraqi politician, Mithal Al-Alusi, whose sons were both assassinated in Iraq last year, told The New York Sun's Eli Lake last month that his party would press the Iraqi government to renew the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Mr. Al-Alusi said he believes Saddam clearly had the weapons before the invasion. "They will find the weapons, I am sure they will," Mr. Al-Alusi said.
A spokesman at the Syrian embassy in Washington did not return a call seeking comment. But General Yaalon's comment could increase pressure on the Syrian government that is already mounting from Washington and the United Nations. Mr. Bush has been keeping the rhetorical heat on Damascus. On Monday, he said in a speech, "Iraq's neighbor to the west, Syria, is permitting terrorists to use that territory to cross into Iraq."
Also Monday, Mr. Bush issued a statement saying, "Syria must comply with United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1559, 1595, and 1636 and end its interference in Lebanon once and for all. "The resolutions call for ending Syria's occupation of Lebanon and for Syrian cooperation into the investigation of the assassination of a Lebanese politician, Rafik Hariri.
On Saturday, the White House issued a statement calling attention to Syrian prisoners of conscience such as Kamal Labwani. "The Syrian Government must cease its harassment of Syrians peacefully seeking to bring democratic reform to their country. The United States stands with the Syrian people in their desire for freedom and democracy," said the statement, issued in the name of the White House press secretary.
Yesterday, the State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, described Syria as an "oppressive regime." He also pointed to a recent report by a United Nations investigator looking into the assassination of Hariri. "The Syrian Government has failed to offer its full cooperation," Mr. McCormack said, citing the U.N. investigator's report that "details allegations of document burning by the Syrians, of intimidating witnesses."
When, during an interview with the Sun in April, Vice President Cheney was asked whether he thought that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction had been moved to Syria, Mr. Cheney replied only that he had seen such reports.
An article in the Fall 2005 Middle East Quarterly reports that in an appearance on Israel's Channel 2 on December 23, 2002, Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon stated, "Chemical and biological weapons which Saddam is endeavoring to conceal have been moved from Iraq to Syria." The allegation was denied by the Syrian government at the time as "completely untrue," and it attracted scant American press attention, coming as it did on the eve of the Christmas holiday.
Syria shares a 376-mile border with Iraq. The Syrian ruling party and Saddam Hussein had in common the ideology of Baathism, a mixture of Nazism and Marxism.
Syria is one of only eight countries that has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, a treaty that obligates nations not to stockpile or use chemical weapons. And it has long been the source of concern in America and Israel and Lebanon about its chemical warfare program apart from any weapons that may have been received from Iraq. The director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee in March of 2004, "Damascus has an active CW development and testing program that relies on foreign suppliers for key controlled chemicals suitable for producing CW."
For the first time, the U.S. intelligence community has released an assessment that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction were transferred to neighboring Syria in the weeks prior to the U.S.-led war against the Saddam Hussein regime.
U.S. officials said the assessment was based on satellite images of convoys of Iraqi trucks that poured into Syria in February and March 2003.
Officials said the briefing yesterday to U.S. defense reporters was based on the assessments of NIMA and the rest of the intelligence community, Middle East Newsline reported. But they stressed that the community was not united in determining the fate or whereabouts of suspected Iraqi WMD.
However most of the community, they said, has concluded that at least some of the Iraqi WMD, along with Iraqi scientists and technicians, was transferred to Syria.
FINALLY !!! What took so long to make this public?
The following is a post from July 15, 2004 titled: FIND WMD's IN SYRIA(MidEast Truth Forum "WAR on IRAQ" , Page 2)
1.) Remember that Saddam Hussein did not allow UN weapons inspectors into Iraq for over one year. Enough time to transport weapons of mass destruction out of Iraq. Saddam knew he would eventually be pressured into allowing entry to the inspectors.
2.) The Syrian government is also a Baathist government; same as the former regime led by Saddam and sons.
3.) Syria is no friend of America, Jews, nor the Western culture.
4.) We know WMDs existed because France and other countries had supplied technology to develop weapons of mass destruction to Iraq throughout the past decades. Think the French nuclear reactor was really built in Iraq for electricity? Had Israel not destroyed the reactor, Iraq would have been a great threat in the Mideast today. (Now, Iran is leading the Mideast in developing nuclear weapons.)
5.) The spineless decisions by the United Nations allowed Saddam Hussein to tell them when it would be OK to send their inspectors in. Perhaps, some UN members were in secret agreement to protect Saddam all along.
6.) So when Saddam allows inspectors in - guess what? NO WMDs to be found!
7.) Today, we can find Saddam in jail and the WMDs most likely in his partner nation, Syria.
8.) Think Syria will allow UN inspectors in?
Remember this info was posted here in July of 2004.
Great to know that MidEast Truth is many times well ahead of all other international media information.
Starman - he beat you by almost 2 months Embarassed Laughing
but yes you are quite right
I agree, my post wasnot the first to suggest that Syria was the hiding place for Saddam's WMD, (concede to Dr. Kleber) but it did indicate the high probability with the specific reasons as outlined.
Actually, your post reference by the U.S. Military Intelligence from 10/31/2003 explained the movements of WMD from Iraq - but the idea of Syria being the recipient was not taken as seriously for publication by the international media as it is now - that was really my point.
U.S. intelligence consensus: Iraqi WMD shipped to Syria
by: World Tribune on 10/31/2003
So now you're talking about me as if I'm not here...
Thank you for the credit, David
Now I'm not so sure that time will tell though.... At least not in the foreseeable future... the US decided to stop the search, and with all the mess in Iraq, it is obvious that they won't be looking in Syria anytime soon... The media will "kill" Bush if he'll even suggest something like that...
You're right, Dr. kleber, and the irony is that it should really be the job of the U.N. United Nations Security Council, et al, that should be active in ordering the search for Saddam's WMD. That too is not likely to happen anytime soon. Hmmm... I wonder why?
Additional Info regarding Saddam's WMD - pointing to Syria:
Posted by MLaden: Tue Jan 06, 2004 2:39 pm Post subject: Syrian journalist reports Iraq’s WMD located in Syria
Syrian journalist reports Iraq’s WMD located in three Syrian sites
Nizar Najoef, a Syrian journalist who recently defected from Syria to Western Europe and is known for bravely challenging the Syrian regime, said in a letter Monday, January 5, to Dutch newspaper “De Telegraaf,” that he knows the three sites where Iraq’s WMD are kept. The storage places are:
1. Tunnels dug under the town of al-Baida near the city of Hama in northern Syria. These tunnels are an integral part of an underground factory, built by the North Koreans, for producing Syrian Scud missiles. Iraqi chemical weapons and long-range missiles are stored in these tunnels.
2. The village of Tal Snan, north of the town of Salamija, where there is a big Syrian airforce camp. Vital parts of Iraq’s WMD are stored there.
3. The city of Sjinsjar on the Syrian border with the Lebanon, south of the city Homs.
Najoef writes that the transfer of Iraqi WMD to Syria was organized by the commanders of Saddam Hussein’s Special Republican Guard, including General Shalish, with the help of Assif Shoakat , Bashar Assad’s cousin. Shoakat is the CEO of Bhaha, an import/export company owned by the Assad family.
In February 2003, a month before America’s invasion in Iraq, DEBKAfile and DEBKA-Net-Weekly were the only media to report the movement of Iraqi WMD, the efforts to bring them from Iraq to Syria, and the personal involvement of Bashar Assad and his family in the operation.
Najoef, who has won prizes for journalistic integrity, says he wrote his letter because he has terminal cancer.
The man who served as the no. 2 official in Saddam Hussein's air force says Iraq moved weapons of mass destruction into Syria before the war by loading the weapons into civilian aircraft in which the passenger seats were removed.
The Iraqi general, Georges Sada, makes the charges in a new book, "Saddam's Secrets," released this week. He detailed the transfers in an interview yesterday with The New York Sun.
"There are weapons of mass destruction gone out from Iraq to Syria, and they must be found and returned to safe hands," Mr. Sada said. "I am confident they were taken over."
Mr. Sada's comments come just more than a month after Israel's top general during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Moshe Yaalon, told the Sun that Saddam "transferred the chemical agents from Iraq to Syria."
Democrats have made the absence of stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq a theme in their criticism of the Bush administration's decision to go to war in 2003. And President Bush himself has conceded much of the point; in a televised prime-time address to Americans last month, he said, "It is true that many nations believed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. But much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong."
Said Mr. Bush, "We did not find those weapons."
The discovery of the weapons in Syria could alter the American political debate on the Iraq war. And even the accusations that they are there could step up international pressure on the government in Damascus. That government, led by Bashar Assad, is already facing a U.N. investigation over its alleged role in the assassination of a former prime minister of Lebanon. The Bush administration has criticized Syria for its support of terrorism and its failure to cooperate with the U.N. investigation.
The State Department recently granted visas for self-proclaimed opponents of Mr. Assad to attend a "Syrian National Council" meeting in Washington scheduled for this weekend, even though the attendees include communists, Baathists, and members of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood group to the exclusion of other, more mainstream groups.
Mr. Sada, 65, told the Sun that the pilots of the two airliners that transported the weapons of mass destruction to Syria from Iraq approached him in the middle of 2004, after Saddam was captured by American troops.
"I know them very well. They are very good friends of mine. We trust each other. We are friends as pilots," Mr. Sada said of the two pilots. He declined to disclose their names, saying they are concerned for their safety. But he said they are now employed by other airlines outside Iraq.
The pilots told Mr. Sada that two Iraqi Airways Boeings were converted to cargo planes by removing the seats, Mr. Sada said. Then Special Republican Guard brigades loaded materials onto the planes, he said, including "yellow barrels with skull and crossbones on each barrel." The pilots said there was also a ground convoy of trucks.
The flights - 56 in total, Mr. Sada said - attracted little notice because they were thought to be civilian flights providing relief from Iraq to Syria, which had suffered a flood after a dam collapse in June of 2002.
"Saddam realized, this time, the Americans are coming," Mr. Sada said. "They handed over the weapons of mass destruction to the Syrians."
Mr. Sada said that the Iraqi official responsible for transferring the weapons was a cousin of Saddam Hussein named Ali Hussein al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali." The Syrian official responsible for receiving them was a cousin of Bashar Assad who is known variously as General Abu Ali, Abu Himma, or Zulhimawe.
Short of discovering the weapons in Syria, those seeking to validate Mr. Sada's claim independently will face difficulty. His book contains a foreword by a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, David Eberly, who was a prisoner of war in Iraq during the first Gulf War and who vouches for Mr. Sada, who once held him captive, as "an honest and honorable man."
In his visit to the Sun yesterday, Mr. Sada was accompanied by Terry Law, the president of a Tulsa, Oklahoma based Christian humanitarian organization called World Compassion. Mr. Law said he has known Mr. Sada since 2002, lived in his house in Iraq and had Mr. Sada as a guest in his home in America. "Do I believe this man? Yes," Mr. Law said. "It's been solid down the line and everything checked out."
Said Mr. Law, "This is not a publicity hound. This is a man who wants peace putting his family on the line."
Mr. Sada acknowledged that the disclosures about transfers of weapons of mass destruction are "a very delicate issue." He said he was afraid for his family. "I am sure the terrorists will not like it. The Saddamists will not like it," he said.
He thanked the American troops. "They liberated the country and the nation. It is a liberation force. They did a great job," he said. "We have been freed."
He said he had not shared his story until now with any American officials. "I kept everything secret in my heart," he said. But he is scheduled to meet next week in Washington with Senators Sessions and Inhofe, Republicans of, respectively, Alabama and Oklahoma. Both are members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The book also says that on the eve of the first Gulf War, Saddam was planning to use his air force to launch a chemical weapons attack on Israel.
When, during an interview with the Sun in April 2004, Vice President Cheney was asked whether he thought that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction had been moved to Syria, Mr. Cheney replied only that he had seen such reports.
An article in the Fall 2005 Middle East Quarterly reports that in an appearance on Israel's Channel 2 on December 23, 2002, Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, stated, "Chemical and biological weapons which Saddam is endeavoring to conceal have been moved from Iraq to Syria." The allegation was denied by the Syrian government at the time as "completely untrue," and it attracted scant American press attention, coming as it did on the eve of the Christmas holiday.
The Syrian ruling party and Saddam Hussein had in common the ideology of Baathism, a mixture of Nazism and Marxism.
Syria is one of only eight countries that has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, a treaty that obligates nations not to stockpile or use chemical weapons. Syria's chemical warfare program, apart from any weapons that may have been received from Iraq, has long been the source of concern to America, Israel, and Lebanon. In March 2004, the director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, saying, "Damascus has an active CW development and testing program that relies on foreign suppliers for key controlled chemicals suitable for producing CW."
The CIA's Iraq Survey Group acknowledged in its September 30, 2004, "Comprehensive Report," "we cannot express a firm view on the possibility that WMD elements were relocated out of Iraq prior to the war. Reports of such actions exist, but we have not yet been able to investigate this possibility thoroughly."
Mr. Sada is an unusual figure for an Iraqi general as he is a Christian and was not a member of the Baath Party. He now directs the Iraq operations of the Christian humanitarian organization, World Compassion.