Check out this fascinating article in the Los Angeles Times on how Iraq used bogus private companies and an illicit relationship with Syria to import substantial quantities of banned military equipment in the years leading up to the war. (We try to avoid linking to the Times because of its cumbersome registration procedure, but this piece of original reporting is worth it.)
The Times’ analysis is based on files that were recovered from the Baghdad office of Al Bashair Trading Co. There is too much information to excerpt meaningfully, but the Al Bashair files show that: “A Syrian trading company with close ties to the ruling regime smuggled weapons and military hardware to Saddam Hussein between 2000 and 2003, helping Syria become the main channel for illicit arms transfers to Iraq despite a stringent U.N. embargo.” Banned weapons were supplied or contracted for, either knowingly or unknowingly, by companies in Poland, South Korea, Russia, Slovenia, North Korea and the U.S.
The Iraqi files reveal the futility of relying on U.N. sanctions and inspections to prevent weapons transfers (there are a number of references to concealing the weaons transfers from inspectors). The following itemization of equipment that Iraq was seeking in the run-up to the war is interesting, as well:
“Iraqi records show that SES signed more than 50 contracts to supply tens of millions of dollars’ worth of arms and equipment to Iraq’s military shortly before the U.S.-led invasion in March. They reveal Iraq’s increasingly desperate search in at least a dozen countries for ballistic missiles, antiaircraft missiles, artillery, spare parts for MIG fighter jets and battle tanks, gunpowder, radar systems, nerve agent antidotes and more.” Gosh, I wonder why they were looking for nerve agent antidotes? Oddly, this item passes without comment by the Times reporters.
This fascinating glimpse into the records of a single (albeit very important) private company whets our appetite to learn what else is being discovered in the secret files of Iraqi companies and government agencies.
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