Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Sunday, October 06, 2002

Some of Saddam's suppliers are talking.

The businessman, who asked to be known as Mohammed, is one of a network of middlemen supplying the Iraqi dictator with anything he needs. He revealed how military equipment and items for a weapons of mass destruction program are shipped into Iraq on a scale far greater than previously has been believed. His revelations gravely undermine Iraq's promises to allow UN inspectors unhindered access to suspected weapons sites.

He revealed that Mr Hussein had, since 1992, imported virtually any prohibited item and, through a clever fraud, obtained oil revenue supposedly blocked for use only in the UN oil-for-food program. The businessman said one of Baghdad's most recent requests was for 160 tonnes of three chemicals that are used as a propellant for missiles. "The Iraqi agent said if I could find any of these chemicals, he would pay me any amount of money. It was clear he had authority for millions of pounds," he said. He revealed that in just one year, he had successfully forged 145 UN permission letters for shipments that entered Iraq illegally. "And that's just me," he said.

But Saddam can't further his WMD programs this way, can he?

Mohammed said he knew numerous other import-export agents in Turkey, Jordan, Syria and the United Arab Emirates who routinely struck similar illegal deals.

One document supporting his claims was originally passed to an import-export agent in Hamburg and lists 160 different spare parts for T-55 and T-62 tanks. These included 500 speedometers and 50 barrels for 100mm tank guns. The agent was told he would be paid a 25 per cent commission. The list was given also to a senior Syrian official. A third middleman allegedly gave $US600,000 ($1.1 million) in diamonds to Saddam Hussein's son Uday Hussein after a $US7.5 million illegal deal, as encouragement to put more business his way.

Mohammed last dealt with Baghdad in July, when an Iraqi agent requested 160 tonnes of xylidine tri-ethylamine, UDMH (unsymmetrical dimethyl hydrazine), and DETA (dimethylene triamine). The dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, issued last month by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, described UDMH and DETA as liquid rocket propellant for use in the al-Samoud missile and other longer-range Iraqi missile systems.

Mohammed goes on to explain how it works.

Mohammed began working as a middleman for Baghdad in 1992. His speciality was circumventing border controls. To do so, he forged Security Council letters permitting the shipment to Iraq of apparently innocuous items. A consignment of 23,464 Russian tyres for armoured personnel carriers was shipped via Ukraine and Jordan as tractor tyres and the inspectors at the Iraqi border did not notice the difference. For this operation, Mohammed said, Iraq paid a total of $US218,000 in bribes to four different people, including a senior Turkish official.

In September 2001, he handled a shipment of 15,000kg of used washing machines from Britain. He was told by an Iraqi agent: "Don't worry if they don't work." In Aqaba, a computer banned under UN sanctions was put in each washing machine before they were trucked into Iraq.

In another complex operation, Mohammed shipped fabric to South Africa, hid electrical equipment in the fabric, and then shipped it all to Jordan and on to Iraq.

On other occasions he shipped 10,000 pieces of unspecified electrical equipment, 13,000 computers, 25,000 televisions, 600 tonnes of heavy industrial lubricant from Poland and steel cables thick enough for use on a suspension bridge.

So,all of those people who want to tell us to give inspections and sanctions, both of which have proven wildly innefective, please explain again why we should give these methods another try?

And how effective is the UN?

Under the UN oil-for-food program, Iraq's oil revenues go into an escrow account and can only be released by the UN to pay for food and other goods that have been approved by the sanctions committee. In a typical deal, Mohammed bought a consignment of stationery and bought an inflated receipt for $US4 million from a corrupt dealer. He shipped the paper to Iraq, received $US4 million from the UN, passed $US1 million in cash to an Iraqi government agent and pocketed a profit.

Benan Sevan, executive director of the oil-for-food program, said on Saturday that UN officials monitored for such practices but could not catch everyone, and the workload was lengthy and tedious.

Mohammed admits this is just a common example for him that sucked $4 million out of the UN and Mr. Sevan shrugs it off as 'we can't get them all'? This is unacceptable.

< email | 10/06/2002 06:57:00 PM | link

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