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
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In an office at the motor pool, troops discovered a letter from a Russian weapons firm that appears to suggest Saddam was attempting to spend millions of dollars expanding his conventional weapons arsenal -- even as he was complaining he was unable to feed the Iraqi people because of economic sanctions.
The letter, dated July 2001 and written in broken English, is signed by Colonel General Vladislav Achalov, who identifies himself as a representative of a Moscow-based company, FTW Systems Ltd.
At this time there are no means to ascertain whether the letter was in fact sent by Achalov. The Associated Press, citing the Interfax-Military news agency, recently reported that Achalov, a former Soviet deputy defense minister, said he had repeatedly visited Iraq just before the war and had found Iraqi defenses to be strong.
The letter apparently signed by Achalov says it is in response to an Iraqi request for the "delivery of equipment." It offers 50 new gun barrels for T-72 tanks at the price of $124,000 each -- a total of $6.2 million. It also offers 400 new engines for BTR troop carriers at $7,500 each -- an additional $3 million.
The letter goes on to say the price of 200 30-caliber machine guns for BMP troop carriers would be stipulated during talks on a final contract after the Russian firm received a so-called "End-User Certificate." This is a document required by international law to ensure that military equipment is not sold illegally or transported via a third country to nations that are under arms embargoes.
It is not clear the items listed in the Russian document were ever purchased -- or that the letter represents a clear violation of the UN arms embargo on Iraq, which did not prohibit the sales of conventional weapons. But the letter, if it is genuine, seems to indicate that at a time of strict economic sanctions, the Iraqi regime was at least contemplating military purchases worth millions of dollars.
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