Wednesday, October 27, 2004

A Bear in the Desert

Drudge headliner: Bill Gertz is reporting in the Washington Times Thursday that Russian special forces may have aided Saddam's intelligence service in smuggling weapons and materials out of Iraq before the war. A related story appears in the Financial Times. It quotes Mr. John Shaw, deputy undersecretary of defense for technology security as saying,
For nearly nine months my office has been aware of an elaborate scheme set
up by Saddam Hussein to finance and disguise his weapons purchases through his
international suppliers, principally the Russians and French. That network
included. . . employing various Russian units on the eve of hostilities to
orchestrate the collection of munitions and assure their transport out of Iraq
via Syria
If true, the implications could be significant and certainly would strain tensions between the U.S. and Russia. Given its proximity to the election and this week's ongiong story about missing explosives in Iraq, such a story will also not reflect well on John Kerry's eager blame game charging President Bush with negligence on the matter.

This is obviously not the first time suspicion has surrounded the Russians' role in Iraq.

First indications from the UN Oil-For-Food scandal investigation has implicated Russian involvement.

At the outset of the war last year, an incident occurred in Iraq in which a Russian diplomatic convoy was reported to have been attacked by U.S. forces. It was initially unclear if U.S. forces were even in the area. Rumors surrounding the incident claimed that the incident wasn't so accidental and that it could have been a confrontation between U.S. and Russian intelligence services and that the convoy may have been smuggling out secret Iraqi intelligence documents.

Also curious is the presence of Russian General Primakov in Baghdad in the run-up to the war, as was the case before the 1991 war as well. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer was asked about this in the White House briefing on February 24, 2003.
Q: According to reports out of Moscow, Saddam's old friend, Yevgeny Primakov is back in Baghdad today for a chat with Saddam. What do we think he's up to? Do you think Primakov is playing a useful role here? We didn't think much of his role in '91, of course. Is this a reprise of that, or have things shifted?

MR. FLEISCHER: I have not gotten any reports out of the Primakov meeting. Let me see if there is anything I can get for you on it.
Later that day, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice gave a press briefing on the developments regarding resolution 1441 at the UN Security Council. She was asked about General Primakov as well.
Q: ...have you got any readout from Russia, I guess, your ally in this process, about Mr. Primakov's visit to Baghdad?...

DR. RICE: I've not gotten a readout. He's, I'm sure, reporting to Moscow.
But we went through this in 1991. I was the Soviet specialist in 1991.
In an op-ed for the Washington Times on August 20, 2003, an ex-intelligence official from the former Soviet bloc suggested that Russia helped Saddam get rid of his weapons and that such a thing was in no way unusual, but more likely followed a pre-planned set of procedures.

All of this is very suspicious and it could all get real interesting very soon.

UPDATE: I think this just blew a hole in John Kerry's campaign.

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