According to a former top Bush administration official, Russian special forces teams moved weapons of mass destruction out of Iraq to Syria.
"I am absolutely sure that Russian Spetsnatz units moved WMD out of Iraq before the war," stated John Shaw, the former deputy undersecretary for international technology security.
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According to Shaw, Russian units hid Saddam's arsenal inside Syria and in Lebanon's Bekka valley.
"While in Iraq I uncovered detailed information that Spetsnatz units shredded records and moved all WMD and specified advanced munitions out of Iraq to Syria and Lebanon," stated Shaw during an exclusive interview.
"I received information from several sources naming the exact Russian units, what they took and where they took both WMD materials and conventional explosives. Moscow made a 2001 agreement with Saddam Hussein to clear up all Russian involvement in WMD systems in Iraq," stated Shaw.
Shaw's assertions match the information provided by U.S. military forces that satellite surveillance showed extensive large-vehicle traffic crossing the Syrian border prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Moscow Paranoid About WMD
Shaw's information also backs allegations by a wide variety of sources of Russia's direct involvement in Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program. One U.N. bioterrorism expert announced that Russia has been Iraq's "main supplier of the materials and know-how to weaponize anthrax, botulism and smallpox."
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Robert Goldberg cited former U.N. weapons inspector Richard Spertzel, who stated that Moscow supplied Baghdad with fermentation equipment to produce biotoxins.
According to Spertzel, the Russians on the U.N. inspection team in Iraq were "paranoid" about his efforts to uncover smallpox production.
Goldberg noted that no country has "done more to rebuild" Saddam's chemical and biological weapons programs or "been more aggressive in helping hide the truth" than Russia.
It is a fact that Saddam Hussein rose to power backed by Russian weapons and Russian money. Saddam was in debt to Moscow for over $8 billion for the arms he purchased from Russia when he was captured by U.S. forces.
The primary Iraqi chemical weapons were VX nerve gas and mustard gas, a blistering agent, both obtained from Russia.
According to the book "Russian Military Power," published in 1982, "It is known that the Soviets maintain stocks of CW (chemical weapons) agents."
The two primary Russian chemical weapons in the 1982 Soviet inventory were the nerve agent "VX" and "blistering agents - developments of mustard gas used so effectively in World War I."
Russian Chemical Weapons in Iraq
Iraq did most of its WMD killing using Russian-made MiG and Sukhoi aircraft equipped with chemical sprayers. In addition, Saddam used French-made artillery and helicopters to dump gas on Iranian troops and Iraqi Kurds.
Iraq obtained Russian delivery systems and the same inventory of Russian-made chemical weapons at the same time. Iraqi SU-22 Fitter attack jets were armed with Warsaw Pact-designed bombs filled with chemical weapons. Iraq used these Russian jet fighters to drop chemical weapons on Iranian troops during the Iran-Iraq war.
Iraq tried to use these SU-22 jets during the 1991 Gulf War, but they were detected and destroyed on the ground before they could launch a deadly chemical attack.
Other Russian weapons found with chemical weapons include the FROG-7 missile, 122 mm rockets, 152 mm artillery and the M-1937 82 mm mortars. All the Iraqi artillery missiles, rockets, shells and mortar rounds filled with chemical weapons are of Russian design.
Iraqi forces were trained by Russians in the use of chemical weapons and equipped by Russia with anti-chemical suits. The Iraqi armed forces were trained, equipped and supplied with the proper logistics to perform chemical warfare by Russia.
Lebanon and Syria
The arming of Iraq with such weapons has a direct impact on events today in the Middle East. The presence of former Iraqi WMD systems in Lebanon raises serious questions surrounding the Feb. 14 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Many blame Syria for Hariri's murder.
However, the possibility that Hariri discovered the location of the Iraqi WMD systems inside his country lends some credible backing to a Syrian assassination effort to silence him.
In addition, the sudden sale of advanced missile and other weapons to Damascus by Moscow also supports the allegation that Syria is hiding something for Russia.
Russian weapons makers have previously insisted on hard, cold cash payments for their missiles, especially after the fall of Saddam and the collapse of credit deals done with Baghdad. More importantly, the Syrian economy is in bad shape, making it difficult for Damascus to come up with the required money for advanced Russian weapons.
Instead, it now appears that Moscow has extended both very good terms and no down payment required to Syria for an extensive purchase of advanced missiles and weapons. This is in contrast to weapons sales to other "good" Russian customers such as China, which can afford to pay up front for weapon systems.
There is no question that the Russian effort to remove Iraqi WMD systems was the most successful intelligence operation of the 21st century. The Russians were able to move hundreds of tons of chemical, biological and nuclear materials without being discovered by CIA satellites or NSA radio listening posts.
"There is a clear sense on how effective they were," noted Shaw.
"The fact that the CIA did not know shows just how successful the Russian operation was," he concluded
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