The Corner

Did Iraqi WMD Go to Syria? A less-than-definitive “no.”

A number of viewers of my interview with Peter Robinson have asked whether Saddam disposed of his weapons of mass destruction by sending them to Syria.

To my knowledge, the best information on the subject remains the Duelfer Report on the work of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG)  – and the ISG did not find convincing evidence that Saddam transferred WMD to Syria.We know that Saddam once possessed WMD; he used them against Iran and against the Iraqi Kurds in the north. We know that we did not find the stockpiles that the CIA said we would find. As I observe in my book, War and Decision, there are only three possible explanations: Either (1) Saddam destroyed the stockpiles, (2) Saddam hid the stockpiles in Iraq or (3) Saddam transferred the stockpiles out of Iraq. The ISG concluded that Saddam “probably” destroyed his biological weapons stockpiles, but it did not find definitive proof of the destruction:

ISG judges that in 1991 and 1992, Iraq appears to have destroyed its undeclared stocks of BW weapons and probably destroyed remaining holdings of bulk BW agent. However ISG lacks evidence to document complete destruction. Iraq retained some BW- related seed stocks until their discovery after Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). [Duelfer Report, Vol. IIIB, p. 2 (emphasis added).]

Also in War and Decision, I note the following New York Times report:

Lieutenant General James R. Clapper, head of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency during the Iraq war, has been quoted as suggesting that some material had been transferred to Syria: “[S]atellite imagery showing a heavy flow of traffic from Iraq into Syria, just before the American invasion in March, led him to believe that illicit weapons material ‘unquestionably’ had been moved out of Iraq.” [Douglas Jehl, “The Struggle for Iraq: Weapons Search; Iraqis Removed Arms Material, U.S. Aide Says,” New York Times, October 29, 2003.]

There are millions of official Iraq documents warehoused but not yet reviewed by U.S. intelligence. Perhaps someday when these are read, we’ll get a more definitive answer on what Saddam did with his WMD stockpiles – more than the current assessment of probable destruction.

Douglas J. Feith, a senior fellow at Hudson Institute, served as undersecretary of defense for policy from July 2001 to August 2005.


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