The Corner

Life Behind Enemy Lines

From the December 15, 2003 Time magazine story on the Iraqi insurgents (I got from Nexis so no link):

Financing and armaments appear to be in plentiful supply. When Abu Ali’s network runs low on resources, it turns to a man identified only as “the Emir,” a shadowy loyalist leader who summons Abu Ali to meetings at irregular intervals. “We are not rich men,” Abu Ali says, “but we have everything.” Old Soviet surface-to-air missiles that had been stockpiled by Saddam’s regime go for upwards of $ 1,000 apiece on the black market, yet Abu Ali’s organization has them in abundance. It also has access to a pipeline of weapons flowing across Iraq’s borders. Another major Baghdad cell leader, Mohammed, happily displays the latest acquisition, a batch of 60mm mortars with markings in English that were hidden in a boggy field and retrieved by a farmer’s wife. When asked how the group obtained them, Mohammed responds in a word: “Syria.”

Abu Ali’s most frightening plans involve his desire to employ unconventional weapons. His most prized possession, he says, is a cache of 82mm mortar rounds. Mohammed displays one of the rounds and proclaims, “This is a chemical mortar.” Encased in a green storage tube with a flip-lock lid, the weapon has liquid sloshing inside a bulbous head reeking with a putrid odor that burns the nostrils. The Russian markings on the weapon identify it as a TD-42 liquid, high-explosive mortar. It’s impossible to know what is really in the device or if the boasts of Abu Ali and Mohammed are true. Iraqi scientists in the Military Industrialization Commission in the 1980s and early 1990s imported Soviet munitions to refill with unknown substances. Abu Ali claims that his cache came from that commission, and he is convinced the mortar contains a highly lethal gas. His group, he says, is just waiting for the right U.S. target and the right meteorological conditions to use it. When a reporter expresses skepticism, Abu Ali smiles and says, “Wait and see.”

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