Report Finds No Evidence Syria Hid Iraqi Arms
U.S. investigators hunting for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq have found no evidence that such material was moved to Syria for safekeeping before the war, according to a final report of the investigation released yesterday. Although Syria helped Iraq evade U.N.-imposed sanctions by shipping military and other products across its borders, the investigators “found no senior policy, program, or intelligence officials who admitted any direct knowledge of such movement of WMD.” Because of the insular nature of Saddam Hussein’s government, however, the investigators were “unable to rule out unofficial movement of limited WMD-related materials.”
The Iraq Survey Group’s main findings — that Hussein’s Iraq did not possess chemical and biological weapons and had only aspirations for a nuclear program — were made public in October in an interim report covering nearly 1,000 pages. Yesterday’s final report, published on the Government Printing Office’s Web site ( http:www.gpo.gov/ ), incorporated those pages with minor editing and included 92 pages of addenda that tied up loose ends on Syria and other topics.
U.S. officials have held out the possibility that Syria worked in tandem with Hussein’s regime to hide weapons before the U.S.-led invasion. The survey group said it followed up on reports that a Syrian security officer had discussed collaboration with Iraq on weapons, but it was unable to complete that investigation. But Iraqi officials whom the group was able to interview “uniformly denied any knowledge of residual WMD that could have been secreted to Syria,” the report said.
The report, which refuted many of the administration’s principal arguments for going to war in Iraq, marked an official end of a two-year weapons hunt led most recently by former U.N. weapons inspector Charles A. Duelfer. The team found that the 1991 Persian Gulf War and subsequent U.N. sanctions had destroyed Iraq’s illicit weapons capabilities and that, for the most part, Hussein had not tried to rebuild them. Iraq’s ability to produce nuclear arms, which the administration asserted was a grave and gathering threat that required an immediate military response, had “progressively decayed” since 1991. Investigators found no evidence of “concerted efforts to restart the program.”
While finding no evidence for something is not the same is proof that it’s untrue, one would think the evidence would have turned up given the extensive access our investigators have had. There’s no question that Saddam had WMD stockpiles and a nuclear program well into the 1990s and maintained nuclear ambitions until the end. While our forces have discovered small numbers of chemical weapons, nothing like the amounts unaccounted for have been found.
Saddam had the duty to account for the whereabouts of these weapons and components as per the Desert Storm cease-fire and numerous UN Security Council resolutions and failed to live up to that responsibility. Still, it would be nice to know where the missing materials are.