The United Nations has determined that Saddam Hussein shipped weapons of mass destruction components as well as medium-range ballistic missiles before, during and after the U.S.-led war against Iraq in 2003.
The UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission briefed the Security Council on new findings that could help trace the whereabouts of Saddam’s missile and WMD program.
The briefing contained satellite photographs that demonstrated the speed with which Saddam dismantled his missile and WMD sites before and during the war. Council members were shown photographs of a ballistic missile site outside Baghdad in May 2003, and then saw a satellite image of the same location in February 2004, in which facilities had disappeared.
UNMOVIC acting executive chairman Demetrius Perricos told the council on June 9 that “the only controls at the borders are for the weight of the scrap metal, and to check whether there are any explosive or radioactive materials within the scrap,” Middle East Newsline reported.
“It’s being exported,” Perricos said after the briefing. “It’s being traded out. And there is a large variety of scrap metal from very new to very old, and slowly, it seems the country is depleted of metal.”
“The removal of these materials from Iraq raises concerns with regard to proliferation risks,” Perricos told the council. Perricos also reported that inspectors found Iraqi WMD and missile components shipped abroad that still contained UN inspection tags.
He said the Iraqi facilities were dismantled and sent both to Europe and around the Middle East. at the rate of about 1,000 tons of metal a month. Destionations included Jordan, the Netherlands and Turkey.
The Baghdad missile site contained a range of WMD and dual-use components, UN officials said. They included missile components, reactor vessel and fermenters – the latter required for the production of chemical and biological warheads.
“It raises the question of what happened to the dual-use equipment, where is it now and what is it being used for,” Ewen Buchanan, Perricos’s spokesman, said. “You can make all kinds of pharmaceutical and medicinal products with a fermenter. You can also use it to breed anthrax.”
The UNMOVIC report said Iraqi missiles were dismantled and exported to such countries as Jordan, the Netherlands and Turkey. In the Dutch city of Rotterdam, an SA-2 surface-to-air missile, one of at least 12, was discovered in a junk yard, replete with UN tags. In Jordan, UN inspectors found 20 SA-2 engines as well as components for solid-fuel for missiles.
“The problem for us is that we don’t know what may have passed through these yards and other yards elsewhere,” Buchanan said. “We can’t really assess the significance and don’t know the full extent of activity that could be going on there or with others of Iraq’s neighbors.”
UN inspectors have assessed that the SA-2 and the short-range Al Samoud surface-to-surface missile were shipped abroad by agents of the Saddam regime. Buchanan said UNMOVIC plans to inspect other sites, including in Turkey.
In April, International Atomic Energy Agency director-general Mohammed El Baradei said material from Iraqi nuclear facilities were being smuggled out of the country.