Iraq: January 14, 2003


Saddam's regime must be having a case of the "Smuggler's Blues". On 14 January, Chief UN arms inspector Hans Blix said his teams in Iraq have uncovered smuggling, but it was unclear if the goods were linked to weapons of mass destruction. Blix also found his backbone and told the press that Iraq must provide new evidence about its nuclear, chemical and biological programs or face the possibility of war. 

Meanwhile, Lebanese authorities detained two Lebanese citizens on suspicion of organizing smuggling of tank equipment to Iraq. Their names were on the documents accompanying the cargo of communication equipment and tank helmets en route to Iraq from Belarus. Both types of goods are subject to the ban on arms supplies to Iraq. Western experts also suspect that weapons from Central and Eastern Europe pass through Jordan and Syria to reach Iraq. 

In South Africa's Western Cape, police are investigating large-scale gunrunning to Iraq after detectives discovered a multi-million-dollar "shopping list" for hi-tech military equipment in the home of a Finnish fugitive and convicted frauder Sven Peter Fryckman. Documents were found on the 13th showing communications between Fryckman and an Iraqi, who appeared to have placed a detailed order for military equipment. These documents also implicated a well known Cape Town lawyer, in setting up front companies to facilitate the purchases. The local police quickly denied the Cape Argus' report, although the Western Cape police apparently failed to report the discovery of the documents to the national government. 

For years, criminal elements were happy to sell Iraq whatever it wanted. Two Czech citizens were arrested in September 2002, after successfully concluding a number of deals with Iraqi agents - including sales of Russian-made Mi-8 and Mi-17 combat helicopters, Kalashnikov rifles, antitank grenades, and mobile antiaircraft missile systems. In June 2001, Washington-based Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control researchers Gary Milhollin and Kelly Motz wrote that previously unpublished UN arms inspectors reports show that Baghdad sought to buy (and in some cases succeeded in buying) banned military items in the early and mid-1990s from companies in Romania, Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia. 

In 1993, the Iraqis sought banned Scud guidance components and more powerful missiles in Russia in 1993. Samples Scud and long-range SS-N-18 missile parts later arrived in Baghdad. In April 1995, a middleman for Iraq also purchased a missile-dismantling plant in Zagorsk, 120 gyroscopes, and long-range missile accelerometers. UN inspectors intercepted one of the shipments in Jordan and also pulled a number of guidance components from the Tigris River, where Iraqi authorities had jettisoned them to avoid detection. - Adam Geibel




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