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Conferenza Partito radicale
Cicciomessere Roberto - 8 febbraio 1991
(2) THE POISON GAS CONNECTION
Western suppliers of unconventional weapons and technologies to Iraq and Libya

A Special Report Commisioned by the Simon Wiesenthal Center

Prepared by Kenneth R. Timmerman

I.Iraq

Introduction

Over the past ten years, Iraq has imported more than $50 billion in modern weaponry, and this is a conservative estimate (1) While the bulk of Iraqi army purchases (tanks, armored vehicles and artillery) came from the USSR, much of Iraq's best weaponry was bought from the West. From Italy, iraq purchased modern frigates and missile boats worth more than $3 billion. From Britain and Holland, Iraq purchased frequency-hopping radios and other electronic gear. From France, Iraq purchased more than $15 billion worth of sophisticated weaponry, including 133 Mirage F1 fighter-bombers, 140 armed helicopters, 1000 armored vehicles, 884 Exocet missiles, 20,000 HOT and Milan anti-tank missiles, and, 2,500 air combat missiles. (2)

Even when the credit crunch began to take its toll in 1987-88, Western arms makers were making fabulous profits on Iraq. Iraqi arms purchaserswere welcomed as VIP guests in most Western caitals. As Christopher Cowley, an engineer now under indictment in Britain for his role in the supergun affair, told a recent BBC PANORAMA broadcast, "This was a very, very large cake that had to be cut up. We were talking about not millions or hundreds of millions, we were talking about billions of pounds. And every European Government wanted their share of the cake." (3)

There was nothing illicit about the Iraqi arms purchases. This entire conventional weapons arsenal was purchased above the board.Iraq had no need to resort to clandestine or grey market purchases, as did Iran throughout the Gulf War.The West was courting Iraq as the bulwark against Islamic expansionism spreading Western from Tehran, and the Iraqis took advantage of this priviledged position to make friends and to make deals.

They also took advantage of all the boom years to learn the ins and outs of the Western arms industry.Western salseman acknowledge openly that by the mid-1980's, the Iraqis had accumulated an awesome experience of the arms marketplace. They knew what was available, and at what price. And they knew what they wanted. Saddam Hussein is said to have commented once that he was willing to pay the French 10% more than their own clients did, just to make sure they gave him the best.

For twenty years, this strategy paid off. At the height of the war with Iran, France delivered state-of-the-art missiles and electronic counter-measures(ECM) to Iraq, often before they went into service with the French armed services.(4) And Iraq's other Western suppliers did the same.

But Iraq was not content to build up the largest arsenal of conventional weapons the Arab world had ever seen. Saddam Hussein sought other weapons - weapons of mass destruction - that he felt would give him the edge over Israel. And he used the years of influence, of arms buying and oil selling, to lay the groundwork for a vast clandestine network to procure the technologies he needed to make those weapons in Iraq, often with the connivance, if not the complicity, of Western governments.

THE CONTROLS: Numerous international conventions exist to control the flow of strategic weapons technology and their use in war. The barbarous use of chemical weapons during WWI led directly to the 1925 Geneva Prtocol banning the wartime use of chemical or bacteriological agents. This was followed by the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, which outlaws the production and the use of toxins.

Starting in 1984, concern over Iraq's use of poison gas in the Gulf war led several Western countries to enact laws establishing "watch lists" of percursor chemicals, and to impose some form of export controls on their purchase. But Iraq simply sidestepped the countries with more or less effective export controls (such as the U.S.) for its CW purchases, and concentrated its efforts on others (such as West Germany) where the controls either did not exist or were not enforced.

Iraq's widespread use of poison gas, forst against Iran, and later against its own Kurdish population, showed the haphazard export controls and declarations of intent were not enough. Concern with Iraq's use of poison gas, and with Libya's poison gas manufacturing plant at Rabta, led directly to the convening of the January 1989 Parsi Conference on Chemical Weapons. But heavy lobbying by Iraq and its Third World allies prevented the Conference from reaching agreement to ban the production and stockpiling of chemicals weapons. Meanwhile, Iraq has built up its own domestic chemicals industry, making international controls of the type the Paris Conference might have passed innefective before ink could ever dry on the paper.

Even fewer controls existed on ballistic missile technologies until the United States and six Western allies (Canada, France, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, and West Germany) signed the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) on April 16, 1987. Most experts agree that the MTCR was enacted too late. As former Pentagon arms control expert, Frank Gaffney put it, MTCR was like "closing the door to the barn after the horse has run out." (5) By the time Western nations signed the Treaty, Iraq had establised long-standing relationships with reliable suppliers of ballistic missile technology, and had mastered the art of clandestine procurement.

So succsessful were the Iraqis at beating the controls that they even succeeded in getting Western banks (such as Atlanta branch of the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro) to finance poison gas, ballistic missile, and nuclear technology purchases. And one month after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, Iraq's principle clandestine purchasing company, the Trade & Development Group, continued to make deals and arrange shipments to Iraq from its headquarters in London. (6)

It is indeed likely that many of Iraq's clandestine suppliers are continuing their shipments today, using the black market methods they have now perfected to run the gauntlet of the UN embargo.

 
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