The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Reports of Iraqi Missile Threat Are Greatly Exaggerated
Title: Reports of Iraqi Missile Threat Are Greatly Exaggerated
The Gate        Return to regular view

Reports of Iraqi Missile Threat Are Greatly Exaggerated
Scott Ritter
Wednesday, September 14, 2000
©2000 San Francisco Chronicle


THE PENTAGON'S DECISION to place a Patriot missile battery on a heightened state of alert for deployment to Israel underscores the effort by the United States and others to create the perception of an imminent threat from an Iraqi ballistic missile. It doesn't seem to matter to the Pentagon that the Israeli Prime Minister himself downplays the Iraqi missile threat as nonexistent.

In the nearly 20 months since U.N. weapons inspectors were last on the job in Iraq, there has been no shortage of speculation on what has transpired inside Iraq's weapons factories. Richard Butler, the former executive chairman of the now-defunct United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), has been at the forefront of those charging that Iraq is actively rearming.

One of Ambassador Butler's favorite themes has been that ``Saddam Hussein is back in the business of making long-range missiles.'' The Pentagon's announcement appears perfectly constructed to play along with this theme.

This is not the first time the United States has hyped an ``imminent'' threat from Iraqi missiles. This past summer, the CIA reported that its satellites picked up evidence that Iraq had resumed flight testing of the Al-Samoud missile. Even though the Al-Samoud has a range of less than 150 kilometers and is permitted under U.N. resolutions, the CIA highlighted these tests as proof that Iraq had more nefarious plans for long-range missiles.

The United States has not been alone in ``exposing'' the threat from Baghdad. In a rare public statement earlier this month, the German Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) Intelligence Service confirmed a report that its agents had located a ``secret Iraqi missile factory near Baghdad,'' the Al Mamoun factory, which produces solid- fuel missiles known as the Ababil-100.

Although the Ababil-100, like the Al-Samoud, possesses a range less than 150 kilometers, the BND cited this latest discovery as clear evidence that Saddam Hussein has continued to build up his arsenal.

Given that inspectors have not been on the job for some time now, such information, on the surface, would seem compelling. But the reality is much different.

Contrary to the BND report, the Al-Mamoun factory was well known to UNSCOM missile inspectors. Like the rest of the Iraqi weapons production infrastruc ture, the Al Mamoun factory had been under continuous monitoring by

UNSCOM since 1993. The ``secret'' Ababil-100 missile project had in fact been declared to UNSCOM by Iraq in the spring of 1998. UNSCOM inspectors never felt that the Ababil-100 missile represented anything close to a viable project, let alone the potential threat to German cities that the BND report made it out to be.

Why would the Germans publish such a report at this time? The answer lies in the current effort by UNSCOM's successor organization, the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) to send inspectors back into Iraq. Iraq has made it clear that it rejects such inspections, and the Security Council is bracing itself for yet another confrontation. A report such as the one put out by the BND will play a prominent role in any discussion concerning Iraq's refusal to accept the UNMOVIC inspectors, and it closely parallels the CIA reports of the past summer and complements the recent Pentagon announcement on the Patriot missiles.

Given the lack of substance behind the reports from the CIA, BND and the Pentagon, one couldn't help but conclude that these reports are part of an overall cam paign of disinformation designed to continue demonizing and isolating Iraq. Such disinformation campaigns have long been associated with the effort to contain Iraq through the continued economic sanctions. In this regard, the key issue isn't the truth about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, but rather the perception, however incorrect, of the threat such weapons pose in the hands of Iraq.

The continuation of economic sanctions, which have resulted in the deaths of some 1.5 million innocent Iraqi civilians, hinges on the issue of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. It is high time that this issue be debated on the basis of fact, not fiction.

By spreading such misleading and inaccurate reports, the United States and Germany have thrown away the credibility that comes by embracing the truth, and instead have surrounded themselves with a bodyguard of lies. Given the enormity of the tragedy unfolding in Iraq today, the citizens of these two great democracies deserve, and should demand, better.

Scott Ritter, the author of ``Endgame'' (Simon & Schuster, 1999), was a U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq.

©2000 San Francisco Chronicle   Page A23

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]