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News, 07-14/05/03 (4) NERVOUS NEIGHBOURS * From Baghdad to Tehran? * Iran Group Negotiating Surrender in Iraq * Qatar says Iraq will be democracy test case * Soldiers repatriated to Iraq recall torture in Iran camps * Report: Iraq Infiltrated Al-Jazeera TV * Kurds ask Turks to leave Iraq PROGRESS OF THE PRETEXT * Pentagon to Increase Team on Weapons Hunt * U.S. weapons team to leave Iraq * U.S. Weapons Hunters Hindered in Iraq * Suspected bioweapons labs found * U.S. Sending New Team to Iraq for Weapons Search * Second suspected bioweapons lab found NERVOUS NEIGHBOURS http://www.foreignpolicy-infocus.org/commentary/2003/0305tehran.html * FROM BAGHDAD TO TEHRAN? by Jim Lobe Foreign Policy in Focus, 7th May (Editor: John Gershman, Interhemispheric Resource Center (IRC) Editor's Note: This piece was commissioned under the auspices of the Project Against the Present Danger.) With Iraq under U.S. occupation and Syria's leaders shaken by a series of high-level threats from top Bush administration officials, Iran has come under increased U.S. pressure. As officials in Washington talk about "Iranian agents" crossing the border into Iraq to foment trouble for the U.S. occupation, a leading neoconservative strategist Monday said the United States is already in a "death struggle" with Tehran, and he urged the administration of President George W. Bush to "take the fight to Iran," through "covert operations," among other measures. The appeal by the chief editor of The Weekly Standard, William Kristol, followed last week's surprise announcement that U.S. military forces had signed a surrender agreement with rebel Iranian forces based in Iraq that permits them to retain their weapons and equipment, including tanks, despite their formal designation by the State Department as a terrorist group. The agreement between the military and the Mujahedeen Khalq sparked speculation that Washington may deploy the group, which had been supported by Baghdad for more than 20 years, against Tehran or its allies in Iraq, despite its terrorist tactics. "The liberation of Iraq was the first great battle for the future of the Middle East," wrote Kristol in the Standard's latest issue. "The next great battle--not, we hope, a military battle- will be for Iran. We are already in a death struggle with Iran over the future of Iraq," added the editor, who is closely associated with Richard Perle and other neoconservatives in the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board (DPB). Kristol's blast reflects the ongoing and increasingly intense policy debate within the administration between hawks centered in the Defense Department and Vice President Dick Cheney's office on the one hand and "realists" in the State Department and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on the other. The Islamic government in Tehran, long accused by Washington of being the word's most active supporter of international terrorism, primarily due to its backing of Lebanon's Hezbollah, has been a particular target for neoconservatives like Kristol, who see it as the greatest long-term threat to Israel, especially now that Baghdad is in U.S. hands. In an open letter to Bush sent on Sep. 20, 2001--just nine days after the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon, the influential Project for the New American Century (PNAC), chaired by Kristol, called for Washington to deliver an ultimatum to both Syria and Iran demanding a halt to their support for Hezbollah. "Should Iran and Syria refuse to comply, the administration should consider appropriate measures of retaliation against these known state sponsors of terrorism," urged the letter, whose agenda for the anti-terrorist campaign so far has been followed in virtually each detail, from the ouster of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam in Iraq, to the cutting off of U.S. support for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. In fact, intelligence reports claim that supplies to Hezbollah have fallen off fairly sharply in the past year, but the neoconservatives and other hawks are now claiming that Tehran is determined to make Washington's stay in Iraq difficult. Despite informal but relatively high-level diplomatic contacts between the two countries- which broke off formal ties after the U.S. embassy seizure in Tehran in late 1979--in the run up to the war, the hawks are claiming that Iran failed to cooperate during the actual hostilities and is now actively undermining U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq. In an article appearing in last week's The New Republic, Eli Lake, a reporter with close ties to administration hardliners, claimed that Iran has not only provided safe haven to a number of Iraqi and Islamist fugitives wanted by Washington, but has also planned to infiltrate its own paramilitary units to create confusion on the ground. In addition, U.S. media reports for the past two weeks have been filled with assertions about "Iranian agents" in the Shiite community in Iraq whose goal is to back local clerics in a bid to create an "Iranian-style Islamic Republic." Shiites constitute about 60% of Iraq's population. Their main instrument for this effort, according to the accounts, is the Tehran based Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution of Iraq (SCIRI) headed by Abdulaziz Hakim and his brother Ayatollah Mohammed Bakir Hakim. They have been coy about their participation in U.S. efforts to establish an Iraqi governing council over the next month. Kristol's article reflects the thinking of a number of neoconservative strategists who have been arguing virtually since September 11 that the Iranian people, especially the youth, are ready to rise up against the mullahs, including the reformists led by President Mohammed Khatami, the minute Washington installs a secular, democratic government next door in Iraq. "The theocrats ruling Iran understand that the stakes are now double or nothing," according to Kristol. "They can stay in power by disrupting efforts to create a pluralist, non-theocratic, Shia-majority state next door--or they can fail, as success in Iraq sounds the death knell for the Iranian revolution." The hawks have been encouraged in that view by much of the Iranian exile community, according to Gary Sick, a Columbia University expert who served on the National Security Council under the Carter administration. "The argument among the American ayatollahs (of conservatism) is that the only solution for Iran is to get rid of the regime," says Sick. "They say that the Iranian people are ready to rise up, the regime is about to collapse, but people in Iran say this is just nonsense. The situation in Iran was far more unsettled in 1999 than it is now," added Sick, who noted that suspicions among Iranians that Washington is already trying to manipulate the internal situation is "complicating the life of (Iran's) reformers." But, notes Richard Augustus Norton, an expert on Shia Islam at Boston University and a retired U.S. army colonel who served in UN operations in Lebanon, the neoconservative approach "plays into the hands of the hard-liners [in Iran]. The Bush people are certainly right that there is a large constituency within Iran that favors better ties [with the U.S.]. But most Iranians, including the reformers, regard the government as legitimate." Norton continued, "It seems that Kristol and others are more intent on creating chaos and instability than they are with changing things for the better." The fact that prominent neoconservatives closely tied to administration hawks are now calling for covert action against Tehran, combined with the surrender accord with the Mujahedeen, will, in any case, make it far more difficult for forces with influence in Iran to press for cooperation with Washington. Sick said he was "totally surprised" by the surrender accord, whose details still have not been released. "The notion that we would join forces with (the Mujahedeen) really undercuts the whole idea of our war on terrorism," he noted, and will preclude "any kind of working arrangement with Iran." But Kristol and his comrades in and out of the administration insist that there is no point in working with Tehran anyway and much to be gained by helping oust the "theocrats." "Iran is the tipping point in the war on proliferation, the war on terror, and the effort to reshape the Middle East. If Iran goes pro-Western and anti-terror, positive changes in Syria and Saudi Arabia will follow much more easily. And the chances for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement will greatly improve," wrote Kristol. http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20030509/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ir aq&cid=540&ncid=1478 * IRAN GROUP NEGOTIATING SURRENDER IN IRAQ by Louis Meixler Yahoo, from Associated Press, 9th May BAQUBAH, Iraq - An armed Iranian opposition group operating northeast of Baghdad was negotiating its surrender Friday after the U.S. military ordered it to lay down weapons or face destruction, American officials said. The Mujahedeen Khalq, which operated for years from Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)'s Iraq (news - web sites) in its efforts to undermine Iran's religious regime, was surrounded by U.S. forces outside this town northeast of Baghdad, said Lt. Col. Robert Daldivia of the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division. "As far as I know, they are agreeing to capitulate at this time," said Capt. Josh Felker, public affairs officer of the 4th Infantry's Warhorse Brigade. He said Gen. Ray Odierno, the 4th Infantry's commander, was in the Mujahedeen Khalq's main camp, Camp Ashraf, to negotiate the surrender. U.S. military talking points about the negotiations, obtained by The Associated Press, gave the following guidance: "MEK forces will be destroyed or compelled to surrender, leading to disarmament and detention." Under the U.S. orders, the Mujahedeen Khalq must disarm, though they can keep their personal arms temporarily for self-defense. They will be barred from manning checkpoints on the roads around Baqubah and must go to containment areas, Felker said. Thousands of Mujahedeen Khalq are believed to be in the area, although the United States says it is unsure of the exact number. The Mujahedeen Khalq, or People's Warriors, operated in prewar Iraq with Saddam Hussein's blessing. They have several camps near Baqubah, 45 miles from Baghdad. U.S. troops said they had been prepared for full-scale combat before the negotiations began. The United States signed a truce on April 15 with the Mujahedeen Khalq, allowing the group to keep its weapons to defend itself against Iranian-backed attacks. At the time, the U.S. State Department called the agreement "a prelude to the group's surrender." "This has been in the works for a while. The cease-fire was a stepping stone to the capitulation agreement," Felker said. But reports of roadblock confrontations in recent days suggested the group had continued playing an active, armed role in the region a challenge to the United States' authority as Iraq's military occupier. U.S. military commanders "don't want two armed forces in the area," Felker said. In the past, the United States called the Mujahedeen Khalq a terrorist organization. During the 1970s, the group was accused in attacks that killed several U.S. military personnel and civilians working on defense projects in Iran, although the group denies targeting Americans. It reportedly backed the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 but later broke with Iran's government. Iran's clerical government has criticized U.S. policy toward the group, saying it was hypocritical of the United States to describe it as terrorist yet still sanction its existence. [.....] http://www.washtimes.com/world/20030510-36675241.htm * QATAR SAYS IRAQ WILL BE DEMOCRACY TEST CASE by David R. Sands The Washington Times, 10th May The establishment of a successful democracy in postwar Iraq could transform attitudes across the Arab world toward the United States, according to Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, emir of the oil-rich state of Qatar and a key U.S. ally in the recent war against Iraq's Saddam Hussein. Top Stories "If the United States managed to help establish democracy in Iraq, as it used to be in the 1920s, I think that would be the greatest step that could be taken both for America and for the whole Middle East," the emir said yesterday in an interview with editors and reporters at The Washington Times. "Arabs now consider the Americans as invaders," he said, "but they never liked Saddam Hussein. The Iraqis themselves never liked Saddam. They have hopes that the United States can build democracy in Iraq, but still they also have their doubts." The emir, who provided vital logistical and basing help to U.S. and coalition forces in the recent war in Iraq, was capping off a Washington visit, highlighted by a lengthy private meeting Wednesday with President Bush at the White House and talks with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on Middle East policy yesterday. President Bush effusively praised the emir's support before their White House meeting. Mr. Powell said yesterday that he hoped to visit Qatar before the end of this year. Sheik al-Thani said U.S.-Qatari relations are based on complete "transparency" and on a willingness of the emirate to voice its support for Washington in a region where many countries have kept their distance from the United States. "When the United States was in need of [support] in its campaign against Iraq, we were the only country that would declare its position clearly regarding that subject," the emir said. He declined to say whether Qatar would offer similar support if military action is undertaken against other regional states, including Syria and Iran, saying only that he was determined to preserve his country's "distinguished relationship" with the United States. [.....] http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/131/nation/Soldiers_repatriated_to_Iraq_re call_torture_in_Iran_camps+.shtml * SOLDIERS REPATRIATED TO IRAQ RECALL TORTURE IN IRAN CAMPS by William Booth Boston Globe, from Washington Post,11th May BAGHDAD - They are as thin as scarecrows, men shrunk by beatings, the last of the last Iraqi prisoners from the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. On their arrival in Baghdad for a repatriation without fanfare, they said they could not believe their eyes. American tanks on the streets? Saddam Hussein toppled from power? Some of the last 59 Iraqi soldiers to be held in Iran, out of 60,000 captured, had been imprisoned for more than two decades without communication with the outside world. ''Saddam gone?'' one former prisoner asked last week. He was dressed in a lime green sports jacket that hung from his thin shoulders, the new clothes a parting gift from his Iranian captors. As he stood, he swayed, and then said, ''I'm sorry. I have psychological damage in my brain.'' Nema Kareem Hassan was a police officer who was drafted to fight. He said he was captured near a town he called Muhamara in Iran on May 24, 1982. In the years since, Hassan said, he was moved through seven POW camps. On his return, his thin jaws were flecked with gray stubble. He shuffled with a limp at 39 years old. He said in an interview that he could not hold down food. Hassan's hands trembled so severely that he could not light a cigarette without help from a comrade. He said he was tortured routinely - forced to squat for hours, beaten with lengths of cable and rope, shocked by car batteries, and had what he thinks was dirty water injected with a syringe into his penis. Another former prisoner said, ''We have come back from the grave.'' This one, an infantry rifleman, sat slack-jawed and blank-eyed, in the worn lobby of the Um al-Aura Hotel in central Baghdad, where the men had spent their first night of freedom. Asked to give his name, the rifleman said, ''It is not safe,'' and he looked around the room. ''I am a loyal Iraqi.'' Told that Saddam Hussein was no longer in charge, he whispered, ''I cannot believe.'' There is no accurate accounting of casualties from the Iran-Iraq war. Human rights monitors and the US government estimated that 1 million people were killed, including 300,000 Iranian soldiers and 375,000 Iraqi combatants. Hassan, who was sent to the front for what his superiors in the police department promised would be a three-month tour of duty, described his daily rations: ''Four spoons of rice. A half-cup of water. A piece of bread.'' He said he saw hundreds of prisoners die, most from diseases like dysentery and tuberculosis, others from heart attacks. One of the camps had previously been a stable for animals, he said. ''What I have seen I cannot describe,'' said another former Iraqi soldier who would give only his first name, Hadi. He said he was a prisoner for 15 years. ''I am ashamed,'' he said, ''to speak of these things.'' The released prisoners wanted to know how they would be paid their military wages for their years in jail. One man asked whether the government was still giving land and cash and cars to released prisoners, as had been Hussein's practice in the early years of the Iran-Iraq war. ''We have lost our lives,'' one of his fellow prisoners said. They grabbed their plastic bags of belongings and made their way to a Red Cross van to go wherever home used to be. Years ago, the former prisoners said, they assumed their wives and families had given them up for dead. None of the men said they had spoken or corresponded with their loved ones during their captivity. ''They think we are gone from the earth,'' said one released prisoner. The former POWs were given clean underwear, a box of food and toiletries, and $200 in cash by the International Committee of the Red Cross, under whose auspices they were flown from Tehran to Baghdad. One former prisoner sat on a couch in the hotel lobby, hugging a grandson he had never seen. During their captivity, the men had heard rumors and listened to dispatches from their guards' radios. They heard news of the invasion of Kuwait and the Gulf War in 1991, and then reports of another battle this year by the Americans against Iraq. They were not sure who had won, but they remembered that the Americans had supported their war against Iran. http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml;jsessionid=2YEL1YRZBYKACCRBAEZSFFA? type=topNews&storyID=2718296 * REPORT: IRAQ INFILTRATED AL-JAZEERA TV Reuters, 11th May [according to 'documents uncovered by opponents of Saddam Hussein'.] LONDON: Britain's Sunday Times newspaper said Iraqi intelligence agents infiltrated al Jazeera, the Arab world's most widely watched television station, in an attempt to win favorable coverage. Al-Jazeera spokesman Jihad Ballout told Reuters the network was unaware of "any member of al-Jazeera who is working for any foreign intelligence" organization. The Sunday Times said documents uncovered by opponents of Saddam Hussein after he was ousted by a U.S.-led invasion force last month showed Iraq's intelligence service had three agents working inside Qatar's al-Jazeera television network. According to the documents, one alleged agent passed on two letters written by Osama bin Laden, blamed for the 2001 attacks on the United States, to his Iraqi handlers. Two cameramen were also said to be Iraqi agents. http://www.dawn.com/2003/05/14/int7.htm * KURDS ASK TURKS TO LEAVE IRAQ Dawn, 14th May ARBIL, May 13: The Iraqi Kurdish parliament has passed a resolution asking Turkish peacekeepers to leave northern Iraq where they have been deployed since 1996 to curb internecine fighting, a Kurdish official said on Tuesday. Turkish peacekeepers entered the enclave under the supervision of Britain and the United States, which brokered a 1996 ceasefire between the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Kurdish sources have said the United States fears Turkey's military presence in the north could spark tension with Kurds after the war. A KDP spokesman who asked that his name not be used said the regional Kurdish parliament on Monday voted unanimously to ask the 800-man Turkish peace force to withdraw.-Reuters PROGRESS OF THE PRETEXT http://abcnews.go.com/wire/Politics/ap20030508_98.html * PENTAGON TO INCREASE TEAM ON WEAPONS HUNT ABC News, 8th May WASHINGTON May 8 (AP): About 2,000 more experts are being sent to Iraq to help look for banned weapons as well as regime leaders, terrorists and more. The team is more than triple the size of the force now searching for weapons and larger than was previously described. It will be headed by a two-star general in defense intelligence, the Pentagon said Wednesday. The Defense Department also confirmed it is investigating what officials said may be the most promising discovery so far a trailer truck they say could turn out to be the first mobile biological lab recovered since the start of the war to disarm the government of Saddam Hussein. The Bush administration alleged that Iraq had chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs and said the main reason for the war was to destroy them. Despite weeks of searches at more than 100 sites, officials have reported finding nothing conclusive so far. Although Pentagon officials suggested some Iraqi units were armed with chemical weapons just days before the war, none were found when those units were overrun. Officials said again Wednesday at a Pentagon news conference that finding the "smoking gun" will take time. Asked if prewar intelligence was flawed, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Vice Adm. Lowell Jacoby said it was far too soon to tell. "This is piecing together a major jigsaw puzzle, and we are only just beginning ... to work the puzzle," Lowell said. Maj. Gen. Keith Dayton of DIA will head the new group being sent to Iraq, called the Iraq Survey Group. Consisting of some 1,300 military and civilian experts in computers, intelligence, weapons, demolition and other matters, the group also will have former U.N. weapons inspectors and 800 support personnel. They are joining 600 military and civilian experts from the armed forces, FBI, CIA, Defense Threat Reduction Agency and elsewhere who are already hunting for chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs. Only half of the new group will devote itself to weapons. The others will be looking for and analyzing information on regime leaders, terrorists, war crimes, the former Iraqi intelligence service, atrocities and prisoners of war, Defense Undersecretary Stephen Cambone said. Officials had previously said about 1,000 more were going to search for weapons, but never talked about the extra people for the other searches. The Pentagon has said the United States may prosecute some figures for war crimes, and that soldiers are gathering information that can be used for the Iraqis to prosecute people who committed atrocities over the decades of Saddam's rule. Cambone said the prewar lists of important sites to visit was about 1,000, including some 600 that related to weapons. An additional 400 sites have been identified through Iraqi tips, documents and other leads since the war started. Still, the searchers in Iraq have only explored 110 sites so far, Cambone said, 70 from the prewar list and 40 that emerged with new intelligence since the major fighting ended. Officials said the suspected biological lab was being tested by American forces in Iraq. The trailer matches the description of such laboratories given by various sources, including a defector who says he helped operate one. Cambone said initial tests have been done on the trailer, which was taken into custody April 19 at a Kurdish checkpoint in northern Iraq. No biological agents have been found so far, but officials believe the trailer was washed with a caustic chemical to wipe away evidence. They said they may need to dismantle it to get to hard-to-reach surfaces. The trailer, painted in a military color scheme, was found on a transporter normally used for tanks. It contains a fermenter and a system to capture exhaust gases, which an Iraqi defector said were parts of Iraq's mobile labs, Cambone said. "While some of the equipment on the trailer could have been used for purposes other than biological weapons agent production, U.S. and U.K. technical experts have concluded that the unit does not appear to perform any function beyond what the defector said it was for, which is the production of biological agents," Cambone said. http://www.msnbc.com/news/912045.asp?0cv=NB10 * U.S. WEAPONS TEAM TO LEAVE IRAQ by Barton Gellman MSNBC from The Washington Post, 11th May BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 10 The group directing all known U.S. search efforts for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is winding down operations without finding proof that President Saddam Hussein kept clandestine stocks of outlawed arms, according to participants. THE 75TH Exploitation Task Force, as the group is formally known, has been described from the start as the principal arm of the U.S. plan to discover and display forbidden Iraqi weapons. The group's departure, expected next month, marks a milestone in frustration for a major declared objective of the war. Leaders of Task Force 75's diverse staff biologists, chemists, arms treaty enforcers, nuclear operators, computer and document experts, and special forces troops arrived with high hopes of early success. They said they expected to find what Secretary of State Colin L. Powell described at the U.N. Security Council on Feb. 5 hundreds of tons of biological and chemical agents, missiles and rockets to deliver the agents, and evidence of an ongoing program to build a nuclear bomb. Scores of fruitless missions broke that confidence, many task force members said in interviews. Army Col. Richard McPhee, who will close down the task force next month, said he took seriously U.S. intelligence warnings on the eve of war that Hussein had given "release authority" to subordinates in command of chemical weapons. "We didn't have all these people in [protective] suits" for nothing, he said. But if Iraq thought of using such weapons, "there had to have been something to use. And we haven't found it. ... Books will be written on that in the intelligence community for a long time." Army Col. Robert Smith, who leads the site assessment teams from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, said task force leaders no longer "think we're going to find chemical rounds sitting next to a gun." He added, "That's what we came here for, but we're past that." Motivated and accomplished in their fields, task force members found themselves missing vital tools. They consistently found targets identified in Washington to be inaccurate, looted and burned, or both. Leaders and members of five of the task force's eight teams, and some senior officers guiding them, said the weapons hunters were going through the motions now to "check the blocks" on a prewar list. U.S. Central Command began the war with a list of 19 top weapons sites. Only two remain to be searched. Another list enumerated 68 top "non-WMD sites," without known links to special weapons but judged to have the potential to offer clues. Of those, the tally at midweek showed 45 surveyed without success. Task Force 75's experience, and its impending dissolution after seven weeks in action, square poorly with assertions in Washington that the search has barely begun. In his declaration of victory aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, President Bush said, "We've begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons, and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated." Stephen A. Cambone, undersecretary of defense for intelligence, told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday that U.S. forces had surveyed only 70 of the roughly 600 potential weapons facilities on the "integrated master site list" prepared by U.S. intelligence agencies before the war. But here on the front lines of the search, the focus is on a smaller number of high-priority sites, and the results are uniformly disappointing, participants said. "Why are we doing any planned targets?" Army Chief Warrant Officer Richard L. Gonzales, leader of Mobile Exploitation Team Alpha, said in disgust to a colleague during last Sunday's nightly report of weapons sites and survey results. "Answer me that. We know they're empty." Survey teams have combed laboratories and munitions plants, bunkers and distilleries, bakeries and vaccine factories, file cabinets and holes in the ground where tipsters advised them to dig. Most of the assignments came with classified "target folders" describing U.S. intelligence leads. Others, known as the "ad hocs," came to the task force's attention by way of plausible human sources on the ground. The hunt will continue under a new Iraq Survey Group, which the Bush administration has said is a larger team. But the organizers are drawing down their weapons staffs for lack of work, and adding expertise for other missions. Interviews and documents describing the transition from Task Force 75 to the new group show that site survey teams, the advance scouts of the arms search, will reduce from six to two their complement of experts in missile technology and biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. A little-known nuclear special operations group from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, called the Direct Support Team, has already sent home a third of its original complement, and plans to cut the remaining team by half. "We thought we would be much more gainfully employed, or intensively employed, than we were," said Navy Cmdr. David Beckett, who directs special nuclear programs for the team. State-of-the-art biological and chemical labs, shrunk to fit standard cargo containers, came equipped with enough supplies to run thousands of tests using DNA fingerprinting and mass spectrometry. They have been called upon no more than a few dozen times, none with a confirmed hit. The labs' director, who asked not to be identified, said some of his scientists were also going home. Even the sharpest skeptics do not rule out that the hunt may eventually find evidence of banned weapons. The most significant unknown is what U.S. interrogators are learning from senior Iraqi scientists, military industrial managers and Iraqi government leaders now in custody. If the nonconventional arms exist, some of them ought to know. Publicly, the Bush administration has declined to discuss what the captured Iraqis are saying. In private, U.S. officials provide conflicting reports, with some hinting at important disclosures. Cambone also said U.S. forces have seized "troves of documents" and are "surveying them, triaging them" for clues. At former presidential palaces in the Baghdad area , where Task Force 75 will soon hand control to the Iraq Study Group, leaders and team members refer to the covert operators as "secret squirrels." If they are making important progress, it has not led to "actionable" targets, according to McPhee and other task force members. McPhee, an artillery brigade commander from Oklahoma who was assigned to the task force five months ago, reflected on the weapons hunt as the sun set outside his improvised sleeping quarters, a cot and mosquito net set down in the wreckage of a marble palace annex. He smoked a cigar, but without the peace of mind he said the evening ritual usually brings. "My unit has not found chemical weapons," he said. "That's a fact. And I'm 47 years old, having a birthday in one of Saddam Hussein's palaces on a lake in the middle of Baghdad. It's surreal. The whole thing is surreal. "Am I convinced that what we did in this fight was viable? I tell you from the bottom of my heart: We stopped Saddam Hussein in his WMD programs," he said, using the abbreviation for weapons of mass destruction. "Do I know where they are? I wish I did ... but we will find them. Or not. I don't know. I'm being honest here." Later in the conversation, he flung the unfinished cigar into the lake with somewhat more force than required. Team members explain their disappointing results, in part, as a consequence of a slow advance. Cautious ground commanders sometimes held weapons hunters away from the front, they said, and the task force had no helicopters of its own. "My personal feeling is we waited too long and stayed too far back," said Christopher Kowal, an expert in computer forensics who worked for Mobile Exploitation Team Charlie until last week. But two other factors erroneous intelligence and poor site security dealt the severest blows to the hunt, according to leaders and team members at every level. Some information known in Washington, such as inventories of nuclear sites under supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, did not reach the teams assigned to visit them. But what the U.S. government did not know mattered more than what it did know. Intelligence agencies had a far less accurate picture of Iraq's weapons program than participants believed at the outset of their search, they recalled. "We came to bear country, we came loaded for bear and we found out the bear wasn't here," said a Defense Intelligence Agency officer here who asked not to be identified by name. "The indications and warnings were there. The assessments were solid." "Okay, that paradigm didn't exist," he added. "The question before was, where are Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological weapons? What is the question now? That is what we are trying to sort out." One thing analysts must reconsider, he said, is: "What was the nature of the threat?" By far the greatest impediment to the weapons hunt, participants said, was widespread looting of Iraq's governmental and industrial facilities. At nearly every top-tier "sensitive site" the searchers reached, intruders had sacked and burned the evidence that weapons hunters had counted on sifting. As recently as last Tuesday, nearly a month after Hussein's fall from power, soldiers under the Army's V Corps command had secured only 44 of the 85 top potential weapons sites in the Baghdad area and 153 of the 372 considered most important to rebuilding Iraq's government and economy. McPhee saw early in the war that the looters were stripping his targets before he could check them. He cut the planning cycle for new missions the time between first notice and launch from 96 to 24 hours. "What we found," he said, was that "as the maneuver units hit a target they had to move on, even 24 hours was too slow. By the time we got there, a lot of things were gone." Short and powerfully built, McPhee has spent his adult life as a combat officer. He calls his soldiers "bubbas" and worries about their mail. "It ain't good" that suspect sites are unprotected, he said, but he refused to criticize fighting units who left evidence unguarded. "You've got two corps commanders being told, 'Get to Baghdad,' and, oh, by the way, 'When you run across sensitive sites, you have to secure them,' " he said. "Do you secure all those sites, or do you get to Baghdad? You've got limited force structure and you've got 20 missions." A low point came when looters destroyed what was meant to be McPhee's headquarters in the Iraqi capital. The 101st Airborne Division had used the complex, a munitions factory called the Al Qadisiyah State Establishment, before rolling north to Mosul. When a reporter came calling, looking for Task Force 75, looters were busily stripping it clean. They later set it ablaze. The search teams arrived in Iraq "looking for the smoking gun," Smith said, and now the mission is more diffuse general intelligence-gathering on subjects ranging from crimes against humanity and prisoners of war to Hussein's links with terrorists. At the peak of the effort, all four mobile exploitation teams devoted nearly full time to weapons of mass destruction. By late last month, two of the four had turned to other questions. This week, MET Alpha, Gonzales's team, also left the hunt, at least temporarily. It parted with its chemical and biological experts, added linguists and document exploiters and recast itself as an intelligence team. It will search for weapons if leads turn up, but lately it has focused on Iraqi covert operations abroad and the theft of Jewish antiquities. The stymied hunt baffles search team leaders. To a person, those interviewed during a weeklong visit to the task force said they believed in the mission and the Bush administration accusations that prompted it. Yet "smoking gun" is now a term of dark irony here. Maj. Kenneth Deal, executive officer of one site survey team, called out the words in mock triumph when he found a page of Arabic text at a former Baath Party recreation center last week. It was torn from a translated edition of A.J.P. Taylor's history, "The Struggle for Mastery in Europe." At a "battle update brief" last week, amid confusion over the whereabouts of a British laboratory in transit from Talil Air Base, McPhee deadpanned to his staff: "I haven't a clue where the WMD is, but we can find this lab." Among the sites already visited from Central Command's top 19 are an underground facility at North Tikrit Hospital, an unconventional training camp at Salman Pak, Samarra East Airport, the headquarters of the Military Industrialization Commission, the Baghdad Research Complex, a storage site for surface-to-surface missiles in Taji, the Amiriyah Serum and Vaccine Institute, a munitions assembly plant in Iskandariyah and an underground bunker at the Abu Ghurayb Palace. The bunker, toured several days later by a reporter, withstood the palace's destruction by at least two satellite-guided bombs. The bombs left six-foot holes in the reinforced concrete palace roof, driving the steel reinforcing rods downward in a pattern that resembled tentacles. The subsequent detonation turned great marble rooms into rubble. But the bunker, tunneled deep below a ground-floor kitchen, remained unscathed. The tunnel dropped straight down and then leveled to horizontal, forming corridors that extend most of the breadth of the palace. Richly decorated living quarters were arranged along a series of L-shaped bends, each protected by three angled blast doors. The doors weighed perhaps a ton. In a climate-control room, chemical weapons filters and carbon dioxide scrubbers protected the air and an overpressure blast valve stood ready to vent the lethal shock waves of an explosion. And a decontamination shower stood under an alarm panel designed to flash the message "Gas-Gaz." http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/w-me/2003/may/11/051101121.html * U.S. WEAPONS HUNTERS HINDERED IN IRAQ by Dafna Linzer Las Vegas Sun, 11th May CAMP DOHA, Kuwait (AP): U.S. weapons hunters - empty-handed after seven weeks of field work - are still operating without translators, have had almost no contact with Iraqi scientists and can't tell what's missing from looted sites where suspected weapons of mass destruction were thought to be hidden. Some of the problems are logistical. Others seem to be the result of limited manpower and expertise. In interviews with The Associated Press, military planners involved in the search said they were working to solve them. While the basic work structure will continue, they said, several elements are expected to improve now that former U.N. inspectors are joining the operation and its command is switching to the Pentagon. Experts say the changes are desperately needed if the Bush administration is to prove Iraq had the chemical or biological weapons the White House said it went to war to destroy. "I can't imagine how they could get much accomplished without interpreters and translators, this is basic stuff," said Jonathan Tucker, a former U.N. inspector and a bioweapons expert with the U.S. Institute for Peace. The current teams also haven't been tagging or cataloguing sites - nearly all of which were looted by the time the teams arrived. In every case, they have been unable to determine what, if anything, might have been taken at any given time. Lt. Col. Michael Slifka, an arms control expert who helped put together the Site Survey Teams, said the teams were conceived to be rapidly sent to suspicious sites. Securing those locations from theft wasn't considered in advance, he said. "I certainly didn't expect the Iraqi populace to go in to places like this and loot things." Several of the most sensitive sites are being guarded by U.S. troops, but their presence is likely making the areas appear even more valuable. There are reports of civilians finding back ways into the sites to remove more items. Some help is expected next month when the weapons teams, which have been operating under the command of field artillery Col. Richard McPhee, are folded into the Iraq Survey Group - a new, Pentagon-led team of some 2,000 people charged with investigating everything from potential war crimes committed by Saddam Hussein's regime to alleged terrorist connections with al-Qaida. But the change in command will not mean beefing up the size of the search teams. In fact, two officials said the field teams - under pressure from Washington and overburdened by a mammoth list of suspected weapons sites - could become smaller. Currently there are five operational Site Survey Teams staffed by a small number of weapons experts, soldiers and Special Forces who handle initial assessment missions. Any potential finds are analyzed by one of two Mobile Exploitation Teams. None of the teams were assigned translators. Slifka said they were trying to correct that but that expanding the overall staff size wouldn't be necessary if Iraqis come forward with key information, as Washington hopes they will. "If we get the cooperation of the Iraqis then we're probably going to be in good shape," Slifka said at Camp Doha, Kuwait, a dusty desert base that was command center for land forces during the Iraq war. But that cooperation hasn't been forthcoming. Few scientists have offered information, and U.S. officials have said even senior Iraqis in custody are continuing to insist the country wasn't secretly developing weapons of mass destruction in recent years. Slifka could think of only one example in which an Iraqi scientist had led a team to an area where materials for a weapons program were said to have been buried or destroyed. But the site yielded no conclusive evidence and much of the scientist's claims have not been verified. Some team members and even officials back in Washington have begun to doubt actual weapons will be found. Instead they now talk of finding evidence of infrastructure that could have been used to quickly produce unconventional weapons. Still, Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday that weapons of mass destruction may still be in the hands of Iraqi special units and could be used against coalition forces. "Were they full-deployed and could they have been brought to bear on us, or are they still perhaps out there somewhere in some sort of bunker and could have been used?" Myers said in Qatar during a tour of the Persian Gulf. "We are trying to run that one to the ground." McPhee's 75th Exploitation Task Force, which is headed home once the survey group sets up, began with a list of 900 suspect sites, 90 of them deemed high-priority. Of the top sites, 75 have been examined, McPhee said Thursday. Slifka said each team is currently visiting one site a day - far fewer on average than U.N. teams conducted during their stint which began in late November and ended shortly before the war began March 20. Even as the United States was drafting the U.N. resolution last fall that sent chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix and his teams back to Iraq, it was already planning for their failure, Slifka said. "There was a concern that the Iraqis would be grudgingly compliant and that as a result the U.N. would eventually pull out and report that the Iraqis were not being completely compliant and forthcoming and that we would then need a capability of our own to try and find the Iraqi WMD program." Still, a number of American and British weapons experts who served on the previous U.N. inspection regime - not led by Blix - are being included on the U.S. teams. The former inspectors know many within Iraq's scientific and military community and are familiar with years of evidence and intelligence gathered during the 1990s. The United States provided Blix with some intelligence which didn't yield results. The best leads, however, were followed up unsuccessfully by the 75th XTF. Even so, Slifka said he wouldn't be disappointed if the teams didn't find anything. Just understanding the roots of Saddam's efforts - something never fully achieved by the U.N. teams - would be an accomplishment in itself. "Eventually we'll put some sort of arms control measures in place, set up monitoring and teach a new Iraqi government how to do it themselves." http://www.msnbc.com/news/897268.asp?0sl=-32 * SUSPECTED BIOWEAPONS LABS FOUND by Jim Avila MSNBC, 11th May Military teams searching for biological and chemical weapons in Iraq found three trailers believed to be mobile biological weapons laboratories capable of producing deadly germs for weapons, NBC News reported. THE TEAMS found the trailers at a bombed-out rocket and missile factory near Mosul in northern Iraq. One of the trailers was missing its canvas cover, wheels and plumbing most likely taken by looters but the essential parts, including a compressor and dryer needed to produce weapons grade anthrax, were intact. Military teams were conducting tests for traces of biological weapons, according to NBC News. Former U.N. weapons inspector David Kay told NBC there was no other possible purpose for the lab. "This is it," he said. The New York Times, meanwhile, reported on what appears to be the same lab in its Sunday editions. The newspaper quoted a leader of one of the teams of experts as saying the laboratory could be used for medicinal and peaceful purposes, as well as for making deadly germs for weapons. The paper quoted the unidentified special forces officer as saying that Iraq's failure to disclose the site showed that the ousted regime had violated U.N. disarmament demands. "The failure to disclose such equipment is a clear violation of United Nations sanctions and an indication of ill intent," the Times quoted the team leader as saying. Despite U.S. claims that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction, none have been found since American-led forces seized Baghdad and toppled the regime a month ago. Many of Saddam's elite units failed to mount a credible resistance, leading to suspicions that some of them may be trying to reorganize. The possible find also comes as the 75th Exploitation Task Force directing the search for weapons of mass destruction is making plans to head home in June, The Washington Post reported. Last week, the Pentagon reported the discovery of another suspected mobile lab. That lab was scrubbed with a bleach-like substance to remove any possible trace of biological weapons, officials said, but was capable of producing them. Meantime, American authorities have promised rewards to Iraqis for information leading to discovery of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons programs, the U.S.-run Information Radio said Saturday. Besides the unspecified reward, potential informants were offered anonymity and guarantees of safety in exchange for useful information "regarding any site that manufactured or held weapons of mass destruction." "The reward you may get can improve your living standard," it said. The lengthy spot on the Arabic-language radio was part of a growing U.S. government campaign to find Iraqi sources potentially knowledgeable about prohibited arms programs. American officials have indicated they would increasingly depend on hoped-for Iraqi informants to trace any weapons-making programs. Saturday's radio announcement said the U.S.-British coalition was interested in "locations of components, materials and supplies that had been used in developing, processing, manufacturing and maintaining weapons of mass destruction." [.....] http://reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml;jsessionid=2I4BDDXU5WH22CRBAEKSFEY?type =topNews&storyID=2725016 * U.S. SENDING NEW TEAM TO IRAQ FOR WEAPONS SEARCH by Steve Holland Reuters, 12th May WASHINGTON: With evidence of weapons of mass destruction elusive, the United States and its war allies are replacing arms inspectors in Iraq with a new, larger team that will try to piece together "a deception program" by Saddam Hussein, a top White House official said on Monday. The new team will be "more expert" at following the paper trail and other intelligence left behind by the Saddam government, said President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice. The United States, against much international opposition, pushed for war against Iraq to disarm Baghdad of its alleged programs to develop chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. But so far none have been found to provide conclusive proof of those programs. The U.S. military unit directing the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is dismantling its operations and will likely leave Iraq in coming weeks. Rice, in a Reuters interview, said a "different kind of team" is now needed to continue the search. She called the change a "long-planned rotation." The new team will include Americans, Britons and Australians. "The team that will be going in will be larger (and) will have people who are more expert in document exploitation and intelligence and all of the pieces that we need," she said. Rice said Iraq appeared to have had a virtually "inspections proof" system of concealing chemical and biological weapons by developing chemicals and agents that could be used for more than one purpose, but that could be put together as weapons at the last minute. She said U.S. officials never expected that "we were going to open garages and find" weapons of mass destruction. "It was a sophisticated deception program. and it will take some time to untangle that, but we will," she said. At the same time, the United States and Britain are pushing the U.N. Security Council to lift U.N. sanctions against Iraq. They are seeking a vote by June 3, when the oil-for-food program, which gives the United Nations control over Iraqi oil revenues and allows them to be used to buy food and medicine, needs to be renewed. Their proposal is likely to face at least some resistance from France and Russia, which would like verifiable proof of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. "It is time to lift sanctions. It is purely cynical to say that sanctions ought to remain, particularly if you are a country that thought that sanctions ought to be lifted on Saddam Hussein," Rice said, referring to Russia and France, which had favored lifting U.N. sanctions in recent years while Saddam was still in power. With retired Gen. Jay Garner leaving as the head of the U.S.-led reconstruction effort in Iraq, Rice said his replacement, L. Paul Bremer, will have a broader role to get more international participation in helping rebuild Iraq. Bremer's appointment followed repeated Iraqi criticism of the slow pace of work to restore basic services and form a transitional Iraqi government. Rice praised Garner's role and said Bremer will continue trying to get the electricity and water running for Iraqis as well as undertake a broader political effort. "I think you're going to see a more focused effort to get broader participation of other countries," she said. http://www.sunspot.net/news/nationworld/iraq/bal biolab0513,0,4291060.story?coll=bal%2Dnationworld%2Dheadlines * SECOND SUSPECTED BIOWEAPONS LAB FOUND Baltimore Sun, 13th May WASHINGTON -- Soldiers from the Army's 101st Airborne Division found another trailer in northern Iraq that experts believe was a mobile biological weapons laboratory, the division's commander said today. The troops found the trailer Friday at al-Kindi, the largest former missile research facility in Iraq, said Maj. Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the 101st. The trailer is "close to identical" to another found last month in the same area that U.S. officials believe was a mobile germ weapons workshop, Petraeus told Pentagon reporters in a two-way video link from his headquarters in Mosul. Some equipment from the latest trailer had been taken by looters, and there were indications -- such as unfinished welding -- that the apparatus was incomplete, Petraeus said. He said a military weapons expert told him "there's a reasonable degree of certainty this is a mobile biological agent production trailer." [.....] Serial numbers on both trailers indicated they were made as a set, Petraeus said. The first one found had a serial number of 1 and a construction date of 2002, while the second had the serial number 2 and a construction date of 2003, he said. The second trailer soon will be taken to Baghdad International Airport, where military experts are examining the first trailer, Petraeus said. Soldiers from the 101st Airborne found several sites where officials thought at first there were chemical or biological weapons, only to find through further testing that there were no weapons of mass destruction there. Petraeus said he did not know whether Iraq had destroyed all of its banned weapons in the 1990s as it claimed, destroyed them just before the war or had them very well hidden. "I think the explanation's still out there to be found," he said. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk