Ex-Official: Russia Moved
Kenneth R. Timmerman
Sunday, Feb. 19, 2006
A top Pentagon official who was responsible
for tracking Saddam Hussein's weapons programs before and after the 2003
liberation of Iraq, has provided the first-ever account of how Saddam
up" his weapons of mass destruction stockpiles to prevent the United
States from discovering them.
"The short answer to the question of where the WMD Saddam
bought from the Russians went was that they went to Syria and Lebanon," former
Deputy Undersecretary of Defense John A. Shaw told an audience Saturday
at a privately sponsored "Intelligence Summit" in Alexandria,
"They were moved by Russian Spetsnaz (special
forces) units out of uniform, that were specifically sent to Iraq to
move the weaponry and eradicate any evidence of its existence," he
Shaw has dealt with weapons-related issues and
export controls as a U.S. government official for 30 years, and was
serving as deputy undersecretary of defense for international technology
security when the events he described today occurred.
He called the
evacuation of Saddam's WMD stockpiles "a
well-orchestrated campaign using two neighboring client states with which
the Russian leadership had a long time security relationship."
was initially tapped to make an inventory of Saddam's conventional weapons
stockpiles, based on intelligence estimates of arms deals he had concluded
with the former Soviet Union, China and France.
He estimated that Saddam
had amassed 100 million tons of munitions - roughly 60 percent of the
entire U.S. arsenal. "The origins of
these weapons were Russian, Chinese and French in declining order of
magnitude, with the Russians holding the lion's share and the Chinese
just edging out the French for second place."
But as Shaw's office
increasingly got involved in ongoing intelligence to identify Iraqi weapons
programs before the war, he also got "a
flow of information from British contacts on the ground at the Syrian
border and from London" via non-U.S. government contacts.
"The intelligence included multiple sitings
of truck convoys, convoys going north to the Syrian border and returning
Shaw worked closely with Julian Walker, a former
British ambassador who had decades of experience in Iraq, and an unnamed
Ukranian-American who was directly plugged in to the head of Ukraine's
The Ukrainians were eager to provide the United
States with documents from their own archives on Soviet arms transfers
to Iraq and on ongoing Russian assistance to Saddam, to thank America
for its help in securing Ukraine's independence from the Soviet Union,
In addition to the convoys heading to Syria, Shaw
said his contacts "provided information about steel drums with
painted warnings that had been moved to a cellar of a hospital in Beirut."
when Shaw passed on his information to the Defense Intelligence Agency
(DIA) and others within the U.S. intelligence community, he was stunned
by their response.
"My report on the convoys was brushed off
disinformation,'" he said.
One month later, Shaw learned that the
DIA general counsel complained to his own superiors that Shaw had eaten
from the DIA "rice
bowl." It was a Washington euphemism that meant he had commited
the unpardonable sin of violating another agency's turf.
The CIA responded
in even more diabolical fashion. "They
trashed one of my Brits and tried to declare him persona non grata to
the intelligence community," Shaw said. "We got constant indicators
that Langley was aggressively trying to discredit both my Ukranian-American
and me in Kiev," in addition to his other sources.
But Shaw's information
had not originated from a casual contact. His Ukranian-American aid was
a personal friend of David Nicholas, a Western ambassador in Kiev, and
of Igor Smesko, head of Ukrainian intelligence.
Smesko had been a military
attaché in Washington in
the early 1990s when Ukraine first became independent and Dick Cheney
was secretary of defense. "Smesko had told Cheney that when Ukraine
became free of Russia he wanted to show his friendship for the United
Helping out on Iraq provided him with that occasion.
"Smesko had gotten to know Gen. James Clapper,
now director of the Geospacial Intelligence Agency, but then head of
But it was Shaw's own friendship to the head of
Britain's MI6 that brought it all together during a two-day meeting
in London that included Smeshko's people, the MI6 contingent, and Clapper,
who had been deputized by George Tenet to help work the issue of what
happened to Iraq's WMD stockpiles.
In the end, here is what Shaw learned:
- In December
2002, former Russian intelligence chief Yevgeni Primakov, a KGB general
with long-standing ties to Saddam, came to Iraq and stayed until just
before the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.
- Primakov supervised the execution
of long-standing secret agreements, signed between Iraqi intelligence
and the Russian GRU (military intelligence), that provided for clean-up
operations to be conducted by Russian and Iraqi military personnel
to remove WMDs, production materials and technical documentation from
Iraq, so the regime could announce that Iraq was "WMD
- Shaw said that this type GRU operation, known as "Sarandar," or "emergency
exit," has long been familiar to U.S. intelligence officials from
Soviet-bloc defectors as standard GRU practice.
- In addition to the truck
convoys, which carried Iraqi WMD to Syria and Lebanon in February and
March 2003 "two Russian ships
set sail from the (Iraqi) port of Umm Qasr headed for the Indian Ocean," where
Shaw believes they "deep-sixed" additional stockpiles of Iraqi
WMD from flooded bunkers in southern Iraq that were later discovered
by U.S. military intelligence personnel.
- The Russian "clean-up" operation
was entrusted to a combination of GRU and Spetsnaz troops and Russian
military and civilian personnel in Iraq "under the command of two
experienced ex-Soviet generals, Colonel-General Vladislav Achatov and
Colonel-General Igor Maltsev, both retired and posing as civilian commercial
- Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz reported on
Oct. 30, 2004, that Achatov and Maltsev had been photographed receiving
medals from Iraqi Defense Minister Sultan Hashim Ahmed in a Baghdad
building bombed by U.S. cruise missiles during the first U.S. air raids
in early March 2003.
- Shaw says he leaked the information about the
two Russian generals and the clean-up operation to Gertz in October
2004 in an effort to "push
back" against claims by Democrats that were orchestrated with CBS
News to embarrass President Bush just one week before the November 2004
presidential election. The press sprang bogus claims that 377 tons of
high explosives of use to Iraq's nuclear weapons program had "gone
the U.S.-led liberation of Iraq, while ignoring intelligence of the Russian-orchestrated
evacuation of Iraqi WMDs.
- The two Russian generals "had visited
Baghdad no fewer than 20 times in the preceding five to six years," Shaw
revealed. U.S. intelligence knew "the identity and strength of the
various Spetsnaz units, their dates of entry and exit in Iraq, and the
fact that the effort (to clean up Iraq's WMD stockpiles) with a planning
conference in Baku from which they flew to Baghdad."
- The Baku conference,
chaired by Russian Minister of Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu, "laid
out the plans for the Sarandar clean-up effort so that Shoigu could leave
after the keynote speech for Baghdad to orchestrate the planning for
the disposal of the WMD.
intelligence reports showed that Russian Spetsnaz operatives "were
now changing to civilian clothes from military/GRU garb," Shaw said. "The
Russian denial of my revelations in late October 2004 included the statement
Russian civilians remained in Baghdad." That was the "only
true statement" the
Russians made, Shaw ironized
of Saddam's WMD to Syria and Lebanon "was
an entirely controlled Russian GRU operation," Shaw said. "It
was the brainchild of General Yevgenuy Primakov."
The goal of the
clean-up was "to erase all trace of
Russian involvement" in Saddam's WMD programs, and "was a masterpiece
of military camouflage and deception."
Just as astonishing as the
Russian clean-up operation were efforts by Bush administration appointees,
including Defense Department spokesman Laurence DiRita, to smear Shaw
and to cover up the intelligence information he brought to light.
"Larry DiRita made sure that this story would
never grow legs," Shaw said. "He whispered sotto voce [quietly]
to journalists that there was no substance to my information and that
it was the product of an unbalanced mind."
Shaw suggested that
the answer of why the Bush administration had systematically "ignored
Russia's involvement" in evacuating
Saddam's WMD stockpiles "could be much bigger than anyone has thought," but
declined to speculate what exactly was involved.
Retired Air Force Lt.
Gen. Thomas McInerney was less reticent. He thought the reason was Iran.
"With Iran moving faster than anyone thought
in its nuclear programs," he told NewsMax, "the administration
needed the Russians, the Chinese and the French, and was not interested
in information that would make them look bad."
that there was "clear evidence" that
Saddam had WMD. "Jack Shaw showed when it left Iraq, and how."
Undersecretary of Defense Richard Perle, a strong supporter of the war
against Saddam, blasted the CIA for orchestrating a smear campaign against
the Bush White House and the war in Iraq.
"The CIA has been at war with the Bush administration
almost from the beginning," he said in a keynote speech at the Intelligence
Summit on Saturday.
He singled out recent comments by Paul Pillar,
a former top CIA Middle East analyst, alleging that the Bush White
House "cherry-picked" intelligence
to make the case for war in Iraq.
"Mr. Pillar was in a very senior position and was able
to make his views known, if that is indeed what he believed," Perle
"He (Pillar) briefed senior policy officials
before the start of the Iraq war in 2003. If he had had reservations
about the war, he could have voiced them at that time." But according
to officials briefed by Pillar, Perle said, he never did.
inexplicable, Perle said, were the millions of documents "that
remain untranslated" among those seized from Saddam Hussein's intelligence
"I think the intelligence community does not
want them to be exploited," he said.
Among those documents, presented
Saturday at the conference by former FBI translator Bill Tierney, were
transcripts of Saddam's palace conversations with top aides in which
he discussed ongoing nuclear weapons plans in 2000, well after the
U.N. arms inspectors believed he had ceased all nuclear weapons work.
"What was most disturbing in those tapes," Tierney
said, "was the fact that the individuals briefing Saddam were
totally unknown to the U.N. Special Commission."
In addition, Tierney
said, the plasma uranium programs Saddam discussed with his aids as ongoing
operations in 2000 had been dismissed as "old programs" disbanded
years earlier, according to the final CIA report on Iraq's weapons programs,
presented in 2004 by the Iraq Survey Group.
"When I first heard those tapes" about the uranium
plasma program, "it completely floored me," Tierney said.
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