WMD conjecture in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq concerns the immediate reactions and consequences to the failure by the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the U.S.-led Iraq Survey Group (ISG) to find the alleged stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction during and after 2003 invasion of Iraq. The United States effectively terminated the search effort for unconventional weaponry in January 2005, and the Iraq Intelligence Commission concluded that the judgements of the U.S. intelligence community about the continued existence of weapons of mass destruction and an associated military program were wrong. The official findings by the CIA in October 2004 were that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein "did not possess stockpiles of illicit weapons at the time of the U.S. invasion in March 2003 and had not begun any program to produce them."
Immediately following and during these searches, many theories were put forward on how it could be possible for these WMDs to have suddenly disappeared (assuming they were, in fact, there at first). These theories included conspiracy theories, accusations against other governments and claims of successful deception efforts by Saddam Hussein.
After much criticism against the war over the years that followed, every figure that previously supported the claims of WMDs in Iraq (with the exception of Dick Cheney) acknowledged that they had been wrong. A related debate concerned whether the figures that had built the case for the war had been inadvertently misled by intelligence or that they intentionally deceived the public.
On 13 December 2003, Saddam Hussein was captured by U.S. forces during Operation Red Dawn. Time Online Edition reports that in his first interrogation he was asked whether Iraq had any WMD. According to an official, his reply was:
"No, of course not, the U.S. dreamed them up itself to have a reason to go to war with us." The interrogator continued along this line, said the official, asking: "if you had no weapons of mass destruction then why not let the U.N. inspectors into your facilities?" Saddam’s reply: "We didn’t want them to go into the presidential areas and intrude on our privacy."
Later, through interrogations in US custody, Saddam revealed that, immediately prior to the start of the 2003 US invasion, he had announced to his generals that there were no WMD. One theory given currency by Charles Duelfer is that Saddam sent out different signals to different people in order to keep them confused and help stay in power. Documents since captured inside Iraq by coalition forces are reported to reveal Saddam's frustration with weapon inspections. Meeting transcripts record him saying to senior aides: "We don't have anything hidden!" In another, he remarks: "When is this going to end?" And another: "Don't think for a minute that we still have WMD. We have nothing."
Hans Blix from the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission said in his early 2004 book, Disarming Iraq, that Saddam had successfully been deterred from keeping WMD stockpiles by outside pressure. In regards to why he appeared so unsuccessful in convincing others that Iraq had no stockpiles (allowing for sanctions that crippled Iraq's economy), Blix pointed out several reasons:
According to The Guardian in late 2003, British officials in Whitehall began circulating a theory that Saddam Hussein and his senior advisers "may have been hoodwinked" by lower-ranking officers "into believing that Iraq really did possess weapons of mass destruction." And as most of the informers for British intelligence were the same high-level advisers close to Saddam, the British were also fooled. The paper adds that this hypothesis "is open to the interpretation that the government is searching for an excuse, however implausible, for failure to discover any WMD in Iraq." Commenting on the findings of the Butler intelligence review six months later, USA Today reported that Britain's Secret Intelligence Service had "shockingly few reliable human sources inside Saddam's regime."
Rumors abounded of possible transportation of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to foreign countries, namely Syria, Lebanon and Iran. This was paricularly prevalent in the weeks before Operation Iraqi Freedom began.
Romanian intelligence defector Ion Mihai Pacepa alleged that an operation for the removal of chemical weapons was prepared by the Soviet Union for Libya, and that he was told over thirty years ago by Romanian President Nicolae Ceauşescu, KGB chairman Yury Andropov, and later, Yevgeny Primakov, about the existence of a similar plan for Iraq. It is "perfectly obvious", wrote Pacepa, that the Russian GRU agency helped Saddam Hussein to destroy, hide, or transfer his chemical weapons prior to the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. "After all, Russia helped Saddam get his hands on them in the first place."
John Loftus, director of The Intelligence Summit, said in the November 16, 2007 issue of FrontPage Magazine that many documents from Iraq point to WMD being transferred to other countries such as Syria: "As stated in more detail in my full report, the British, Ukrainian and American secret services all believed that the Russians had organized a last minute evacuation of CW and BW stockpiles from Baghdad to Syria." His researchers allegedly found a document ordering the concealment of nuclear weapons equipment in storage facilities under the Euphrates River a few weeks before the invasion.
Former Iraqi general Georges Sada claimed that in late 2002, Saddam had ordered all of his stockpiles to be moved to Syria. He appeared on Fox News' Hannity & Colmes in January 2006 to discuss his book, Saddam's Secrets: How an Iraqi General Defied and Survived Saddam Hussein. Anticipating the arrival of weapon inspectors on November 1, Sada said Saddam took advantage of the June 4 Zeyzoun Dam disaster in Syria by forming an "air bridge", loading them onto cargo aircraft and flying them out of the country.
They were moved by air and by ground, 56 sorties by jumbo, 747, and 27 were moved, after they were converted to cargo aircraft, they were moved to Syria.
In January 2004, Nizar Nayuf, a Syrian journalist who moved to Western Europe, said in a letter to the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf that he knows the three sites where Iraq's weapons of mass destruction are kept inside Syria. According to Nayuf's witness, described as a senior source inside Syrian military intelligence he had known for two years, Iraq's WMD are in tunnels dug under the town of al-Baida near the city of Hama in northern Syria, in the village of Tal Snan, north of the town of Salamija, where there is a big Syrian air force camp, and in the city of Sjinsjar on the Syrian border with the Lebanon, south of Homs city. Nayouf also wrote that the transfer of Iraqi WMD to Syria was organized by the commanders of Saddam Hussein's Iraqi Republican Guard, including General Shalish, with the help of Assef Shawkat, Bashar Assad's cousin. Shoakat is the CEO of Bhaha, an import/export company owned by the Assad family. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice responded to this accusation by saying "I don't think we are at the point that we can make a judgment on this issue. There hasn't been any hard evidence that such a thing happened. But obviously we're going to follow up every lead, and it would be a serious problem if that, in fact, did happen."
A similar claim was made by Lieutenant General Moshe Ya'alon, a former Israeli officer who served as chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces from July 2002 to June 2005. In April 2004, he was quoted as saying that "perhaps they transferred them to another country, such as Syria." General Ya'alon told the New York Sun more firmly in December 2005 that "He [Saddam] transferred the chemical agents from Iraq to Syria." The Fall 2005 Middle East Quarterly also reported Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as having said in a December, 2002 appearance on Israel's Channel 2, "... chemical and biological weapons which Saddam is endeavoring to conceal have been moved from Iraq to Syria."
In February 2006, Ali Ibrahim al-Tikriti, a former Iraqi general who defected shortly before the Gulf War in 1991, gave an interview to Ryan Mauro, in which he stated:
I know Saddam's weapons are in Syria due to certain military deals that were made going as far back as the late 1980s that dealt with the event that either capitals were threatened with being overrun by an enemy nation. Not to mention I have discussed this in-depth with various contacts of mine who have confirmed what I already knew. At this point Saddam knew that the United States were eventually going to come for his weapons and the United States wasn't going to just let this go like they did in the original Gulf War. He knew that he had lied for this many years and wanted to maintain legitimacy with the pan Arab nationalists. He also has wanted since he took power to embarrass the West and this was the perfect opportunity to do so. After Saddam denied he had such weapons why would he use them or leave them readily available to be found? That would only legitimize President Bush, whom he has a personal grudge against. What we are witnessing now is many who opposed the war to begin with are rallying around Saddam saying we overthrew a sovereign leader based on a lie about WMD. This is exactly what Saddam wanted and predicted.
Al-Tikriti's interview was featured prominently on conservative web sites such as FrontPageMag and WorldNetDaily, but did not receive mainstream press attention. Salon magazine editor Alex Koppelman doubts both Sada's and al-Tikriti's story, arguing that Syria's decision to side with the coalition against Iraq in 1990 would have nullified any previous military deals.
The Iraq Survey Group was told that Saddam Hussein periodically removed guards from the Syrian border and replaced them with his intelligence agents who then supervised the movement of banned materials between Syria and Iraq, according to two unnamed defense sources that spoke with The Washington Times. They reported heavy traffic in large trucks on the border before the United States invasion. Earlier, in a telephone interview with The Daily Telegraph, the former head of the Iraqi Survey Group, David Kay, said: "[W]e know from some of the interrogations of former Iraqi officials that a lot of material went to Syria before the war, including some components of Saddam's WMD program. Precisely what went to Syria, and what has happened to it, is a major issue that needs to be resolved." Satellite imagery also picked up activity on the Iraq-Syria border before and during the invasion. James R. Clapper, who headed the National Imagery and Mapping Agency in 2003, has said U.S. intelligence tracked a large number of vehicles, mostly civilian trucks, moving from Iraq into Syria. Clapper suggested the trucks may have contained materiel related to Iraq's WMD programs.
ISG formed a special working group to investigate and consider these claims. Charles Duelfer, head of inspectorate at time of publication, summarized the group's conclusion: "Based on the evidence available at present, ISG judged that it was unlikely that an official transfer of WMD material from Iraq to Syria took place. However, ISG was unable to rule out unofficial movement of limited WMD-related materials."
In April 2004, Jordanian officials announced that they had thwarted a planned chemical attack on Jordan's intelligence headquarters by Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists that could have killed 20,000 people. Acting under the orders of Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi, self-professed leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, officials said the plotters entered Jordan from Syria with trucks filled with 20 tons of explosives. Syrian officials denied the claims. U.S. officials stated there was debate within the CIA and other U.S. agencies about whether the intent was to create a chemical weapon or conventional explosive bomb: a large quantity of sulfuric acid was seized, which can be used as a blister agent, but is more commonly used to increase the size of conventional explosions. Former Iraqi National Security Advisor Georges Sada claimed that the chemicals seized by the Jordanian authorities were smuggled out of the Iraq to Syria before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, and that the Syrian government had given the chemical weapons to Al-Qaeda, however the Syrian government was strongly anti-Islamist, having previously defeated the Muslim Brotherhood of Syria in the Islamic uprising in Syria, and in the Syrian civil war Islamists (including al-Qaeda in Iraq) fought against the Syrian government.
In February 2006, a Jordanian military court sentenced nine men, including Iraq's al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, to death for plotting the attack. Lawyers for the men had argued that confessions had been obtained during two weeks of torture. Zarqawi admitted his group was behind the plot, but denied that chemical weapons were to be used. Two men were jailed for up to 3 years, and two men were acquitted.
American Internet newspaper World Tribune reported in August 2003 that Iraq's WMD may have been moved to Lebanon's heavily fortified Bekaa Valley. According to the story, United States intelligence identified "a stream of tractor-trailer trucks" moving from Iraq through Syria to Lebanon in the weeks before invasion. WorldNetDaily followed up the same story in May 2004 adding affirmatively "much, if not all, of Iraq's biological and chemical weapons assets are being protected by Syria, with Iranian help, in the Bekaa Valley."
Former United States Deputy Undersecretary of Defense John A. Shaw also alleged that the Russians played an extensive role in transporting materials into both Syria and Lebanon, "to prevent the United States from discovering them." Shaw claimed trucks were transporting materials to Syria and returning empty. In addition, containers with warnings painted on them were moved to a Beirut hospital basement. "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". The People's Republic of China is also alleged to have helped remove WMD equipment. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Lawrence Di Rita called Shaw's charges "absurd and without any foundation." DiRita noted that Shaw "has been directed on several occasions to produce evidence of his wide-ranging and fantastic charges and provide it to the DoD inspector general. To my knowledge, he has not done so." In reply to official denials, Shaw claimed that the Bush administration had made efforts to cover up the intelligence data that he had revealed. "Larry DiRita made sure that this story would never grow legs," he said, insisting the Russian "clean-up" operation "was a masterpiece of military camouflage and deception." Former Russian Foreign Intelligence director Evgeny Primakov rejected the story, telling Kommersant that "all of Shaw's sensational revelations are complete nonsense."
In addition to Syria and Lebanon, former deputy commander of U.S. Central Command Lt. General Michael DeLong claimed that some weapons of mass destruction were transported to Iran. Speaking to WABC Radio, he remarked: "I do know for a fact that some of those weapons went into Syria, Lebanon and Iran. ... We also know that before then, they buried some of the weapons of mass destruction".
John Loftus also saw information that led him to believe Iran had acquired illicit material. In a story on Dave Gaubatz, The Daily Mail's Melanie Phillips quoted Loftus as saying "Saddam had the last laugh and donated his secret stockpile to benefit Iran's nuclear weapons programme." Phillips followed up her report by reproducing a letter from John Loftus calling for a congressional investigation of John Negroponte, whom he accused of concealing the information. Salon magazine columnist Glenn Greenwald accused Philips of promoting a moronic and deranged conspiracy theory.
Former head of the Indian counter-terrorism division and member of the National Security Advisory Board, B Raman, suggests A.Q. Khan may have assisted in shifting Iraq's WMD to Pakistan. Writing for the South Asia Analysis Group, he cites unnamed Pakistani sources claiming Khan agreed to aid Iraqi intelligence officials "who sought his help" in having some prohibited material airlifted from Syria to Pakistan to prevent it "falling into the hands of the UN inspectors." According to Raman, Pervez Musharraf has been working hard "to see that this is not played up in the Pakistani media."
Appearing on MSNBC's Hardball in June 2004, Paul Wolfowitz insisted the weapons picture was without change, since Iraq "had a lot of time to move stuff, a lot of time to hide stuff." Three weeks later, Lord Butler of Brockwell said upon conclusion of the Butler Review, "Iraq is a very big place, there is a lot of sand. ... It is impractical to dig up the whole of Iraq, but for somebody to say 'we are absolutely certain that there is nothing there' would be a very rash and unfounded thing to say, in our judgment."
Former Pentagon investigator Dave Gaubatz alleges he found hidden WMD sites in 2003, but that his reports were ignored and then destroyed as part of a cover-up by the CIA, Department of Defense, and Bush administration. This allowed a group of Russians, Iraqis and Syrians to dig up the WMDs and move them to Syria. This idea was dismissed by Wired, and Salon, who pointed out that it required President Bush, military leaders, and Senate Democrats to have all colluded in a massive conspiracy theory. The final report of the Iraq Survey Group, by Charles A. Duelfer, special adviser on Iraqi weapons to the C.I.A., concluded that any stockpiles had been destroyed long before the war and that transfers to Syria were "unlikely."
Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists planned a chemical attack on Jordan's spy headquarters that could have killed 20,000 people, officials have said.
Jordanian officials have said the plotters entered the country from neighboring Syria in at least three vehicles filled with explosives, detonators and raw material to be used in bomb-making. Syria has denied the claims. In the videotape, however, the militants said they acquired the vehicles in Jordan.
U.S. intelligence officials expressed caution about whether the chemicals captured by Jordanian authorities were intended to create a "toxic cloud" chemical weapon, but they said the large quantities involved were at a minimum intended to create "massive explosions." Officials said there is debate within the CIA and other U.S. agencies over whether the plotters were planning to kill innocent people using toxic chemicals. At issue is the presence of a large quantity of sulfuric acid among the tons of chemicals seized by Jordanian authorities. Sulfuric acid can be used as a blister agent, but it more commonly can increase the size of conventional explosions, according to U.S. officials.
The defence argued that the men were caught with only a relatively small quantity of battery acid, not the ingredients for a massive chemical bomb. They said that Jayousi was tortured in prison for two weeks in order to produce a confession.
Dave Gaubatz, however, says you could not be more wrong. Saddam’s WMD did exist. He should know, because he found the sites where he is certain they were stored. And the reason you don’t know about this is that the American administration failed to act on his information, ‘lost’ his classified reports and is now doing everything it can to prevent disclosure of the terrible fact that, through its own incompetence, it allowed Saddam’s WMD to end up in the hands of the very terrorist states against whom it is so controversially at war.
when they tried to access his classified intelligence reports they were told that all 60 of them —which, in the routine way, he had sent in 2003 to the computer clearing-house at a US air base in Saudi Arabia —had mysteriously gone missing. These written reports had never even been seen by the ISG. One theory is that they were inadvertently destroyed when the computer’s data base was accidentally erased in the subsequent US evacuation of the air base. Mr Gaubatz, however, suspects dirty work at the crossroads. It is unlikely, he says, that no copies were made of his intelligence. And he says that all attempts by Messrs Hoekstra and Weldon to extract information from the Defence Department and CIA have been relentlessly stonewalled.
But the leading Right-wing bloggers and other neoconservatives are actually receptive to — or are even actively promoting — the theory that everyone from the President to military leaders to Senate Democrats have all engineered a massive conspiracy to cover-up the fact that we really did find vast stockpiles of Saddam’s WMDs in Iraq, that they were stolen by the Terrorists and Syria, that it’s all part of a plot involving large numbers of nations and groups to destroy the West, and now everyone is hiding this because they are embarrassed that they allowed it to happen.
The final report of the group, by Charles A. Duelfer, special adviser on Iraqi weapons to the C.I.A., concluded that any stockpiles had been destroyed long before the war and that transfers to Syria were "unlikely."