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October 8, 2004
Scotsman: Saddam Crazy Like A Fox

The Scotsman today publishes an analysis of Saddam Hussein's use of the Oil-For-Food program and the UN system to bolster his security and his ability to re-arm his military in the face of so-called "global" sanctions. Far from keeping Saddam in his box, as critics of the war claim, the Duelfer report from the Iraq Survey Group shows how the same nations from whom Kerry craves approval happily supported Saddam's regime:

SADDAM Hussein believed that the United Nations system was so corrupt that it would protect his dictatorship from American aggression and allow him to complete quickly his quest for weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Detail from the full Iraq Survey Group report - compiled from scores of former Iraqi officials and captured intelligence documents - shows that Saddam was intending to resume his WMD programme as soon as UN sanctions were dropped.

His officials believed they could make WMD within two years - but the only flaw in their strategy was to think that Tony Blair and President George Bush would not invade Iraq without explicit UN permission.

In fact, former foreign minister and Saddam confidante Tariq Aziz asserted to Duelfer's group that the Iraqis could have built a nuclear weapon withing two years of the collapse of the sanctions regime. Dr. Mahdi Obeidi had the relevant research and prototype parts buried in his yard for that purpose, as Obeidi reveals in his book, The Bomb In My Garden. Other estimates in the ISG's report and Duelfer's testimony to Congress is that chemical WMD production could have started immediately and weapons like nerve gas could have been produced in months, mustard gas even sooner than that.

But the UN and all that diplomacy Kerry proclaimed yesterday would have stopped Saddam, right? Not quite. Saddam quickly analyzed the situation after the defection of his son-in-law in 1995 (which he would avenge shortly afterwards) and decided to burrow into the global community to destroy its will to oppose him. He selected the three countries besides the US and UK with veto power on the UN Security Council to ensnare them with boundless oil profits to ensure that they supported his regime:

Given that only 15 of Iraqs 73 proven oilfields were being developed, Saddams officials started to offer lucrative deals to Russian and French oil companies, while personally targeting politicians considered corrupt.

Jacques Chirac, the president of France, was top of the list. Some 11 million oil-for-food vouchers were allocated to a businessmen named Patrick Maugein, who was "considered a conduit to Chirac", according to the report. It also claims that Saddams officials paid the equivalent of 600,000 to the ruling French Socialist Party - and that Baghdads then ambassador to Paris handed the money to Pierre Joxe, the then French defence minister.

Russia, another of the five countries with the power to veto war under the UN system, was heavily courted. Saddams officials dealt directly with the oil companies, who he deduced were quickly assuming political power.

"Iraqi attempts to use oil gifts to influence Russian policy-makers were on a lavish and almost indiscriminate scale," it says. He targeted a "new oligarch class" and also bribed Lukoil, the oil giant, with oil-for-food vouchers worth $10 million.

Peter Rodinov, Russias energy minister, went to Baghdad in 1997 to discuss a $12 billion oil deal. Two years later, Russian experts travelled to Iraq to provide advice on missile-guidance systems.

Oddly, Saddam apparently never connected with Putin or any of his close political associates, but he guessed correctly at the time that the Russian oil barons would wield considerable influence. Those missile-guidance systems, by the way, made perfect sense for a country that was subject to hostile overflights on a daily basis -- as the US and UK enforced the no-fly zone designed to protect the Kurds in the north and the Shi'a in the south. They also violated the sanctions that supposedly kept Saddam in his box. Nor were they the only weapons assistance Saddam got from a UNSC permanent member:

China, which also holds a UN veto, featured heavily in Iraqi contracts. Its companies supplied rocket guidance electronics to Iraq, "disguised as childrens computer software".

That's quite an effective cover story for a nation whose children were starving to death, while Saddam converted the oil profits from UNSCAM to these weapons systems.

And what did Saddam think about the risks of such brinksmanship?

Saddam argued that WMD was the cornerstone of his national security policy - shoring up his own authority among would-be insurgents - and dissuading Iran from making common cause with the Shiites in southern Iraq. Primarily, he "believed that possession and willingness to use WMD contributed substantially to deterring the United States from going to Baghdad" after the first Gulf War.

It was for this reason that Saddam considered it so important to have the world believe that he still owned the weapons, even if he did not. The ISG report says this was kept a secret from his own army. ...

Saddam, the report says, considered that the Desert Fox bombings of February 1998 would be the "worst he could expect from Western military pressure", because the UN system would stop the US carrying out any other action.

Of course that's what Saddam believed, because firing a few missiles at aspirin factories and an odd assortment of camels' butts had been the sum-total of our response to direct attacks, let alone Saddam's continual violation of the terms of the cease-fire and even attacks on our aircraft in the no-fly zone. America had never shown the will to break free of the shackles imposed by the corrupt permanent members of the UN Security Council until 2003, and it wasn't just Saddam who thought he could defy the US with impunity as a result. Other people, like Osama bin Laden, had reached the same conclusion in the 1990s and had begun to attack American interests around the globe, culminating in the 9/11 attacks.

Read the entire analysis. Unfortunately, the American media has focused so closely on the no-WMD angle that they have completely ignored the rest of the Duelfer report. Once again, they have abdicated their responsibility to report the news to their cross-Atlantic brethren.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 8, 2004 4:25 AM

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