Reprinted from
Ex-Official:Russia Moved Saddam's WMDs

Kenneth R. Timmerman

Sunday, Feb. 19,2006

 A top Pentagon official who was responsible for tracking SaddamHussein's weapons programs before and after the 2003 liberation ofIraq, has provided the first-ever account of how Saddam Hussein"cleaned up" his weapons of mass destruction stockpiles to preventthe United States from discovering them.

 "The short answer to the question of where the WMDs Saddambought from the Russians went was that they went to Syria andLebanon," former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense John. A. Shaw toldan audience Saturday at a privately sponsored "Intelligence Summit"in Alexandria, Va. (

 "They were moved by Russian Spetsnaz (special forces) units outof uniform, that were specifically sent to Iraq to move the weaponryand eradicate any evidence of its existence," he said.

 Shaw has dealt with weapons-related issues and export controlsas a U.S. government official for 30 years, and was serving as deputyundersecretary of defense for international technology security whenthe events he described today occurred.

 He called the evacuation of Saddam's WMD stockpiles "awell-orchestrated campaign using two neighboring client states withwhich the Russian leadership had a long time securityrelationship."

 Shaw was initially tapped to make an inventory of Saddam'sconventional weapons stockpiles, based on intelligence estimates ofarms deals he had concluded with the former Soviet Union, China andFrance.

 He estimated that Saddam had amassed 100 million tons ofmunitions –- roughly 60 percent of the entire U.S. arsenal."The origins of these weapons were Rusisan, Chinese and French indeclining order of magnitude, with the Russians holding the lion'sshare and the Chinese just edging out the French for secondplace."

 But as Shaw's office increasingly got involved in ongoingintelligence to identify Iraqi weapons programs before the war, healso got "a flow of information from British contacts on the groundat the Syrian border and from London" via non-U.S. governmentcontacts.

 "The intelligence included multiple sitings of truck convoys,convoys going north to the Syrian border and returning empty," hesaid.

 Shaw worked closely with Julian Walker, a former Britishambassador who had decades of experience in Iraq, and an unnamedUkranian-American who was directly plugged in to the head ofUkraine's intelligence service.

 The Ukrainians were eager to provide the United States withdocuments from their own archives on Soviet arms transfers to Iraqand on ongoing Russian assistance to Saddam, to thank America for itshelp in securing Ukraine's independence from the Soviet Union, Shawsaid.

 In addition to the convoys heading to Syria, Shaw said hiscontacts "provided information about steel drums with paintedwarnings that had been moved to a cellar of a hospital inBeirut."

 But when Shaw passed on his information to the DefenseIntelligence Agency and others within the U.S. intelligencecommunity, he was stunned by their response.

 "My report on the convoys was brushed off as ‘Israelidisinformation,'" he said.

 One month later, Shaw learned that the DIA general counselcomplained to his own superiors that Shaw had eaten from the DIA"rice bowl." It was a Washington euphemism that meant he had commitedthe unpardonable sin of violating another agency's turf.

 The CIA responded in even more diabolical fashion. "Theytrashed one of my Brits and tried to declare him persona non grata tothe intelligence community," Shaw said. "We got constant indicatorsthat Langley was aggressively trying to discredit both my UkranianAmerican and me in Kiev," in addition to his other sources.

 But Shaw's information had not originated from a casualcontact. His Ukranian-American aid was a personal friend of DavidNicholas, a Western ambassador in Kiev, and of Igor Smesko, head ofUkrainian intelligence.

 Smesko had been a military attaché in Washington in theearly 1990s when Ukraine first became independent and Dick Cheney wassecretary of defense. "Smesko had told Cheney that when Ukrainebecame free of Russia he wanted to show his friendship for the UnitedStates."

 Helping out on Iraq provided him with that occasion.

 "Smesko had gotten to know Gen. James Clapper, now director ofthe Geospacial Intelligence Agency, but then head of DIA," Shawsaid.

 But it was Shaw's own friendship to the head of Britain's MI6that brought it all together during a two-day meeting in London thatincluded Smeshko's people, the MI6 contingent, and Clapper, who hadbeen deputized by George Tenet to help work the issue of whathappened to Iraq's WMD stockpiles.

 In the end, here is what Shaw learned:

 In December 2002, former Russian intelligence chief YevgeniPrimakov, a KGB general with long-standing ties to Saddam, came toIraq and stayed until just before the U.S.-led invasion in March2003;

 Primakov supervised the execution of long-standing secretagreements, signed between Iraqi intelligence and the Russian GRU(military intelligence), that provided for clean-up operations to beconducted by Russian and Iraqi military personnel to remove WMDs,production materials and technical documentation from Iraq, so theregime could announce that Iraq was "WMD free."

 Shaw said that this type GRU operation, known as "Sarandar," or"emergency exit," has long been familiar to U.S. intelligenceofficials from Soviet-bloc defectors as standard GRU practice;

 In addition to the truck convoys, which carried Iraqi WMD toSyria and Lebanon in February and March 2003 "two Russian ships setsail from the (Iraqi) port of Umm Qasr headed for the Indian Ocean,"where Shaw believes they "deep-sixed" additional stockpiles of IraqiWMD from flooded bunkers in southern Iraq that were later discoveredby U.S. military intelligence personnel;

 The Russian "clean-up" operation was entrusted to a combinationof GRU and Spetsnaz troops and Russian military and civilianpersonnel in Iraq "under the command of two experienced ex-Sovietgenerals, Colonel-General Vladislav Achatov and Colonel-General IgorMaltsev, both retired and psing as civilian commercialconsultants."

 Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz reported on Oct. 30, 2004,that Achatov and Maltsev had been photographed receiving medals fromIraqi Defense Minister Sultan Hashim Ahmed in a Baghdad buildingbombed by U.S. cruise missiles during the first U.S. air raids inearly March 2003.

 Shaw says he leaked the information about the two Russiangenerals and the clean-up operation to Gertz in October 2004 in aneffort to "push back" against claims by Democrats that wereorchestrated with CBS News to embarrass President Bush just one weekbefore the November 2004 presidential election. The press sprangbogus claims that 377 tons of high explosives of use to Iraq'snuclear weapons program had "gone missing" after the U.S.-ledliberation of Iraq, while ignoring intelligence of theRussian-orchestrated evacuation of Iraqi WMDs;

 The two Russian generals "had visited Baghdad no fewer than 20times in the preceding five to six years," Shaw revealed. U.S.intelligence knew "the identity and strength of the various Spetsnazunits, their dates of entry and exit in Iraq, and the fact that theeffort (to clean up Iraq's WMD stockpiles) with a planning conferencein Baku from which they flew to Baghdad."

 The Baku conference, chaired by Russian Minister of EmergencySituations Sergei Shoigu, "laid out the plans for the Sarandarclean-up effort so that Shoigu could leave after the keynote speechfor Baghdad to orchestrate the planning for the disposal of theWMD."

 Subsequent intelligence reports showed that Russian Spetsnazoperatives "were now changing to civilian clothes from military/GRUgarb," Shaw said. "The Russian denial of my revelations in lateOctober 2004 included the statement that "only Russian civiliansremained in Baghdad." That was the "only true statement" the Russiansmade, Shaw ironized.

 The evacuation of Saddam's WMD to Syria and Lebanon "was anentirely controlled Russian GRU operation," Shaw said. "It was thebrainchild of General Yevgenuy Primakov."

 The goal of the clean-up was "to erase all trace of Russianinvolvement" in Saddam's WMD programs, and "was a masterpiece ofmilitary camouflage and deception."

 Just as astonishing as the Russian clean-up operation wereefforts by Bush administration appointees, including DefenseDepartment spokesman Laurence DiRita, to smear Shaw and to cover upthe intelligence information he brought to light.

 "Larry DiRita made sure that this story would never grow legs,"Shaw said. "He whispered sotto voce to journalists that there was nosubstance to my information and that it was the product of anunbalanced mind."

 Shaw suggested that the answer of why the Bush administrationhad systematically "ignored Russia's involvement" in evacuatingSaddam's WMD stockpiles "could be much bigger than anyone hasthought," 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 nuclearprograms," he told NewsMax, "the administration needed the Russians,the Chinese and the French, and was not interested in informationthat would make them look bad."

 McInerney agreed that there was "clear evidence" that Saddamhad WMD. "Jack Shaw showed when it left Iraq, and how."

 Former Undersecretary of Defense Richard Perle, a strongsupporter of the war against Saddam, blasted the CIA fororchestrating a smear campaign against the Bush White House and thewar in Iraq.

 "The CIA has been at war with the Bush administration almostfrom the beginning," he said in a keynote speech at the IntelligenceSummit on Saturday.

 He singled out recent comments by Paul Pillar, a former top CIAMiddle 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 makehis views known, if that is indeed what he believed," Perle said.

 "He (Pillar) briefed senior policy officials before the startof the Iraq war in 2003. If he had had reservations about the war, hecould have voiced them at that time." But according to officialsbriefed by Pillar, Perle said, he never did.

 Even more inexplicable, Perle said, were the millions ofdocuments "that remain untranslated" among those seized from SaddamHussein's intelligence services.

 "I think the intelligence community does not want them to beexploited," he said.

 Among those documents, presented Saturday at the conference byformer FBI translator Bill Tierney, were transcripts of Saddam'spalace conversations with top aides in which he discussed ongoingnuclear weapons plans in 2000, well after the U.N. arms inspectorsbelieved he had ceased all nuclear weapons work.

 "What was most disturbing in those tapes," Tierney said, "wasthe fact that the individuals briefing Saddam were totally unknown tothe U.N. Special Commission."

 In addition, Tierney said, the plasma uranium programs Saddamdiscussed with his aids as ongoing operations in 2000 had beendismissed as "old programs" disbanded years earlier, according to thefinal CIA report on Iraq's weapons programs, presented in 2004 by theIraq Survey Group.

 "When I first heard those tapes" about the uranium plasmaprogram, "it completely floored me," Tierney said.

Copyright2006, Kenneth R. Timmerman