In a stunning about-face, the New York Times reported Sunday that when the U.S. attacked Iraq in March 2003, Saddam Hussein possessed "stockpiles of monitored chemicals and materials," as well as sophisticated equipment to manufacture nuclear and biological weapons, which was removed to "a neighboring state" before the U.S. could secure the weapons sites.
The U.N.'s Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission [UNMOVIC] "has filed regular reports to the Security Council since last May," the paper said, "about the dismantlement of important weapons installations and the export of dangerous materials to foreign states."
"Officials of the commission and the [International] Atomic Energy Agency have repeatedly called on the Iraqi government to report on what it knows of the fate of the thousands of pieces of monitored equipment and stockpiles of monitored chemicals and materials."
Last fall, IAEA director Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei confirmed that "nuclear-related materials" had gone missing from monitored sites, calling on Iraqi officials to start the process of accounting for the missing stockpiles still ostensibly under the agency's supervision.
Quoting Sami al-Araji, Iraq's deputy minister of industry since the 1980s, the Times said: "It appeared that a highly organized operation had pinpointed specific plants in search of valuable equipment, some of which could be used for both military and civilian applications, and carted the machinery away."
Calling the operation "sophisticated," Dr. Araji said the removal effort featured "cranes and the lorries, and they depleted the whole sites," adding, "They knew what they were doing."
The top Iraqi defense official said equipment capable of making parts for missiles as well as chemical, biological and nuclear arms was missing from 8 or 10 sites that were the heart of Iraq's WMD program.
Dr. Araji said that if the equipment had left the country, its most likely destination was a neighboring state.
The United Nations, worried that the nuclear material and equipment could be used in clandestine bomb production, has been hunting for it throughout the Middle East, largely unsuccessfully, the Times said.
If the United Nations has been hunting for the weapons all this time, then the UN Reps lied during the recent American Presidential campaign when they denied that there were any WMDs in Iraq.