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April 13, 2003

STILL MORE SUPPORT FOR THE DEN BESTE THEORY:

The french government insists that it has strictly enforced a tight embargo imposed on Saddam Hussein’s regime by the United Nations in 1990. But Saddam never lost his taste for French weapons or luxury goods. And evidence found by U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq suggests that—despite U.N. sanctions—the dictator continued to receive an abundant supply of both until very recently. . . .

U.S. forces discovered 51 Roland-2 missiles, made by a partnership of French and German arms manufacturers, in two military compounds at Baghdad International Airport. One of the missiles he examined was labeled 05-11 KND 2002, which he took to mean that the missile was manufactured last year. The charred remains of a more modern Roland-3 launcher was found just down the road from the arms cache. According to a mortar specialist with the same unit, radios used by many Iraqi military trucks brandished MADE IN FRANCE labels and looked brand new. RPG night sights stamped with the number 2002 and French labels also turned up.

The French? Violating United Nations sanctions? Why it's almost as if the United Nations were merely a joke or something.

UPDATE: Here's more from The New York Times:

The data reveals that firms in Germany and France outstripped all others in selling the most important thing — specialized chemical-industry equipment that is particularly useful for producing poison gas. Without this equipment, none of the other imports would have been of much use.

And click the link on the right to see an interesting graphic about where this stuff came from. This, bear in mind, is what is publicly known. I suspect that there's a lot more that we'll find out, and that it's one of the things France and Germany were hoping to keep quiet.

UPDATE: Here's more from the San Francisco Chronicle:

Baghdad -- A Moscow-based organization was training Iraqi intelligence agents as recently as last September -- at the same time Russia was resisting the Bush administration's push for a tough stand against Saddam Hussein's regime, Iraqi documents discovered by The Chronicle show.

The documents found Thursday and Friday in a Baghdad office of the Mukhabarat, the Iraqi secret police, indicate that at least five agents graduated Sept. 15 from a two-week course in surveillance and eavesdropping techniques, according to certificates issued to the Iraqi agents by the "Special Training Center" in Moscow.

The Russian government, which has expressed intense disagreement with the U. S.-led war on Iraq, has repeatedly denied giving any military or security assistance to the Hussein regime. Any such aid would violate U.N. sanctions that have severely limited trade, military and other relations with Iraq since 1991.

So much for the "let sanctions work" argument, I guess. Here's more:

In late March, the Moscow newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported that Russian intelligence agents were holding daily meetings with Iraqis, possibly with the intent of gaining control of the Mukhabarat archives if Saddam Hussein's regime fell.

The newspaper said the archives could be highly valuable to Russia in three major areas: in protecting Russian interests in a postwar Iraq; in determining the extent to which Hussein's regime may have financed Russian political parties and movements; and in providing Russia access to intelligence that Iraqi agents conducted in other countries.

The close relationship between the two countries is largely economic. Iraq and Russia are major trading partners, and Russia has billions of dollars tied up in deals with Iraqi businesses -- including debts Iraq has owed to the Russians since the Soviet era.

I wouldn't count on collecting, if I were the Russians. (Via The Command Post).

Perry DeHavilland, meanwhile, observes that:

What is a surprise is that Vladimir Putin has shown that not only is the Russian state still the enemy, its leaders are not nearly as smart as I had given them credit for, given they have been caught having given active support to the Ba'athists even to the extent of acting as an employment agency for assassins on their behalf.

To have squandered such a large pool of political capital and good will by continuously passing intelligence and weapons to the Iraqis right up to the start of the war is utter madness. Did the Russians think any outcome was possible in the long run other than an Allied victory over the Ba'athist regime? And surely once that fact is grasped, how could they think that news of their treachery would not eventually come to light?

What possible benefit could the Russian state gain from this move? Is this going to make honouring Russian contracts with the fallen Ba'athist regime more likely or less likely in US dominated post-war Iraq? Were they hoping Putin's good buddy Tony Blair would pressure the Americans into a softer line regarding Russian economic interests in Iraq? If so, I wonder how Blair feels about his private diplomatic conversations being relayed to the Iraqis by the Russian intelligence services.

It is a terrible thing to live in a world filled with enemies, but if Vladimir Putin, Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussain are the measure of our foes then at least we can comfort ourselves that we are facing opponents who are not just weak, they are self-deluded and quite frankly stupid.

For the stupidity of our enemies, we must always be grateful. I suspect, however, that Putin was being badly advised on the likely outcome of the war by these incompetent Russian generals who thought that the United States couldn't win, except perhaps by carpet-bombing. Of course, that just makes Putin foolish for listening to them, when he should have known better.

DeHavilland has more comments here. And Jeff Jarvis is unimpressed with the Germans.

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