Good reporting work from Bill Safire in today’s NYT.
A shipment of 20 tons of HTPB [a binding agent for solid-fuel missile engines], whose sale to Iraq is forbidden by U.N. resolutions and the oil-for-food agreement, left China in August 2002 in a 40-foot container. It arrived in the Syrian port of Tartus (fortified by the Knights Templar in 1183, and the Mediterranean terminus for an Iraqi oil pipeline today) and was received there by a trading company that was an intermediary for the Iraqi missile industry, the end user. The HTPB was then trucked across Syria to Iraq.
Syria has no sophisticated missile-building program. What rocket weaponry it has comes off the shelf (and usually on credit) from Russia, so it therefore has no use for HTPB. But cash-starved Syria is the conduit for missile supplies to cash-flush Saddam, as this shipment demonstrates. We will have to wait until after the war to find out how much other weaponry, for what huge fees, Saddam has stored in currently un-inspectable Syrian warehouses.
The French connection