SSBG

A worldview is a set of claims that purport to be based on ultimate reality.

Why did the CIA change its view of the relationship between Sudan and Saddam’s Iraq?

Posted by ssbg on January 5, 2006

From: http://www.weeklystandard.com            0Sudan-Genocide.jpg

An Evolving Assessment
Why did the CIA change its view of the relationship between Sudan and Saddam’s Iraq?
by Stephen F. Hayes & Thomas Joscelyn  

AMONG THE MANY unresolved issues of the former Iraqi regime’s support for terrorism, few are more potentially important than the activities throughout the mid to late 1990s of Iraqi military officials and chemical weapons specialists in Sudan. 

The Clinton Administration, along with a host of Sudanese opposition groups and nonproliferation experts, alleged that Iraqi chemical weapons experts were advising Sudanese military and intelligence officials on the development and production of chemical weapons. This is significant for two reasons, one obvious and one less obvious. First, any Iraqi activity on chemical weapons development inside or outside of Iraq would have constituted a serious violation of U.N. resolutions. Second, throughout much of the 1990s, the Sudanese Military Industrial Corporation (MIC) and Sudanese intelligence were virtually inseparable from al Qaeda. If the Iraqis were providing WMD technology to these elements of the corrupt Sudanese regime–led by Hasan al Turabi, who was openly sympathetic to Osama bin Laden–they were effectively providing it to al Qaeda. Even the most determined skeptics of an Iraq-al Qaeda connection concede this point.

So what, exactly, were these Iraqis doing in Sudan? For clues, we turn to unclassified reports from the CIA on WMD proliferation from 1998-2003.

1998: “Sudan has been developing the capability to produce chemical weapons for many years. In this pursuit, Sudan obtained help from other countries, principally Iraq. Given its history in developing CW and its close relationship with Iraq, Sudan may be interested in a BW program as well.”
(Document released by the CIA in conjunction with a FOIA request; not available on the Internet.)

1999: “In the WMD arena, Sudan has been developing the capability to produce chemical weapons for many years. In this pursuit, it has obtained help from entities in other countries, principally Iraq. Given its history in developing CW and its close relationship with Iraq, Sudan may be interested in a BW program as well.” (Available here.)

2000: “In the WMD arena, Sudan has been developing the capability to produce chemical weapons for many years. In this pursuit, it has obtained help from entities in other countries, principally Iraq. Given its history in developing chemical weapons and its close relationship with Iraq, Sudan may be interested in a BW program as well.” (Available here.)

2001: “Sudan, a party to the CWC, has been developing the capability to produce chemical weapons for many years. It historically has obtained help from foreign entities, principally in Iraq. Sudan may be interested in a BW program as well.” (Available here.)

2002: “Chemical and Biological. Sudan has aspired to develop a chemical warfare capability since the 1980s and probably received technical assistance from Iraq. Allegations of CW activities in Sudan were not confirmed. Sudan is a party to the CWC, but has only declared the possession of riot control agents. Sudan may be interested in a BW program as well.” (Available here.)

2003: “Chemical and Biological. Although Sudan has aspired to a CW program, the US is working with Sudan to reconcile concerns about its past attempts to seek capabilities from abroad.” (Available here.)

The language evolves over the six-year period. In 1998, the CIA stated categorically that Sudan had received assistance on chemical weapons from Iraq. The agency repeated the claim in 1999, citing the “close relationship” between Baghdad and Khartoum. In 2000, the language was almost exactly the same. In 2001, however, the CIA reporting seems to allow for the possibility that the Sudanese worked on chemical weapons with others, but that these entities were “principally in Iraq.” By 2002, the agency was hedging, saying only that the Sudanese “probably received technical assistance from Iraq” and noting that “allegations of CW activities in Sudan were not confirmed.” And in 2003, Iraq had disappeared altogether from unclassified CIA assessments.

What accounts for these changes? Remember, the Clinton Administration repeatedly cited Iraqi assistance on chemical weapons in Sudan to justify the U.S. strikes on the al Shifa pharmaceutical plant on August 20, 1998. Although the targeting of al Shifa touched off a heated debate inside the intelligence community (and in the world press), Clinton Administration officials and senior intelligence officials continued to stand by their claims of Iraqi WMD activity in Sudan. Unnamed intelligence officials spoke of telephone intercepts between senior Iraqi chemical weapons officials and executives at suspected sites in Sudan. This continued through last year, when William Cohen, secretary of defense under Bill Clinton, testified to the 9/11 Commission that he had seen intelligence that included reports that senior al Shifa officials “traveled to Baghdad to meet with the father of the VX program” in Iraq. In an interview with The Weekly Standard last year, John Gannon, the former chairman of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council, stood by the reporting on Iraq and Sudan. “The consistent stream of intelligence at that time said it wasn’t just al Shifa. There were three different [chemical weapons] structures in the Sudan. There was the hiring of Iraqis. There was no question that the Iraqis were there.” Although the Bush Administration has said virtually nothing in public on these issues, several senior officials tell The Weekly Standard that they have seen no reason to question the reporting on Iraqi activity in Sudan.

So, what is the truth about Iraqi WMD activity in Sudan?

It is interesting to note that the reports were prepared by the CIA’s Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control Center, the notoriously politicized CIA office that sent Joe Wilson to Niger “on its own initiative” after his wife recommended him for the job. The significant language changes come in 2002, as the Bush Administration was preparing to make its case for war in Iraq, and in 2003, as that war was being fought.

Does the CIA now have reasons to doubt its earlier reporting? It is certainly possible and perhaps even likely that new reporting–not politics–explains the fact that the stronger language came as the Clinton Administration warned of the Iraqi threat and the weaker language came as the Bush Administration sought to eliminate it. But it would be helpful to know more.

Declassifying the original reports–ever mindful of sources and methods–would go a long way to answering these questions.

Stephen F. Hayes is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard and author of The Connection (HarperCollins). Thomas Joscelyn is an economist and writer living in New York.

 

© Copyright 2005, News Corporation, Weekly Standard, All Rights Reserved.
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