I certainly hope Obama doesn’t invade Iraq in search of Saddam’s old WMDs, which he originally shipped to Syria. That would be too ironic.
Syria has moved 20 trucks worth of equipment and material used for the manufacturing of chemical weapons into neighboring Iraq, the Lebanese daily Al-Mustaqbal reported on Sunday.
The government in Baghdad has denied allegations that it is helping the Syrian government conceal chemical stockpiles.
The newspaper reported that the trucks crossed the boundary separating Syria with Iraq over the course of Thursday and Friday. Border guards did not inspect the contents of the trucks, which raises suspicions that they contained illicit cargo, according to Al-Mustaqbal.
Last week, the head of the Free Syrian Army told CNN that opposition intelligence indicated Assad was moving chemical arms out of the country.
“Today, we have information that the regime began to move chemical materials and chemical weapons to Lebanon and to Iraq,” General Salim Idriss told CNN.
“We have told our friends that the regime has begun moving a part of its chemical weapons arsenal to Lebanon and Iraq. We told them do not be fooled,” Idris told reporters in Istanbul.
Al-Mustaqbal is the paper of the Cedar Revolution. So it’s against the Syrian occupation and Hezbollah. But it’s not sectarian in the same sense and it does have some credibility. More than the FSA’s Idris does.
Iraq is denying it of course.
Iraq categorically denied that chemical weapons had crossed into its territory, with an adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki speculating “there is a political agency behind this claim.”
“We were the victims of chemical weapons under Saddam’s regime,” said the adviser, Ali al-Moussawi. “And we will never allow to let any country to transfer chemical materials to our lands at all.”
Saddam could stow his WMDs in Syria based on their mutual Baath Party ties. Today both countries have Shiite governments friendly to Iran.
Still it’s not too clear that Iraq would take this big of a risk for Iran or Syria. Iraq has allowed, secretly, weapons transfers to take place, but those were conventional ones. Iraq today doesn’t need WMDs the way that Saddam did. It has no ambition to conquer Kuwait or win the leadership of the Arab World by attacking Israel. It needs American money more.
Several senior Israeli officials told CNN’s Elise Labott that they have not seen movements into Lebanon or Iraq, and that they did not believe it made sense for the Syrians to be moving weapons so soon.
Without a name attached to that it doesn’t mean much and Israel’s eyes down there might be limited, but I would still put better odds on Israeli intelligence than a Hariri paper and the FSA. Especially since these days Hariri sounds like he’s reading from FSA talking points.
But Iraq does remain a somewhat plausible destination. Lebanon is obvious, and the Israelis are keeping an eye on it. And Lebanese politics is too unstable. Once you give things to terrorists, you can’t necessarily get them back.
Finally the whole smuggling theory may not hold up. Saddam knew that an American ground invasion is coming. Barring a ground invasion of Syria, it would be easier for Assad to hide them inside the country. Convoys crossing borders are highly visible. It’s easier to hide things inside the country.