By Alan W. Dowd
Now It All Makes Sense
In his new book Treachery, national security author and columnist Bill Gertz unearths a sad and sobering list of activity on the part of French officials and French firms to prop up Saddam Hussein, including the transfer of UN-prohibited arms on the eve of war.
Gertz found that by 2000, France had become Iraq’s largest arms supplier, allowing spare parts for attack helicopters, missilery and fighter jets to slide Saddam’s way in what Gertz calls a “gray arms market.” French firms also brokered deals with China that provided Saddam with chemicals needed for rockets. Since the French government “tightly controls its aerospace and defense firms,” Gertz observes, “it would be difficult to believe that the illegal transfers of equipment parts took place without the knowledge of at least some government officials.” By 2003, Saddam had run up a tab with Paris of $4 billion for weaponry and non-military projects.
Some of that weaponry has been used against Coalition forces: It was a French-made missile that downed a U.S. A-10 in April 2003; it was a pod of French missiles that pelted the hotel where Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was staying in October 2003; and it is French grenade launchers and night-vision equipment that Saddam’s leftovers have been using to wage their guerilla war.
Gertz also notes that U.S. forces have discovered piles of blank French passports, which Iraqi officials used to flee the crime scene they created. France may not be an enemy in this strange conflict known as the War on Terror, but its behavior before, during and after the Iraq war should put to rest the notion that it is a friend.
In a reverse image of what happened in Iraq, where it appears some of Saddam Hussein’s top scientists pretended to be developing WMDs, South Korea concedes that a group of scientists was experimenting with nuclear-weapons technology while pretending not to do so.
The revelations and admissions from South Korea are the latest example of the next generation of WMD threats—what Jane’s Defense Weekly calls “rogue scientists.” Other cases include Abdul Q. Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Khan, who sold nuclear blueprints to Libya, Iran and North Korea, is considered a hero in his homeland.
JDW notes that Seoul is asking the world to believe that the experiments were conducted without government approval, which is actually more disturbing than the prospect that the government was behind them. One would expect stiff internal controls from a modern, Westernized, industrialized and friendly government like South Korea. But according to JDW, “The very nature of WMD work is often so secretive that even some government agencies may be genuinely unaware” of them.
In the wake of the horrific attack on a school in Beslan, Russia, which killed some 330 people, the government of Vladimir Putin has signed a far-reaching counter-terrorism pact with a country that knows the scourge of terror far too well—Israel.
For decades, the two countries have been estranged by religious and ideological differences, the Cold War, and Moscow’s Arabist leanings. The Jerusalem Post, for example, found that “in the last 21 UN votes relating to Israel, Russia voted against Israel 17 times and abstained on four occasions.”
But a common enemy may be changing all that. According to a Washington Times analysis, Russia and Israel will share intelligence information, develop joint models for responding to terrorism, set up exchange programs between their counter-terror forces, and even explore areas of operational cooperation.
With a nod to Israel, Putin observed that “terrorists meet the most effective resistance in places where they not only encounter the state’s power, but also find themselves an organized and united civil society.” Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon added, “The terror that hit Russia is the same that is hitting us here in Israel. We know that there can be no compromise with terror. We have to fight, overpower and defeat terror."
In exchange for its expertise on the anti-terror front, Israel hopes to earn Moscow’s backing for the security fence being constructed to separate Israeli and Palestinian populations—a project that has come under heavy criticism from other parts of Europe.
Published monthly in the American Legion Magazine, Under the Radar provides a snapshot of current challenges in international politics, U.S. foreign policy and national security.