Powell at U.N.: Evidence Shows Saddam not Cooperating, Connected to al Qaeda
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 5, 2003 Satellite photos, recordings of intercepted phone calls and intelligence reports paint an "irrefutable" picture of Saddam Hussein's intentions, Secretary of State Colin Powell told the U.N. Security Council this morning.
Powell made the United States' case for disarming Iraq in a 90-minute presentation in New York. "I cannot tell you everything that we know. But what I can share with you, when combined with what all of us have learned over the years, is deeply troubling," he said.
Powell wasted no time in providing evidence. A few minutes into his presentation, he played a tape he said is a recording of a conversation between two senior Iraqi Republican Guard officers concerning imminent U.N. inspections.
"We evacuated everything," one officer reassured the other in the Nov. 26, 2002, recording, just one day before the U.N. inspectors returned to Iraq.
In another taped conversation Powell played, one Iraqi officer is telling another to make sure he has cleaned out all the ammunition and scrap storage areas and then to destroy his written instructions. "Because I don't want anyone to see this message," the officer said, according to a translation provided by U.S. government officials.
Powell's presentation today has been highly anticipated around the world. Thirteen foreign ministers attended today's Security Council meeting. Only two countries sent the customary U.N. ambassador. Secretary-General Kofi Annan; Hans Blix and Mohammad ElBaradei, the two lead U.N. inspectors; and CIA Director George Tenet were present for Powell's presentation. Shortly before Powell began speaking, the Iraq's U.N. ambassador was also invited to join the ministers.
Powell presented considerable evidence that Saddam Hussein is actively discouraging people from cooperating with inspectors and trying to keep inspections from being effective. He said Iraq has a "higher committee for monitoring the inspection teams," which includes Iraq's vice president, Hussein's son Qusay, and several notorious generals.
"This effort to hide things from inspectors is not one or two isolated events. Quite the contrary," Powell said. "This is part and parcel of a policy of evasion and deception that goes back 12 years, a policy set at the highest levels of the Iraqi regime."
He focused repeatedly on ways Iraq has failed to meet the requirements of Security Council Resolution 1441, which was approved unanimously Nov. 8 and was designed to compel Iraq to cooperate with disarmament.
He spoke of inaccuracies and holes in the 12,000-plus-page declaration that Iraq delivered to the Security Council Dec. 7. The documents were supposed to be a "full and final declaration" of that country's weapons and weapons programs.
"Could any member of this council honestly rise in defense of this false declaration?" he asked.
Powell presented several pieces of information he said came from human intelligence sources -- "people who have risked their lives to let the world know what Saddam Hussein is really up to."
o Hussein's son Qusay ordered the removal of all prohibited weapons from palace complexes.
o Iraqi government officials and scientists have hidden prohibited items in their homes. Inspectors recently found more than 2,000 pages of relevant documents in the home of an Iraqi scientist. "Tell me, answer me, are the inspectors to search the house of every government official, every Baath Party member and every scientist in the country to find the truth, to get the information they need to satisfy the demands of our council?" Powell asked.
o Key files from "military and scientific establishments" have been placed in cars that are being driven around the country by Iraqi intelligence agents to avoid detection.
o Hard drives on computers in weapons facilities have been replaced.
To prove the Iraqis are concealing chemical weapons, Powell showed satellite photos he said are of chemical weapons facilities. He pointed out several "signature" features of such facilities, including decontamination trucks parked directly outside and "special security facilities" designed to monitor for leaks.
One picture taken before inspectors arrived back in Iraq shows these signature keys. A picture of the same facility taken Dec. 22, shortly before inspectors visited the site, shows a sanitized area, with no evidence of weapon making.
"This sequence of events raises the worrisome suspicion that Iraq had been tipped off to the forthcoming inspections," Powell said.
He described "this kind of housecleaning" at some 30 sites. Several large trucks will appear at a site and then leave several days later. "We don't know precisely what Iraq was moving, but the inspectors already knew about these sites, so Iraq knew they would be coming," he said.
Other methods of deception stem from Iraq denying inspectors access to scientists involved in weapons programs. Resolution 1441 specifically calls for the inspectors to have free and unimpeded access to scientists, even allowing then to be interviewed outside Iraq if necessary. To date, this has not happened.
Powell detailed several things gleaned from human intelligence sources that corroborate this:
o Saddam Hussein said scientists should be told not to cooperate and that anyone who agreed to leave Iraq should be treated as a spy.
o In mid-November, just before inspectors returned, Iraqi scientists were required to report to the headquarters of the special security organization to receive counterintelligence training, including evasion methods and interrogation-resistance techniques.
o In mid-December, weapons experts at one facility were replaced by Iraqi intelligence agents.
o Iraqi officials issued a false death certificate for one scientist and then sent him into hiding.
o A dozen experts have been placed under house arrest together in one of Hussein's "guest houses."
"Ladies and gentlemen, these are not assertions, these are facts corroborated by many sources, some of the sources of the intelligence services of other countries," Powell said.
The secretary described in detail allegations made on several previous occasions about Iraq's biological weapons programs, particularly previously disclosed but unaccounted for amounts of biological agents.
He held up a small vial and said the amount of powdered substance inside -- less than a teaspoon -- was all the dry anthrax spores used in the mail attacks of 2001 that killed two U.S. Postal Service workers. Powell next pointed out that Iraq had declared 8,500 liters of anthrax. U.N. inspectors estimated the country had produced much more. None is accounted for today.
Powell described firsthand accounts of biological weapons factories built onto the backs of trucks and railcars to avoid detection and showed drawings of such facilities.
One Iraq defector had been a chemical engineer who supervised one of these facilities. The engineer reportedly described an accident at one of the sites in 1998 that killed 12 technicians. The same defector said production runs would begin on Thursday nights because Iraq officials believed the inspectors would be less likely to show up on the Muslim holy day, Friday.
"This defector is currently hiding in another country," Powell said, "with the certain knowledge that Saddam Hussein will kill him if he finds him."
Iraq has perfected drying techniques for anthrax, botulinum and ricin, all deadly toxins that are more dangerous and easier to distribute when they are dried, Powell said.
Iraq is working diligently to perfect such delivery techniques as unmanned aerial vehicles, which are notoriously hard to defend against. One such vehicle Iraq tested can fly 500 miles on autopilot. The United Nations also has video that shows Iraqis testing sprayers attached to Mirage jets.
Powell outlined Hussein's historical use of chemical weapons and evidence presented in earlier U.N. reports. He said Iraq has embedded part of its illicit chemical weapons program within legitimate civilian enterprises.
"To all outward appearances, even to experts, the infrastructure looks like an ordinary civilian operation. Illicit and legitimate production can go on simultaneously, or, on a dime, this dual-use infrastructure can turn from clandestine to commercial and then back again," Powell said. "Call it ingenious or evil genius, but the Iraqis deliberately designed their chemical weapons programs to be inspected."
He showed satellite pictures of facilities and played another audiotape to make his point about these chemical facilities. In one satellite photo taken in May 2002, unusual activity by cargo and decontamination vehicles is noted around a set of buildings. In a photo taken of the same site two months later, any trace of the buildings is gone and the topsoil has been removed from the entire site.
"The Iraqis literally removed the crust of the earth from large portions of this site in order to conceal chemical weapons evidence that would be there from years of chemical weapons activity," Powell said.
In the recorded telephone conversation, one officer tells another to remove all traces of the expression "nerve agent" from wireless communications. Powell said this is because they were afraid radio transmissions could be intercepted.
U.S. officials today estimate Iraq has a stockpile of 100 to 500 tons of chemical weapons. "Even the low end, of 100 tons of agent, would enable Saddam Hussein to cause mass casualties across more than 100 square miles of territory, an area nearly five times the size of Manhattan," Powell said.
Intelligence sources also reveal Hussein tested his chemical agents on human beings since the 1980s. One source described 1,600 death-row inmates being used in experiments in 1995. "An eyewitness saw prisoners tied down to beds, experiments conducted on them, blood oozing around the victims' mouths, and autopsies performed to confirm the effects ... on the prisoners," Powell said.
The secretary clarified conflicting information surrounding Iraq's alleged nuclear weapons program. Media outlets have carried numerous reports of Hussein's efforts to acquire aluminum tubes. Powell said these tubes could be used for enriching uranium, a necessary step to make nuclear weapons. The Iraqis claim they are to be used as rocket bodies.
Powell pointed out that, regardless of their intended use, "Iraq had no business buying them for any purpose -- they are banned for Iraq."
He also detailed Iraq's efforts to purchase a magnet production plant, also necessary for building nuclear weapons, from firms in India, Romania, Russia and Slovenia.
Iraq also has disturbing ties to international terrorist groups, including al Qaeda, Powell said. He described and showed a photograph of a terrorist training camp being run in Iraq by Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi that specializes in poisons. Powell described Zarqawi as an associate of Osama bin Laden.
The Jordanian native allegedly ran a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan until U.S. troops ousted al Qaeda and the Taliban. Today, the camp is in northeastern Iraq, Powell said. He said Zarqawi also spent two months in Baghdad for medical treatment.
He tied Zarqawi to the murder of American diplomat Lawrence Foley in Jordan last October. Iraq denies any knowledge of Zarqawi. Powell also detailed a long history of connections between Iraq and al Qaeda.
"With this track record, Iraqi denials of supporting terrorism take their place alongside the other Iraqi denials of weapons of mass destruction," Powell said.
As a final note, the secretary touched on Saddam Hussein's human rights record within his own country. He spoke of attacks and ethnic cleansing on Kurds in the north and Shia Muslims and Marsh Arabs in the south.
Powell noted Iraq leads the world in "forced disappearance cases."
"For more than 20 years, by word and by deed, Saddam Hussein has pursued his ambition to dominate Iraq and the broader Middle East using the only means he knows -- intimidation, coercion and annihilation of all those who might stand in his way," the secretary said. "For Saddam Hussein, possession of the world's most deadly weapons is the ultimate trump card, the one he must hold to fulfill his ambition."
Powell said the United States doesn't have the luxury of "leaving Saddam Hussein in possession of weapons of mass destruction for a few months or years" in the post-Sept. 11 world.
He told Security Council members they have an obligation to their citizens and an obligation to see that Iraq complies with council resolutions.
"We wrote 1441 to give Iraq one last chance. Iraq is not, so far, taking that one last chance," Powell said. "We must not shrink from whatever is ahead of us. We must not fail in our duty and our responsibility for the citizens of the countries that are represented by this body."