Engines that are used in the banned al-Samoud 2 intermediate-range missile were discovered in a Jordanian scrapyard. The scrap apparently came from Iraq.
The U.N. team also discovered some processing equipment with U.N. tags — which show it was being monitored — including heat exchangers, and a solid propellant mixer bowl to make missile fuel, he said. It also discovered “a large number of other processing equipment without tags, in very good condition.”
“These visits provide just a snapshot of the whole picture since the scrap metal has a short residence time and is re-exported to various countries,” Perricos told the council.
In its quarterly report to the council on Monday, the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission which Perricos heads, said a number of sites in Iraq known to have contained equipment and material that could be used to produce banned weapons and long-range missiles have been cleaned out or destroyed.
The inspectors said they didn’t know whether the items, which had been monitored by the United Nations, were at the sites during the U.S.-led war in Iraq. The commission, known as UNMOVIC (search), said it was possible some material was taken by looters and sold as scrap.
I’m sure you remember the al-Samoud 2 missiles. They’re the ones ceremoniously destroyed by Iraq in the weeks before the invasion. Al-Samoud missiles are scaled-down versions of the ever-popular Scud-B, and they use the rocket motors used by the SA-2, a late-50s Soviet surface-to-air missile. There are several versions of the al-Samoud, including two variants of the al-Samoud 2.
Taken alone, the discovery of these rocket motors doesn’t really prove anything. Just like the SA-2 motor found in a scrapyard in Rotterdam. Just like the other scrapped dual-use equipment discovered in junkyards around the world. Just like the sarin-filled artillery round discovered recently. And the other chemical rounds uncovered just before that. And the murder of many Iraqi scientists who were cooperating with US investigators after the invasion. And the burned up computers in a locked weapons research lab. And the rumors of those semi-trucks headed to Syria in the months before the invasion.
I mean, this is just SCRAP METAL, for pity’s sake. Right?
Now, it’s entirely possible that these rocket motors are from the al-Samoud 2s destroyed in February and March of 2003. It’s entirely possible they’re from al-Samoud 1s, which have a DECLARED range of 1km less than the limit imposed by UN mandates. It’s entirely possible that these rocket motors are actually from SA-2s, of which Iraq had at least 125 before the invasion. It’s entirely possible that the rocket motors and other equipment was looted and sold for a few bucks by clueless Iraqis. All of this is POSSIBLE. But does it all seem LIKELY, especially when considered in conjunction with the other scrap items that have been showing up?
More on the DECLARED range of the al Samoud in a moment.
Using the development of the al-Samoud 2 as cover, Iraq built a rocket motor test stand larger than any it had previously constructed. Again, this might not mean anything. But why, if they had already built test stands for the banned Scud and al-Hussein missile motors, would they build one that is so much larger for the little rinky-dink al-Samouds? It just might have been because the al-Samoud was intended to be an easily-upscalable system. With the proven motors from the SA-2 and a small, Scud-like fuselage, it would be just a hop, skip, and a jump to super-size the combo and put a Big Mac into someone’s backyard. Or even a Quarter-Pounder With Cheese.
Here’s part of Colin Powell’s February 2003 UN presentation:
UNMOVIC has also reported that Iraq has illegally important 380 SA-2 rocket engines. These are likely for use in the al-Samud II. Their import was illegal on three counts. Resolution 687 prohibited all military shipments into Iraq. UNSCOM specifically prohibited use of these engines in surface-to-surface missiles. And finally, as we have just noted, they are for a system that exceeds the150-kilometer range limit.
Worst of all, some of these engines were acquired as late as December — after this council passed Resolution 1441.
What I want you to know today is that Iraq has programs that are intended to produce ballistic missiles that fly over 1,000 kilometers.
One program is pursuing a liquid fuel missile that would be able to fly more than 1,200 kilometers. And you can see from this map, as well as I can, who will be in danger of these missiles.
As part of this effort, another little piece of evidence, Iraq has built an engine test stand that is larger than anything it has ever had. Notice the dramatic difference in size between the test stand on the left, the old one, and the new one on the right. Note the large exhaust vent. This is where the flame from the engine comes out. The exhaust on the right test stand is five times longer than the one on the left. The one on the left was used for short-range missile. The one on the right is clearly intended for long-range missiles that can fly 1,200 kilometers.
This photograph was taken in April of 2002. Since then, the test stand has been finished and a roof has been put over it so it will be harder for satellites to see what’s going on underneath the test stand. [emphasis mine]
Here’s a summary of the history of the research facilities pointed out by Powell. Here’s a pictoral on the BBC including pictures of the site and other suspected development facilities. Here’s another. It’s called Al Rafah and is located in the Ramadi district near Fallujah. I understand that not everything Powell discussed that day has proven to be accurate. To my knowledge, all of this information was on the money.
Again, none of this really proves anything. Obviously, none of it is a smoking gun, a loaded gun, or even an unloaded gun. But when looked at as a whole, doesn’t it appear that Iraq MIGHT have been trying to secretly acquire a gun, and that they had at least SOME success? Doesn’t all of this seem to indicate that JUST MAYBE there are a fair number of dots that, when connected, paint a scarey picture? Remember that we acted pre-emptively to cut things off BEFORE they became a real threat.
Remember the German “pocket battleships”? After World War 1, the German Navy was limited to a small coastal defense force. Unhappy with this arrangement, they designed the DEUTSCHLAND-class ships, which were a weird mix of cruiser, battle cruiser, and battleship. Even though the Germans designed a mongrel that didn’t really perform up to expectations, all three ships of the class ended up exceeding treaty limitations anyway.
Which brings me to the DECLARED range of missiles. To illustrate, I’ll bring up a couple of other German warships. Namely, the two BISMARK-class battleships. These creatures, arguably two of the most-capable battleships of all time, were supposed to be less than 35,000 tons per the Washington and London Naval Treaties. The ships both exceeded 41,000 tons standard displacement when finished. But the Germans insisted that they were within treaty specifications. Here’s a press clipping from 1941 on the subject.
Also, the SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU, two “battle cruisers” were laid down several months before the treaty that made them legal was even signed. Then they went on to break that treaty’s agreements by about 35%. (For more info on all treaty-period capital ships, see this excellent page.)
So declared ship displacements and declared missile ranges should be taken with a grain of salt, especially when declared by those who have a history of and a motive for circumventing treaties and agreements.
In April of 2003, after a couple of undamaged al-Samoud 2s had been captured on their mobile launchers, I suggested a little test firing. To my knowledge this never happened. I don’t know why.
All of this, of course, completely ignores the fact that EVERYONE thought Saddam had extensive WMD programs and that the WMD threat was only one of many justifications to invade Iraq. For the sake of this post, I will continue to ignore those facts.
One thing that seems to escape most apologists for Saddam’s shady weapons programs is that THE BURDEN OF PROOF WAS UPON HIM. We didn’t need to prove he was breaking UN rules. He needed to prove that he wasn’t.
(For the Command Post posting and discussion that set this off, click here.)
UPDATE: As for the “cleaned-out” Iraqi facilities that were known to contain weapons-related or weapons-capable equipment at some point, don’t be surprised if some of the cleaners were not simple looters. I expect that at least some of the tidying up was performed by US agents. And I suspect that we may see some of the goodies that they found as the election gets closer.
In other words, I think the stuff is being stored with Osama’s body.