Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Covering up Iraq's quest for uranium in Africa

The American Thinker - Douglas Hanson Oct. 26th

The left accepts as gospel the Joseph Wilson-inspired allegation that President Bush lied in his State of the Union address reference to Iraq seeking uranium in Africa. The media and much of the public parrots this line. The allegation is itself a lie. All evidence points to the Plame leak investigation as another battle in the ongoing internal war between US intelligence agencies and the Bush administration. Of course, the mainstream media is only too happy to support a leftist CIA, which is out to keep its power intact at all costs.

[snip]



Damn, even I get manipulated by the left's talking points.

Hanson points out that Pres. Bush never said Niger, he said "Africa", something I'd forgotten.


[continued]

But this operation is just as tactically clumsy as the intelligence agencies’ ill-prepared efforts to find Saddam’s WMD. Available information shows that the Iraq-Niger connection is, at best, another goof-up of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), or at worst, a red herring constructed by disgruntled intelligence functionaries to discredit the President.

First of all, President Bush never said Saddam tried to buy uranium from Niger. His exact words were:

The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

As it turns out, the President’s statement was accurate concerning African uranium production and distribution, since Niger isn’t the only country on the continent that has sizable uranium deposits. The Congo, Namibia, South Africa and Gabon also have large uranium mines. Therefore, how Plame and her co-conspirators at the CIA were able to finagle a trip for Wilson to Africa to refute the President’s statement by producing “forged” documents with a singular focus on Niger is puzzling.

Iraq does indeed have a history of buying uranium from Niger, but that was decades ago, and it wasn’t the only foreign source for nuclear raw materials. Two organizations provide us with a reasonably accurate inventory of Saddam’s uranium and other related compounds: the IAEA and the Iraq Survey Group (ISG).

Iraq has imported hundreds of tons of yellowcake, highly enriched uranium (HEU), and Low-enriched uranium (LEU) from Europe, Russia and other Western countries. According to the IAEA, Saddam bought about 151 tons of yellowcake from Niger in 1981, and then made an additional purchase of 153 tons in 1982. [For some reason, Duelfer’s ISG report does not mention the second procurement from Niger in 1982. There are several other discrepancies in the ISG final report that will be discussed in a later article.]

The Congo connection

The British intelligence report that GW cited in his State of the Union address didn’t even concern Niger, but rather focused on the Congo. According to the U.K. Telegraph, the Congo was a far more promising source of uranium since the country had been in throes of a civil war, and since it also had a reasonable level of proven uranium reserves. The country’s history of uranium production goes back to 1939, when a Congo mine supplied the material for the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The Congo also has one of the few nuclear power reactors on the continent.

Ironically, the backing for the British intelligence report targeting the Congo is none other than our own ISG, which was largely composed of elements of the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). In his final report, Duelfer notes that the ISG had found a document that told of a post-Gulf War I contact between Baghdad and Africa concerning an offer of uranium; and the source of the uranium was not Niger, but – surprise – from the Congo. As the ISG report notes:

In mid-May 2003, an ISG team found an Iraqi Embassy document in the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) headquarters related to an offer to sell yellowcake to Iraq. The document reveals that a Ugandan businessman approached the Iraqis with an offer to sell uranium, reportedly from the Congo. The Iraqi Embassy in Nairobi—in reporting this matter back to Baghdad on 20 May 2001—indicated it told the Ugandan that Iraq does not deal with these materials, explained the circumstances of sanctions, and said that Baghdad was not concerned about these matters right now.