Friday, July 18, 2003

Still no giving ground by Tony Blair on the secret "foreign intelligence service" which gave the UK its independent information on Iraqi attempts to procure uranium from Africa. Now in its defense, the Bush administration has just today declassified excerpts from the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate. The relevant bit is as follows:
"reports indicate Iraq also has sought uranium ore from Somalia and possibly the Democratic Republic of the Congo."
Of course, all this showed up in the Washington Post over a week ago, so no real news there beyond confirmation of what we've already heard through a leak.

This intelligence report followed by just one month Tony Blair's dossier on Saddam Hussein which also pointed to Iraq's quest for African uranium. Did the Bush administration rely on its own intelligence to come up with Somalia and "possibly" the DR Congo, or just lift it from Tony? One can't say at this point.

So back to the original question: what is Tony Blair's secret source for the uranium charge against Iraq? If it's not Niger, then where was Saddam snooping for isotopes?

Here's something interesting the General culled from an article in The Telegraph from September 2002 just after the UK dossier was released:
The Democratic Republic of Congo has emerged as the likeliest target of Iraq's attempts to secure uranium for its nuclear weapons programme, after Britain gave warning that Saddam Hussein has sought "significant quantities" of the radioactive metal somewhere in Africa. . . .

Last November Kenyan authorities arrested five Iraqi men, attempting to travel to the Congo on fake passports, on suspicion of being terrorists. Officials were unable to say last week whether the men had been deported or were still in custody.
Something similar showed up in The Guardian:
A delegation of five Iraqis was arrested in Nairobi by the Kenyan secret service last November while travelling to eastern Congo on fake Indian passports, a western intelligence officer said. Documents seen by the Guardian show that leaders of the Mayi-Mayi, a brutal militia embroiled in the country's civil war, visited Baghdad twice and offered diamonds and gold to the Iraqis. Uranium was not mentioned in the documents but the intelligence officer said the Mayi-Mayi would be able to obtain the material in areas it controlled. Initial contact between Baghdad and the militia was said to have been brokered by a Sudanese general who offered Sudan as a conduit for Iraqi oil and arms.
And this from WorldNetDaily.com in October 2002:
Democratic Republic of the Congo's most notorious criminal gang is hoping to acquire uranium it can peddle to Iraq's Saddam Hussein for use in building a nuclear weapon, according to members of the gang interviewed by WorldNetDaily. . . . leaders of the Mayi-Mayi have traveled to Iraq, selling diamonds, gold and other products from the Congo, which is rich in natural resources.
If this is the best lead going, who is the "foreign intelligence service" which [1] has operatives in the DRC and Kenya; [2] is likely to pass on such information to London; and [3] wants to jealously guard it's anonymity?

The General's guess is Israel.

Why? For starters, Israel clearly has security interests in Kenya and business interests in DR Congo. First, Kenya has long been a popular tourist destination for Israelis. The terrorist attacks on the Israeli hotel and the Israeli charter airliner in Kenya in November 2002 only points up Israel's interests in the country. Second, from August 2000 to April 2001 the Israeli company IDI Diamonds held a multi-million dollar monopoly on the export of all Congolese diamonds and Israeli corporations continue to dominate the DR Congo diamond trade. Rumors circulated that the firm agreed to help train government troops in partial exchange for the monopoly.

Might Israeli security agents or businessmen have run across information of Iraqi officials snooping around DR Congo? Recall that even the intelligence gathered by The Telegraph, The Guardian and WorldNetDaily.com does not include concrete agreements to transfer -- much less the transfer itself -- uranium to Iraq. Might these agents or businessmen have been exaggerating their tales?

Certainly we can all understand why Israel would want to stay as far out of the fray as possible. Clearly wanting a US invasion of Iraq, news that Israel was the source would immedately tag Israel as the tail that wagged the US dog into war and rain fire and brimstone down upon the heads of not only Bush and Blair but probably Sharon as well. This would be even more the case if the intelligence is not, shall we say, 'rock solid'.

Keep your eye on Israel as this story unfolds over the coming weeks. Blair is so up against the wall that he may well be forced to reveal his 'secret source'.

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