by Stewart Stogel
January 20, 2003
United Nations Last Thursday, U.N. arms inspectors discovered a dozen unused 122 mm rocket warheads during an inspection in Iraq. At the time of the discovery, the inspectors claimed the unused warheads were most likely designed for a chemical agent.
Now sources close to the investigation say the deadly nerve agent sarin was the most likely weapon destined for those warheads.
The sources tell NewsMax that the U.N. found similar shells loaded with a liquid version of the agent during the last round of arms inspections in 1998. It was sarin that caused havoc in the Tokyo subway system in March 1995 when the radical religious cult Aum Shinrikyo released the chemical at the height of the morning rush hour.
More than 3,000 people were affected and 12 died.
According to U.N. sources, the liquid sarin used by Iraq would become "aerosolized" upon impact, thereby forming a "toxic cloud." The cloud would then drift away, killing any humans it would come in contact with.
Baghdad claimed the munitions discovered were old stock, legally purchased and simply "overlooked." Iraq later claimed the munitions were in fact covered in the arms declarations sent to the U.N. in December.
The U.N. says "it would be impossible" to simply overlook or misplace a weapon that has the destructive capacity these warheads were capable of.
U.N. sources do not dispute Iraq's contention that the warheads may have been purchased legally in the late 1980s, but point out that they were in "mint" condition.
They also say that if Iraq did indeed declare them in the December declarations, it should notify the U.N. specifically where in the documents the notice was made. So far, Iraq has not responded to the U.N. request. Pentagon sources say they can find no mention of the warheads in the U.S. copy of the Iraqi arms declarations.
The U.N. also pointed out that the warheads "came from outside" Iraq. The technology to manufacture these warheads exists in 12 countries. The most likely sources: China, North Korea or the Czech Republic. All legally traded with Iraq prior to the Gulf War.
It is clear that under existing U.N. sanctions, Baghdad was prohibited from possessing these warheads whether they were filled with CW munitions or not, so say U.N. inspection officials.
The finding comes as the U.N. Security Council convenes a special session of foreign ministers in New York this week.
The meeting was officially called to discuss the latest efforts under way in the area of counterterrorism.
Unofficially, it has become a meeting in which the U.S. will spell out its plans for Iraq. The issue of war will be paramount in the private bilateral consultations Secretary of State Colin Powell will have with his Council counterparts.
Many Council diplomats feel that unless Iraq "substantially" increases its cooperation with the U.N. and the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.S. and its allies will move to the military option in the not-too-distant future.