Tuesday, July 31, 2012

British Specialists to Help Iraq Destroy Stockpiles of Saddam-Era Chemical Weapons

British soldiers wearing protective suits in Iraq circa 2003
The UK's Ministry of Defense announced that they would be sending a team of experts to Iraq to help the government there dispose of chemical warfare agents dating back to Saddam Hussein's regime.
The British Defense Ministry will start training Iraqi technical and medical workers this year, an embassy statement said. The teams will work to safely destroy remnants of munitions and chemical warfare agents left over from Saddam’s regime.

Saddam stored the chemical weapons near population centers so that he could access them quickly, despite the danger to his civilian population.

Most of Iraq’s chemical weapons were destroyed by military forces in 1991 during the first Gulf War or by U.N. inspectors after the fighting. The inspections halted just before the invasion.

The head of the Iraqi National Authority, Mohammed Al Sharaa, said the remnants "represent a great challenge to the Iraqi experts to safely dispose." He called the agreement with British authorities "a good opportunity for Iraqi experts to benefit from the well-known expertise of U.K. experts."
Most notoriously, the Saddam Hussein regime used chemical weapons against civilians and the Kurdish peshmerga militia in the village of Halabja in 1988.

Hussein was deposed during the American-led invasion in 2003, captured and eventually executed by Iraq's civilian government. Many anti-war activists and politicians had claimed there were never any chemical weapons to begin with and such talk was merely a fabrication to justify the an American-led invasion.

Althought no massive WMD cache was discovered by American or coalition forces, Sarin was discovered in a 2004 roadside bomb and in 2008, the Pentagon was approached by Iraq's civilian government to ship more than 500 tons of uranium out of Iraq to Canada for disposal by Cameco [NYSE- CCJ; TSX- CCO].

Some have speculated that Hussein was able to spirit away major components of his WMD program to Syria before the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. This claim had been revisited when Syria's Bashr Al Assad threatened to use chemical weapons- including mustard gas, VX and Sarin- against armed insurgents clashing with his military or foreign forces who intervened in the ongoing conflict. However, Syria has had its own WMD program independent of Saddam Hussein's since before Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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