FRENCH CONNECTION armed Saddam virtually until the brink of war: the Washington Times publishes today its first of three excerpts of the book Treachery, by Bill Gertz, its defense and international security reporter.
New intelligence revealing how long France continued to supply and arm Saddam Hussein's regime infuriated U.S. officials as the nation prepared for military action against Iraq.It goes on; read the rest. I'l be updating this posts as the next installments become available.
The intelligence reports showing French assistance to Saddam ongoing in the late winter of 2002 helped explain why France refused to deal harshly with Iraq and blocked U.S. moves at the United Nations.
"No wonder the French are opposing us," one U.S. intelligence official remarked after illegal sales to Iraq of military and dual-use parts, originating in France, were discovered early last year before the war began.
That official was careful to stipulate that intelligence reports did not indicate whether the French government had sanctioned or knew about the parts transfers. The French company at the beginning of the pipeline remained unidentified in the reports.
France's government tightly controls its aerospace and defense firms, however, so it would be difficult to believe that the illegal transfers of equipment parts took place without the knowledge of at least some government officials.
Iraq's Mirage F-1 fighter jets were made by France's Dassault Aviation. Its Gazelle attack helicopters were made by Aerospatiale, which became part of a consortium of European defense companies.
"It is well-known that the Iraqis use front companies to try to obtain a number of prohibited items," a senior Bush administration official said before the war, refusing to discuss Iraq's purchase of French warplane and helicopter parts.
The State Department confirmed intelligence indicating the French had given support to Iraq's military.
"U.N. sanctions prohibit the transfer to Iraq of arms and materiel of all types, including military aircraft and spare parts," State Department spokeswoman Jo-Anne Prokopowicz said. "We take illicit transfers to Iraq very seriously and work closely with our allies to prevent Iraq from acquiring sensitive equipment."
Sen. Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, declared that France's selling of military equipment to Iraq was "international treason" as well as a violation of a U.N. resolution.
"As a pilot and a former war pilot, this disturbs me greatly that the French would allow in any way parts for the Mirage to be exported so the Iraqis could continue to use those planes," Stevens said.
"The French, unfortunately, are becoming less trustworthy than the Russians," said Rep. Curt Weldon, Pennsylvania Republican and vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. "It's outrageous they would allow technology to support the jets of Saddam Hussein to be transferred."
The U.S. military was about to go to war with Iraq, and thanks to the French, the Iraqi air force had become more dangerous.