Powell said near the start of a public presentation to the 15 members of the Security Council, top U.N. weapons inspectors and the Iraqi ambassador to the U.N., ”I cannot tell you everything that we know, but what I can share with you, when combined with what all of us have learned over the years, is deeply troubling.”
Calling U.N. resolution 1441 Iraq’s “one last chance” to come into compliance or face “serious consequences,” Powell methodically presented U.S. intelligence information on Iraq’s biological, chemical and nuclear weapons programs as well as suspected links between Saddam Hussein’s government and the al-Qaida terrorist network.
Powell used audio tapes of conversations he said were between members of the Iraqi National Guard to illustrate Iraq’s attempts to conceal certain weapons information from U.N. inspectors. On the tapes, Iraqi officers appeared to be given instruction to “evacuate” a “modified vehicle” and “forbidden ammo.” The secretary of state called such evidence “part and parcel” of Iraq’s 12-year policy of “evasion and deception.”
“This is all part of a system of hiding things and moving things out of the way and making sure they have left nothing behind,” Powell said.
Powell called Iraq’s 12,000-page weapons declaration an attempt to “overwhelm the inspectors with useless information” and a visible piece of evidence that Iraq “never had any intention” of complying with the Security Council mandate.
Satellite photos of an Iraqi biological weapons facility and a ballistic missile site, recently declassified specifically for Powell’s presentation, were used to show how Iraq has either hidden or moved weapons stockpiles or production sites to evade inspectors. One of the images showed 15 munitions bunkers of which four housed active chemical agents, according to Powell.
“We don’t know precisely what Iraq was moving,” Powell said of the photos, “but the inspectors already knew about these sites, so Iraq knew that they would be coming.”
“We must ask ourselves: Why would Iraq suddenly move equipment of this nature before inspections if they were anxious to demonstrate what they had or did not have?” Powell asked.
Powell also referenced Iraq’s refusal to allow any U-2 reconnaissance flights and an alleged direct order from Saddam that Iraqi scientists be told not to leave Iraq for private interviews with inspectors as further violations of U.N. resolution 1441.
On biological weapons, Powell held a mock vial of anthrax to illustrate the lack of evidence that Iraq destroyed the suspected 25,000 liters of anthrax that past U.N. inspectors estimate the Iraqis could have produced.
Using the testimony of four Iraqi defectors, Powell showed illustrations of “mobile production facilities” for biological agents, reportedly housed in 18 trucks that crisscross Iraq in order to evade detection.
“The trucks and train cars are easily moved and are designed to evade detection by inspectors,” Powell explained.
“In a matter of months,” he said, “they can produce a quantity of biological poison equal to the entire amount that Iraq claimed to have produced in the years prior to the Gulf War.”
Powell went on to say that Iraq’s record on chemical weapons is “replete with lies.” He pointed to a “vast amount” of chemical weaponry that has not been accounted for, including Iraq’s admission that it produced four tons of the deadly nerve agent VX.
Powell said that Iraq has attempted to disguise its chemical weapons development within legitimate civilian industry and showed satellite images to illustrate unusual activity at the Iraqi Al-Musayyib chemical complex.
“To support its deadly biological and chemical weapons programs, Iraq procures needed items from around the world, using an extensive clandestine network,” Powell continued. “What we know comes largely from intercepted communications and human sources who are in a position to know the facts.”
An audiotaped conversation between two commanders in Iraq’s 2nd Republican Guard Corps was also used to illustrate the chemical weapons evidence. The tape appears to contain instructions from a senior Iraqi officer to remove the expression “nerve agents” from all wireless communication.
Powell then discussed concerns about Iraq’s nuclear weapons program, including Saddam’s attempts to acquire high-specification aluminum tubes.
“We have no indication that Saddam Hussein has ever abandoned his nuclear-weapons program,” Powell said. “On the contrary, we have more than a decade of proof that he remains determined to acquire nuclear weapons.”
After the list of claims against Iraqi weapons programs, Powell moved on to Iraq’s alleged connections to terrorism and the al-Qaida terrorist network.
“[W]hat I want to bring to your attention today is the potentially much more sinister nexus between Iraq and the al-Qaida terrorist network, a nexus that combines classic terrorist organizations and modern methods of murder,” Powell said.
Powell accused Iraq of harboring Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, the head of a “deadly terrorist network” and an “associate and collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida lieutenants.”
According to Powell, Zarqawi traveled to Baghdad for medical treatment in May 2002 and stayed in the Iraqi capital for some two months.
“During this stay, nearly two dozen extremists converged on Baghdad and established a base of operations there,” Powell explained. “These al-Qaida affiliates, based in Baghdad, now coordinate the movement of people, money and supplies into and throughout Iraq for his network, and they’ve now been operating freely in the capital for more than eight months.”
Powell also said that an al-Qaida detainee told U.S. officials that Saddam became more willing to assist the terrorist network after the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania as well as the attack on the USS Cole in 2000.
“Ambition and hatred are enough to bring Iraq and al Qaida together,” Powell said, adding that Iraq’s denials of links with al-Qaida are “simply not credible.”
Powell concluded with a word on Iraq’s human rights record, saying, “Saddam Hussein’s police state…ruthlessly eliminates anyone who dares to dissent.”
“We must not shrink from whatever is ahead of us,” Powell said at the end of his presentation, which lasted more than an hour. “We must not fail in our duty and our responsibility for the citizens of the countries that are represented by this body.”
After Powell’s presentation, all 14 other members of the Security Council made brief statements on the Iraqi situation including Iraqi Ambassador to the U.N. Mohamed Aldouri, who called the U.S. allegations, “utterly unrelated to the truth” and Washington’s attempt to create an excuse to go to war.
“There are incorrect allegations, unnamed sources, unknown sources,” Aldouri told the Security Council.
Aldouri added that Powell could have “spared the council the time” and left U.N. inspectors “to work in peace and quiet without media pressure.”
The Iraqi ambassador suggested that the audio conversations between Iraqi officials used by Powell had been fabricated.
“No new information was provided, merely sound recordings that cannot be ascertained as genuine,” Aldouri said.
Aldouri also denied the charge that Iraq has links to al-Qaida, referring to Saddam’s recent interview with a British TV station in which he said that if Iraq had a relationship to the terror group, it wouldn’t be ashamed to admit it.
Aldouri said that Iraq looked forward an upcoming scheduled visit by chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix and IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei as a chance to refute the U.S. allegations.