CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM
It could be from the pages of a novel. But my colleague and co author Nick Kochan has an extraordinary story on the Exaro website this week just as the damning Chilcot report on the Iraq War has been published.
The essence of the story is a large cache of chemical weapons shells containing the nerve gas sarin were discovered and destroyed by the Americans and British in a remote British area of Iraq in 2005 and 2006 long after the UN weapons inspectors had disappeared.
The source for the story has told Exaro about how the CIA using a front company purchased thousands of shells many containing the nerve gas sarin from an Iraqi war lord and then destroyed all the weapons.
Incredible as this may seem this story is stood up by information released in the United States under the US Freedom of Information Act and in the UK to a lesser extent by the Ministry of Defence.
The US info which named the clandestine operation as Avarice and the British operations were known as Bedouin 1 and 2..
In 2015, the New York Times reported details of covert operations that involved the CIA, US military intelligence and the British Army.
The International Business Times, a US-based website, later revealed details of the British-led Bedouin missions.
What is curious is that neither revelation made much of a stir at the time – even though it meant that chemical WMD had been discovered.
And this week’s Chilcot report makes no mention of the clandestine operations though it does reveal that later discoveries of chemical weapons was reported to the Joint Intelligence Committee.
This raises loads of unanswered questions. The discovery in 2006 would have been very useful to Tony Blair’s case that Iraq still possessed chemical weapons and you would have expected Alistair Campbell to have shouted it from the rooftops. But this information was either never used or never reached either of them.
The other question is more sinister. What was the use made by the warlords of the CIA money?
For soon after many British and US troops were killed by IED’s planted by war lords to get the UK and US out of Iraq. Exaro’s source is fearful that the money paid by the CIA may have been used to buy these weapons and to kill British and American soldiers.
Given Chilcot’s strong criticism of the inadequacy of equipment for the troops including snatch landrovers this is a highly damaging allegation.
“It is possible that western forces were killed by Mahdi army funded by the CIA. Nobody ever identified what happened to the [US] money and what it was used for,” the source claimed.
“The only people who could have moved those sorts of things around that area were involved in many nefarious activities.”
So far even with Chilcot we are none the wiser.