A few retired American generals tell us, mainly on the 24-hour news channels, that possessing chemical weapons is illegal. This is true, according to the Geneva Convention of 1925. But, countries that have not signed this document are not obligated to follow the law. The US did not sign it until 1975, right after using the largest amount of chemicals ever used in warfare, including Agent Orange in Vietnam. The mainstream media also tell us that Iraq and Syria were not among the signatories. Many of the reporters do not know why! Actually, Iraq and Syria did not even exist in 1925. Iraq obtained independence from the British in 1932 and Syria received independence in 1946 from the French. Indeed, many of the present problems in both nations are among the unsolved legacies of European colonialism.
Of course, owning and using the chemical materials are illegal acts, but what about producing and selling them? Essentially, we need to know who is supplying these weapons to Syria. I put this question to four activists-authors-scholars who I thought might know. Before receiving any answer, I googled my own question. I got one big hit. According to an article in the Guardian, the British government issued a license to a British company allowing the sales of chemical arsenals to Syria.
From two of those individuals that I contacted, I have received no reply. The other two answered via emails. One said these materials came from Iraq and another one alleged they came from Saudi Arabia. It is not astonishing, however, if both Iraq and Saudi Arabia presently have chemical arsenals. But, Iraqis and Saudis still had to buy the chemical weapons or the raw materials from somebody else. In the case of Iraq, the chemical arsenals might be the leftovers of what Western manufacturers, including the US, sold Saddam.
On September 4, 2013, I left a comment/question at the end of Mr. Mufid Abdulla’s (2013) article dealing with similarities between Assad and Saddam’s chemical attacks. I wrote “Does anybody know what countries/companies produce and supply Syria with these chemical weapons?” To my surprise one reader by the penname of Nuha left a link under my question leading me to a site belonging to rt.com. Apparently, rt or Russia Today, is an international multilingual Russian-based television network located in Moscow. It is registered as an autonomous non-profit organization. Evidently, it is the most popular news channel in Britain after the BBC and Sky.
Most of the information in the rt.com’s brief article came from two British newspapers, the Daily Mail and the Sunday Mail. The site reported that “Between July 2004 and May 2010, the British government issued five export licenses to two companies, allowing them to sell Syria sodium fluoride, necessary for the production of Sarin, a nerve gas that is hundreds of times deadlier than cyanide, is considered one of the world’s most dangerous chemical warfare agents. It works on the nervous system, over-stimulating muscles and vital organs, and a single drop can be lethal in minutes.” The site also reported, “The January 2012 licenses were given in the knowledge that both substances could also be used as precursor chemicals in the manufacture of chemical weapons…”
There is hardly any research done with regards to similarities between Iraq and Syria’s sources of the chemical weapons. It is well known, however, that the Western powers received cash rewards and were compensated for producing and providing Saddam Hussein with all types of poisonous gases that he used to kill civilian Kurds. John Simpson of BBC was on the ground in Halabja in 1988. He was one of the few Western journalists who tried to count the dead bodies of the victims of Western technology and Eastern brutality in this city. Simpson was sure that more than 5,000 mainly Kurdish children were killed by chemical weapons in Halabja. He wrote in 2012, in the only investigative recordings so far available, “There is a clear political sense that as long as those foreign companies that knowingly supplied these awful weapons remain unpunished, this tragic chapter will never fully be closed.” (My emphasis).
Apparently, Iraq had the basic capability to produce some rudimentary forms of these types of weapons locally. It is highly likely that producing poisonous gases to kill the Kurds in Iraq goes back to the time when the British Royal Air Force initiated killing the Kurds in northern Iraq. Sir Winston Churchill approved the use of leftover mustard gas from WWI against the Kurds in May of 1919. But, according to Simpson (2012) the Soviet Union was the most important supplier of the raw materials, machineries, and training of the Iraqis in the use and application of these killing materials in Kurdistan.
Based on many of the shells found at Halabja, Simpson reported, “With regard to Western companies, there is data pointing to 85 German, 19 French, 18 British and18 US suppliers.” Thus, a total of 140 Western corporations participated in being “merchants of death” to Saddam Hussein. More importantly, more than half, 61%, of the companies were German owned. But, it is still not possible to learn who sold Saddam the most gas or received most of the money from Baghdad. It is probable that a single American or British manufacturing corporation could have supplied the largest amount and even received less cash rewards. Ankara, Baghdad, Tehran, and Damascus could not have killed the largest numbers of civilian Kurds without direct support, sales, and participation from the West.
The Kurds have been murdered longer and more frequently than any other ethnic group in the history of mankind. The caves and the mountains of Kurdistan are the most gassed places in the world. The British work of killing Kurds from above was continued by Ataturk in 1925 and 1937-38. His adopted daughter, Sabiha Gokcen, Turkey’s first woman pilot, actively took part in the air campaign against the Kurds. She carried out bombing sorties over civilian-populated areas. The countries that supplied the largest amount of chemical weapons to Saddam knew well ahead of time that he was going to kill more Kurds, over 182,000 of them.
In all of these mass-murders, acts of genocide, the Western colonial powers – including the American, the British, the French, the Germans, and the Russians – were willing participants. Actually, the American corporations selling as merchants of death were competing with the European ones in selling Saddam whatever he wished to buy. These countries/companies benefited financially from the killing of the Kurds because of their ethnicity. The sources and suppliers of the chemical weapons are no longer a secret. The Western corporations that knowingly provided chemical weapons to Saddam or Assad must not remain unpunished.
Dr. M. Koohzad is a Professor Emeritus of Middle Eastern Studies in the United States.
Abdulla, Mufid. “Assad’s chemical attack is reminiscent of Saddam.” Kurdistan tribune.com, September 4, 2013. http://kurdistantribune.com/2013/assads-chemical-attack-reminiscent-of-saddam/
rt.com. “UK delivered Syria chemicals needed for sarin production ‘for 6 years’”rt.com, Published time: September 08, 2013 12:03. Edited time: September 09, 2013 05:33. http://rt.com/news/uk-sarin-syria-weapons-chemical-573/
Simpson, John. “Halabja chemical weapons: A chance to find the men who armed Saddam.” bbc.co.uk, 2 December 2012 Last updated at 19:02 ET.http://www.bbc.co.uk/ news/magazine-20553826