June 28, 2004

Niger - Uranium Story Pans Out

According to an investigation by the Financial Times, there was apparently a discussion of a sale of uranium between Iraq and Niger after all:

Until now, the only evidence of Iraq's alleged attempts to buy uranium from Niger had turned out to be a forgery. In October 2002, documents were handed to the US embassy in Rome that appeared to be correspondence between Niger and Iraqi officials.

When the US State Department later passed the documents to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog, they were found to be fake. US officials have subsequently distanced themselves from the entire notion that Iraq was seeking buy uranium from Niger.

However, European intelligence officers have now revealed that three years before the fake documents became public, human and electronic intelligence sources from a number of countries picked up repeated discussion of an illicit trade in uranium from Niger. One of the customers discussed by the traders was Iraq.

Power Line comments here, and links to an archived August 2003 post in which they wondered why the discovery of some forged documents had people backpedaling from the entirely logical conclusion that if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck....

OK, let's put this together. Apart from livestock that cross over into Nigeria, it is hard to find any reference to an export product other than uranium. Iraq had bought uranium from Niger in the 1980's, and in 1999 one of Iraq's principal advocates of nuclear weapons development was sent on a trade mission to Niger. (He was also accredited as Ambassador to Niger.) If he wasn't trying to buy uranium, then what was he trying to buy? The French, who would be in the best position to know since they operate Niger's uranium mines, apparently told the British that he was trying to buy uranium. Would someone please tell me what known facts have "discredited" the claim that Iraq tried to buy uranium in Niger?

Everyone knows that it was Joe Wilson, self-promoter and partisan hack, who spent eight days drinking mint tea in Niger, and found no basis for any claims that Iraq sought to buy uranium there. At least there were none at the bottom of his teacup. The Belgravia Dispatch links to a follow up piece by FT.com here.

I feel certain that humble apologies will be forthcoming from all of the Democratic politicians who called Bush a "liar" for his statement in the State of the Union address regarding this bit of intelligence.

Posted by dan at June 28, 2004 9:06 PM