This is a partial transcript from On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, December 30, 2003.
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GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Tonight: Are our so-called foreign friends passing illegal weapons to Iraq, putting our soldiers in grave danger? Files reportedly just found in Baghdad show a Syrian business trafficked in the weapons between 2000 and 2003. What's even more disturbing is some of the deadly weapons originated in countries like Poland and South Korea.
Joining us is Bill Gertz, national security reporter for "The Washington Times." What's going on with Syria?
BILL GERTZ, WASHINGTON TIMES: Well, this is a good scoop by The Los Angeles Times (search). They got ahold of some documents from the main military procurement office under Saddam Hussein's regime, called the Al Bashar (ph) Trading Company. And what those documents revealed was that Syria had become the major conduit for illegal weapons deliveries from around the world to Saddam Hussein's regime in the months and years leading up to the latest Iraq conflict.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. In violation of U.N. sanctions and embargoes, right?
VAN SUSTEREN: I might add. All right. What countries -- let's get the list out.
VAN SUSTEREN: Let's out these countries that were using Syria. What countries were using the Syrian business to sell their weapons to Iraq, in violation of the U.N. resolution?
GERTZ: Well, there are a number of them, and some of them were identified in this recent article. They include a Polish company, several Russian companies, a South Korean company, also Slovenia, a company there, all of which used various subterfuges or attempted to mask these deliveries as some kind of dual -- use -- that is, commercial/military equipment -- when, in fact, they were heavily military, including such things as 1,000 heavy machine guns and ammunition, surface-to-air missile rocket motors, which allowed the Iraqis to actually upgrade their ability to do air defense against U.S. aircraft that were patrolling the country at the time.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Did any American-made products go into this sort of channel of illegal or illicit weapons to Iraq?
GERTZ: Yes. There's one Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company that was involved in selling some communications gear or some equipment to Iraq. I think this is...
VAN SUSTEREN: Selling to Iraq or selling to somebody else that's sort of innocent, in terms of any sort of idea where it ends up?
GERTZ: Well, sure. That's -- it was all done through a Syrian company, which was really a front company. It was called SES International. And they were the main contractor for this al Bashar procurement office, which was the largest of several Iraqi procurement efforts. What it really shows is the utter failure of the U.N. weapons sanctions, which had been in place since the end of the first Gulf war and which progressively were defeated through these kinds of illicit and illegal arms-smuggling operations.
VAN SUSTEREN: But it isn't just -- it isn't just even the U.N., it's its members. I mean, Syria voted to be -- voted on the resolution against Iraq, and then meanwhile, they're at least fostering a supply of weapons to the country.
GERTZ: Right. There was a major shift in Syrian-Iraqi relations about three or four years ago, and that's when they established a covert oil pipeline that was done outside of the U.N. oil-for-food program. And this was a huge cash cow for not just Syria but for Saddam Hussein's regime. And that was like, really, the funding source that allowed them to do the weapons purchases.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Now, when you talk about -- we say Syria. Is it Syria the country, or is it a private business that's been doing this -- these transactions?
GERTZ: Well, there are some indications that the company involved, this SES, is linked into the Syrian government. There appear to be some connections between the government and the people running this company, although it's not exactly clear, at this point. We still haven't heard the Syrian government's response to these allegations. I'm sure that'll be coming in the next few days.
But things in Syria -- arms shipments -- can't take place without the government having some idea. For example, there was a North Korean missile deal that took place in Syria. It was disclosed first by David Kay, the Iraq Survey Group leader. This has some more information that this company brokered the deal that basically ended up with Saddam losing $10 million in a missile deal.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. I remember Secretary Powell, I think, was mad last March, before the invasion started, about night goggles being sold to -- ending up in Iraq through Syria. Is this a much bigger problem to the United States? And we only have 25 seconds. But is this so much bigger than we thought last March?
GERTZ: Much bigger. And I think -- like I said, this is the tip of the iceberg. It was night vision goggles. There were some explosives coming in. The Syrians basically do not have control of that border. We're also seeing terrorists come in, and they're not coming in unarmed, they're coming in with arms and explosives.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Bill. Thank you very much.
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