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3/30/03 - RUSSIAN EQUIPMENT SOLD TO IRAQ - 2003-03-31

U.S.-led coalition forces are battling to disarm the regime of Saddam Hussein and liberate the Iraqi people. In the midst of this, the world has learned that Russian firms have been secretly selling sensitive military equipment to the Saddam Hussein regime. The equipment includes devices that could be used to interfere with the coalition’s satellite-based global positioning system, or G-P-S. Fortunately, the equipment has not been used successfully. As Ari Fleischer, spokesman for President George W. Bush, put it:

“We are very concerned that there are reports of ongoing cooperation and support to Iraqi military forces being provided by a Russian company that produces G-P-S jamming equipment. . . . There are other causes of concern, as well, involving night-vision goggles and anti-tank guided missiles.”

The sale to Iraq of equipment with even a potential military use is strictly controlled under United Nations sanctions. And a total ban on sales of military equipment has been in effect for more than a dozen years. Long before the fighting began, the U.S. raised concerns to Russian officials over sales by Russian firms. And on March 24th, President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the matter by telephone.

More than forty countries have joined the U.S. in a “coalition of the willing” to liberate Iraq. Other countries, including Russia, have chosen not to join the coalition. The U.S. respects that choice. But all countries are required by the U-N to ensure that companies within their jurisdiction do not illegally aid the Saddam Hussein regime.

As President Bush said: “The future of peace and the hopes of the Iraqi people now depend on our fighting forces in the Middle East. . . . They are doing their job with skill and bravery, and with the finest of allies beside them.”

The U.S. and other coalition members entered the conflict in Iraq reluctantly. But now that the conflict has begun, said President Bush, “we will accept no outcome but victory.”