9 November 2003

The Hunt for Iraq's Weapons

On the issue of Iraq's use of aluminum tubes, I did confirm, in response to a question by Gellman, that aluminum tubes form the body of Iraqi 81mm battlefield rockets and that my teams had recovered some of these rockets for technical examination. Further, I stated that the empty tubes were innocuous in view of the large quantities of lethal Iraqi conventional weapons such as small arms, explosive ordnance and man-portable air defense systems in this country. I did not make any judgment on the suitability of the 81mm aluminum tubes as components in a nuclear program.

In discussing the disbanding of the Joint Captured Materiel Exploitation Center, I told your reporter that the center's work was largely complete, and I made clear that its role was in the realm of Iraq's conventional weapons and technologies.

Stephen D. Meekin

The writer, a brigadier in the Australian Army, is commander of the coalition's Joint Captured Materiel Exploitation Center in Iraq.

ISG Head David Kay has also issued a denial in which he says Meekin is not part of the ISG.

I blogged the original Washington Post report.

The Washington Post's Ombudsman comments:

Asked about this, Gellman says: "Meekin works under Kay in any ordinary understanding of the words. Meekin told me on the record that he was 'integrated into the command structure of the Iraq Survey Group in June.' "

"I'm the senior Australian in the ISG," Gellman quotes Meekin as saying, and Meekin's immediate superior commands the ISG.

I find a number of things about the denial very strange. If Meekin is not part of the ISG why did the Anon who originally dismissed his comments not say so? All the Anon did say was that Meekin was not qualified to make that judgment. Brigadier General Meekin is also director-general of scientific and technical analysis for Australia's Defence Intelligence organisation.

In March this year, Australia's Defence Minister Senator Robert Hill commented:

The analysts and technical experts, led by the Director General Scientific and Technical Analysis, BRIG Stephen Meekin, were expected to depart Australia on May 11.

Their task is to support coalition efforts to locate, identify, account for and destroy Iraq�s existing EMD and EMD capable programs.

They will be based in various locations in Iraq.

So what do we have? Meekin is the senior Australian Defence Force intelligence officer in Iraq by authority of Australia's Defence Minister. There is no Australian in Iraq as part of Operation Catalyst more qualified to serve as the senior Australian in the ISG. Ideed Operation Catalyst includes only 16 intelligence personnel and I have trouble finding anyone among them senior to Meekin.

How likely is it that a senior military officer with Meekin's technical qualifications would not know the difference between nuclear-capable rocket tubes and non-nuclear-capable rocket tubes? Meekin would certainly not report to Kay, he would report to the Australian TJF and ultimately to the Minister.

I am going to do some more digging in Canberra and see what I can find. We have not previously heard about 2 sets of aluminium tubes in Iraq. The denials strike me as unpersuasive for the moment.

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