Report: CIA Bought Chemical Weapons From Iraq to Keep Them Out of Terrorists' Hands

New York Times reports that Operation Avarice netted at least 400 Borak rockets, one of the chemical weapons Saddam Hussein produced in 1980s.

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Islamic State group militants in a commandeered Iraqi military vehicle in Fallujah, Iraq, March 30, 2014.Credit: AP

The CIA worked with the U.S. military to purchase Iraqi rockets containing the deadly nerve agent sarin, as part of a secret effort to keep terrorists and militant groups from acquiring old chemical weapons in Iraq, The New York Times reported Sunday.

The U.S. military considers the purchase plan – Operation Avarice, which took place in 2005 and 2006 – to be a nonproliferation success, the Times said.

It netted at least 400 Borak rockets, one of the chemical weapons that Saddam Hussein's government produced in the 1980s, according to the report. UN inspectors were unable to locate the rockets after the Gulf War in 1991.

That doesn't mean there aren't any weapons caches left in Iraq for extremists to take over, though.

In July, Iraq said in a letter that the Islamic State group, formerly known as ISIS, had taken control of a vast former chemical weapons facility northwest of Baghdad, where remnants of 2,500 degraded chemical rockets filled with sarin are stored along with other chemical warfare agents.

At the time, the U.S. said there were no intact chemical weapons there.
But many of the rockets purchased as part of Operation Avarice were in poor condition, the Times reported, saying that analysis showed the leftover sarin to be more potent than intelligence officials had expected given its age.