Inner City Press


In Other Media-e.g. Somalia, Ghana, Azerbaijan, The Gambia   For further information, click here to contact us          .

Home -

Search is just below this first article

Reuters AlertNet 7/14/07 7/19/07 6/29/07 6/14/7 6/1/7

How to Contact Us


Support this work by buying this book

Click on cover for secure site orders

also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"

Inner City Press Podcast --

As UN Expands in Iraq, Old Scud Missile Engines and Gyroscopes Await Their Fate

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, August 10 -- In a glass building on 48th Street and First Avenue, there is a Scud missile engine and guidance-system gyroscopes in an office which the UN is in the process of shutting down.

            As one mandate expires, another is born: on Friday, the Security Council voted to again increase the UN's presence in Iraq. At the noon media briefing that followed, Inner City Press asked about plans to build a $130 million UN Headquarters in Baghdad, and more pointedly about what will happen with the gyroscopes and other materiel held by the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission. Video here, from Minute 17:27.

            "UNMOVIC's mandate has ended," the UN's Associate Spokesman replied. There remains only the "wrapping up of work" and the "dispensation of items," about which the Press was directed to ask UNMOVIC's Ewan Buchanon. Having already done so, Inner City Press asked who will decide what to do with all the hardware? Another reporter asked if a stoop sale was on the cards. "I don't think so," the spokesman said, "but if so you can monitor it."

            Where did the gyroscopes come from? Mr. Buchanon says they were dredged from the Tigris River in Baghdad. Documents provided indicate that Iraq bought the gyros from a Russian missile de-commissioning facility near Moscow in 1995, and had them shipped to Jordan and then to Baghdad. Reportedly, the UN was notified of the transaction by Israel's Military Intelligence organization, Aman.

    When a middleman defected -- and, it's said, when Iraq realized that sophisticated gyros from submarine-based missiles were not useful on its lower-tech projectiles -- the gyros were thrown into the Tigris to avoid detection.

            A Security Council report on April 11, 1996 recited that

"some missile guidance and control components had been delivered to Iraq in July 1995 while others together with testing equipment had been stored in transit in a free port in Jordan waiting for shipment to Iraq.  An individual in Iraq (the Director General of a major missile establishment) alleged to be responsible for this acquisition, stated that he had destroyed, in August 1995, all guidance and control components received." (S/1996/258, Para. 49)

            This unnamed destroyer, we surmise, was Modher Al-Sadiq, director of the Ibn Al Haythan Missile Center. Those hungering for more are directed to Uroki dela o giroskopakh" ("Lessons of the Gyroscope Deal"), by Vladimir Orlov and Anna Otkina, "Yaderny Kontrol," no. 2, March-April 1998, pp. 13-17.

            Once the UN had the gyros dredged out of the Tigris, then-lead monitor Rolf Ekeus showed one off to the Security Council and to reporters. Through time these exhibits and others collected in 866 UN Plaza, where successor envoy Richard Butler was said to use one as a paper weight. Scott Ritter said that Butlet "toed the U.S. line;" some say that's not all he toed. The UNMOVIC mandate was ended but what to do with the left-over gyroscopes? We will be following this story.

 Gyroscopes by Tigris Canal

   Friday after the Security Council vote, Ban Ki-moon said he takes seriously staff's concerns about safety -- expressed in the Staff Council's unanimous resolution to suspend presence in Iraq until safety can be certified -- but he said that the UN must be in Iraq. He told reporters, "I am going to ask for the increased budget support for strengthening the safe housing accommodation in Iraq."

            Minutes later at the UN's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesperson's office to confirm or deny that the Secretariat told the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions that it wants to spend $130 million on a new UN headquarters in Baghdad, and that ACABQ responded negatively. Video here, from Minute 9:27. The Associate Spokesman referred to the transcript of Ban's remarks:

I need to get support from the General Assembly for safe working conditions of our staff.  I am going to ask for the increased budget support for strengthening the safe housing accommodation in Iraq.  That is one area on which I am going to work.  And I am also working on how to increase our presence in Iraq... As we are observing the fourth anniversary of Mr. [Sergio Vieira] de Mello's and  many UN staff who were tragically killed four years ago, we have to think about that.  At the same time, the United Nations must continue to work to help all the people around the world, wherever they may undergo such difficulty.  We cannot shy away because of that.  There must be somebody who should work for those people to help them overcome social and economic and political difficulties.

            Told of these remarks, a staff member asked, "Who put them in these difficulties?" and wondered whether Ban will wait to see what General Assembly approval for spending is forthcoming before sending any additional staff to Iraq. He predicted picket line out in front of the UN, stretching past the ex-UNMOVIC office on 48th and First, made up of staff members. We'll see.

* * *

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.

Feedback: Editorial [at]

UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540

Search WWW Search

Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service.

            Copyright 2006-07 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at] -

UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540