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Context of 'May 23, 2001: Shipment of Aluminum Tubes, Destined for Iraq, Leaves China'

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Customs officers in Hong Kong intercept a convoy from China carrying 200 crates of rocket-fuel propellant. The shipment is bound for Khan Research Laboratories, the heart of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons industry. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 261)

US intelligence learns from the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) that Iraq has made arrangements to purchase tubes, made of 7075-T6 aluminum, from China through Garry Cordukes, the director of the Australian company International Aluminum Supply. The company is associated with Kam Kiu Propriety Limited, a subsidiary of the Chinese company that will manufacture the aluminum tubes. Concerned that the tubes may be related to Iraqi efforts to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program, an Australian intelligence agent contacts Cordukes to obtain a sample of the tubes for examination. A CIA agent, Joe T., is said to have played a significant part in this discovery. (Gellman and Pincus 8/10/2003; Jackson 10/27/2003 Sources: Unnamed US intelligence, US administration, and/or UN inspectors)

A container shipment of 3,000 7075-T6 aluminum tubes manufactured in China leaves southern China for Hong Kong on a slow barge. From there the shipment will go to Jordan. The tubes’ final destination is Iraq. (Jackson 10/27/2003)

The Chinese government contacts a Chinese aluminum manufacturer that has just filled an order for 3,000 7075-T6 aluminum tubes, which is now on its way to Iraq. The company is told that the US government has a special interest in the order and is determined to prevent the shipment from reaching its destination. (Jackson 10/27/2003 Sources: Garry Cordukes)

Following leads from the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) (see 2000), a team of CIA agents and Jordanian secret police confiscate a shipment of 3,000 7075-T6 aluminum tubes in Jordan. The tubes were purchased by a Jordanian front company, AT&C, on behalf of Iraq. (Gellman and Pincus 8/10/2003; Jackson 10/27/2003) It is later learned that Iraq’s supply of rocket body casing tubes is depleted at about this time (see January 9, 2003) and that “[t]housands of warheads, motors and fins [are]… crated at the assembly lines [in Iraq], awaiting the arrival of tubes.” (Gellman and Pincus 8/10/2003 Sources: Unnamed US intelligence, US administration, and/or UN inspectors)

The CIA issues a Senior Executive Memorandum, titled “The Iraqi Threat,” stating, “[W]e believe a shipment of…tubes…[are] destined for use in Iraqi gas centrifuges.” (The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction (aka 'Robb-Silberman Commission') 3/31/2005)


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