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BBC’s John Simpson claims Arafat told him Iraq sent WMDs to Syria before 2003 invasion

March 18, 2024 at 12:37 pm

Saddam Hussein, Yasser Arafat and Ali Nasser Muhammad in Baghdad on November 3-5, 1978, Iraq. [Alain MINGAM/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images]

The BBC’s World Affairs Editor, John Simpson, has claimed that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein sent his alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) to neighbouring Syria prior to the US invasion of his country in 2003, citing former Palestinian President, Yasser Arafat, as a source.

In a post on social media platform X on Saturday, the veteran war correspondent spoke of the 36th anniversary of the Halabja Massacre in which Hussein’s forces attacked the northern Kurdish town with chemical weapons supplied by German and several other European companies, which resulted in the deaths of an estimated 5,000 people, mainly women and children.

Simspon said that he, along with others, were “affected by the residual chemicals lingering in the basements of the houses where we filmed — 25 years later.”

Yet when a user replied by bringing up the missing WMDs, whose alleged existence was used to justify the illegal US-led invasion of Iraq, Simspon responded by asserting that “Saddam sent them to Syria before the invasion.”

When queried by another user for further elaboration, the 79-year-old dropped the bombshell allegation that “Yasser Arafat told me in Baghdad before the US/UK invasion.”

READ: Algeria warns of Israel occupation possibly using chemical weapons in Gaza

Following the invasion and subsequent war and occupation, extensive searches by international inspectors failed to find any significant stockpiles of WMDs.

Simspon provided no additional information to his story, prompting others, including fellow journalists, to ridicule and scrutinise his claims, especially as he waited two decades to disclose them. “And just like that, just like the BBC, you lost all credibility. Sad legacy,” said one user.

However, this isn’t the first time he has claimed Iraq transferred its WMDs to Syria, last year in an article for, Simspon said: “A lot of the invasion’s supporters thought it would be retrospectively self-justifying: they assumed that Saddam Hussein had plenty of weapons of mass destruction, which would be uncovered by the invading forces.”

“After all, he’d used poison gas against Iran and against his own Kurdish people in Halabjeh, and threatened long and loudly to use nuclear weapons against the invaders,” he added.

There were none: he smuggled his WMDs to Syria before the war began.

READ: 20 years after the US invasion of Iraq