Just months after a New York Times exposé in which US troops alleged serious injuries from chemical weapons in Iraq, a new story has emerged about US efforts to acquire these arms—and the secret source from which they were culled. The CIA, with military help, reportedly purchased at least 400 Borak rockets from an unnamed Iraqi seller in 2005 and 2006, then destroyed them to keep them away from unsavory groups, the Times reports. The arms purveyor for "Operation Avarice" was a "sole Iraqi source ... eager to sell his stock," officials who requested anonymity tell the Times. No one's saying how much the US paid, or who the seller may have been linked to. While the CIA hasn't commented, Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement, per the Times, "Without speaking to any specific programs, it is fair to say that together with our coalition partners in Iraq, the US military worked diligently to find and remove weapons that could be used against our troops and the Iraqi people."
While some of the rockets—which the seller provided in dribs and drabs—ended up being empty or filled with other liquid, many contained sarin, the Times notes. To test them, the weapons were placed in "an old cast-iron bathtub" and drilled for their contents, a veteran tells the Times; some of the sarin reached purity levels of up to 13%, officials add. One of the few people who would use their name in the Times article says the program was a success. "This was a timely and effective initiative by our national intelligence partners that negated the use of these unique munitions," retired Army Lt. Gen. Richard P. Zahner says. As for the secret seller, he got "a little cocky," a veteran tells the Times, trying to sell rockets with a liquid he passed off as sarin and one time threatening to give the weapons to insurgents unless the CIA came to get them ASAP. The transactions ended shortly after that.