Are we with them or against them?

r_2100x1400_radio_praha.png

At the beginning of the week, British Prime Minister Tony Blair unveiled a dossier on Iraq containing photographs of L-29 Dolphin military fighter planes, which Saddam Hussein is allegedly trying to transform into carriers for chemical and biological weapons. The planes were made in the former Communist Czechoslovakia. Earlier this month, the Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes reported that a newly revealed document proved that Communist Czechoslovakia had links to the Palestinian terrorist who masterminded the 1972 Olympics massacre in Munich, Germany. It is also no secret that Muhammad Atta, the man believed to have piloted one of the hijacked planes that crashed into the World Trade Centre in New York on September 11th last year, visited the Czech Republic twice, and to make matters worse, is believed to have contacted an Iraqi intelligence official to discuss plans to blow up the American-funded Radio Free Europe headquarters in Prague. A former UN chief weapons inspector then disclosed that he suspected the Iraqi agent to have handed Atta anthrax spores when they met in the Czech capital...

At the beginning of the week, British Prime Minister Tony Blair unveiled a dossier on Iraq containing photographs of L-29 Dolphin military fighter planes, which Saddam Hussein is allegedly trying to transform into carriers for chemical and biological weapons. The planes were made in the former Communist Czechoslovakia. Earlier this month, the Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes reported that a newly revealed document proved that Communist Czechoslovakia had links to the Palestinian terrorist who masterminded the 1972 Olympics massacre in Munich, Germany. It is also no secret that Muhammad Atta, the man believed to have piloted one of the hijacked planes that crashed into the World Trade Centre in New York on September 11th last year, visited the Czech Republic twice, and to make matters worse, is believed to have contacted an Iraqi intelligence official to discuss plans to blow up the American-funded Radio Free Europe headquarters in Prague. A former UN chief weapons inspector then disclosed that he suspected the Iraqi agent to have handed Atta anthrax spores when they met in the Czech capital.

The list goes on and you probably have not failed to notice that the Czech Republic and former Czechoslovakia have often been mentioned in stories making the headlines in the war against terrorism.

You may recall the famous words of U.S. President George W. Bush after the September 11th attacks on the United States: "You're either with us or against us" and he was speaking there about the international war on terrorism. The Czech Republic, now a NATO member, has made it clear that it chooses the first option. We are with the United States. And yet, the country's name pops up in terrorist-related stories far too often.

Internationally, the Czech Republic may be working alongside the western countries in the fight against terrorism but what is it doing on the national level? A week ago, the Czech Minister of Defence had to find out in shame and disappointment that security around Army stores and ammunition dumps is a joke, meaning that weapons can easily get into the wrong hands. And that is not all. Outdated and obsolete weapons owned by the Czech Interior Ministry are being simply sold out. Ministry officials are currently selling weapons worth 900 million Czech crowns to companies that hold licenses to trade with arms, without monitoring whom these companies do business with. With very little interest in them within the country, it is almost certain that most of the weapons are sold abroad.

After the September 11th attacks, Interior Minister Stanislav Gross began looking into the companies that the weapons are being sold to. That, however, stopped for several months as other issues became priority. According to Petr Benda, the head of the ministry department responsible for the sale of outdated weapons, Minister Gross' interest is rising again. But Mr Benda stresses that it is not up to the ministry to monitor where the weapons are sold to. The Czech Intelligence Service, however, is well aware of the great interest in Czech weapons from abroad.

Communist Czechoslovakia has always been known to be an ally to Iraq, exchanging weapons for natural resources. It was a different time, under different conditions. However, as long as it continues to make money off its outdated weapons, the Czech Republic - whether it likes to admit it or not - will always be a potential supplier of arms to countries that harbour terrorism and will continue to pop-up in terrorist-related headlines in the future.