I was really looking forward to Joe Wilson, on the stand, UNDER OATH, letting us know which of the numerous versions of his story is actually true.
Wilson's reports to the CIA added to the evidence that Iraq may have tried to buy uranium in Niger, although officials at the State Department remained highly skeptical, the report said.
Wilson said that a former prime minister of Niger, Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, was unaware of any sales contract with Iraq, but said that in June 1999 a businessman approached him, insisting that he meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss "expanding commercial relations" between Niger and Iraq -- which Mayaki interpreted to mean they wanted to discuss yellowcake sales. A report CIA officials drafted after debriefing Wilson said that "although the meeting took place, Mayaki let the matter drop due to UN sanctions on Iraq."
According to the former Niger mining minister, Wilson told his CIA contacts, Iraq tried to buy 400 tons of uranium in 1998.
Recall Wilson's famous op-ed in the New York Times, published on July 6, 2003, which ignited the whole firestorm over the famous "sixteen words" in Bush's State of the Union speech. In that op-ed, Wilson identified himself as the formerly-unnamed person who had gone to Niger to investigate rumors of a possible uranium deal between Iraq and Niger. Here are the key words in Wilson's article:[I]n January, President Bush, citing the British dossier, repeated the charges about Iraqi efforts to buy uranium from Africa. The next day, I reminded a friend at the State Department of my trip and suggested that if the president had been referring to Niger, then his conclusion was not borne out by the facts as I understood them.
So what was Iraq looking to import from Niger?
Uranium is Niger's largest export. Foreign exchange earnings from livestock, although difficult to quantify, are second. Actual exports far exceed official statistics, which often fail to detect large herds of animals informally crossing into Nigeria. Some hides and skins are exported, and some are transformed into handicrafts.
The persistent uranium price slump has brought lower revenues for Niger's uranium sector, although uranium still provides 72% of national export proceeds.
I am guessing goat hides. Can never have enough goat hides.