September 26, 2004


Saddam, the Bomb and Me (MAHDI OBEIDI, 9/26/04, NY Times)

Iraq's nuclear weapons program was on the threshold of success before the 1991 invasion of Kuwait - there is no doubt in my mind that we could have produced dozens of nuclear weapons within a few years - but was stopped in its tracks by United Nations weapons inspectors after the Persian Gulf war and was never restarted. During the 1990's, the inspectors discovered all of the laboratories, machines and materials we had used in the nuclear program, and all were destroyed or otherwise incapacitated.

By 1998, when Saddam Hussein evicted the weapons inspectors from Iraq, all that was left was the dangerous knowledge of hundreds of scientists and the blueprints and prototype parts for the centrifuge, which I had buried under a tree in my garden.

In addition to the inspections, the sanctions that were put in place by the United Nations after the gulf war made reconstituting the program impossible. During the 1980's, we had relied heavily on the international black market for equipment and technology; the sanctions closed that avenue.

Another factor in the mothballing of the program was that Saddam Hussein was profiting handsomely from the United Nations oil-for-food program, building palaces around the country with the money he skimmed. I think he didn't want to risk losing this revenue stream by trying to restart a secret weapons program. [...]

So, how could the West have made such a mistaken assessment of the nuclear program before the invasion last year? Even to those of us who knew better, it's fairly easy to see how observers got the wrong impression. First, there was Saddam Hussein's history. He had demonstrated his desire for nuclear weapons since the late 1970's, when Iraqi scientists began making progress on a nuclear reactor. He had used chemical weapons against his own people and against Iran during the 1980's. After the 1991 war, he had tried to hide his programs in weapons of mass destruction for as long as possible (he even kept my identity secret from weapons inspectors until 1995). It would have been hard not to suspect him of trying to develop such weapons again. [...]

In addition, the West never understood the delusional nature of Saddam Hussein's mind. [...]

So what now? The dictator may be gone, but that doesn't mean the nuclear problem is behind us. Even under the watchful eyes of Saddam Hussein's security services, there were worries that our scientists might escape to other countries or sell their knowledge to the highest bidder. This expertise is even more valuable today, with nuclear technology ever more available on the black market and a proliferation of peaceful energy programs around the globe that use equipment easily converted to military use.

Hundreds of my former staff members and fellow scientists possess knowledge that could be useful to a rogue nation eager for a covert nuclear weapons program.

Syria brokers secret deal to send atomic weapons scientists to Iran (Con Coughlin, 26/09/2004, Sunday Telegraph)
Syria's President Bashir al-Asad is in secret negotiations with Iran to secure a safe haven for a group of Iraqi nuclear scientists who were sent to Damascus before last year's war to overthrow Saddam Hussein. [...]

A group of about 12 middle-ranking Iraqi nuclear technicians and their families were transported to Syria before the collapse of Saddam's regime. The transfer was arranged under a combined operation by Saddam's now defunct Special Security Organisation and Syrian Military Security, which is headed by Arif Shawqat, the Syrian president's brother-in-law.

The Iraqis, who brought with them CDs crammed with research data on Saddam's nuclear programme, were given new identities, including Syrian citizenship papers and falsified birth, education and health certificates. Since then they have been hidden away at a secret Syrian military installation where they have been conducting research on behalf of their hosts.

Growing political concern in Washington about Syria's undeclared weapons of mass destruction programmes, however, has prompted President Asad to reconsider harbouring the Iraqis.

Whoever's holding these guys when the music stops gets deposed first.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 26, 2004 8:54 AM

I say we and Israel divvy up the hornet's nest. We can start by making a few runs into Syria just to scare the crap out of Assad, with promises of more to come if he doesn't drop his WMDs like Ted Kennedy's pants at a New Year's party. Also, since the mullahs are about to point the Shahab-3 at Jerusalem, we give the Israelis carte blanche to turn Iran's uranium-enrichment center into Osirak, Part II. Plus they get to bomb back to the Jurassic era any damn thing they want to (and, if their intelligence is up to it's usual standards, they may already have a good idea where the Shahab-3 is).

Sound like a good plan? They why the hell am I a starving college student and the State Department's usual deadwood gets fantastic government discounts at D.C.'s best hotels?

Posted by: Matt Murphy at September 26, 2004 11:45 PM

Ah yes, more of the work of Con Coughlin. In England it's often joked that his middle name is "Artist."

It's hard to choose a favorite Coughlin story, because he's such a reliable peddler of the most transparent nonsense. But one of my favorites is here.

As you'll see, Coughlin reports with a straight face the discovery of a memo (vouched for by Allawi, by the way) describing Mohammed Atta's training in Baghdad, PLUS (in the same memo) mention of a mysterious shipment from Niger.

Posted by: Jon at September 29, 2004 10:58 PM


It worked.

Posted by: oj at September 29, 2004 11:04 PM


What worked?

Posted by: Jon at September 29, 2004 11:18 PM

He helped get rid of Saddam.

Posted by: oj at September 30, 2004 8:19 AM