Skip to comments.No WMD Stockpiles in Iraq? Not Exactly ...
Posted on 10/08/2004 4:00:16 PM PDT by SandRat
Is it really true that Saddam Hussein had no "stockpiles" of weapons of mass destruction before the U.S. invaded in March 2003?
Not exactly - at least not if one counts the 500 tons of uranium that the Iraqi dictator kept stored at his al Tuwaitha nuclear weapons development plant.
The press hasn't made much of Saddam's 500-ton uranium stockpile, downplaying the story to such an extent that most Americans aren't even aware of it. But it's been reported - albeit in a by-the-way fashion - by the New York Times and a handful of other media outlets. And one of Saddam's nuclear scientists, Jaffar Dhia Jaffar, admitted to the BBC earlier this year, "We had 500 tons of yellow cake [uranium] in Baghdad."
Surely 500 tons of anything qualifies as a "stockpile." And press reports going back more than a decade give no indication that weapons inspectors had any idea the Iraqi dictator had amassed such a staggering amount of nuke fuel until the U.S. invaded.
That's when the International Atomic Energy Agency was finally able to take a full inventory, and suddenly the 500-ton figure emerged.
Still, experts say Saddam's massive uranium stockpile was largely benign.
Largely? Well, except for the 1.8 tons of uranium that Saddam had begun to enrich. The U.S. Energy Department considered that stockpile so dangerous that it mounted an unprecedented airlift operation four months ago to remove the enriched uranium stash from al Tuwaitha.
But didn't most of that enrichment take place before the first Gulf War - with no indication whatsoever that Saddam was capable of proceeding any further toward his dream of acquiring the bomb?
That seems to be the consensus. But there's also disturbing evidence to the contrary.
David Kay, the former chief U.S. weapons inspector who was hailed by the press last year for pronouncing Iraq WMD-free, shared some interesting observations with Congress this past January about goings-on at al Tuwaitha in 2000 and 2001.
"[The Iraqis] started building new buildings, renovating it, hiring some new staff and bringing them together," Kay said. "And they ran a few physics experiments, re-ran experiments they'd actually run in the '80s."
"Fortunately, from my point of view," he added, "Operation Iraqi Freedom intervened and we don't know how or how fast that would have gone ahead. ... Given their history, it was certainly an emerging program that I would not have looked forward to their continuing to pursue."
Kay's successor, Charles Duelfer, also has confirmed that nuclear research at al Tuwaitha was continuing right up until the U.S. invasion, telling Congress in March that Saddam's scientists were "preserving and expanding [their] knowledge to design and develop nuclear weapons."
One laboratory at al Tuwaitha, Duelfer said, "was intentionally focused on research applicable for nuclear weapons development."
Still, most experts say that Iraq was nowhere near being able to produce nuclear weapons, which is a good thing, considering how much raw material Saddam had to work with.
Writing in the London Evening Standard earlier this year, Norman Dombey, professor of theoretical physics at the University of Sussex, walked his readers through a simple calculation:
"You have a warehouse containing 500 tons of natural uranium; you need 25 kilograms of U235 to build one weapon. How many nuclear weapons can you build? The answer is 142."
Fortunately for the world, Saddam didn't have the nuclear enrichment technology to convert his 500-ton uranium stockpile into weapons-grade bombmaking material.
Or did he?
After he was captured by U.S. forces in Baghdad last year, Dr. Mahdi Obeidi, who ran Saddam's nuclear centrifuge program until 1997, had some disturbing news for coalition debriefers.
He kept blueprints for a nuclear centrifuge, along with some actual centrifuge components, stored at his home - buried in the front yard - awaiting orders from Baghdad to proceed.
"I had to maintain the program to the bitter end," Obeidi said recently. His only other choice was death.
In his new book, "The Bomb in My Garden," the Iraqi physicist explains that his nuclear stash was the key that could have unlocked and restarted Saddam's bombmaking program.
"The centrifuge is the single most dangerous piece of nuclear technology," he writes. "With advances in centrifuge technology, it is now possible to conceal a uranium enrichment program inside a single warehouse."
Last week Dr. Obeidi warned in a New York Times op-ed piece that Saddam could have restarted his nuclear program "with a snap of his fingers."
Perhaps the 500-ton stockpile of nuclear fuel that Saddam kept at al Tuwaitha wasn't quite as benign as our media like to pretend.
Thanks, I love it!
So you're assuming that if that particular centrifuge was inoperable, that means Saddam had lost interest in acquiring an operable centrifuge? Why did Saddam have Obedi keep the blueprint, then? What was he planning to use the yellowcake for? Why did he continue to develop long-range missiles in violation of the UN resolution? Was he in violation of the UN resolution or not, in your opinion?
"Yellowcake is an unenriched form of uranium that is commonly used in nuclear power production. It must be enriched to use it for either power or weapons. There's no evidence he had the ability to enrich it for either."
So what did he store 500 tons of it for, then?--and why did he cache the centrifuge for ten years and keep the blueprint? The purpose of having yellowcake is to enrich it for one of two major applications: power or weapons. It's evident Saddam didn't need it for power. The stored material was kept at a site we know Saddam had used as a nuclear weapons development plant. It's not hard to deduce what Saddam was storing it for. That's sufficient evidence under the UN resolutions, where the burden of evidence is on Saddam to prove he's not developing nuclear weapons, not on the UN to prove he is.
Glad we agree on the long-range missiles, at least.
"That's sufficient evidence under the UN resolutions"
worth repeating, we knew Saddam was a threat, we had the justification to do something by unanimous vote in the security council , we acted and have been proven right as this alone is sufficient evidence under the UN resolutions of banned stockpiles.
Why Bush doesn't stand up to the hate America crowd and accuse them of propagandizing that we didn't find WMDS has been puzzling.....
"Why Bush doesn't stand up to the hate America crowd and accuse them of propagandizing that we didn't find WMDS has been puzzling....."
I've been pondering that as well. I've considered several possible reasons. One is that the President's legal advisors seem to have been trying to base their case as much as possible on undisputed facts rather than ones which might be contested by hostile parties in the UN, which I believe was why they based the case for war on Saddam's violation of UN resolutions rather than trying to prove a link to 9/11 (even though that link was being argued by James Woolsey and others). Another, related reason I've heard suggested which sounds plausible to me is that any WMD claims the President would make would be attacked by Clinton holdovers in the intelligence community, creating more Joe Wilson-type controversies, and the administration would prefer to avoid stepping into that type of potential PR trap. Finally, my own theory, based on some comments the President has made and some other things, is that he's protecting an ongoing investigation which is diplomatically touchy, i.e., stating the facts openly at this point would escalate conflicts with the nations that helped arm Saddam and helped him conceal his WMD, and on the diplomatic and military timetable the administration has scheduled it would be premature to pursue that at this point. I do believe it will be pursued in due course.
"The inspectors reported it years ago"
Yet the article says :
"And press reports going back more than a decade give no indication that weapons inspectors had any idea the Iraqi dictator had amassed such a staggering amount of nuke fuel until the U.S. invaded."
But would a " staggering amount " be allowed?
Perhaps it is the fact they did not declare the yellow cake, is the issue
In any case if it walks like a duck and talks like one it must be one, and a staggering amount of anything indeed for only one use, e.g. war, must be WMD stockpile?
My understanding is that the resolutions required all yellowcake remaining in Iraq as of 1991 to be placed under IAEA seal at Tuwaitha, with no further yellowcake to be acquired, so whatever amount of yellowcake remained in 1991 was permitted under those conditions only. However this was premised on the assumed condition of Saddam otherwise complying with the resolutions, which he wasn't. Despite the spin the Duelfer Report is getting, a close reading indicates that Saddam did not abandon his nuclear weapons program: "after 1991, Saddam did express his intent to retain the intellectual capital developed during the Iraqi Nuclear Program. . .In the wake of Desert Storm, Iraq took steps to conceal key elements of its program and to preserve what it could of the professional capabilities of its nuclear scientific community. . .ISG found a limited number of post-1995 activities that would have aided the reconstitution of the nuclear weapons program once sanctions were lifted." In this context, Saddam's possession of yellowcake constituted a potential threat.
"the government has admitted there were have been no WMD found so far"
They've admitted finding no "stockpiles" of WMD. They've also stated Saddam had some WMD that were transferred to other countries.
According to DeLong - U.S. Military Intelligence had been able to determine that WMDs were smuggled out of the country as U.S. military forces were preparing to liberate Iraq. DeLong made the remarks to New York talk radio listeners: "I do know for a fact that some of those weapons went into Syria, Lebanon, and Iran."
David Kay, the recently resigned head of an American WMD search team in Iraq, confirmed that part of Saddam's weapons was hidden in Syria, Britain's Sunday Telegraph reported on Jan. 25, 2004. Kay said he had uncovered conclusive evidence shortly before last year's U.S. invasion. "We are not talking about a large stockpile of weapons, but we know from some of the interrogations of former Iraqi officials that a lot of material went to Syria before the war, including some components of Saddam's WMD program," Kay said.
Show me one instance where the government has found WMD...not "stockpiles", but any WMD. The fact is, they haven't.
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