"Bottom line is that the DOE and the State Department were *very* skeptical of the CIA's claim that the tubes were for uranium enrichment, and it looks to me like they had some pretty good reasons for being skeptical."
I am not nearly convinced of that based, in part on what the analysts themselves said.
There is only 1 sentence in the article that disputes that the tubes could be used for centrifuges....
Simply put, the analysis concluded that the tubes were the wrong size - too narrow, too heavy, too long - to be of much practical use in a centrifuge.
The length they gave was 900 millimeters. That is only about 3 feet.
Back to the article...
The American centrifuges loomed 40 feet high,
They said the aluminum tubes in Iraq were too long??? 3 feet is longer than 40 feet?
They also said the tubes were too heavy. What is lighter weight than aluminum?
When asked what the tubes were for, they took weeks to answer, then came up with rockets. Have you ever heard of dual use? They could only be used for 1 purpose?
Also, the report they based all of this on was dated May, 2001. Clinton's people were in place (in DOE) that early after the inaugeration of President Bush.
The DOE was skeptical of the aluminum tubes for several reasons, all mentioned in the articles.
1) The centrifuges used by Iraq in the 1990's were a modern design that used tubes made of carbon fiber and an exotic steel alloy. Centrifuges using aluminum tubes haven't been designed since the 1950's. So it would have been an odd step backwards for them to have reverted to aluminum.
2) The tubes were anodized on the inside, which would have caused an unwanted chemical reaction with the uranium gas.
3) The dimensions of the aluminum tubes were an exact match for those of an Italian made artillery rocket that Iraq was known to have used. The CIA had asserted the possibility of dual use by claiming that the dimensions also matched a widely-known centrifuge design from the 1950's, but the DOE showed that this claim was incorrect, that the dimensions were quite different.
4) The CIA also claimed that the alloy used in the tubes was not suitable for rocket bodies because it was extremely hard and therefore difficult to machine and weld -- but the DOE showed that the Italian rockets used that exact alloy.
5) Sidenote: after the war, when Iraqi weapons engineers were asked why they had ordered the tubes, they replied that they were running low and needed more. When asked why they had ordered the tubes with such precise tolerances, they said it was a way of gaining rocket accuracy without doing other redesign work. When asked why they had wanted the tubes to be anodized, they replied that it was to guard against corrosion, since the rockets were stored outdoors. They then presented several rockets whose non-anodized bodies had corroded during storage.
Regarding your point about 3ft versus 40ft -- I don't see any evidence that the heigth of a centrifuge is determined by the length of the tubes. My guess is that one centrifuge unit actually consists of a stack of centrifuges, kind of like a stack of pancakes, so that tube length determines the diameter of the thing rather than its height. Furthermore, a forty foot tube would be unusably floppy at the speeds centrifuges turn at.
Even so, it *is* possible that the Iraqis planned on using the tubes for uranium enrichment and were just being real sneaky about it, as the CIA claimed. The problem is that the administration never acknowledged that there was an expert counterargument to that claim. Had the WMD's been found, then it would have been a non-issue, but as things stand now, the Democrats are sure to cite this as evidence that the administration was dishonest about the prewar intelligence. If the 2006 elections go their way, this will be part of the Democrat case for impeachment against President Bush.
I'm just saying that it's unwise to get cocky and dismiss the Democrats' case for impeachment as totally devoid of content. Unfortunately the do have some cards they can play.
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