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Secret files on Baghdad's weapons plans
The Times (U.K.) ^ | 08/29/2002 | Michael Evans

Posted on 08/28/2002 6:01:48 PM PDT by Pokey78

THE only known store of nuclear material in Iraq sits in heavyweight sealed barrels at Tawaitha research facility south of Baghdad. It consists of several tonnes of low-grade uranium and is monitored by an international agency with the full co-operation of the Iraqi regime.

The legitimacy of the Tawaitha nuclear material — 1.8 tonnes of low-enriched uranium and “several tonnes” of depleted and natural uranium — contrasts sharply with what Western intelligence agencies believe is President Saddam Hussein’s clandestine programme to build a nuclear bomb and to develop other forms of weapons of mass destruction based on chemical and biological agents.

The unpublished “dossier” on Saddam’s secret weapons that the British Government says will be unveiled at the appropriate time — after a decision has been taken to launch a military attack on Iraq — goes some way towards outlining the threat.

However, senior Whitehall sources made it clear that it was not “revelatory”. The dossier, which has had to be redrafted several times, is intended to give an unclassified insight into Iraq’s progress in developing unconventional weapons since the United Nations inspections came to an abrupt halt in December 1998.

Tony Blair is getting no inside information from President Bush about his plans for dealing with Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction programme, according to a former senior American diplomat. Richard Holbrooke who was United States Ambassador to the United Nations under President Clinton, revealed in The Washington Post that a “senior adviser” to Mr Blair had told him “bitterly” that Mr Bush “was giving Blair nothing” in return for his unstinting support on Iraq.

Mr Blair’s official spokesman refused to comment yesterday on Mr Holbrooke’s remark, but said that London and Washington were “100 per cent” agreed on the need to deal with Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.

Much of the detail of the Whitehall dossier has come from Iraqi defectors because of the difficulty of acquiring “primary-source” Intelligence from within Iraq. The sources indicated that although much of the recent focus had been on Iraq’s secret plans to “weaponise” biological agents, such as anthrax and smallpox, the main area of concern was still Saddam’s ambition to build a nuclear bomb.

One source said: “If Saddam managed to develop a nuclear weapon and a delivery system to reach targets hundreds or thousands of miles away, it would change the whole power balance in the Middle East.”

Although the Government has been anxious to keep the contents of the dossier to itself, the thrust of its message has become clear: without the opportunity to send in international inspectors to check on suspected weapons-of-mass-destruction laboratories, the world will remain dangerously ignorant of what Saddam has managed to achieve in the past three and a half years.

The sources said that Saddam had “several hundred” scientists and engineers fully employed on developing nuclear, chemical and biological systems. “All of them know from the experience of the few defectors who have managed to escape to America and Britain that Saddam takes ruthless revenge on the families of those who dare to betray the secrets of his weapons programme,” one said.

Not only close relations but also the extended family of defectors have been murdered as a warning to others who may be tempted to go over to the West, the source said.

Drawing on the discoveries made by the United Nations weapons inspectors before they had to leave Baghdad in December 1998, those contributing to the Whitehall dossier have said that Iraq possessed the capability, the know-how and much of the equipment needed to build a nuclear device.

Saddam’s team of nuclear scientists still lack the fissile material to complete the bomb, and there have been no indications from satellite imagery of any attempt to build a facility capable of enriching uranium to bomb-grade quality. For that complex process the Iraqis would need substantial infrastructure and a power supply that could be spotted by American spy satellites.

Iraq has the know-how to create highly enriched uranium but the equipment needed was all destroyed by the UN inspectors after the 1991 Gulf War. “But you don’t need large buildings to develop a nuclear bomb if you can acquire weapons-grade enriched material from other sources, such as the black market,” the source said.

There are so many research facilities across the former Soviet Union that still have stocks of highly enriched uranium, many of them inadequately guarded, that the biggest fear is that Saddam will be able to shorten the time needed for building a bomb by buying smuggled weapons-grade nuclear material. Last month four men were arrested by police in Georgia with nearly 2kg (4.4lb) of enriched uranium.

The low-grade uranium stored at Tawaitha has remained untouched by the Iraqis, who every January welcome a team of four or five nuclear experts from the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency to examine the sealed barrels. An agency official confirmed that the seals had never been tampered with, and that the annual visit to Tawaitha had clearly acted as a deterrent to the Iraqis.

However, there have been many indications of Saddam’s continuing efforts to develop nuclear weapons by acquiring dual-use equipment, which might seem innocent on the import documents but can be adapted for his unconventional weapons programme. Three years ago Iraq was reported to have ordered half a dozen “lithotripters”, machines that use shock waves to get rid of kidney stones, but UN experts said they also had a practical use for triggering atomic devices.

Before the UN inspectors had to leave Baghdad, they had concluded that Saddam’s nuclear scientists had mastered the crucial technique of creating an implosive shock wave that squeezes the nuclear material to trigger a chain reaction. The inspectors also believed it was possible that the Iraqis had managed to design a sufficiently small bomb to fit on to a Scud ballistic missile. There were believed to be at least ten such missiles hidden somewhere in Iraq. Most of Iraq’s Scuds were destroyed by the UN team.

The agency keeps a “nuclear file” on Iraq, and although its inspectors, who visit Tawaitha every year, are unable to go anywhere else in Iraq, its officials say that it would be difficult for the Iraqis to get their hands on enriched uranium for a bomb. “Getting the right nuclear material, that’s Iraq’s problem,” one official said.

The Whitehall dossier, however, is believed to underline the risk that the rest of the world faces if it waits for Saddam to achieve his goal. He may be several years away from completing his nuclear bomb programme, but if he were to acquire sufficient fissile material, the countdown to his nuclear dream could start much earlier.


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The dossier against a dictator
Nuclear weapons

1 President Bush’s father, when he was in the White House, declared that the American bombing of Iraq’s nuclear weapons sites had put “Saddam Hussein out of the nuclear bomb-building business for a long time to come”. That was 11 years ago. Today, despite the systematic destruction by the International Atomic Energy Agency of Iraq’s nuclear infrastructure, including 50,000 square metres of factory space, 2,000 pieces of equipment and 600 tons of special alloys, the CIA believes that Saddam has revived his programme and that his priority is to acquire a sufficient source of fissile material.

2 Before the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq was reported to be six months from making a crude nuclear device, based on an implosion design similar to the Nagasaki bomb. Two years ago the IAEA said that if Saddam started work again on a nuclear weapon, he could build one in about two years.

3 In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee in February, George Tenet, Director of US Central Intelligence, said: “We believe Saddam never abandoned his nuclear weapons programme. Iraq retains a sufficient number of nuclear scientists, programme documentation, and probably some dual-use manufacturing infrastructure that could support a reinvigorated nuclear weapons programme.”

4 Intelligence agencies are monitoring any attempts by Saddam’s agents to buy key components for rebuilding Iraq’s uranium enrichment machinery, necessary for creating bomb-grade nuclear material. In June Western intelligence agencies were warned that Iraq had acquired parts for “flow-forming” machines, which are used for producing components for uranium enrichment. However, Mr Tenet told the Intelligence Committee: “Our major near-term concern is the possibility that Saddam might gain access to fissile material (from a foreign country).”

Chemical warfare

1 Since 1991 United Nations weapons inspectors have overseen the destruction of 480,000 litres of chemical warfare agents and precursors, and 38,000 chemical munitions. However, according to intelligence assessments, much of Iraq’s chemical warfare capability remains intact.

2 A report by the Pentagon last year said that Baghdad had rebuilt its industrial and chemical production infrastructure after the Gulf War bombing in 1991 and the joint American/British Desert Fox raids in December 1998.

3 In February this year George Tenet, the Director of US Central Intelligence, told the Senate: “Baghdad is expanding itscivilian chemical industry in ways that could be diverted quickly to CW (chemical weapons) production.”

4 The UN Special Commission on Iraq (Unscom) reported in 1998 that Iraq was suspected of hiding about 6,000 chemical munitions from its inspectors.

5 While some doubts have been raised about Iraq’s ability to produce an effective weapon system to deliver biological agents, there are no such doubts about Baghdad’s ability to mount chemical attacks.

6 In the 1980s, during the Iran/Iraq war, Saddam’s forces launched chemical weapons on at least ten occasions against Iranian or Kurdish targets, mostly using mustard gas, causing tens of thousands of casualties.

Biological weapons

1 Saddam is believed to have a substantial stock of biological warfare agents and is researching different ways of “weaponising” them.

2 Following revelations of Saddam’s secret weapons of mass destruction programme made by Lieutenant-General Hussein Kamel, a son-in-law of the Iraqi leader who defected to the United States in 1995, Baghdad admitted for the first time that it had produced 30,000 litres of biological agents, including anthrax and botulinum toxins. Iraq claimed to have destroyed the agents.

3 Before the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq produced four tons of VX nerve agent, 19,000 litres of botulinum toxin, 8,400 litres of anthrax spores and an unknown amount of sarin. However, the UN weapons inspectors believe that Iraq had failed to account for more than 7,000lb of growth media, obtained from European firms, which would be sufficient to produce huge quantities of bacteriological weapons.

4 After the 1991 Gulf War, the inspectors found traces of anthrax in several warheads from long-range al-Hussein ballistic missiles. About 200 air-launched biological bombs were also discovered.

5 Iraq had carried out trials of a helicopter-borne insecticide sprayer which could have been used for biological attacks. Anthony Cordesman, of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, wrote in a report in June that Iraq had continued to convert its Czech-built L29 Delphin jet trainer aircraft into unpiloted drones, possibly for delivering biological warfare agents.

6 There are also fears that Iraq has developed large quantities of smallpox, Ebola virus, bubonic and pneumonic plague bacteria and the toxin, ricin.


1 Washington has strengthened its case for attacking Saddam by claiming links between Baghdad and al-Qaeda, the terrorist organisation.

2 Despite continued scepticism from British intelligence services, it has been claimed that Muhammad Atta, one of the principal leaders of the September 11 attacks, met a senior Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague in April last year, five months before the attacks. Although the meeting has never been confirmed, what is undisputed are the longstanding links between Saddam Hussein’s security and intelligence apparatus and terrorist organisations

3 One of the fears expressed in the Whitehall dossier is that Saddam might use a proxy terrorist group, such as an extremist Palestinian organisation, to launch an attack against American or Israeli targets, using biological or radiological devices. Saddam has for years acted as the champion of the Palestinian cause, paying $25,000 (£16,500) to the families of suicide bombers and $10,000 to the families of other Palestinian intifada casualties.

4 There is also intelligence evidence that international terrorist groups have carried out training at a centre at Salman Pak, outside Baghdad. Salman Pak was one of the main biological weapons sites uncovered by the Unscom inspectors.

5 Prior to the 1991 Gulf War, there were fears in Britain that Saddam might send intelligence agents to London to launch a terror attack using anthrax or other biological agents, and special training exercises were carried out to meet the threat.

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; News/Current Events; United Kingdom

1 posted on 08/28/2002 6:01:48 PM PDT by Pokey78
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To: Pokey78
Yes but according to the rest of the world Saddam is really not a threat ;)
2 posted on 08/28/2002 6:12:02 PM PDT by Lucas1
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To: Pokey78
So what "international agency" is monitoring Saddam's ability to wage nuclear war? This is terrible "reporting". Sounds more like Iraqi propaganda.
3 posted on 08/28/2002 6:13:07 PM PDT by FreePaul
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To: Pokey78
Well, I guess it ain't there any more.
4 posted on 08/28/2002 6:14:46 PM PDT by jwalsh07
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To: Pokey78
".. and “several tonnes” of depleted and natural uranium ..."

Whats the big deal every tank we have in the "fleet" has mor than tht amount of DU in it's turret - not counting body armour oin excess of 5 tons.
5 posted on 08/28/2002 7:27:42 PM PDT by SEGUET
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To: Pokey78
"THE only known store of nuclear material in Iraq..."

What else needs to be said?

TXnMA (No Longer!!!)

6 posted on 08/28/2002 7:45:42 PM PDT by TXnMA
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To: Pokey78
Saddam has from two to five nuclear bombs ready to explode. The program now being rushed is to get longer-range and more accurate missiles to launch them, as well as bigger and dirtier bombs.
7 posted on 08/28/2002 8:29:41 PM PDT by crystalk
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To: crystalk
You are spot on I'm afraid! The Russians sold Saddam these materials under Chernomyrdin and AlGore. This raises my respect for President Bush all the more! Only horse in the stable ready to ride. Pathetic allies, indeed!
8 posted on 08/28/2002 11:24:22 PM PDT by STD
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