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Experts Predict Iraqi Nuclear Arsenal; Amount Uncertain
Tampa Tribune ^ | 12/02/02 | GEORGE CORYELL

Posted on 12/04/2002 11:42:59 AM PST by Heartlander2

Saddam Hussein almost certainly has a nuclear weapons capability, in addition to extensive chemical and biological arsenals, say former intelligence experts familiar with Iraqi weapons programs. The question, they say, is whether that capability is limited to small ``dirty bombs,'' in which conventional explosives are packed into something compact like a suitcase and detonated to spread toxic radioactive debris over a relatively small area, or whether Iraq has a full-fledged atomic bomb.

The experts were interviewed by The Tampa Tribune as U.N. weapons inspectors returned to Iraq in a new effort to root out weapons of mass destruction.

Among them was Bill Tierney, a member of the last U.N. weapons inspection team in Iraq. He was there in 1997 and 1998 and said Saddam probably has a small atomic bomb.

``The Iraqis still have weapons of mass destruction,'' said Tierney, who lives in the Tampa Bay area. ``They have tons of chemical weapons. I'm not sure how much biological weapons are there, but I think he has nukes that can go.''

Tierney also said he believes Saddam is close to having a missile delivery system for a nuclear warhead. He says the U.N. inspectors in Iraq four years ago found designs for missiles similar to those other countries use for nuclear warheads.

``I am solidly convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Saddam Hussein has a weapons of mass destruction program,'' says Dave Suban, who also lives in the area. ``We've seen him use these weapons on his own people. Does he have a nuclear, biological and chemical program? I'm absolutely certain he does.''

Suban, however, believes Saddam's nuclear ability is limited to dirty bombs.

Suban retired in 1997 after a career in Air Force intelligence and civilian employment as an expert on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction with the U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.

Wil Charette, who helped establish the CIA's Counterterrorist Center in 1987 and led its Terrorist Incident Response Team for seven years, agrees with Suban.

``I would think by now he has enough components for a dirty bomb,'' Charette said. ``For something like that, he probably has more expertise available than material, because Saddam has surrounded himself with very intelligent people. Whether it's assembled and ready to go, my feeling is yes.''

What The CIA Says

The Bush administration has not commented publicly on Iraq's supposed nuclear capability.

The CIA's latest publicly released evaluation of Iraqi weapons capabilities is from Oct. 11.

Iraq continues to move ahead with various chemical weapons programs, is investing more heavily in biological weapons and has energized its missile program, the report said.

Analysts also say that while Iraq is pushing ahead to develop nuclear weapons, that country still lacks the required weapons grade raw material. Once Saddam gets that, the report said, Iraq probably could make a bomb in about a year.

Tierney said he believes Saddam ``has nukes he has bought on the black market, the man-packs or `suitcase nukes.' Organized crime is very active in Russia, and Saddam is a buyer. That makes me lean toward the fact that he does have them.''

It is rumored that as many as 165 such small nuclear bombs disappeared as the Soviet Union broke up, and that organized crime elements might have spirited them to foreign buyers.

It is no secret Iraq has tried to develop a nuclear arsenal. After the Persian Gulf War in 1991, U.S. intelligence officials thought Iraq was still at least 10 years from one. But in 1994, Khidhir Abdul Abas Hamza, an Iraqi nuclear scientist, fled the country and reported Iraq had been on the brink of building a bomb when the Gulf War started. The war delayed it, he said.

Even if Iraq has nothing more sophisticated than dirty bombs, one question is whether Saddam would use them against invading allied troops.

Charette doesn't think so. He said the terror value of the weapon is so great, Iraq probably would try to plant one inside the United States or Europe instead.

``Its real value is the psychological effect,'' Charette says. ``Whether there's a lot of damage or not, it creates fear.''

Terrorists tried using a dirty bomb once before. In 1996, a 30-pound bomb made of a blend of dynamite and radioactive cesium 137 was found before it went off in a park in Moscow. It had been planted by rebels from Chechnya.

The Other Weapons

Whatever Iraq's nuclear capability, to experts there is no question it has pressed ahead with chemical and biological weapons.

The CIA report said Iraq's chemical arsenal probably includes mustard gas, sarin, cyclosarin and VX nerve agents.

Meanwhile, its biological program is larger and more advanced than before the Gulf War, and includes such agents as anthrax. After the head of Iraq's military industries defected in 1995, Iraq admitted it had produced more than 30,000 liters of anthrax and other deadly biological agents. Iraqi officials admitted to U.N. inspectors the program involved finding ways to launch these agents by missile.

The inspectors concluded Iraq was trying to minimize its efforts and likely had produced two to four times what it was acknowledging.

Finding The Truth

Iraq is believed to have buried weapons facilities underground. Others are in mobile labs or packed into civilian areas to discourage attacks out of fear of making a targeting mistake. Saddam began pursuing that tactic in the 1990s, apparently after noting a U.S. reluctance to attack civilian areas in Bosnia and Kosovo.

``I don't think we're going to be able to come up with enough to say, `Ah ha, we got you.' '' Charette said. ``I'm losing my faith in our ability to find what he has.

``I don't believe we'll be able to dig holes deep enough to find this stuff. And, of course, some of this is mobile, so he can just keep moving it around.''

Suban said that when U.N. inspectors were expelled from Iraq in 1998, they were close to finding a ``smoking gun'' that would prove Saddam's arsenal.

Former inspector Tierney said every chemical and biological weapon Iraq has or makes is a direct violation of the agreement that ended the Gulf War in 1991, ample reason for the United States to move against Iraq now.

``It's time to go to war,'' he said. ``It's time to solve this issue.''

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: axisofweasels; elbaradei; iaea; israel; neoeunazis; traitor; treason; vanunu

1 posted on 12/04/2002 11:42:59 AM PST by Heartlander2
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To: Heartlander2
Thanks for posting this. This article says it like it is.
2 posted on 12/04/2002 12:15:46 PM PST by Rightone
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To: Heartlander2
Give Peace a chance! Weapons inspections should be given one last shot before we go to war, we just need to fix some problems with them. First we need to have some folks deliver inspection equipment to the palaces and other sites. The best people for this job would be our stealth bomber pilots. They can deliver roof opening equipment that could show us exactly what weapons are left.

Then, we could observe by satellite where exactly to send the cruise missiles to help with the dis-armament. After that, we could parachute in the 101st airborne depty inspectors, but I repeat, there is no reason to go to war.
3 posted on 12/04/2002 12:17:23 PM PST by Scarlet_Pimpernil
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To: Scarlet_Pimpernil
That's a workable idea, except for the electrical interference from various Iraqi equipment. Some tracked vehicles and electromagnetic transmittor stations as far away as all over the country can create problems. So, we ought to drop interference-stopping equipment, too, on these items to complete our inspections. Then we can assess Saddaam's behavior and see where we're at.
4 posted on 12/04/2002 12:57:01 PM PST by Timm
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To: Heartlander2
``The Iraqis still have weapons of mass destruction,'' said Tierney, who lives in the Tampa Bay area. ``They have tons of chemical weapons. I'm not sure how much biological weapons are there, but I think he has nukes that can go.''

But, but, Scott Ritter doesn't think so...who to believe? Hmmm.

5 posted on 12/04/2002 2:51:29 PM PST by texasbluebell
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To: Heartlander2
Bill Tierney, a member of the last U.N. weapons inspection team in Iraq. He was there in 1997 and 1998 and said Saddam probably has a small atomic bomb

He's on Hannity now 4:27 pm eastern time. Hackworth on as well.

6 posted on 12/05/2002 1:28:23 PM PST by BillF
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To: BillF; Heartlander2
For those who missed Tierney, he will also be on Hannity & Colmes tomorrow night (or possibly tonight?).

Most importantly, Tierney said that Saddam might use a nuke on the U.S. or Israel. He is however strongly supportive of attacking Iraq.

Tierney said that Saddam is cooperating with terrorists. Although Iraq has no delivery capability that could hit the U.S., Saddam could use terrorists or agents to smuggle a nuke into the U.S.

Tierney mentioned a particular mountain area where the inspectors were denied entry in 1997 under very unusual circumstances. He said that a London newspaper (think it was a Feb 1999 op ed piece in the London Times) was an "open source" discussing a secret nuke program including at least one nuke was stored at that location.

Tierney apparently has harder info than the London newspaper article. Reading between the lines of his comments, he has classified info that causes his grave concern and strong belief that the U.S. must attack Iraq.

Tierney claimed that the Iraqi "minder," who struggled with the inspectors on Tierney's watch, was standing behind UN weapons inspector Blitz in a recent press conference (as though the "minder" was part of the UN team). Tierney said something like, "If Blitz can't control his environment at a news conference, I have little confidence in his ability to stand up to Iraqi pressure."

Tierney also speculated that Iraqi intelligence has probably penetrated the UN weapons team.

Tierney said that he worked closely with Scott Ritter and has great respect for the weapons inspections of Ritter. He says he doesn't know why Ritter has turned 180 degrees, but thinks that Ritter is bitter.

Tierney said that Ritter went out on a limb for his country (and the UN weapons inspection program). Clinton admin that sawed off the branch. Then, Clinton admin stabbed Ritter in the back after Ritter was down. Tierney thinks that Ritter's about face on the threat from Iraq has something to do with how Clinton admin abused him.

Tierney debated Hackworth. Hack generally against Iraq attack, but his thinking seems rather unclear. Tierney strongly believes that we MUST stop Iraq before he turns over weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to terrorists (or gives more WMD if he has given some already).

Tierney was very articulate, bright, and convincing.
7 posted on 12/05/2002 4:15:18 PM PST by BillF
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To: BillF
Thanks for reporting on the Tierney interview. Do you think it is worth a special post of its own for more publicity?
8 posted on 12/05/2002 4:48:56 PM PST by Heartlander2
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To: BillF
BillF, here's an article I found that might be the one referred to in the London Times:

Ritter: Baghdad 'possesses three nuclear bombs'

Times of London
9/10/98 Christopher Walker

Former UN inspector claims that despite the information,
no order has been given for a surprise inspection, reports
Christopher Walker in Jerusalem

Baghdad 'possesses three nuclear

IRAQ is hiding three technologically complete nuclear
bombs and is lacking only fissionable materials to make
them operational. This is the view of Scott Ritter, the
United Nations arms inspector who resigned on August

Mr Ritter made his claim at a recent meeting of the
Washington Institute for Near East Policy. It was
published for the first time yesterday by Zeev Schiff,
military editor of Haaretz, the Tel Aviv daily.

The disclosure, and others about biological and chemical
weapons held by Baghdad, came as another showdown
between Iraq and the UN loomed.

Prakash Shah, the UN special envoy to Iraq, returns there
today after telling the Security Council of his failure to
persuade President Saddam Hussein to resume
co-operation with arms inspectors.

Iraq has refused since August 5 to work with the UN
Special Commission (Unscom) set up to ensure that it
dismantles any weapons of mass destruction in its
possession. Baghdad has demanded that the UN body be
re-structured, its alleged US influence reduced, and its
headquarters moved from New York to Europe.

According to Mr Schiff's report on the claims by Mr
Ritter, the longest-serving American weapons inspector,
Unscom knows where the three nearly complete nuclear
bombs are hidden.

The UN team is also said by Mr Ritter to have information
on the method used to conceal the bombs, the units and
officers responsible for guarding them, and the types of
vehicle employed to transport them in the game of cat and
mouse between Saddam and the UN experts.

Mr Ritter claimed that, despite the information available,
no order was given to the team to conduct a surprise
inspection of the site. He claimed that the Security
Council and the Clinton Administration had blocked the
work of the inspectors just as they were "on the doorstep"
of uncovering Iraq's hidden non-conventional weapons of
mass destruction. His revelation about the existence of the
three bombs has again heightened tensions in the Middle
East and raised the stakes in any new confrontation
between Iraq and the West. Israel has long believed that it
would be the first target of any Iraqi nuclear strike.

As the news about the nuclear devices broke, Security
Council members were in the middle of discussing a
US-British draft resolution to suspend regular 60-day
reviews of UN sanctions until Iraq co-operates with the

Yesterday Babel, the Baghdad paper owned by Uday,
Saddam's eldest son, issued a warning that, if the
resolution were to be adopted, Iraq would boycott the
Security Council.

Mr Schiff,reporting Mr Ritter's disclosures, said: "Unscom
inspectors also came up with evidence suggesting that Iraq
carried out biological weapons tests on human beings in
1995." No details are available about this claim. It is not
known, for instance, if prisoners of war were involved in
the alleged test. "Ritter also discovered that Iraq had
deliberately reported an exaggerated number of chemical
bombs that it had used in the [1991 Gulf] War. The
reason: so that Baghdad could hide thousands of such
bombs and seven tons of chemical components."

Iraq claimed on Tuesday that a new report by Richard
Butler, the chief UN weapons inspector, that his arms
experts had been barred from three sites was politically
motivated and a lie aimed at discrediting Baghdad.

The inspectors have to be satisfied that they have
accounted for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction before
sanctions imposed in August 1990, when Iraqi troops
invaded Kuwait, can be lifted.

Haaretz quoted Mr Ritter as revealing that proof also
existed that Iraq had been manufacturing chemical
weapons outside its borders since the Gulf War. He said
that Unscom wanted to pursue this lead in Sudan, but its
mandate limited its activities to Iraq.
9 posted on 12/05/2002 5:47:29 PM PST by Heartlander2
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To: Heartlander2
Thanks for reporting on the Tierney interview. Do you think it is worth a special post of its own for more publicity?

Good idea! I'll check in the late afternoon or early evening. If Tierney is going to be on Hannity & Colmes tonight, I'll repost my summary of his radio interview, along with a reminder about Tierney being on H & C.

Your post of the article about Ritter saying that Iraq has the nukes, but without the fissionable material, was quite interesting. It probably is based on some of the same underlying facts as the op-ed mentioned by Tierney.

However, the article mentioned by Tierney apparently discusses the specific mountain range where the Iraqi nuclear program has the secret facilities. Therefore, I don't think that the article found by you is the same one referred to by Tierney.

Maybe, Tierney will again refer to the article when he's on H & C tonight?

10 posted on 12/06/2002 7:59:10 AM PST by BillF
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To: BillF
BillF, here's another interesting article from the London Times I found... Still not the Op Ed piece referred to by Tierney.

February 25 2001 NEWS REVIEW

On a visit to northern Iraq, Gwynne Roberts stumbled on a trail of compelling
evidence that the 'Butcher of Baghdad' has successfully tested a nuclear bomb.
Could he really have hoodwinked the West?

Was this Saddam's bomb?
The mysterious visitor emerged from the shadows outside my hotel in Kurdish
controlled northern Iraq, just as a crisis between Washington and Baghdad was
reaching a climax in January 1998. His appearance set alarm bells ringing.
Several westerners had recently been murdered in Kurdistan, and Iraqi
intelligence agents were blamed.

I was there to investigate the long-term impact of Saddam Hussein's gassing of
the people of Halabja, the town he drenched in lethal chemicals in 1988. Iraq
knew of the mission and my team was at risk. The visitor was visibly nervous
and shivering, and the guards on the hotel steps were suspicious. Although it
was bitterly cold, he was wearing a silk summer jacket.

"Are you a journalist?" he asked my cameraman, who was filming outside the
hotel. He was keen to talk about the Iraqi nuclear programme, but I was
suspicious. After the Kurds had identified him as a bona fide nuclear
scientist, I invited him back to the hotel.

"I am in danger here in Iraq," said "Leone", as we came to know him. "I signed
a document every six months agreeing not to talk to foreigners. It said I and
my family would be executed if I broke the agreement. If I reveal secrets to
you, my life is at risk."

Nonetheless, Leone talked on - and he told me an astonishing story. If true, it
completely contradicts the western consensus about the shortcomings of Saddam's
nuclear weapons programme.

Intelligence agencies, including Israel's Mossad, insist that Saddam has never
had the technology or the fuel to fulfil his ambition of creating a nuclear
arsenal. Yet Leone, and other defectors who have corroborated his story, insist
that Saddam not only has nuclear weapons but has tested them.

SITTING in a scruffy hotel room in Sulaymaniyah, Leone explained in detail the
work he said he was involved in. He described himself as a military engineer
who was a member of the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission. Simultaneously, he
said, he worked for the Republican Palace in Baghdad.

"There is a special scientific department there for supervising all activities
for the Iraqi mass destruction weapons, especially the missile programme. So I
was in a very privileged position. I had my own bodyguards and my special
status protected me. I was authorised to travel to many secret sites all over
Iraq. Very few can do this."

Leone worked through the night in the hotel, drawing detailed diagrams of
nuclear weapons. "This is Iraq's nuclear bomb," he said, spreading diagrams on
the bed. "I saw it in the workshop in Tuwaitha many times. This is the first
successful prototype. When they finished it in 1986, they took it to the
president by car, but without uranium. All members of the delegation got cars
as presents for their work. Between 1985 and 1989, I saw this device at least
five times."

He said it worked on the principle of the Hiroshima gun-type bomb, in which
high explosives drive pieces of highly enriched uranium together at high
velocity. This triggers a nuclear explosion.

Leone's design was unusual. The uranium was contained in a series of finely
engineered tubes, like the control rods of a nuclear reactor. It was not the
type of design one might find from a search of textbooks or the internet.

He showed me a photograph of what he said was a gun assembly nuclear warhead
bought off the peg from Russia. Six devices were purchased during the late
1980s, he said, all of them without fuel. Iraq managed to purchase fissile
material on the black market for at least one warhead.

Leone then made the staggering claim that Iraq had conducted a nuclear test
before the Gulf war.

"The test was carried out at 10.30am on September 19, 1989, at an underground
site 150km southwest of Baghdad," he said. "Saddam had threatened us with the
death penalty if we told anybody about it.

"The location was a militarised zone on the far shore of Lake Rezzaza, which
used to be a tourist area. There is a natural tunnel there which leads to a
large cavern deep under the lake. Labourers worked on it for two years,
strengthening the tunnel walls.

"There was a big Republican Guard camp nearby and dirt roads leading to the
site. You could see the thick high-tension cables on the ground, which
disappeared into a huge shaft entrance. I saw one which must have been 20km
long. The command post for the test was in a castle in the desert not far away.

"We went to a lot of trouble to conceal the test from the outside world. The
Russians supplied us with a table listing US satellite movements. They were
always helping us. Every six hours, trucks near the test site changed their
positions. They had carried out a lot of irrigation projects in the test area
during the year before as a diversion. But these weren't agricultural workers.
They were nuclear engineers. It was a nice cheat.

"We had built a special platform for the bomb in the Tuwaitha workshop and this
was sent to the test site. This allowed the device to be jacked up inside the
cavern. Then we sealed off the cavern by blocking part of the tunnel inside
with a 50-metre concrete plug and piling up sand and rocks behind that. All
this was intended to muffle the explosion, and it's known as 'decoupling'.

"I saw the air-conditioned yellow truck carrying the bomb near the site at dawn
a few days before the test. They always used this vehicle to transport it. On
its side was a wheatsheaf symbol with 'Ministry of Trade' written below it. I
saw the people in charge of the test head off in that direction as well - Dr
Khalid Ibrahim Sayeed and Dr Jafaar Dhia Jafaar.

"When the test happened, there was no dust or anything. The air just vibrated.
I was in my car at the time and it just shook. It reached about 2.7 on the
Richter scale, and wouldn't really have been noticed by seismic stations
outside Iraq."

Leone said that Hussein Kamel al-Majid, Saddam's brother-in-law, was in overall
charge of the test. [Kamel defected to Jordan in 1995 and was later murdered.]
"After the test, they destroyed the entrance to the tunnel. They also removed
any evidence to indicate that a test had happened.

"They washed out the shaft with water to remove any radioactivity. They then
filled it with cement, rocks and sand, and destroyed the entrance. They also
created a long river channel near the shaft entrance to drain off contaminated
ground water."

Leone showed me a letter signed by Kamel that seemed to confirm the test.
Written in Arabic and dated September 19, 1989, it read: "With the help of God
and the effort of the heroic freedom fighters in the military industrialisation
institution and the atomic power organisation, we have successfully completed
Test Number One of the Iraqi Atomic Bomb. Its strength was 10 kilotons and
highly enriched uranium was used with a purity of 93% . . . With this
experiment Iraq is considered the first country in the world to carry out this
sort of experiment without the knowledge of the international monitoring

I still had a problem with Leone's story. Iraq did not have the industrial
capacity to produce enough bomb-grade fissile material for a test. Leone said
the Iraqis had bought it on the black market.

"We had a purchasing department whose job was to buy highly enriched uranium.
Brazil purchased highly enriched uranium from South Africa and then delivered
it to Iraq. I am not talking about tons. It was between 20 and 50 kilograms.
France also supplied us secretly with highly enriched uranium after the
Israelis bombed the Osirak reactor in 1981."

The Rezzaza test, according to Leone, sealed the fate of the Observer
journalist Farzad Bazoft, who had been investigating the cause of a huge
explosion at a military complex south of Baghdad.

The Iranian-born reporter was arrested on September 15, four days before the
test date, after taking soil samples near the al-Qaqa facility, about 80km from
the test site. He was executed for espionage the following March.

I knew the Bazoft story well. In 1988 I had entered Iraqi Kurdistan and
gathered soil samples which proved that the Iraqi regime had used chemical
weapons against its own people. Bazoft had reportedly seen my film Winds of
Death, which documented this horrific crime, and attempted to emulate my
methods, with tragic results.

"He was accused of working for a foreign intelligence agency," said Leone. "The
authorities were convinced he was trying to find out about the planned Rezzaza
test. This was a state secret of the highest importance and, once they even
suspected this, he was never going to be released."

In August 1990, Saddam invaded Kuwait. After his defeat in the ensuing Gulf
war, UN arms inspectors discovered an Iraqi crash programme to build a nuclear
bomb, known as PC3. But, according to Leone, they missed the most successful
part of the programme.

"They thought they had stopped the Iraqis from building the bomb, but they
overlooked the military organisation codenamed Group Four. This department is a
comprehensive section that was involved in assembling the bomb from the
beginning to the end. It was also involved in developing launching systems,
missile programmes, preparing uranium, purchasing it on the black market,
smuggling it back into Iraq."

Leone told me that Group Four successfully developed a gun-type device at the
nuclear weaponisation centre at al-Atheer. Unscom, the UN inspectorate, was
aware that the Iraqis were working on an implosion-type nuclear device there,
but knew nothing about Group Four. All evidence of its existence had been
removed before they arrived in Iraq, Leone said.

The Iraqis went to extraordinary lengths to protect their secrets. In one
incident on 1991, the UN nuclear weapons inspection team managed to film
sensitive documents listing names of key personnel in the nuclear programme.
Leone claimed the Iraqi official who allowed access, Adel Fayed, was later

"He was killed by knives in his home," said he. "They cut off his head.
Everyone knew that Saddam's cousin, Ali al-Takriti, was responsible. Nobody
talked to Unscom after this assassination."

To avoid Unscom detection, scientists from the main weaponisation groups were
spread throughout Iraq. Group Four was relocated in civilian aircraft factories
at Taji in the north of Baghdad. Using the factories as a front, they imported
"aircraft parts" from Russia and eastern Europe. These consignments often
concealed components for the nuclear programme.

Group Four also bought up American and Russian designs for gun-type nuclear
bombs. Leone alleged that these were acquired with help from India.

Leone said his pivotal job brought him into close contact with Khalid Ibrahim
Sayeed, Group Four's leader, a military engineer whom he met regularly to
discuss weapons design.

Another important bomb design organisation, Group Five, operated out of an
agricultural machinery factory near Mosul in northern Iraq, said Leone. Group
Five scientists worked on a thermonuclear device, he said. The components were
assembled at secret locations under Mount Hemrin, 140km northeast of Baghdad.

In 1993, Saddam awarded Group Five's leader, Dr Ahmed Abdul Jabar Shansal, the
Golden Sword of Mesopotamia (First Degree), the highest decoration in Iraq, for
completing work on a nuclear implosion bomb, a far more complex design than the
gun-type, Leone said. In 1995, Group Five was renamed the State Enterprise for
Extracting Industries.

Leone's disclosures were detailed, and his knowledge of personnel in the
programme was encyclopaedic. His bomb diagrams demonstrated specialist
knowledge of nuclear weapons. His most stunning claim, however, was that Iraq
now possessed three Hiroshima-type bombs, three implosion weapons and three
thermonuclear weapons.

"I am certain about this," he said. "They are stored deep underground in a
bunker in the Hemrin mountains."

Having disgorged this information, Leone disappeared into the cold streets of
Sulaymaniyah. His evidence contradicted the claims of the International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA) that Iraq's nuclear weapons programme was more or less
dismantled after the Gulf war. Was he a hoaxer? I tracked down people in
Kurdistan who knew him and a picture began to emerge.

Leone had defected in the mid-1990s to the safe havens of northern Iraq.
Seeking sanctuary for his family, he had met officials from the West's
four-nation military co-ordinating centre. They flew him to Ankara to debrief
him but never gave him what he wanted: sanctuary in the West.

He tried to reach Europe through Ukraine and approached the British embassy in
Kiev. Diplomats arranged for experts from the IAEA to fly in to debrief him,
but Leone refused to co-operate when he realised they were unwilling to provide
visas for the West.

"There was no doubt he was genuine," said Arras Habib Kareem, who debriefed him
in Kurdistan for the opposition Iraqi National Congress (INC). "When other
Iraqi nuclear scientists came north they recognised him within seconds. He
knows a lot about the Iraqi nuclear programme. He knows about the test areas,
the facilities and the equipment the Iraqis used.

"He once provided me with a list of 200 names of people working in the
programme, with their rank and what each was doing - 90% of what he said was
later confirmed by other Iraqi scientists who defected."

Seeking expert advice, I turned to Dr Frank Barnaby, the former nuclear weapons
scientist who vouchsafed the authenticity of Mordechai Vanunu's evidence of the
Israeli bomb programme in 1986. I asked him to assess Leone's drawing of the
1989 test device.

"The design is unusual, but I see no reason why it shouldn't work if it is well
engineered," Barnaby said. "I find it impressive. All the nuclear physics he is
talking about is reasonable. He has to be taken seriously because he is
obviously competent. The very least we are dealing with here is a radiological
bomb, a nuclear weapon in its own right, which Iraq was suspected of

Could it be a hoax? "If it were, Leone would use a more standard design, not
invent an unusual one," replied Barnaby. He described Leone's disclosures as
more dramatic than Vanunu's, because they contained more detailed information
about weapon design.

If Leone was telling the truth, surely the blast would have been detected by

Officials at the International Seismic Centre near Newbury said detecting an
event of this size - about 2.7 on the Richter scale - would be "extremely
difficult" in this region, especially if it had been decoupled, as Leone

I visited Sulaymaniyah's local seismic station. It is 640km from the Rezzaza
site, and its director confirmed that its range was limited. "Whether we would
pick up an event 100 to 200km away would depend on its magnitude," he
explained. "If it's really big, we would record it. If it's small, then we may
miss it."

Records from 1989 showed no trace of an event on September 19, but a map of
Iraq's main earthquake zones provided a potential clue. The Rezzaza region is
virtually earthquake-free, but the map showed one exception - a tremor marked
by a red circle on the southwestern shore of the lake, close to Leone's test
site. Nobody at the seismic station knew when this tremor occurred, except that
it was after 1985 and before 1991.

I needed corroboration from other defectors from Iraq's nuclear weapons
programme. Most were too scared to talk. One scientist living in northern
Europe, who had received a video from Baghdad of his sister being sexually
abused by security agents, refused to have anything to do with me.

But I tracked down a "Dr Imad" who had worked for Group Four, and persuaded him
to meet me in Denmark. The story he told, unprompted by me, fitted Leone's.

"There were two groups working on two different projects. One was the implosion
bomb under Dr Jafaar and the other the gun-type device, under Dr Khalid Ibrahim
Sayeed," Imad said "Dr Khalid headed Group Four."

Again echoing Leone, Imad continued: "The headquarters of both groups was at
al-Atheer, the nuclear weapons design centre south of Baghdad. The UN
inspectors only discovered one project there. They missed the Group Four
programme, which had the same funding but was far more successful. This was
Iraq's best-kept secret."

Imad was adamant that the Iraqis had conducted a nuclear test, although he did
not know where. "Group Four was working specifically on a Hiroshima-type bomb.
In 1986-87, they began to run computer simulation models, but I know for a fact
that in 1989 they fed in real test data."

"From an actual test?" I asked.

"From an actual test. They modified the model according to the test data. They
finished it."

"So does Iraq have the bomb?"

"Iraq tested the bomb and they have it," he said.

He also described how a senior Iraqi scientist had brought the fuel from Brazil
in a private jet and was rewarded with money and land.

Imad's evidence meant that two former senior Iraqi scientists - one in
Kurdistan and the other in Denmark - had independently confirmed that an
organisation called Group Four not only existed but had successfully tested a
gun-type atomic bomb. If this was true, the UN inspection teams had missed half
of Iraq's nuclear programme. It was difficult to comprehend failure on such a
massive scale.

Yet Unmovic, the UN agency that took over from Unscom after inspectors were
barred from Iraq in 1998, was completely in the dark about Group Four. Dr Hans
Blix, Unmovic's executive chairman, who also headed the IAEA for 16 years,
thought a nuclear test was improbable.

I turned to Dr David Kay, a former head of the UN nuclear inspection team. He
suspected that the Iraqis were working on a gun-type bomb and was not quite so
adamant in refusing to believe that one had been tested.

"One thing I've learnt in Iraq is that it is unwise to totally exclude
anything, because in fact the Iraqis spent a lot of money and got a lot of
assistance from other people. They were always trying to do it, and they did it
under totalitarian pressure. So people can occasionally do miraculous things,"
he said.

Kay knew of Group Four - he called it a "major weapons design group operating
under the auspices of Saddam himself" - but he had discovered few details about
its activities.

It was Kay who uncovered Iraq's crash programme to build an implosion device.
He had been amazed at its size. "What we found was more or less an exact
replica of a crash US Manhattan Project during the second world war. The
facilities were large in number. I remember the initial briefing identified
three or four sites. There turned out to be more than 50. We now think there
were somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 working on the programme. The best
guess of costs is somewhere in the order of $10 billion."

Late last year I turned to the most important Iraqi defector to reach Europe,
Abbas al-Janabi. He was personal assistant to Saddam's son, Uday, for 15 years,
was imprisoned eight times by his former boss and routinely tortured. He
finally fled the country with his family in 1998.

His cousin, Fadil al-Janabi, was high in the Iraqi nuclear programme and other
members of his clan were highly placed within Group Four. His response to my
probing was succinct. "A nuclear test was carried out - in 1988 or 1989 - in an
underground site beside Lake Rezzaza," he said.

He pointed out the test site on a map of Iraq. It was close to Leone's
location. "It's a military zone," he said. "I doubt whether UN inspectors ever
visited it." He himself had clambered down into a vast underground cavern.

He learnt of the successful test from Uday, who, he said, was unable to conceal
his jubilation. "They were talking about the test, about their ability to
produce a nuclear bomb. They were talking about a new powerful Iraq," said

Was it definitely a nuclear test? "Definitely. There is no doubt about that. It
was a small nuclear test." Who had supplied the highly enriched uranium for the
bomb?South Africa, he said, via South America.

He claimed to know the person who had negotiated with the South Africans. "He
was talking about 50kg. Negotiations began in 1986 and the delivery was made in

In the mid-1990s, on a Channel 4 investigation, I visited Valindaba, the
facility near Pretoria which produced South Africa's bomb-grade uranium.
Officially, I was told the plant never achieved its design output because of
technical problems. In its lifetime, it was said to have produced weapons-grade
uranium for only six or seven devices. But a plant supervisor let slip that it
had functioned flawlessly from 1976 until 1989. It could have produced enough
for 20 simple uranium bombs.

So had South Africa sold off surplus stocks? I contacted a former intelligence
official under the apartheid regime who had helped procure components for his
country's nuclear weapons programme on the black market. "The story is true,"
he said. "About 50kg were sold to the Iraqis."

For the final stage of my investigation, I used the latest space technology. I
bought pictures of Lake Rezzaza taken in July 1989 - two months before the
claimed test - by a French Spot Image satellite and compared them with images
from the Indian IRS1D spacecraft shot in September 2000.

Professor Bhupendra Jasani of King's College, London, analysed them. He quickly
discovered the tunnel Leone and Abbas al-Janabi had told me about. It was 4km
long and 400 metres wide and stretched under Lake Rezzaza. Roads led from a
railway line to the shaft entrance, a huge rectangular structure. Many lorries
could have driven abreast into the tunnel.

To the southwest, Jasani found more evidence of an unusually sensitive military
zone - an army base with some 40 buildings, each 40 by 70 metres in size, and a
massive missile base nearby.

The September 2000 image showed that 60% of these buildings had been destroyed.
Jasani and I assumed this must have been in allied air attacks. When I
mentioned this to Leone, however, he said the Iraqis themselves had blown them
up to cover up the evidence. At the UN headquarters in New York, I showed my
satellite images to UN arms inspectors who confirmed they had never visited the
western shore of Lake Rezzaza.

The 2000 picture also provided a vital clue. The shaft entrance was destroyed
and the tunnel blocked up, exactly as Leone had told me. I got hold of a third
satellite picture from 1990, which revealed that this blocking had happened
before the Gulf war in January 1991.

"If you wanted to hide something, I guess this is exactly what you would do,"
said Jasani.

But was it consistent with this being a nuclear test site? "The infrastructure
is certainly consistent with test activity. You require storage sites, vehicle
activities, communications systems like the train, railway tracks and
roadworks. All of those things you can certainly see on the image," said

The tunnel and the entrance were huge and the manpower needed to block it up
massive. Leone had told me that thousands of political prisoners worked on the
tunnel after a presidential amnesty.

"They were well fed and lived in comfortable caravans. In return, they worked
hard. But none of them came out of it alive," he said. "Many were contaminated
with radioactive waste. Friends working for Iraqi security who were guarding
them said they were buried in caves nearby. The Iraqi regime hoped the secret
of the Rezzaza lake test would die with them.

"Hussein Kamel gave the order to kill these people . . . I was disgusted by it
and it's one of the major reasons I fled."

This grotesque story was corroborated by Imad. He said he was aware that
political prisoners who worked on the Rezzaza tunnel were massacred by Iraqi
security guards to conceal an unspecified secret military project. He did not
know this was the nuclear test site.

Last year Leone and his family finally reached the West with the help of the UN
refugee programme. Although comparatively safe, he fears reprisals. Last week
his brother was arrested in Iraq after the Anglo-American air raids.

Leone no longer needs to draw attention to himself to get help, yet he
continues to give more details of the bomb programme, insisting that his story
is true.

Western intelligence sources, while recognising that he is well informed,
continue to insist that he and the other Iraqi sources I have spoken to are
wrong about the test. Personally, I think the evidence is compelling.
11 posted on 12/06/2002 9:00:24 AM PST by Heartlander2
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To: Heartlander2
Still not the Op Ed piece referred to by Tierney.

February 25 2001 NEWS REVIEW

On a visit to northern Iraq, Gwynne Roberts stumbled . . .

[Iraqi nuke scientist says] "They are stored deep underground in a bunker in the Hemrin mountains."

Excellent detective work! I think that is the article referred to by Tierney. I probably had the year wrong.

Gwynne Roberts is, I believe, the author mentioned by Tierney. Also, the mountain range is, I think, the one mentioned by Tierney.

Problem with the article is the allegation that an underground nuke explosion could go undetected. Is that possible?

12 posted on 12/06/2002 9:40:49 AM PST by BillF
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To: BillF
13 posted on 12/06/2002 10:11:35 AM PST by Remole
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To: BillF
Yes, it could go undetected, especially since the test was conducted before GulfWar I.
14 posted on 12/06/2002 4:24:53 PM PST by MHGinTN
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I also had looked up "decoupling." Apparently, setting the nuke off deep underground in a large cavern (with entrance plugged) reduces the chances of detection.
15 posted on 12/06/2002 7:59:36 PM PST by BillF
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To: BillF
Tierney said that Ritter went out on a limb for his country (and the UN weapons inspection program). Clinton admin that sawed off the branch. Then, Clinton admin stabbed Ritter in the back after Ritter was down. Tierney thinks that Ritter's about face on the threat from Iraq has something to do with how Clinton admin abused him.

It's too bad that Ritter can't tell the difference between Bill Clinton and his country.

16 posted on 12/06/2002 8:07:34 PM PST by Polybius
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