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As the war storm against Iraq swirls and gathers
momentum, seeded by the efforts of the American and British governments,
serious doubts arise as to the credibility of their intelligence
sources, particularly the issue of Iraq's nuclear capability. It
has been often noted that reliable intelligence on this matter is
not immediately forthcoming. Moreover, such intelligence as has
been presented is spurious and often contradictory. Perhaps it is
not too late to rectify this misinformation campaign.
worked with the Iraqi nuclear program from 1968 until my departure
from Iraq in late 1998. Having been closely involved in most of
the major nuclear activities of that program, from the Russian research
reactor in the late sixties, to the French research reactors in
the late seventies, the Russian nuclear power program in the early
eighties, the nuclear weapons program during the eighties and finally
the confrontations with U.N. inspection teams in the nineties, it
behooves me to admit that I find present allegations about Iraq's
nuclear capability, as continuously advanced by the Americans and
the British, to be ridiculous.
us go back to 1991. A week before the cessation of a two-month saturation
of bombings on the target-rich Iraq, the Americans realized that
a certain complex of buildings in Tarmiah, that had just been carpet
bombed for lack of any other remaining prominent targets, exhibited
unusual swarming activity by rescuers the next morning. When they
compared the photographs of that complex with other standing structures
in Iraq, they were surprised to find an exact replica of that complex
in the north of Iraq, near Sharqat, which was nearing completion.
They directed their bombers to demolish the northern complex a few
days before the end of hostilities. My family, along with the families
of most prominent Iraqi nuclear scientists and the top management
of the northern complex, were residing in the housing complex. The
Tarmiah and Sharqat complexes were designed for housing the Calutron
separators, similar to those used by the American Manhattan Project
to develop the first atomic bombs that were dropped by the Americans
the end of 1991, after that infamous U.N. inspector, David Kay,
got hold of many of the nuclear weapons program's reports (reports
whose maintenance and security I had been in charge of), the Americans
realized that their saturated bombing had missed a most important
complex of buildings: that complex at Al-Atheer, which was the center
for the design and assembly of the nuclear bomb. A lone, single
bomb, thermally guided, had hit the electric substation outside
the perimeter of the complex, causing little damage.
glaring and revealing detail about these two events is the utter
lack of any intelligence about these building complexes -- information
that should have caused the repository of American and British intelligence
to overflow. That is to say, American and British intelligence had
no idea of the programs that those buildings harbored -- programs
that had been ongoing at full steam for the previous ten years!
really happened to Iraq's nuclear weapon program after the 1991
after the cessation of hostilities, the entire organization that
was responsible for the nuclear weapons project turned its attention
to the reconstruction of the heavily damaged oil refineries, electric
power stations, and telephone exchange buildings. The combined expertise
of the several thousand scientific, engineering, and technical cadres
manifested itself in the restoration of the oil, electric and communication
infrastructure in a matter of months -- an impressive accomplishment,
by any measure.
the U.N. inspectors were ushered in. The senior scientists and engineers
among the nuclear cadre were instructed many times on how to cooperate
with the inspectors. We were also asked to hand in to our own officials
any reports or incriminating evidence, with heavy penalties (up
to the death penalty, in some cases) for failing to do so. In the
first few months, the "clean sheets" were hung up for
all to see. As the scientific questioning mounted, our scientists
began to redirect the questioners to the actual technical documents,
themselves, that had been amassed during the ten years of activity.
These documents had been traveling up and down and throughout Iraq
in a welded train car. Then the order was issued to return the project's
documents to their original location. At that point, David Kay pounced
on them in the early morning hours of September 1991. Among the
documents were those of Al-Atheer and the bomb specifics.
the following few years, the nuclear weapons project organization
was slowly disbanded. By 1994, its various departments were either
elevated to independent civilian industrial enterprises, or absorbed
within the Military Industrial Authority under Hussain Kamil, who
later escaped to Jordan in 1996 and then returned to Baghdad where
he was murdered.
the brinkmanship with the U.N. inspectors continued. At one heated
encounter, an American inspector remarked that the nuclear scientists
and engineers were still around, and hinted accusingly that those
scientists and engineers may be readily used for a rejuvenated nuclear
program. The retort was, "What do you want us to do to satisfy
you? Ask them to commit suicide?"
1994, a report surfaced claiming that Iraq was still manufacturing
a nuclear bomb and had been working on it since 1991. The International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors brought the report to Baghdad,
demanding a full explanation. The inspectors requested my opinion
on the authenticity of the report, inasmuch as I was the responsible
agent for the proper issuance and archiving of all scientific and
engineering documents for the nuclear weapons project during the
eighties. It was my opinion that the report was well done, and most
probably had been written by someone who had detailed knowledge
of the established documentation procedures. However, as we pointed
out to the IAEA inspectors, certain words used in the report would
not normally be used by us, but, rather by Iranians, and we supplied
an Arabic-Iranian dictionary to verify our findings. The IAEA inspectors
never referred back to that report.
these years, crushing economic inflation was growing. It would spell
the end for most of the Iraqi nuclear scientists' and engineers'
careers in the following years.
1996, Hussain Kamil, who was in charge of the entire range of chemical,
nuclear programs, announced from his self-imposed exile in Amman
that there were hidden caches of important documentation on his
farm in Iraq. (Apparently, he had had his security entourage stealthily
salvage what they thought were the most important pieces of information
and documentation in these programs.) The U.N. inspectors pounced
on this, and a renewed string of confrontations occurred, until
the inspectors were asked to leave Iraq in 1998.
the last few years of the nineties, we did our utmost to produce
a satisfying report to the IAEA inspectors concerning the entire
gamut of Iraq's nuclear activities. The IAEA finally issued its
report in October 1997, mapping these activities in great detail.
The inspectors raised vague, "politically correct" queries
which seemed obligatory in their intent.
the meantime, and this is the gist of my discourse, the economic
standing of the Iraqi nuclear scientists and engineers (along with
the rest of the civil servants and the professional middle class)
has been pathetically reduced to poverty level. Even with occasional
salary inducements and some insubstantial benefits, many of those
educated persons have been forced to sell their possessions just
to keep their families alive. Needless to say, their spirits are
very low and their cynicism is high. Relatively few have managed
to leave Iraq. The majority are too gripped by poverty, family needs,
and fear of the brutal retaliation of the security apparatus to
even consider a plan of escape. Their former determination and drive,
profoundly evident in the eighties, has been crushed by harsh economic
realities; their knowledge and experience grow rusty with the passage
of time; their skills atrophy from lack of activity in their fields.
my departure from Iraq in late 1998, one cannot help but notice
the mien of those former nuclear scientists and engineers as being
but a wispy phantom of a once elite cadre representing the zenith
of scientific and technical thought in Iraq. Pathetic shadows of
their former selves, the overwhelming fear that haunts them is the
fear of retirement, with a whopping pension that equates to about
$2 a month.
the American and British intelligence community, obviously influenced
by the war agenda, vainly attempts to continue to provide disinformation.
For example, a consignment of aluminum pipes (the intelligence experts
opine) might conceivably be used in the construction of highly advanced,
"kilometers long" centrifugal spinners. The consideration
that there are no remaining Iraqi personnel qualified to implement
and maintain these supposed spinners seems to have eluded the intelligence
month, a group of journalists was taken on a guided tour of a "possible"
uranium extraction plant in Akashat in western Iraq. The Iraqi guide
pointed to the obviously demolished buildings and asked tongue-in-cheek,
"Who would make any use of these ruins? Maybe your experts
would tell us how."
is true that the Iraqi nuclear scientists and engineers did not
commit suicide. But for all the remaining capability they possess
to rebuild a nuclear weapons program, they may as well have.
and Blair are leading their public by the nose, attempting to cloak
shoddy and erroneous intelligence data with hollow patriotic urgings
and cajolery. But the two parading emperors have no clothes.
Khadduri has a MSc in Physics from the University of Michigan (United
States) and a PhD in Nuclear Reactor Technology from the University
of Birmingham (United Kingdom). Khadduri worked with the Iraqi Atomic
Energy Commission from 1968 till 1998. He was able to leave Iraq
in late 1998 with his family. He now teaches and works as a network
administrator in Toronto, Canada.
Khadduri encourages your comments via e-Mail firstname.lastname@example.org