Number 18 - November 28, 2002
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published in www.YellowTimes.org,
an online news/opinion publication whose mission is to offer readers
unconventional viewpoints from which to observe current events, and
to encourage new thinking about the causes and effects of those events.
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.
I 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.
Let 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 on Japan.
At 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.
The 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!
What really happened
to Iraq's nuclear weapon program after the 1991 war?
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.
Then 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.
In 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.
Meanwhile, 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?"
In 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.
During these years,
crushing economic inflation was growing. It would spell the end for
most of the Iraqi nuclear scientists' and engineers' careers in the
In 1996, Hussain
Kamil, who was in charge of the entire range of chemical, biological
and 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.
In 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.
In 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 highly-
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.
Since 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.
Yet, 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 agencies' reports.
Last 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."
It 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.
Bush 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.
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,
Imad Khadduri encourages
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