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http://www.guardian.co.uk/Print/0,3858,4280517,00.html Don't blame Saddam for this one There is no evidence to suggest Iraq is behind the anthrax attack Scott Ritter Friday October 19, 2001 The Guardian (London) The current spate of anthrax attacks on media and government buildings in the United States has heightened the undercurrent of concern since September 11 about the possibility of links between the perpetrators and the Iraqi regime. However, fears that the hidden hand of Saddam Hussein lies behind these attacks are based on rumour and speculation that, under closer scrutiny, fail to support the weight of the charge. First, there is the history of UN weapons inspections in Iraq from 1991 to 1998. It is true that Iraq has not fully complied with its disarmament obligation, particularly in the field of biological weapons. However, this failure does not equate to a retained biological weapons capability. Far from it. Under the most stringent on-site inspection regime in the history of arms control, Iraq's biological weapons programmes were dismantled, destroyed or rendered harmless during the course of hundreds of no-notice inspections. The major biological weapons production facility - al Hakum, which was responsible for producing Iraq's anthrax - was blown up by high explosive charges and all its equipment destroyed. Other biological facilities met the same fate if it was found that they had, at any time, been used for research and development of biological weapons. Moreover, Iraq was subjected to intrusive, full-time monitoring of all facilities with a potential biological application. Breweries, animal feed factories, vaccine and drug manufacturing facilities, university research laboratories and all hospitals were subject to constant, repeated inspections. Thousands of swabs and samples were taken from buildings and soil throughout Iraq. No evidence of anthrax or any other biological agent was discovered. While it was impossible to verify that all of Iraq's biological capability had been destroyed, the UN never once found evidence that Iraq had either retained biological weapons or associated production equipment, or was continuing work in the field. Another mitigating factor is purely scientific: Iraq procured the Vollum strain of anthrax from American Type Culture Collection, a company based in Rockville, Maryland, which provides commercially available viruses - such as anthrax - to consumers worldwide. While Iraq had investigated other strains, including those indigenous to the country, it was the Vollum strain that Iraq mass-produced for weapon use. It is a unique, highly virulent form of anthrax, and its use would represent the kind of link needed to suggest Iraq as a likely source. That is not to say that the presence of a Vollum strain would automatically indict Iraq, or that a non- Vollum strain clears Iraq. However, federal investigators currently think that the anthrax used in New York and Florida is the same strain, most probably the Ames strain, a variety native to the US. The strain used in Washington is as yet unidentified, but it has been assessed as non-weapons grade and responsive to antibiotics. Based upon this information, it would be irresponsible to speculate about a Baghdad involvement. There is also the political factor. Despite the ongoing efforts of the US and Great Britain to maintain economic sanctions, Baghdad has been very successful in developing a political and diplomatic momentum to get them lifted since weapons inspectors left three years ago. The events of September 11 brought this anti-sanctions momentum to a halt. It makes absolutely no sense for Iraq to be involved in a bio-terror attack that, in one fell swoop, undermines what has been Iraq's number one priority over the past decade: the lifting of economic sanctions. There is another side to the political equation. America's policy towards Iraq continues to be one of abject failure, and President Bush's administration exhibits the same level of frustration and impotence shown by its predecessor in trying to piece together aviable plan for dealing with Saddam's continued survival. Washington finds itself groping for something upon which to hang its anti-Saddam policies and the current anthrax scare has provided a convenient cause. It would be a grave mistake for some in the Bush administration to undermine the effort to bring to justice those who perpetrated the cowardly attacks against the US by trying to implement their own ideologically-driven agenda on Iraq. Those who have suggested that Iraq is the source of the anthrax used in the current attacks - including Richard Butler, a former chairman of the UN weapons inspection effort - merely fan the flames of fear and panic. There is no verifiable link whatever and it is irresponsible for someone of Mr Butler's stature to be involved in unsubstantiated speculation. His behaviour has, it seems, been guided by animosity towards Baghdad, rather than the facts. 7Scott Ritter was a UN weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991-8. His book Endgame is published by Simon & Schuster. WSRitter@aol.com -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email firstname.lastname@example.org CASI's website - www.casi.org.uk - includes an archive of all postings.