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S. Ritter- anthrax not from Iraq,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

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

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.

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