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[casi] Iraq's nuclear non-capability

''Iraq's nuclear non-capability'' Printed on Thursday,
November 21, 2002 @ 01:11:42 EST   (  ) By Imad Guest Columnist (Canada)
( - The war storm swirled by the American
and British governments against Iraq, particularly the
issue of Iraq's nuclear capability, raises serious doubts
about the credibility of their intelligence sources as well
as their non-scientific and threadbare interpretation of
that information. It is often stated that lack of inside
information on this matter is scarce. Perhaps it is not too
late to rectify this misinformation campaign. I worked with
the Iraqi nuclear program from 1968 till my departure from
Iraq in late 1998. Having been closely involved in most of
the major nuclear activities of that program, be it the
Russian research reactor in the late sixties, the French
research reactors in the late seventies, the Russian
nuclear power program in the early eighties, the nuclear
weapon program during the eighties and finally the
confrontations with U.N. inspection teams in the nineties,
it behooves me that I may ridicule the American and British
present allegations about Iraq's nuclear capability. It
would be interesting to start my discourse at 1991. A week
before the cessation of a two month saturation bombings on
the target-rich Iraq, it came to the attention of the
Americans that a certain complex of buildings in Tarmiah
that was 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
that 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 that complex
were residing in the housing complex. These two complexes
were designed for the Calutron separators, the method used
by the American Manhattan Project to develop the first
atomic weapons that were dropped by the Americans on Japan.
At the end of 1991, and after that infamous U.N. inspector
David Kay got hold of many of the nuclear weapon program's
reports, whose documentation and hiding I was in charge of
until the start of the war, the Americans realized that
their saturated bombing had also missed a most important
complex of buildings, at Al-Atheer, that was the center for
the design and assembly of the nuclear bomb. A mere one
bomb, thermally guided, had hit the electric substation
outside the perimeter of the complex, causing little
damage. The telling revelation about these two events is
the dearth of any information, until 1991, in the coffers
of the heavily subsidized American and British intelligence
about these building complexes. More importantly, they had
no idea of the programs that they harbored, which were on
full steam for the previous ten years. What really happened
to Iraq's nuclear weapon program after the 1991 war?
Immediately after the cessation of hostilities, the entire
organization that was responsible for the nuclear weapon
project was directed to the reconstruction of the heavily
damaged oil refineries, electric power stations and
telephone exchange buildings. The developed expertise of
the several thousand scientific, engineering and technical
cadres manifested itself in the impressive restoration of
the oil, electric and communication infrastructure in a
matter of months. 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 death for failing to do so. In the first
few months, the clean sheets were hung up for all to see.
When the scientific questioning mounted, our scientist
requested to refer to the scientific and technical reports
amassed during the ten years of activity. A fatal error was
committed and the order was issued to return the project's
documents which have been traveling up and down Iraq in a
welded train car, and to be deposited back again in their
original location. That is where 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 weapon 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 are still around, accusingly hinting that they
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 intent on manufacturing a
nuclear bomb and has been continuing this work since 1991.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors
brought the report to Baghdad demanding a full explanation.
Being responsible for the proper issuance and the archiving
of the scientific and engineering reports for the nuclear
weapon project during the eighties, my opinion on the
authenticity of the report was requested. The report was
well done, and most probably was written by someone who had
detailed knowledge of the documentation procedures that
were laid out. However, it was easily pointed out to the
IAEA inspectors that certain words used in the report would
not normally be used by us, but by Iranians, and an
Arabic-Iranian dictionary was brought in to verify our
findings. The IAEA inspectors never referred back to that
report. During these years, the specter of a crushing
economic inflation was forming. It would spell the dead end
for most of the Iraqi nuclear scientists and engineers in
the following years. In 1996, Hussain Kamil, who was in
charge of the spectrum of chemical, biological and nuclear
programs, announced from his self imposed exile in Amman
that there were hidden scientific caches in his farm in
Iraq. Apparently, he 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 in, and a renewed strenuous batch of
confrontations unfolded until they were asked to leave Iraq
in 1998. In the final years of the nineties, we struggled
hard to produce a satisfying report, to the best of our
knowledge (and sometimes memory), to the IAEA inspectors on
the whole gamut of Iraq's nuclear activities, including the
weapon program. The IAEA finally issued its report in
October 1997 mapping in great details these activities and
vaguely raising some "politically correct" queries. 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 pathetically crumpled to
poverty levels. Even with occasional salary inducements and
some flimsy benefits, many of those highly educated elite
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. A relatively few have
managed to leave Iraq. The majority are gripped by poverty,
family and fear of the brutal repercussion of the security
apparatus to even consider a plan to escape. Their former
determination and drive of the eighties have been crushed
by the economic harsh realities, their knowledge and
experience rusting under age and distance from research and
activity in their fields. Until my departure from Iraq in
late 1998, and having often visited most of the newly
created industrial enterprises commandeered by the previous
nuclear scientists and engineers, as well as the barely
functioning Nuclear Research Institute at Tuwaitha, one can
not but notice the pathetic mere shadow of their former
selves. Their dreaded fear is that of retirement, with the
equivalence of $2 per month pension. Yet, the American and
British intelligence, more likely tainted by war hungry
political considerations, seems to blow a balloon full of
holes. A consignment of aluminum pipes may, perhaps, could
and might possibly end in kilometers long (according to
Western scientists) highly technical centrifugal spinners.
One would hope not to put it beyond U.S. and British
intelligences' intelligence to, for once, point out to
their leaders that there are no remaining qualified Iraqi
staff to set up and run these supposed enrichment spinners.
Last month, on a recent guided tour by journalists to a
suspected, maybe, could be uranium extraction plant in
Akashat in western Iraq, the Iraqi counterpart pointed to
the demolished buildings and asked a rhetorical question
with 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 the difference, by now, is academic.
Bush and Blair are pulling their public by the nose,
covering their hollow patriotic egging on with once again
shoddy intelligence. But the two parading emperors have no
clothes. [Imad 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.] Imad
Khadduri encourages your comments: is an international news and opinion
publication. encourages its material to be
reproduced, reprinted, or broadcast provided that any such
reproduction identifies the original source, Internet web links to are appreciated.

Dr Kamil Mahdi
Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies
University of Exeter
Exeter EX4 4ND
Tel: (44 1392) 264029
Fax: (44 1392) 264035

Secretary of IAIS tel.: -44-(0)1392-264036
Visit the IAIS website at

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