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[casi] News, 22-29/01/03 (4)

News, 22-29/01/03 (4)


*  Threat of war
by Ewan MacAskill, Jonathan Steele, Richard Norton-Taylor and Ian Traynor
The Guardian, 28th January

In 60 days the UN inspectors charged with hunting down Iraq's chemical and
biological weapons have carried out 300 inspections to more than 230
different sites, including universities, military bases, presidential sites
and private homes.

The head of the inspection body, Unmovic, Hans Blix, began his verbal report
to the UN security council by praising the Iraqis for offering good access
to its facilities: "Iraq has on the whole cooperated rather well so far.
Access has been provided to all sites we have wanted to inspect.
Arrangements and services for our plane and our helicopters have been good.
The environment has been workable."

However, he then went on to raise specific concerns about Iraq's possible
weapons of mass destruction programmes:

Chemical weapons


"Iraq has declared that it only produced VX on a pilot scale, just a few
tonnes and that the quality was poor and the product unstable. Consequently,
it was said that the agent was never weaponised. Unmovic has information
that conflicts with this account. There are indications that Iraq had worked
on the problem of purity and stabilisation and that more had been achieved
than has been declared. There are also indications that the agent was

The assessment

Reports that Iraq had produced purer VX than it had declared were known
before, said Professor Alastair Hay of Leeds University, one of Britain's
leading specialists in chemical warfare issues. "But I didn't know they had
weaponised it."

Much depended on how much there was, and what is was used for. "A few tonnes
of VX could do a lot of damage if dropped on a town like Halabja, but if you
were planning to use it in battle conditions you would need tens of tonnes."
Professor Julian Perry Robinson of the science policy research unit at
Sussex University said: "VX isn't the hardest agent to produce. The US army
once applied for a patent for it, which was published, and I'm sure the
Iraqis bought it. The fact that they've gone on working on it is serious -
but name a country which isn't doing it."

He added: "Weaponisation is a weasel word. Blix hasn't specified what the
inspectors found the Iraqis were doing. Were they putting it into a weapon
or having people trained to deal with it?"

Chemical bombs

"13,000 chemical bombs were dropped by the Iraqi air force between 1983 and
1988, while Iraq has declared that 19,500 bombs were consumed during this
period. Thus, there is a discrepancy of 6,500 bombs. The amount of chemical
agent in these bombs would be in the order of about 1,000 tonnes. We must
assume that these quantities are now unaccounted for."

The assessment

According to Prof Hay, 6,500 bombs would be militarily significant and could
do a lot of damage. However, he pointed out that "you need aircraft to drop
them and if you don't have control of the skies, as the Iraqis don't, it's
fairly useless".

Prof Robinson said: "The figure of 6,500 bombs and 1,000 tonnes is new,
although the story of the document was known." How lethal would that be?
"It's hard to say. You would expect about a tonne per square kilometre, so
you could contaminate a large area. Against civilians it would be
significant, though not against American troops who have chemical protection

Chemical warheads

"The discovery of a number of 122mm chemical rocket warheads in a bunker at
a storage depot 170km south-west of Baghdad was much publicised. This was a
relatively new bunker and the rockets must have been moved there in the past
few years, at a time when Iraq should not have had such munitions. Iraq
states that they were overlooked from 1991 from a batch of some 2,000 that
were stored there during the Gulf war. This could be the case. They could
also be the tip of a submerged iceberg."

The assessment

The large number of missing warheads was significant but the key questions
were whether they had been filled with chemical liquid. The US used
stabilisers in their chemical munitions to prevent them degrading over time.
It was not clear whether the Iraqis did, Prof Hay said. "The fact that the
bunker was relatively new is significant", said Prof Robinson. "But the few
rockets discovered would not do much damage. They normally go in an
old-fashioned 40 rocket launcher, so the number found would not even provide
one full salvo".

Mustard gas

"Inspectors have found a laboratory quantity of thiodiglycol, a mustard gas

The assessment

The seriousness of this find would depend on the quantity, experts said last
night. "There are various routes to make mustard gas and thiodycol is just
one. I would be sceptical about the innocence of having thiodiglycol," said
Prof Hay. Prof Robinson agreed that it is a dual use product and "could be
there for other purposes".

Chemical processing equipment

"Iraq has declared that it had repaired previously destroyed chemical
processing equipment, and had installed it at Fallujah for the production of
chlorine and phenols. We will decide whether this should be destroyed."

The assessment

Prof Hay said that chlorine is a very basic element in chemistry, and can be
used for water purification, bleach, and many other things. "It's a building
block and has many uses. It all depends what it was destined for." Prof
Robinson said: "We are in the heart of dual-use country here. Chlorine and
phenols are such basic chemicals".

Giving his overall impression of Mr Blix's report on chemical weapons, Prof
Hay said: "Iraqis have never been particularly forthcoming but I could
imagine they feel inspections are incredibly obtrusive so a bit of
resentment and foot-dragging is understandable."

Prof Robinson recalled that the amount of deception and obstruction had been
much greater in the early 1990s. "It's striking not to see in the Blix
report any echo of that. If the best they can do is a guy taking papers
home, it's pretty thin," he said.

Biological weapons


"Iraq has declared that it produced about 8,500 litres of this biological
warfare agent, which it states it unilaterally destroyed in 1991. Iraq has
provided little evidence for this production and no convincing evidence for
its destruction. There are strong indications that Iraq produced more
anthrax than it declared, and that at least some of this was retained after
the declared destruction date. It might still exist. Either it should be
found and be destroyed under Unmovic supervision or else convincing evidence
should be produced to show that it was, indeed, destroyed in 1991."

The assessment

Anthrax has been one of the most contentious issues since the work of the
weapons inspectors began in 1991. Toby Dodge, an Iraqi specialist at Warwick
University, said that Iraq claimed in 1991 it had destroyed the anthrax
unilaterally but four years later an Iraqi defector exposed that as a lie.

Scott Ritter, the former UN weapons inspector who is now one of the leading
opponents of war, insisted that any anthrax left in Iraq would have degraded
by now. "Blix insinuates there could be an anthrax capability but he fails
to note that scientists know that liquid-bulk anthrax becomes useless three
years after manufacture, even in ideal storage conditions," Mr Ritter said.
"Blix is being irresponsible."

But Sir Tim Garden, visiting professor at the Centre for Defence Studies, is
less sanguine. "I am dubious about the claim about it going off. Gruinard
island [in the north of Scotland] was used as a test site for anthrax during
the second world war and was not declared safe until 40 years later."

Sir Tim said that biological weapons was one of the most difficult areas.
"Biological is always hard as yoghurt factories can be turned into a
manufacturer of biological weapons if you have the seed."



"There remain significant questions as to whether Iraq retained Scud-type
missiles after the Gulf war. Iraq declared the consumption of a number of
Scud missiles as targets in the development of an anti-ballistic missile
defence system during the 1980s. Yet no technical information has been
produced about that programme."

The assessment

The British government estimate is that Iraq retains about 20 of the type of
Scuds fired against Israel in the Gulf war, while the CIA estimate is fewer.

Mr Ritter dismissed Mr Blix's claim as absurd. "Two were unaccounted for
(after the Gulf war) and there was concern there might be seven or eight
indigenous ones that we could not account for but were never sure these were

Mr Ritter said he had given an assessment to Israel on behalf on the weapons
inspectors in 1994 that Iraq did not have Scuds.

Sir Tim agreed that Scuds are not a major problem: "I do not think they have
much of a long range capability."

New missile development

"Two projects stand out: a liquid-fuelled missile named the Al Samoud 2, and
a solid propellant missile called the Al Fatah. Both missiles have been
tested to a range in excess of the permitted 150km, with the Al Samoud 2
tested to a maximum of 183km and the Al Fatah 161km. Some of both types of
missiles have already been provided to the Iraqi armed forces."

The assessment

Iraq is allowed, for its own defence, to have missiles with a maximum range
of 150km. Mr Ritter said that Iraq's testing of the missiles beyond the
150km did not necessary amount to a flagrant breach of its ceasefire

Sir Tim said testing beyond the permitted range was a breach. "They [the
Iraqis] could say they were just testing. The difference of another 20km is
not enormous but they were pushing the envelope," he said.

Refurbished missile production infrastructure

"Iraq reconstituted a number of casting chambers, which had previously been
destroyed. They had been used in the production of solid-fuel missiles. They
could produce motors for missiles capable of ranges significantly greater
than [the permitted] 150km."

The assessment

The problem with that is "dual-use". While the new facilities could be used
to build motors for missiles, they could equally be used for innocent
civilian purposes.

Imported rocket engines and propellants

"[Iraq has imported] a number of items despite sanctions, including 380
rocket engines which may be used for the Al Samoud 2. Iraq also declared the
recent import of chemicals used in propellants, test instrumentation and
guidance and control systems. These items may well be for proscribed
purposes, and were clearly illegally brought in."

The assessment

Again the problem of "dual-use" is raised and there could be an innocent
explanation. According to British sources, the imports came from the

Whether or not this constitutes a material breach of the UN resolution
calling for Iraq's disarmament, Sir Tim said: "The import of the fuel for
the engines was in contravention of the sanctions. There were a couple of
slapped wrists [by Blix on the Iraqis] over the missiles."

Mr Ritter said he had reported the imports to the US and Britain in 1997-98
but both decided at the time they did not pose sufficient threat to go to
the UN security council.


U-2 spy planes

"While we now have the technical capability to send a U-2 plane for aerial
imagery and for surveillance during inspections and have informed Iraq that
we planned to do so, Iraq has refused to guarantee its safety. We note that
Iraq is not so far complying with our request."

The assessment

Aerial photographs taken by U-2 spy planes provided crucial evidence for the
UN security council at the height of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. UN
weapons inspectors now want to use American-piloted U-2s in the search for
Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

"U-2s are so important because they can go lower, quickly, loiter, and are
flexible, unlike satellites", Christopher Langton, of the International
Institute for Strategic Studies, pointed out last night.

Documents concealed in private homes

"The recent find in the home of a scientist of some 3,000 pages of
documents, much of it relating to the laser enrichment of uranium, support a
concern that documents might be distributed to the homes of private
individuals. This is refuted by the Iraqis, who claim that research staff
sometimes may bring home papers from their work places. We cannot help but
think that the case might not be isolated and that such placements of
documents is deliberate. Any further sign of the concealment would be

The assessment

Col Langton said that "concealment is so successful that it is unlikely that
[the inspectors] will find anything".

Getting hard evidence about the possession of chemical, biological, or
nuclear weapons, is a key issue for the Bush and Blair administrations.

However, UN nuclear inspectors downplayed the discovery of documents earlier
this month at the home of an Iraqi scientist, saying they related to an
earlier and unsuccessful attempt to use laser technology to enrich uranium.

Identification of Iraqi scientists

"Some 400 [scientists'] names for all biological and chemical weapons
programmes as well as their missile programmes were provided by the Iraqis.
This can be compared to over 3,500 names of people associated with past
weapons programmes that [the previous inspection body] Unscom knew of."

The assessment

Mr Blix's reference to scientists known to be involved in weapons of mass
destruction programmes and yet unnamed by Iraq could include lists of Iraqi
scientists provided by defectors to western intelligence. "We are continuing
to help, but it is not an easy business", said a Whitehall official. "But it
is not easy if we want to protect our sources."

This was another example of the Iraqi regime "manipulating" the inspectors,
according to western intelligence sources. It also suggests, as Mr Blix
indicated in his statement to the security council, that he has been
provided with intelligence by the CIA and MI6.

Lack of privacy in interviews

"Eleven individuals were asked for interviews in Baghdad by us. The replies
have invariably been that the individual will only speak at Iraq's
monitoring directorate or in the presence of an Iraqi official. At our
recent talks in Baghdad, the Iraqi side committed itself to encourage
persons to accept interviews 'in private', that is to say alone with us.
Despite this, the pattern has not changed. "

The assessment

It is clear that Mr Blix is hugely frustrated about the lack of information
coming out of the inspections, analysts said. "The failure to produce
evidence is posing a very big problem for the US," said Col Langton.

Either the CIA and MI6 has more intelligence or they do not, said analysts.
"Saddam may think they don't know so they will not find anything", said one.

One way of ensuring they do not find out, is to put pressure on Iraq
scientists. "But if they refuse to leave the country it is difficult for the
UN to insist," a Whitehall official conceded.

Harassment of inspectors

"I am obliged to note some recent disturbing incidents and harassment.
Sometimes far fetched allegations have been made publicly that questions
posed by inspectors were of intelligence character. Iraq knows that they do
not serve intelligence purposes and Iraq should not say so.

On a number of occasions, demonstrations have taken place in front of our
offices and at inspection sites."

The assessment

"Saddam Hussein can provide a rent-a-crowd at a drop of a hat," said a
Whitehall source. "It is itself a clear breach of the security council

However, independent observers said they were puzzled about why the Iraqi
authorities are resorting to such provocative tactics, echoing those which
led to the withdrawal of UN inspectors from Iraq in 1998 and the US-British
Desert Fox bombing campaign.

The British government is highlighting such obstruction, saying that Saddam
Hussein has set up a special Iraqi unit to impede the inspectors. Tactics
have allegedly included staging car crashes to delay UN vehicles.

Nuclear capability


"The first goal of our inspection activities was reconnaissance. We have
inspected all of those buildings and facilities that were identified,
through satellite imagery, as having been modified or constructed over the
past four years. IAEA inspectors have been able to gain ready access and to
clarify the nature of the activities currently being conducted in these

The assessment

Satellite pictures provided by the Americans have raised alarms about the
rebuilding of past nuclear installations. Despite the American suspicions
raised by the satellite pictures, nothing untoward has been found by the
nuclear inspectors.

But the key IAEA claim that it eliminated and "neutralised" the Iraqi
nuclear programme is viewed as questionable by some experts. "Research and
some testing is virtually impossible to detect," said Gary Milholin,
director of the Washington-based Wisconsin nuclear project. "Saddam is
trying to hide the programme."

Aluminium tubes

"A particular issue of focus has been the attempted procurement by Iraq of
high strength aluminium tubes, and the question of whether these tubes, if
acquired, could be used for the manufacture of nuclear centrifuges. It
appears that the aluminium tubes would be consistent with the purpose stated
by Iraq and, unless modified, would not be suitable for manufacturing

The assessment

US and British spies insist that President Saddam has been trying to obtain
special alloy aluminium tubing which is crucial for centrifuges to produce
weapons-grade uranium. Iraq has admitted it tried and failed to import the
tubes - for missile construction, not for centrifuges. Since Iraq is
unlikely to acquire plutonium which is a by-product of nuclear power
generation, it needs highly-enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb and the
easiest way to enrich the uranium is the centrifuge method.

Experts agreed with the IAEA that the western intelligence appears to be
wrong. Mr El Baradei said pointedly, however, that imports of all aluminium
tubing were banned under UN sanctions. "The US has been trying to connect
the tubes with centrifuges. That doesn't seem to be correct," said Robert
Norris, a nuclear expert at the Natural Resources Defence Council in

To the IAEA's chagrin, the British and the Americans have only started
supplying intelligence to the inspectors in the past couple of weeks. "It
hasn't helped us find anything," said a UN official.

Baghdad omitted to mention the aluminium tubes in its December 12,000-page
declaration, raising questions. It admits it has tried and failed to import
the tubes, but contends it needed the material for missiles, not

On the basis of interviews with Iraqi officials or scientists, from
examining aluminium samples, and from reviewing Iraqi documents, the
inspectors think Baghdad may be telling the truth, although the inspectors
say the jury is still out.

HMX explosive

"Another area of focus has been to determine how certain other 'dual use'
materials have been relocated or used - that is, materials that could be
used in nuclear weapons production but also have other legitimate uses."

The assessment

Some 32 tons of HMX high explosive which the inspectors left under UN seal
in Iraq in 1998 have disappeared and remain unaccounted for. That is more
than 10% of the 228 tonnes the UN impounded before 1998.

HMX is used to create a nuclear detonation. The explosive is ignited and
"squeezes" the nuclear material, highly enriched uranium or plutonium for
the nuclear blast. Baghdad says it took the HMX for industrial purposes, for
mining in the cement industry.

"This could be tied to a reviving bomb programme," said Mr Norris.

"It's very difficult to determine where every kilo of it goes. We're working
on it," said an IAEA source. "We don't have answers on that. It'll take some


"A focal point has been the investigation of reports of Iraqi efforts to
import uranium after 1991. The Iraqi authorities have denied any such
attempts. The IAEA will continue to pursue this issue."

The assessment

Tony Blair's "intelligence dossier" on Iraq last year alleged that Baghdad
had been smuggling in unprocessed uranium or yellowcake from Africa. The
nuclear inspectors have been unable to find any trace of the alleged
uranium. A large part of Mr El Baradei's plea for more time and for greater
assistance from the CIA and MI6 concerns such smuggling allegations.

The Iraqi scientist questioned a fortnight ago followed a British
intelligence tip-off, sources say. But British emphasis on the importance of
the scientist proved misplaced, they add. "The results were not

Some 3,000 pages of documents on the illicit nuclear project were found at
the home of the scientist, but the information related to before 1991, the
programme the IAEA says it "neutralised" and provided no information
relating to the crucial period since 1998 when the inspectors left Baghdad.
Undermining the IAEA argument is the expert view that the lack of nuclear
fuel is all that is keeping Saddam from having a nuclear bomb.

Mr Norris said that the interview with the scientists a fortnight ago threw
up evidence that Iraq had also been exploring laser technology for uranium
enrichment, a more advanced method than the centrifuges and the aluminium

"We were surprised at the revelations [in the 1990s] that Saddam had capable
people and he was quite far along. They still have all that know-how and
probably quite a lot of components squirreled away," Mr Norris said.

"The problem is getting enough fissile material to make a bomb. Iraq doesn't
have it. North Korea has hundreds of tonnes of it. There's an enormous
Russian stockpile. You might be able to buy it on the black market."

 Mr El Baradei concluded by stressing the importance of inspections: "We
have to date found no evidence that Iraq has revived its nuclear weapons
programme since the elimination of the programme in the 1990s. However, our
work is steadily progressing and should be allowed to run its natural
course. We should be able within the next few months to provide credible
assurance that Iraq has no nuclear weapons programme. These few months would
be a valuable investment in peace because they could help us avoid a war."

Dr Toby Dodge is an Iraq expert at Warwick University and an associate
fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs.

Scott Ritter is a former UN weapons inspector who was bullish while in Iraq
but is now one of the leading campaigners against war. A former intelligence
officer in the US Marines, he was on General Norman Schwarzkopf's staff
during the Gulf war.

Sir Tim Garden is a visiting professor at the Centre for Defence Studies at
King's College, London; an associate fellow of the Royal Institute of
International Affairs; and an ex assistant chief of defence staff

Colonel Christopher Langton is the chief defence analyst at the
International Institute for Strategic Studies, and the editor of the IISS
journal The Military Balance

Professor Alastair Hay, an environmental toxicologist at Leeds University,
is a member of a World Health Organisation expert panel and has been
involved in investigations of chemical warfare in the Kurdish areas of Iraq,
and was an investigator for Human Rights Watch in Bosnia in 1996

Professor Julian Perry Robinson is the world's leading historian on chemical
and biological warfare. Now a member of the Science Policy Research Unit at
Sussex University, he helps publish a quarterly bulletin on chemical and
biological warfare, that is the standard resource for all experts in the

Gary Milholin, Professor Emeritus of Wisconsin Law School and director of
the Wisconsin Nuclear Project, is an authority on nuclear arms proliferation

Dr Robert Norris is a nuclear expert at the Natural Resources Defence
Council in Washington, director of the Nuclear Weapons Databook Project and
co-editor of the Nuclear Weapons Databook series

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