The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[casi] Iraqi scientists say N-programme ended long ago

Iraqi scientists say N-programme ended long ago
By Charles Clover in Baghdad
Published: September 14 2003 20:39

Throughout 12 years of sanctions and weapons
inspections, Iraqi nuclear scientists who denied the
existence of a nuclear weapons programme were accused
of being bought and threatened into silence by the
Iraqi regime. Now, at last, they are free to talk
without fear of reper- cussions and they are still
saying the same thing - that the programme was
scrapped long ago.

"It was surprising to hear these things from the
Americans, that we could build a nuclear bomb in six
months, while meanwhile we were sitting here
scrounging for a screwdriver," says a scientist who
formerly headed a department in "Bomb Design Group
Four", and who asked not to be named.

Now that he is free to talk without fear of the
regime, he admits that he and his colleagues were
instructed to lie to United Nations inspectors about
Iraq's nuclear weapons programme for about four years,
starting when the inspectors arrived in 1991, until
the defection of Hussein Kamel, head of weapons
programmes and Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, in 1995.
For the past seven years, he says,they have been
telling the truth: that Iraq's nuclear weapons
programme was shut down following the 1991 Gulf war
and never restarted.

"Before [Hussein Kamel's defection], we had had to
sign a declaration that we cannot tell inspectors
anything about the true aims of the programmes.
Otherwise we were liable for dangerous repercussions,"
he says. "Afterwards, we had to sign another
declaration: if we don't tell the truth and hand over
all the documentation, then we will be punished."

He said the equipment that was not destroyed in the
1991 war was tracked down and eliminated by inspectors
from the UN and the International Atomic Energy Agency
during the first few years of UN sanctions on Iraq. If
what the scientist says is true, it will further
undermine pre-war claims by the US government that
Iraq's nuclear programme was an imminent threat.

While the IAEA inspections found little to contradict
Iraq's claim the programme was defunct, the US
continued to sound the alarm before the war over
Iraq's nuclear capability.

"We have no indication that Saddam Hussein has ever
abandoned his nuclear weapons programme," said Colin
Powell, US secretary of state, to the UN Security
Council on February 5. "On the contrary, we have more
than a decade of proof that he remains determined to
acquire nuclear weapons."

However, not all scientists appear to have followed
the instructions to hand over prohibited equipment,
either because of personal decisions or because they
were singled out as exceptions.

Mahdi Obeidi, a nuclear scientist, told inspectors in
May he had buried parts for a gas centrifuge under his
rose garden at the request of Qusay Hussein, son of
the dictator. IAEA investigators said the burial was
evidence that the programme had not been restarted but
US officials said this might have indicated a plan to
begin the nuclear programme again after sanctions were

"I honestly don't know what [Mr Obeidi] was thinking,"
says the scientist, who believes his former colleague
to be outside Iraq now.

One thing that still puzzles experts is why Mr Hussein
should have gone to such lengths to prevent scientists
from travelling outside Iraq and not to co-operate
more with the inspections if Iraq had nothing to hide.

The scientist says one reason is the number of Iraqi
defectors who, he says, made exaggerated claims to US

On July 31 2002, Khidir Hamza, a former nuclear
scientist who defected to the US in 1994, told the US
Senate foreign relations committee: "With a workable
design and most of the needed components for a nuclear
weapon already tested and in working order, Iraq is in
the final stages of putting together its enrichment
programme to enrich enough uranium for the final
component needed in the nuclear core."

The scientist dismisses Mr Hamza's information as
untrue. "To tell the truth, we all thought the reason
these defectors made these claims was because the
Americans made them do it," he says.

Mr Hamza, who has apparently returned to Baghdad,
could not be reached for comment.

Others have speculated that many Iraqi defectors had
trumped up their own importance and claims to become
more attractive candidates for asylum in the US.
According to news reports, the Central Intelligence
Agency has begun an investigation into whether it was
duped by bogus defectors.

Do you Yahoo!?
Yahoo! SiteBuilder - Free, easy-to-use web site design software

Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To unsubscribe, visit
To contact the list manager, email
All postings are archived on CASI's website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]