The Bomb and Iraq
January 28, 2001
IRAQ, THE BOMB, AND THE COMING OF BUSH AND SHARON
As war clouds gather in the Middle East public opinion is being prepared
for a possible regional war that could likely include a combined Western/Israeli
effort to take out the weapons of mass destruction in Syria, Iraq and Iran.
There are some credible analysts who believe the plot might be even thicker,
including some kind of secret plan not only to finally topple Saddam but
to use the moment of Middle East restructing to forceably "resettle" large
numbers of Palestinian refugees in Iraq -- as fanciful as this idea seems
to many others.
The Telegraph in London is one of the newspapers leading the charge.
Over the weekend the newspaper headlined a story that Iraq now has two
functional nuclear bombs with more on the way. With the right-wing nationalists
already in power in the U.S., and Sharon and the racists coming to power
in Israel, the year just begun may be one for the military history books
as were '48, '56, '67, '73, and '82 in the past.
These three articles from The Telegraph in the week past.
SADDAM HAS MADE TWO ATOMIC BOMBS SAYS IRAQI DEFECTOR
By Jessica Berry
The Telegraph, UK -28 January: SADDAM HUSSEIN has two fully operational
nuclear bombs and is working to construct others, an Iraqi defector has
told The Telegraph.
The defector, a military engineer who fled Iraq a year after United Nations
arms inspectors left the country, says that he helped to oversee the completion
of the weapons programme. He is currently in hiding in Europe. International
nuclear officials are investigating his evidence, which contradicts recent
reports that the Iraqi dictator's plans were still at a preparatory stage.
Saddam's efforts to build atomic weapons were delayed by the UN Special
Commission (Unscom) inspectors who were forced to leave in November 1998,
but scientists resumed the work immediately after their departure.
According to the defector, who cannot be named for security reasons, bombs
are being built in Hemrin in north-eastern Iraq, near the Iranian border.
Last week, the defector said: "There are at least two nuclear bombs which
are ready for use. Before the UN inspectors came, there were 47 factories
involved in the project. Now there are 64." The information has alarmed
security experts, who were aware only that the area around Hemrin was well-guarded.
The defector said: "The area is restricted to the Special Security Organisation.
Some of it is under the control of the military industrialisation ministry
which is in charge of building up Saddam's weapons arsenal, but one area
is entirely under the control of the nuclear energy organisation. They
are digging shelters there."
The nuclear programme is shrouded in secrecy. The chain of command leads
directly to the presidential palace and Saddam's closest aide, Abed Hmoud,
a Baath Party stalwart who runs the Iraqi dictator's private office. According
to the defector, General Raad Ismail, the head of the Committee for the
Use of Nuclear Weapons, answers directly to a Dr Khaled, the director-general
of the al-Athir factory, who oversees the final stages of construction
The factory was attacked in air raids by Britain and the United States
in 1998, but has since been rebuilt. Also involved is Awad al-Benck, who
is responsible for procurement in the presidential office. Involvement
of such senior men means that the programme is top secret. The defector
says that apart from the scientists, only four or five people know what
is happening. One security expert said: "This is vital information. The
fact that General Ismail is involved can only mean that the programme is
Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the UN-founded International Atomic
Energy Agency in Vienna, said that the IAEA was unable to confirm that
the Iraqi dictator was complying with Unscom resolutions. Mrs Fleming said:
"I will bring this to the attention of the members of the agency immediately.
We want to investigate this as soon as possible."
The fresh evidence comes only a week after President George W Bush took
office. In his inaugural address, he promised to confront weapons of mass
destruction, without mentioning Iraq. Under Anglo-US policy, any attempt
by Saddam to build nuclear or biological weapons could lead to military
Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State and a Gulf war veteran, and Vice-President
Dick Cheney are both known to favour a radical approach in dealing with
Iraq. General Powell said of Saddam last week: "His only tool, the only
thing he can scare us with are those weapons of mass destruction, and we
have to hold him to account."
The new White House spokesman, Ari Fleischer, said: "The President expects
Saddam Hussein to live up to the agreements he's made with the UN, especially
regarding the elimination of weapons of mass destruction."
LONDON AND WASHINGTON FEAR REVIVAL OF SADDAM
By Anton La Guardia in Baghdad and Ben Fenton in Washington
The Telegraph, UK - 24 Jan: THE Foreign Office said yesterday that it
shared American fears that Saddam Hussein has rebuilt factories capable
of producing chemical weapons.
The claim came amid signs that the new US administration is considering
a tougher policy towards Baghdad. With Baghdad scoring almost daily successes
against its international isolation, President Bush is coming under pressure
to deal with Saddam's weapons of mass destruction and fulfil his campaign
promise to "take 'em out".
Mr Bush has been presented with intelligence evidence that Saddam has rebuilt
factories which could already be producing chemical and biological weapons.
Richard Perle, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and
assistant secretary of state for defence under Ronald Reagan, said yesterday
that he believed the Bush administration would seek to support Iraqi opposition
He said: "We are simply losing this now. If you saw the parade marking
the anniversary of the end of the Gulf war, Saddam had a thousand tanks
going through Baghdad. When the war ended, he had 300. Sanctions have collapsed
and are a failed policy. We need to get the Iraqi opposition back into
northern Iraq, where they can be effective in providing an alternative
A diplomatic source in Washington agreed that the Bush administration,
which in Vice-President Dick Cheney and Colin Powell, the Secretary of
State, has two of the men who defeated Saddam in 1991, would look for a
radical approach in dealing with Iraq.
American intelligence reports, confirmed by Britain, say Iraq has repaired
"dual-use" factories bombed by the US air force and the RAF in 1998 after
United Nations inspectors pulled out of Iraq. But they stopped short of
saying that Saddam has acquired new weapons of mass destruction.
Baghdad has so far ignored the American claims, preferring to rebuild its
political and economic ties in the region and erode the 10-year-old international
sanctions. Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan is expected to visit Damascus
this week to conclude a free-trade agreement similar to one reached with
Egypt and Syria were key members of the US-led alliance against Iraq, providing
vital Arab political cover to the American-led campaign to evict Iraqi
forces from Kuwait. But Arab countries are drawing closer to Baghdad, pushed
by a popular feeling that sanctions have gone on long enough and attracted
by Iraq's growing economic power as a result of high oil prices.
Iraq has become one of Egypt's biggest export markets, while Syria stands
to make good profits by importing cheap Iraqi oil through a 552-mile pipeline
that is being refurbished.
Last week Turkey, a close American ally long involved in smuggling goods
to Iraq, upgraded its relations with Baghdad by appointing an ambassador
despite protests from Washington. Several Western countries, especially
France, have re-appointed diplomats to head high-powered "interests sections"
SADDAM BACK ON THE WARPARTH
By Anton La Guardia
The Telegraph, UK - 16 Jan: IRAQ is back on the warpath, despite suffering
two debilitating wars and a decade of sanctions. That, at least, is the
impression that Saddam Hussein wants to give.
Television pictures of military parades, soldiers marching in serried ranks,
and Saddam firing his gun in the air are interspersed with pictures of
the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and set to the tune of a song that proclaims
"The anger is coming, coming, coming!"
The message is clear: Iraq's armies will liberate Palestine. To redouble
the point, the propaganda includes film of Iraqi Scud missiles striking
Israeli cities 10 years ago. In the official Iraqi view, the 1991 Gulf
war was not an unparalleled disaster for Iraq but the prelude to the momentous
battle for Jerusalem.
As Iraq prepared to mark the tenth anniversary of the war tonight, the
main headline in Al-Thwara declared: "By the leadership of President Saddam
Hussein, Iraq has crushed the biggest imperialist aggressive campaign."
A cartoon in the daily Al-Joumhouriyya yesterday depicted soldiers proudly
raising the Iraqi flag over the Dome of the Rock.
On the streets of Baghdad, normally sensible people profess that they are
ready to die fighting alongside the Palestinians. One Iraqi, who in past
years would whisper his loathing for the devastation that Saddam had brought
to the country, said: "You have to die some time in your life. Jerusalem
is very important," Foreign Office diplomats scoff at the empty rhetoric.
One said recently: "It's easy for those who are far away from Israel to
threaten war. Iraq does not even have a common border with Israel. It would
first have to invade Jordan or Syria."
The problem for London and Washington is not whether a militarily weakened
Iraq may go to war with Israel. The challenge is that Saddam's sabre-rattling
against the Jews has strengthened him both at home and in the wider Arab
His building of sumptuous palaces signifies to many Arabs defiant reconstruction,
his nasty brutality is seen as strength and toughness of character, and
his attempts to build weapons of mass destruction would be, if successful,
a huge military asset for the Arab cause.
Just a few years ago, a few brave Iraqis would complain in whispers that
both the Americans and Saddam were to blame for their misery. The man who
presides over what one exiled critic calls "the Republic of Fear" had,
after all, bloodily put down all opposition, whether real or imagined,
and led his country into two devastating military adventures.
The fear remains everywhere, but it is mixed with new respect for Saddam.
Today it is the Americans who are usually blamed, even in private conversations.
One former critic of Saddam said: "Ten years of sanctions is too much.
The Americans don't understand that they are pointless."
Iraq has erased the physical damage of the war in Baghdad. The bridges
and buildings have been rebuilt by home-grown engineering skills. Construction
includes a new double-deck bridge over the Tigris, the Saddam Tower with
its revolving restaurant, and a string of new palaces, sorry, "guest houses".
There are ever more statues of Saddam.
Abdel-Razek Hashimi, a former ambassador to France and now president of
the Organisation of Friendship, Peace and Solidarity which nurtures links
with foreign sympathisers, said: "Iraq is not a refugee camp where people
just eat. Iraq is a society. It needs schools, medical facilities, electricity
and, yes, guest houses for foreign dignitaries."
The sanctions economy has created two faces to Baghdad. One is the beggars
and the parlous state of the hospitals, where doctors say there are shortages
and erratic supplies of everything from spare parts for equipment to modern
drugs. Infant mortality rates have more than doubled in the past decade
as a result of war and sanctions. Academics abandon the country by the
week, and those who stay have to sell their books.
Yesterday Peter Hain, the Foreign Office minister, said critics of sanctions
were playing into Saddam's hands and reiterated Britain's support for the
measures while Iraq continues to refuse to co-operate with United Nations
He said: "This anniversary should be a reminder to us all of why it is
as necessary to contain the Iraqi threat now as it was 10 years ago." Yet
in the past year there has been an explosion of visible wealth in Baghdad.
The streets are rich with goods, from piles of fruit on stalls to stores
packed with consumer goods, jewellery and clothes. One Iraqi said: "If
you have money there are no sanctions."
Privatisation, usually encouraged as the means to attract western finance,
has been adopted in Iraq in the name of foiling western sanctions. Private
merchants have been given carte blanche to import a range of goods and
get around the UN by means fair or foul. The liberalisation has, in turn,
allowed the "war millionaire" oil smugglers and other beneficiaries of
the regime to recycle their money on luxuries at home.
The sharp rise in oil prices, which at one point tripled in two years,
has brought a flood of new money into Iraq, and this purchasing power has
given it new leverage with its neighbours. Jordanians, Turks, Iranians
and even the oppressed Kurds take their cut of Iraq's oil wealth.
Sajjad Al-Khasaki, the owner of a sweet shop, said: "According to Saddam
Hussein, we should live and we should break the sanctions. We have to make
our own happiness. It is not going to come from abroad."
For years, when sugar was strictly rationed, sweet shops were forced to
close. Now they are richly stocked with syrupy sweets like baklava, cookies,
cakes and a white-powdered bun called "Gifts from Heaven". For rich Iraqis,
life has indeed become sweet.