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Thursday, August 12, 2004

In a way Jafar Dhia Jafar, who was head of Iraq's nuclear weapons programme and well connected in regards to other wmd-activity, should be the man to ask. I don't know why it took so long to get hold of him, but now the BBC has:

The head of Iraq's nuclear programme under Saddam Hussein has said Iraq destroyed its nuclear weapons programme in 1991 and never restarted it.
Jafar Dhia Jafar told the BBC sanctions and inspections worked in stopping the reconstitution of the programme.
He also said Iraq's chemical and biological weapons programmes were destroyed after the first Gulf War and never reactivated.
. . .
But Mr Jafar, whom the former Iraqi leader originally asked to build the country's nuclear bomb, said all nuclear development stopped in July 1991, under the orders of Saddam Hussein.
Jafar Dhia Jafar
He said he was probably a few years away from producing a nuclear bomb. [timmyhawk's quick note: thank you, Israel]
. . .
He added the Iraqi leader had hoped that UN sanctions would be lifted soon, adding that Iraq's strategic aims became ineffective when the US and UK became its adversaries.
. . .
He said that everything was destroyed, such that the programme could not be restarted at the time - and that it never restarted.
Similarly, the country's chemical and biological weapons programmes were stopped and never reactivated, he said.
"There was no capability," he said. "There was no chemical or biological or any of what are called weapons of mass destruction." Some materials were never accounted for, giving weapons inspectors reason to believe that there were still some weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
But Mr Jafar said that production figures were exaggerated, and the inspectors' estimates merely reflected the difference between existing materials and the inflated figures.
"That doesn't mean the material actually exists," he said. [timmyhawk wonders: huh? But then how can there be a difference? Anyways. . .]

To the extent that Jafar's statements are accurate, this interview has revealed that Saddam wasn't wasn't fooled or too stupid about the real wmd capabilities available to him. This brings us closer to understanding part of the riddle surrounding Iraqi wmd.
One possible scenario is that Saddam tried to trick the outside world, in order to maintain his standing in the region. That would explain the evasive and uncooperative behaviour of Iraq's wmd officials. This also explains why these officials along with the vast infrastructure of scientists, weapons dumps, laboratories and everything else were there, even though they obviously not making any large quantities of wmd. It was all a show. Quite an effective one too. Or was it?
As Jafar notes, Saddam believed the sanctions would eventually be lifted, a belief I shared with him, as the diplomatic support was constantly crumbling away. So it is also possible, and in light of the regime's past behaviour, more likely, that Saddam was keeping the ability to re-start a large-scale wmd-programme until the situation improved.
These are the two serious options for what happened on the Iraqi side in regards to those elusive wmds. Either way Saddam obviously misjudged our intent in the run-up to the invasion, thinking it was also just show, and that the coalition would be satisfied with some intense bombing like operation Desert Fox, back in 1998.
How does this revelation impact on the case for invading Iraq? Not at all really. I didn't think that Iraq had vast quantities of battle-ready wmd at the point of attack, and neither did Tony Blair and MI6. The argument was not so much about wmd, but more along the lines of: It's the regime, stupid! Also from an analytical point this is more of secondary importance, because the decisions about wmd rested on what our own intelligence agencies thought they know, which is a different story altogether.



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