Sunday, November 30, 2003

It Was All Like Building Sand Castles...These American Inspectors Are Wasting Their Time

Iraq Scientists Say They Lied Over Weapons

Before that first Gulf War, the chief of the weapons program resorted to "blatant exaggeration" in telling Iraq's president how much bomb material was being produced, key scientist Imad Khadduri writes in a new book.

Other leading physicists, in Baghdad interviews, said the hope for an Iraqi atomic bomb was never realistic. "It was all like building sand castles," said Abdel Mehdi Talib, Baghdad University's dean of sciences.

Iraqi scientists have grown more vocal in countering the US administration claims, used to justify the war, that Baghdad had "reconstituted" nuclear weapons development, and that it once was a mere six months from making a bomb.

At best, Khadduri writes, it would have taken Iraq several years to build a nuclear weapon if the 1991 war and subsequent U.N. inspections had not intervened.

His self-published "Iraq's Nuclear Mirage," a chronicle of years of secret weapons work and of a final escape into exile, is part of this senior scientist's emergence from a low profile in Canada - intended to refute what he calls a "massive deception" in Washington that led the United States into war.

Khadduri, a U.S.- and British-educated physicist, writes that he did theoretical work on nuclear weapons as long ago as the mid- 1970s, after joining Iraq's Atomic Energy Commission. By the late 1980s, as the secret bomb program accelerated, he was in a pivotal position as coordinator of all its scientific and engineering information.

"Iraq's Nuclear Mirage," dismisses the U.S. contention that the atom-bomb establishment was resurrected after it was demolished, U.N. inspectors were stationed in Iraq and Iraqi specialists were scattered.

"Where is the scientific and engineering staff required for such an enormous effort?" he asks. "Where are the buildings and infrastructure?"

The continuing U.S. weapons hunt amounts to no more than "investigating mirages," he says.

Khadduri and others said the design and actual production of a bomb would have been an extremely difficult task.

It was an impossible quest, "all futility," said one of Baghdad's senior nuclear physicists, Hamed M. al-Bahili.

Al-Bahili, who joined the Atomic Energy Commission in 1968 but remained outside the weapons program, said his colleagues inside "all knew they wouldn't achieve results." As for whether the program was later revived, he said, "these American inspectors are wasting their time."

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