spying on saddam
can iraq rebuild its arsenal?: analysis
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RICHARD BUTLER: He became Executive Chairman of UNSCOM in July 1997, succeeding Rolf Ekeus.

Our not being there is most deeply worrying ... in all honesty, if you look at their track record, there's every reason to assume that they are taking advantage of this time to make new chemical warfare agent, new biological warfare agent, and that's a matter of grave concern.

DR. KHIDIR HAMZA: He was Iraq's Director of Nuclear Weaponization and is the highest- ranking scientist ever to defect from Iraq.

Is Iraq still capable of making a nuclear bomb?

dr. khidir hamzaIf it managed to get fissile material, and that's the bottleneck there. If it managed to get that, either from Russia, from some of the ex-Communist states, one way or the other, then it is within two to six months, ... because they already built a mock-up, complete.

They already have a trigger system. They already have the explosives--not as good as they should be, but they had plenty of time, eight years, to develop better explosives. And these are not proscribed. Iraq can work freely on explosives. OK? Casting, they perfected before the war. They can cast uranium. They had the explosive necessary, but they have better ones now, I'm sure. They have better design and development after the war. This is all they had to do.

UNSCOM weapons inspections have been halted now for several months. And there's no immediate prospect that they would start again. What do you think must happen?

Now, why would you throw the inspectors out, unless you have something to hide or something to do, right? Why would he create such havoc with the inspection system and with your own possibility of being let go again, in trade and without sanctions, and sell his oil as freely as he did before.

Now, Saddam thinks only in military terms. Thinks in terms of weapons, in terms of armies, in terms of-- His power base is this: It's not a democratic country, certainly is not a popular base, it was shown. Fourteen districts, governments in Iraq, out of the 18, rebelled against him immediately and toppled whoever was running those governments. So, he does not have faith anymore that he has a secure base in Iraq. His secure base is his own security forces, his own Republican Guard, and his weapons. And he has to have all those.

Now, his weapons will give him immunity from being attacked again, from being weakened. It will give him aura in the Arab world of power and invincibility. Iraq is the only Arab state with all these capabilities, don't forget that.

So, after all these years of bombing, of trying to eliminate his arsenal, you're saying that, left uninspected at this moment, he could be as strong as ever?

Yes. And in a short period, too. He knows time is not on his side. He definitely knows that. He has a very good sense of his situation. Now, he has more experienced teams now. And don't forget, Atomic Energy is the only organization ... that has the full capability of rebuilding whatever it wants to rebuild. So, it rebuilds a factory, rebuilds refineries, power stations, ... it can rebuild chemical and biological, too. It can design things and build them from the ground up. It's the only organization in Iraq capable of doing that. That's why it was used to rebuild Saddam's palaces.

... Actually, he's better organized, more experienced now. The old guards like me, who wouldn't really go all the way with him, are replaced now. People who are in charge now are more in line with what he wants. They are not scientists trained in the West and they have their own egos and their own thinking of what should be done. These are people who'll do exactly what he tells them to do.

DAVID KAY: He  was the chief nuclear weapons  inspector  for UNSCOM 1991-1992.

Iraq knows the secrets of how to make nuclear weapons. What they lack today is not scientific talent. They don't lack the secrets and technology. They've solved all those problems. What they lack is time and access to nuclear materials. If the Iraqis were able to import, for example, from a Soviet program--that has now fallen apart--nuclear material, plutonium or high-enriched uranium, it would take them only a matter of months to fabricate a crude weapon. Now, a crude weapon, if it goes out over you, it is effective enough.

You will never be able to forget that Iraq knows the secrets of nuclear weapons. We do not know how to erase knowledge from the hands of scientists once they've solved a problem. All they lack is opportunity and will. That's why I'm personally convinced that as long as Saddam is in power, you've got a problem there. Because in fact you know all the secrets. It's just opportunity and access.

>DR. RICHARD SPERTZEL: He was an UNSCOM biological warfare specialist.

What is the extent of Iraq's biological warfare program?

We have two parts to it. Iraq acknowledges a certain level and that is that they were conducting research on three viruses - chemopox which is loosely related to cowpox, smallpox presumably, but is principally a disease of camels; human rotavirus which is a notorious cause of infant diarrhoea; and hemmolergic conjunctivitis which produces a hemorrhaging in the eye and blurred vision which will last 24 to 48 hours. The eyes bleed.

Presumably if you're working on camelpox you are working on smallpox.

Well camelpox is a very strange one. We were told at the time that the reason they were working on camelpox is that they believed that the local population, the indigenous population would be immune and outsiders coming in would be susceptible to it. They didn't go into detail about just illness or death, and to my knowledge camelpox has only killed one person, and that was a rather debilitated, ... compromised individual.

But they saw them as an ethnic weapon.

... quasi ethnic weapon so to speak.

And what kind of bacteriological agents were they working on?

They have openly acknowledged three agents. The anthrax, botulinum toxin as well as clostridium perfringens spores. The latter one produces -- it's a notorious cause of gangrene, particularly in penetrating wounds during war time. It's a rather horrible death and presumably that was what Iraq -- that's what Iraq claim was their interest in it.

Think they're back at it now?

They very well might be back at it, but the specific components that are used to produce -- that is one of the major discrepancies, major issues between the Commission and Iraq which was discussed with him as recently as December of 1998. And on that basis they could have produced much, much, much more of that particular agent, in which case that agent is still likely in Iraq.

ROBIN WRIGHT: A former Middle East correspondent for the Sunday Times of London, she now covers global issues for the Los Angeles Times.

robin wrightThe world has very good reason to worry about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, because the issue, over the past seven years, has been not only destroying what he developed before 1990, but also what he has tried to acquire and develop since then.

Saddam Hussein, with weapons of mass destruction, has proven to be one of the world's most aggressive leaders: eight years of war against Iran, an invasion of Kuwait, and threats to virtually every other neighbor. That is the one instrument that allows him to be the preeminent power in the Persian Gulf, the source of vital oil supplies to the industrialized West.

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