Our contributor Ray Robison notes a startling early 2001 article from the U.K. Sunday Times, claiming Saddam had and tested a nuclear weapon. What makes this old, and apparently dismissed, claim more viable is a document in the Harmony Database (what we call here "The Saddam Files") recently made available on the web for open source translation from Arabic. Ray has put two and two together.
If the implications are proven, it changes the entire argument about the justification for going to war. Ray writes:
I only recently read this article and found it interesting but very hard to believe. One of the newly released documents CMPC—2003—015757 contains the Roberts [Sunday Times] article in English. This is the first time I have seen it. I did some research and found no serious academic or professional rebuttals other than people who also found it hard to believe. However, it seems that supporting evidence has been right in front of us for a few weeks now.
The article describes a conversation with a man called 'Leone' who claimed to be a nuclear scientist working in Iraq. He approached Gwynne with tales of hidden nuclear programs, hidden nuclear weapons and most surprisingly a claim of a successful nuclear test performed in the Rezzaza Lake area of southern Iraq in 1989.
The tunnel and the entrance were huge and the manpower needed to block it up massive. Leone had told me that thousands of political prisoners worked on the tunnel after a presidential amnesty.
"They were well fed and lived in comfortable caravans. In return, they worked hard. But none of them came out of it alive," he said. "Many were contaminated with radioactive waste. Friends working for Iraqi security who were guarding them said they were buried in caves nearby. The Iraqi regime hoped the secret of the Rezzaza lake test would die with them.
"Hussein Kamel gave the order to kill these people . . . I was disgusted by it and it's one of the major reasons I fled."
This grotesque story was corroborated by Imad. He said he was aware that political prisoners who worked on the Rezzaza tunnel were massacred by Iraqi security guards to conceal an unspecified secret military project. He did not know this was the nuclear test site.
What gives this seemingly—dubious story some credibility is another document found in the Harmon database.
A few weeks ago a man named Joseph or screen name 'Jveritas' started putting original translations on the Free Republic website. One of them was interesting but did not receive a lot of attention: ISGQ—2004—00224003
In this Iraqi document ISGQ 2004—00224003 dated February 7 2001, there was a discussion in upper echelon of the Iraqi intelligence about mass graves in Southern Iraq and how to shift the blame to the Coalition forces and make it look like these mass graves as the results massacres committed by the Coalition forces back in 1991 during Desert Storm Operation.
Beginning of the Partial Translation
The Republic of Iraq
The Intelligence Apparatus
In the Name of God the Merciful the Most commpassionate
To the respectful Mr. Director of the Fourth Directory
Your letter secret and immediate numbered B 264 on 2/4/2001
1. No information is available to us about the Mass Graves in the Southern Region.
2.We see to achieve the observation the following matters:
A. Inspect the graves to confirm the existence of Nuclear Radiations.
B. Were they buried alive or their death was by suffocation.
C. Are they military personnel or civilians.
D. Are there tombstones that carry the names of the martyrs
E. Identify accurate marks and proofs of the graves and the possibility to reach it quickly and identify it.
3. We do not agree that the declaration about it through a direct Iraqi media in the first stage at least and not to cause public and party reaction so that the subject will take as a priority an international interest, and we should work on the following direction during this stage:
A. Leak the news through reliable sources.. News agencies or Satellite stations.. and that there is confusion, and indications from the members of the Coalition forces about the existence of mass graves civilians and military personnel in the South of Iraq.
B. The attempt to search for soldiers from the Coalition forces in a serious way to mention these truth through the agencies.
This deserves immediate attention and deep investigation.
Thomas Lifson 4 20 06
Update: Ray Robison has added a new translation that provides further context.
Further Update: Barry Dwyer writes:
I found this item, discussing Iraqi WMD, at the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty site, dated March 2, 2001: )
IRAQI WMD AND ACM DEVELOPMENTS CONTINUE... Iraq is continuing low—level research and development in the nuclear field, according to a recently released "Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction [WMD] and Advanced Conventional Munitions [ACM]" prepared by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. What hampers Iraq's nuclear program the most is problems in procuring sufficient fissile material. The report offers the qualification that it is difficult for the U.S. and UN to make an accurate assessment of Iraq's WMD programs, because UN inspectors have not returned to the country since Operation Desert Fox in December 1998, and the UN's automated video monitoring system is not functioning.
Iraq may not need to continue its R&D activities, however, because it already has three Hiroshima—type nuclear bombs, three implosion—type nuclear bombs, and three thermonuclear devices, and these are stored in an underground bunker in the Hemrin Mountains. Furthermore, Iraq has already tested a nuclear bomb, according to a detailed report in the 25 February edition of London's "Sunday Times." Relying mainly on an Iraqi defector who identified himself as a "military engineer who was a member of the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission," the report states that the device was tested in September 1989 in an underground tunnel 150 kilometers southwest of Baghdad in a militarized zone near Lake Rezzaza. The warhead's gun assembly, which used an explosive charge to drive pieces of highly enriched uranium together, was purchased from Russia in the late 1980s, according to the defector, and the HEU came from South Africa via Brazil. The Iraqis were able to avoid U.S. satellite detection of the test through information provided by Russia, and all evidence of the test, including the clean—up personnel, was eliminated.
Although UNSCOM inspectors eventually found evidence of the Iraqi nuclear research program, the defector told the "Sunday Times," they missed the most successful part. UNSCOM apparently overlooked a military organization called Group Four that handled all stages of the bomb's assembly and was also involved in missile development, launch systems, and uranium acquisition. Group Four also acquired Russian and American nuclear bomb designs with help from India. The defector added that Group Five dealt with thermonuclear devices. The defector's legitimacy and the validity of his claims were confirmed in interviews with a Western nuclear scientist, other defectors from the Iraqi nuclear program, South African intelligence officers, and a representative of the Iraqi National Congress.
The CIA report indicates that Iraq was capable of resuming its chemical and biological warfare research within weeks of the December 1998 air raids. It adds that "[f]ollowing Desert Fox, Baghdad again instituted a reconstruction effort on those facilities destroyed by the U.S. bombing, including several critical missile production complexes and former dual—use CW production facilities." Also, Baghdad has tried to purchase dual—use items. Iraq admitted to having a biological warfare program in 1995.
Because the information on the program could not be verified, UNSCOM assessed that the knowledge base is maintained and the industrial infrastructure for producing CW agents is in place. Work continues on Iraq's L—29 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle program, according to the report. This UAV is a converted jet trainer, and it is believed that refurbished models of this aircraft have been modified to deliver chemical or biological weapons. Iraq also is developing Short Range Ballistic Missile systems, and the report says that "Iraq probably retains a small, covert force of Scud—type missiles." (Bill Samii)