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by Khidhir Hamza,
At the Carnegie International Non-Proliferation Conference 1999
11-12 January 1999
I will explore the possible sources of conflict in the region, why Iraq would go to such lengths to build such an arsenal of WMD. What could be the motivation?
And I'll go in a bit of what we think in Iraq of the other problems from our perspective. I'll talk a bit about the arms control, from our perspective, as a nation.
The cover for all WMD in the region is Israel. The Israeli, huge arsenal of nuclear weapons gave legitimacy to any Arab power capable of going nuclear. The idea was, to build at least for deterrence.
Now, some Arab countries are not serious threats in this regard. Egypt has not started a serious program in the nuclear area. The Egyptian program remains fragmented and underfunded and understaffed. The Syrian program is actually nearly nonexistent. When the Israeli's planted a listening device on their telephone network, and was discovered, was powered by nuclear battery, you see they didn't know it was nuclear battery. They didn't have even nuclear engineers who can handle even nuclear batteries. So the Syrian problem is primarily in the chemical and biological realms--the nuclear program is virtually nonexistent.
There is some beginning in the Algerian program, but there is not an Arab program, except for Iraq. That is our assessment, at least. Iraq has the only capable nuclear program.
Iraq’s outlook and the reasons for Iraq going nuclear are several. Look at Iraq from Iraq's perspective. Iraq's water is controlled from the Tigris which is cut off once in a while. The Euphrates was dry for five years. All agriculture was destroyed during that five years.
The oil outlets, the gulf outlets, are controlled by Iran, almost all of them. There is really no significant resistance from the others. The other is oil pipelines that have to go either through Turkey or Syria, which in many instances also are stopped. Iraq has no resources sources except oil, and it cannot export its oil. It is almost guaranteed we will have no water in the next century. The Euphrates right now is almost dry. Better than half of the water is barren, and the Tigris is getting less.
And it perceives enemies on all kinds of fronts. For example, the Iranians present themselves as defenders of the Shi'is which is a majority of the Iraqi population, which is not the actual government. They are not representative of the actual government. Now, that is a threat to all other groups in Iraq.
Now, there are several aspects to this problem. You can look at it from the Iranian threat, you can look at the possibility of Israeli confrontation, regional power and regional continuity.
For example, a statement delivered to President Mubarak gave several indications that Israel is not real target. Before the Gulf War, President Mubarak made the statement, or someone told him, "We have no borders with Israel. Since we have no borders with Israel, it is your problem. It is not our problem."
The problem is, if you go into them, they can be split into up to two groups, tactical and strategic. The chemical weapons are regarded as tactical – partially defensible, with the advances in biology and the sciences. These are tactical weapons.
But even the real strategic weapon is nuclear. Nuclear is fit into tactical also -- they were about to be used in the Iran/Iraq war. We just didn't make enough radioactive material. And the atomic bombs themselves.
Now, you can see Iraq's location of assets into these programs. About 7,000 people work in nuclear program, with an estimated expense or expenditure of $10 billion dollars. Only about 400 work in the chemical program, a couple of hundred in the biological. That tells you where the importance is in these programs, and how it is perceived. 7,000 before the Gulf War. Now I believe it is up to 12,000.
After the Gulf War, the stock was actually increased in the nuclear, because the nuclear program took over rebuilding the civilian industries, and the civilian sector, and the services such as electricity, telephone networks, even the water and sewer.
The nuclear people were spread around first to get them out of the way of the inspectors. That is one way. And another, to get these services back to full capability. Because the nuclear people failed, failed to give to the war a bomb. They took it on themselves to make up for it in the other. Now they are here.
They rebuilt almost completely the civilian sector. They rebuilt refineries, factors,even Saddam's palaces. Okay. So the actual capability of the nuclear program, actually increased. It is more focused now. It is better organized. And it is better run.
The Iranian program, we used to observe from a distance, does not have the capabilities -- starting people, scientists, and the human capabilities the Iraqi program has. Actually someone told me they have only one-tenth of what we have.
In 1975, when we visited Iran, they did not have more than 30-40 scientists. The reactor was often shut down. The program, which was about 120-130 people during the short time working on a possible design of a bomb, which had about 100 good scientists in it, was by then, down to a few people actually capable of getting any future plans done.
So Iran went around from the other way. That's buying expertise. We didn't do that. We didn't, except when the program transferred to the military part of the nuclear program. We didn't think buying expertise was reliable in terms of information. And how can you establish the continuity of the program with experts coming and going all the time.
We believed that the Iraqi program should be totally self-reliant. That was only for the nuclear. The chemical and biological programs were importing all the time. They have experts. They have 10 key projects built by foreign companies.
The complaint, actually, is more serious with Iran than with Israel. That explains the Iranian program right now. The acceleration of the Iranian program right now, which cannot be explained by the Israeli arsenal, which has been there for 20-30 years now. So it cannot be the cause of the recent acceleration, it must reflect the discovery of the size of the Iraqi program.
The Iraqi program as it is perceived, should cover the local skirmishes, with local minor wars, happening like the Iraq/Iran war where chemical weapons were introduced. And would offer to Iraq some kind of deterrence against Israel and hegemony in the area for the other countries.
The plans were made and designed for an eventual production of 100 kilogram bomb -- six bombs. That would be a reasonable arsenal in something like five to 10 years. So in a decade or so, Iraq would become a real nuclear power like Israel.
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