Alan K. Henderson's Weblog


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Friday, September 03, 2010

Mission Accomplished

Daniel Henninger reminds us that Saddam really was planning to develop a nuclear program, and we stopped that from happening.

Skip over to this 2008 Hot Air article on the then-recent transfer of Saddam's yellowcake stash to Canada:

[Saddam] had a nuclear program — before the first Gulf War. For those of us who recall the issue of yellowcake in Iraq, this is the same stash that the IAEA had sealed during its inspections immediately after that war. The seals remained on the compound, which means that Saddam never used it again. In fact, that’s why we suspected him of attempting to purchase more from Niger, because he couldn’t get his hands on this yellowcake without triggering a new war.

This doesn’t have anything to do with continuing efforts by Saddam to produce nuclear weapons. After the rejection by Niger, no one has produced any evidence that Saddam got fissile material from anywhere else, although evidence has arisen that he kept his nuclear technology on standby for reinstatement as soon as the sanctions got lifted. He continued to work with chemical and possibly biological weapons for several years, according to captured IIS documents, but the nuclear progam appears to have been shut down effectively.

What, no Iraqi nuke threat? Not so fast. Go back to the first article:

Saddam was obsessed with Iran. Imagine the effect on the jolly Iraqi's thinking come 2005 and the rise to stardom of Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, publicly mocking the West's efforts to shut his nuclear program and threatening enemies with annihilation. That year Ahmadinejad broke the U.N. seals at the Isfahan uranium enrichment plant.

Does it seem likely that Iran's nuclear ambitions would have provoked Saddam into rekindling his nuclear program? One of his top scientists, Mahdi Obeidi, thought so when he wrote this in 2004:

Was Iraq a potential threat to the United States and the world? Threat is always a matter of perception, but our nuclear program could have been reinstituted at the snap of Saddam Hussein's fingers. The sanctions and the lucrative oil-for-food program had served as powerful deterrents, but world events - like Iran's current efforts to step up its nuclear ambitions - might well have changed the situation.

Iraqi scientists had the knowledge and the designs needed to jumpstart the program if necessary. And there is no question that we could have done so very quickly. In the late 1980's, we put together the most efficient covert nuclear program the world has ever seen. In about three years, we gained the ability to enrich uranium and nearly become a nuclear threat; we built an effective centrifuge from scratch, even though we started with no knowledge of centrifuge technology.

Good thing we don't have to worry about Saddam's reaction to the specter of a nuclear-armed Iran.

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