WASHINGTON, Oct 26: Iraq never had weapons of mass destruction nor did the former Iraqi regime have any active plan to build a nuclear weapon, the Washington Post reported on Sunday.
In an article, the Post says that interviews with arms investigators in the United States, Britain and Australia proved that there never was any weapon of mass destruction in Iraq.
“It did not require a comprehensive survey to find the central assertions of the Bush administration’s pre-war nuclear case to be insubstantial or untrue,” the report concludes.
“Although (Saddam) Hussein did not relinquish his nuclear ambitions or technical records, it is now clear he had no active programme to build a weapon, produce its key materials or obtain the technology he needed for either.”
Among the closely held internal judgments of the Iraqi survey group, the Post says, is that Iraq’s nuclear weapons scientists did no significant arms-related work after 1991. The 1400-strong survey group, headed by David Kay, a special representative of CIA Director George J. Tenet, also concluded that facilities with suspicious new construction proved benign and that equipment of potential use to a nuclear programme remained under seal or in civilian industrial use.
Brig. Gen. Stephen D. Meekin, an Australian officer who commands the Joint Captured Enemy Material Exploitation Centre in Iraq, told the Post that aluminium tubes discovered in Iraq “proved to be innocuous.”
“That finding,” says the Post, “is pivotal because the Bush administration built its case on the proposition that Iraq aimed to use those tubes as centrifuge rotors to enrich uranium for the core of a nuclear warhead.”
Administration officials interviewed for this report defended the integrity of the US government’s prewar intelligence and public statements. None agreed to be interviewed on the record. Vice President Cheney, in a televised interview last month, referred to a National Intelligence Estimate of October 2002, which said among other things that there was “compelling evidence that Saddam is reconstituting a uranium enrichment effort.” Mr Cheney said investigators searching for confirmation of those judgments “will find in fact that they are valid.” His office did not respond to Post’s questions on Friday.
The report says that the day US Marines and Army mechanized troops marched past the remnants of Iraq’s nuclear facilities, Baghdad’s three most important nuclear weapons scientists met three distinct fates.
Mahdi Obeidi, chief of the pre-1991 centrifuge programme to enrich uranium, sat anxiously at home awaiting US investigators. Jaffar Dhai Jaffar, who directed alternative enrichment efforts and other component designs under the code name Petrochemical Three, watched the US-led coalition’s invasion from the United Arab Emirates, to which he had decamped before fighting began. Khalid Ibrahim Said, the principal overseer of Iraq’s nuclear warhead designs, drove incautiously through a newly established US checkpoint. He died in a burst of gunfire from Marines.
Mr Jaffar, who is now helping US investigators, also has told American experts that the Saddam regime did not have an active nuclear programme and that the previous programme was abandoned in 1991.
Everybody, including Donald Rumsfeld, agrees that (Iraq’s nuclear) programme was destroyed 12 years ago,” one US expert with long experience on Iraq told Post. “The question for David Kay (who heads the US-led investigation into Iraqi weapons of mass destruction) is whether it restarted.”
And the Post says that so far there’s no evidence to suggest that Iraq ever restarted the facilities that were first bombed by Israel in 1981 and were destroyed again by US forces during the first Gulf war in 1991.