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memri
June 17, 2003 No.
139

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) - The Iraqi Official Record

The debate in the Arabic press, much like the one in the international press, suggests that Iraq has had no weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and, hence, nothing was likely to be found.

A most significant denial comes from 'Imad Khaddouri who identifies himself as "an Iraqi nuclear expert" with "thirty years experience in Iraq's military and peaceful nuclear program." Writing in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Hayat under the heading "The Phantom of the Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction," Khaddouri insisted that everything connected with the program was destroyed in 1991 and the prospect of finding evidence of such a program is "an illusory phantom." Khaddouri sought to strengthen his argument by quoting a recent statement made by 'Amer Al-Sa'di, the scientific adviser to Saddam Hussein, who was the first among the 55 most wanted to surrender to the American forces and who was involved in the biological weapons program. Al-Sa'di stated minutes prior to his surrender: "I have always said the truth. There are no chemical or biological weapons in Iraq. I have nothing to hide. Time will prove the veracity of what I have said." [1]

Al-Sa'di's denials ignore Iraq's public record, the various meetings with, and statements by, Saddam Hussein himself which the Iraqi government itself made public and which at least implied that such a program was afoot.

The following are reports about Saddam Hussein's official meetings with Iraq's Nuclear Energy Authority (NEA) and the military industry, which appeared in the Iraqi government media.

Official Meetings

On November 7, 2001, the Baghdad daily Babil, which was owned and edited by Saddam's son Uday, reported that Saddam Hussein met with Dr. Fadhil Muslim al-Janabi, head of Iraq's Nuclear Energy Authority (NEA) "and a selected group of outstanding researchers and engineers from among the warriors of NEA and from the military industry." At the meeting, Saddam "praised the initiatives of those warriors present and their innovations in the areas of their specializations." [2] Saddam did not specify the nature of the innovations but it stands to reason that they were related to WMD.

On May 7, 2002, the government daily Al-Thawra carried another report on Saddam's meeting with Al-Janabi who submitted to him a report on "the achievements created by the developed brains in the Atomic Energy Authority for serving the objectives of the Great Iraq." [3]

A few days later, Babil reported on another meeting between Saddam and Al-Janabi with a group of researchers and engineers from NEA and the military industry. Al-Janabi told Saddam of his group's commitment to make "quick progress and comprehensive development in the next ten years." He said the achievements of the organization will serve as "a symbol for the Arab nation and humanity as a whole." [4]

Approximately one month later, Babil reported that at another meeting, Al-Janabi vowed total loyalty to Saddam and committed to work "day and night to add new advanced technological components" toward constructing "a towering Iraq." Saddam called on the participants to develop the science in "the service of a comprehensive development programs" which was being witnessed by the country. [5]

In a statement made at the end of July 2002, Saddam was much more effusive in his praise of the nuclear team. He underscored their scientific achievements which had revealed "the metal of the Iraqi man and his steadfastness and determination to seize upon the opportunity for progress and development." Speaking sarcastically, Saddam said: "The American and the British talk is like a joke. They say that if Iraq is left alone it will produce this and that weapon that it would place at the disposal of terrorism. This kind of talk is close to a joke but they really mean to harm, that is to say to deny any Arab or Muslim [the opportunity] to develop. This is the evil program in the West and in America, in particular pursued by the Zionists…" [6]

In the meeting with the leaders of the Ba'ath ruling party on the occasion of the 82nd anniversary of the establishment of the Iraqi army, Saddam Hussein told the participants that the U.N. inspectors were engaged in fishing expeditions because they knew that there were no WMD - chemical, nuclear or biological. But he added ominously: "Is this the capacity of the Iraqis? No. The capacity of the Iraqis will be as much as Allah wants them to have, and this they [i.e. UN inspectors] would not know... Can anyone know," he asked, "the extent of the capacity that Allah would want for a people who rely on him and believe in him?" [7]

Many other encounters between Saddam and the Minister of Military Industry Mulla Hwaish were reported in the Iraqi press through the end of March, 2003. The theme of the meetings was almost always the same: the scientists pledging themselves to Saddam and him, in return, thanking them for their accomplishments.

It is noteworthy that the Iraqi leadership was keen to display the public prominence of Dr. Huda Ammash, referred to in the West as Dr. Anthrax, who surrendered to the U.S. army on May 4. Dr. Ammash was the president of "The Iraq Society for Medical Sciences," but also the only woman in the ruling body of the Ba'ath Party. In one of the last meetings of the Iraqi senior leadership televised on Iraqi television, Ammash was seen sitting next to Qusai, Saddam's younger son, who was then considered the second most powerful person in the country. [8]

Post-Saddam Revelations

Upon the fall of the Saddam regime, two Iraqi scientists, employed by Iraq's NEA, were interviewed on the Qatari television station Al-Jazeera. They pointed out that the facilities of NEA in Tawitha were looted, including 200 barrels of yellow cakes and uranium oxide. The looters emptied the barrels' contents in waterways or in their neighborhoods in order to use the barrels for domestic purposes (one scientist saw a barrel full of tomatoes). One of the scientists, Dr. Muhammad Zeidan, a biology expert and a graduate of Damascus and Baghdad Universities, talked about the expected ecological disaster from releasing thousands of flies known as chrysomya bezziana, nicknamed screw worm, which were bred by the NEA to be used as biological farming insecticides. The flies were released by the looters and were expected to harm animals in Iraq and neighboring countries. These flies were to be released after being sterilized. However, the flies that were actually released in large quantities were not sterilized. [9]

* Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli is Senior Analyst of MEMRI's Middle East Economic Studies Program.


[1] Al-Hayat (London), May 7, 2003.

[2] Babil (Iraq), November 7, 2001.

[3] Al-Thawra (Iraq), May 7, 2002.

[4] Babil (Iraq), May 28, 2002.

[5] Babil (Iraq), June 27, 2002.

[6] Babil (Iraq), July 31, 2002.

[7] Babil (Iraq), January 8, 2003.

[8] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), March 29, 2003. See also Special Dispatch No. 489 on Dr. Ammash issued on April 1, 2003.

[9] Al-Jazeera (TV), April 27, 2003.