Today's date:
Winter 2003


Defection And Detection

Rolf Ekeus, a Swedish diplomat, was chief UN arms inspector for Iraq (United Nations Special Commission on Iraq - UNSCOM) from 1991 until 1997.

Stockholm - In April 1995, I reported to the Security Council on the extent of the biological weapons the Iraqis had tried to hide, but which we discovered. In June and July we gave more details about weaponization of those materials and their major production facilities.

Hussein Kamel Majid, Saddam's son-in-law, defected in August 1995. In my view, the cause and effect are the opposite of what is being said today. Hussein Kamel Majid was forced to defect because we detected the hidden biological weapons program, which was connected to the most secret program for development of nuclear weapons. We did not discover it as a result of his defection.

A bit later, fearing the consequences of the defection, the Iraqi authorities released even more detailed information. But we had already uncovered the basic facts.

Even during my time, the Iraqis had the understanding and design of a highly enriched uranium-based nuclear weapon. But they lacked the fissile material itself, the uranium. Clearly, they were trying to manufacture the fuel and had the centrifuges to do so. But we found most of them and destroyed them, though I can't be sure we got them all.

Could they have made one of their own in the years without inspections? They have the scientists and the know-how, but I doubt they have the hardware to do so. They would have had to smuggle in the precision machine tools necessary for new centrifuges. Alternatively, they might have been able to purchase uranium on the black market from Russia or the Ukraine. Perhaps this is something the Bush administration knows.

In terms of chemical weapons and nerve agents, they were left with some facilities to manufacture pesticides, insecticides and fertilizer for crops. Originally, these facilities were supposed to be systematically monitored by the United Nations. Without that monitoring, however, it is possible they could have turned them around for military use.

At the same time, it would not make sense to produce much for storage because it deteriorates over time. Rather, they might have set up production lines that can be activated if war threatens.

In terms of biological weapons, we blew up the main plant at Al Hakam. It was completely devastated. People who don't know what they are talking about say you can make biological weapons in the kitchen, but it is much more difficult than that to achieve the right conditions for manufacturing effective agents.