Nobody likes the idea of Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and missiles capable of delivering their lethal warheads. The ramifications of their potential use in anger -- the numbers of fatalities and injured they might inflict -- are horrendous. However, as the US is getting ready to bomb in Iraq in order to address the challenge of that country's remaining WMD arsenal, one should examine dispassionately what might be conceivably accomplished, and what would be the ramifications of the massive bombing campaign the Clinton Administration is advocating.
Despite Baghdad's protestations, Iraq does have a small but very lethal
operational arsenal of WMD and platforms capable of delivering them
throughout the Middle East and even beyond. Although Iraq has been subjected
to an unprecedented regimen of UN inspection and destruction of strategic
military programs since the end of the Gulf War in the Spring of 1991, the
international community has proven incapable of learning the entire scope of
the Iraqi programs for fielding weapons of mass destruction, let alone
eliminate these programs as mandated by the Security Council.
One should not be surprised by this sad state of affairs.
The Iraqi-Sudanese strategic cooperation dates back to the close alliance between the two countries during the Gulf War. The Iraqi-Sudanese alliance has endured the close relations between Khartoum and Tehran. Originally, Iraq established a major expeditionary force in Sudan in order to strike Egypt and western Saudi Arabia. In late August 1990, the Iraqi deployment included several South African made G-5 155mm guns equipped with both high-explosive and chemical shells, as well as 14 SCUD-B launchers with several missiles each that were originally deployed along the Red Sea coast across from Yanbu and Jeddah. In early January 1991, the Iraqis delivered additional SCUD launchers to Sudan and handed them over to the government. The Sudanese armed forces deployed these launchers in northern Sudan. These SCUDs targeted southern Egypt, including the Aswan High Dam. (By 1995, Sudan would ask Russia for spares and expert technicians to fix its own SCUD missiles and other sub-systems. The serial numbers and other technical data provided by Khartoum proves that the Sudanese SCUD systems had been sold originally to Iraq.)
In March/April 1991, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz requested permission from Sudan's President Umar al-Bashir to move Iraqi chemical weapons and additional SCUD missiles to Sudan in order to circumvent their destruction by the UN. Al-Bashir agreed. Thus, in the Summer of 1991, as UN inspections became inevitable, Iraq transferred a large number of SCUDs, estimated at about 400 missiles, and chemical weapons, for "safekeeping" in Yemen and Sudan. Soon afterwards, with Saudi pressure on Yemen growing, the Iraqi ballistic missiles were shipped from Yemen to Sudan. In 1993, Iraq sent additional chemical weapons to Sudan, this time through Iran.
Meanwhile, Iraq also transferred in the Summer of 1991 some nuclear material to Sudan for temporary storage. This program continued into mid 1992 with fissionable material, documents, and weapons' sub-systems being shipped via Jordan utilizing Sudanese diplomatic mail privileges. For example, a truck carrying "furniture" from the Sudanese Embassy in Iraq to Khartoum in mid January 1992 was actually loaded with barrels of uranium. Among the Iraqi material sent to Sudan were approximately 27.5 pounds of 93% U-235 which had been originally supplied to Iraq by France for use in the French-built Osiraq research reactor. (However, since there are no nuclear facilities in Sudan, the bulk of the nuclear materials was shipped forward to the Algerian reactor in Ain-Oussera -- a PRC-built reactor with military/weapons development capacity. Algeria is still storing the Iraqi nuclear equipment and radioactive materials.)
With the UN inspections continuing, Baghdad committed itself to bolstering the regime in Khartoum -- a key storage site for Iraq's strategic systems. By the Fall of 1993, a large number of Iraqis moved into the area of the Red Sea mountain range -- in Madabay in Khawr Ashraf, Port Sudan, in the region of Dalawat on the Red Sea near Hala'ib, and the city of Tawker in region of Karnakanat. The Iraqis brought into these installations high-tech equipment and computers, missiles, defense systems, anti-aircraft systems and radar systems. By late 1993, the regions surrounding these installations were experiencing strict security measures and 24-hour armed patrols roam around it. In some areas, such as in the Port Sudan area, shepherds and nomads were completely removed from security zones with a 60 km circumference.
The Spring-Summer of 1995 saw the emergence of an Iraqi-Iranian-Sudanese Axis. This Axis was the outcome of secret contacts between Iraq and Sudan, culminating in the visit to Khartoum by the Iraqi Social Affairs Minister Latif Nusayyif Jasim. In order to implement this Axis agreement, about 20 intelligence officers were added to the Iraqi Embassy in Khartoum (second only to the 26 operatives assigned to the Iraqi embassy in Amman, Jordan). Many of these intelligence officers are involved in sanctions busting via Sudan and Africa. Baghdad and Khartoum also reached an agreement to implement a comprehensive plan for strategic cooperation in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East. The agreement included provisions for the dispatch of Iraqi Air Force officers and other military experts specialized in missiles, artillery, and ground battles in order to assist Sudan in meeting the ramifications of the mounting crisis with Egypt. Baghdad committed itself to supporting the Sudanese regime in what the Iraqis term "a cover for foreign interference in Sudan."
Providing Sudan with rudimentary chemical warfare capabilities was a major request from Bashir that Saddam Hussein authorized. The deal followed a visit to Sudan of a high-level Iraqi delegation, led by the Chief of the Chemical Weapons Directorate of the Iraqi Defense Ministry. The delegation surveyed the sites Iraqi experts would have to operate in. On their return to Baghdad, the delegation recommended a prudent approach to meeting the needs of the Sudanese. Saddam conveyed the message to Bashir and both presidents reached an agreement on CW cooperation.
Meanwhile, teams of Iraqi intelligence, military and commando officers arrived in Khartoum in the Summer of 1995 to assist the Sudanese armed forces against what the Iraqis now called "foreign intervention in Sudan." Officially, the Iraqi expeditionary units had two tasks: (1) to supervise and maintain the Iraqi strategic weapons and military equipment stored in Sudan away from the UN inspection teams; and (2) train the Sudanese in intelligence work and help reorganize the Sudanese Army along the same lines as the Iraqi Republican Guard. By the Fall, the impact of the Iraqi-Sudanese cooperation was apparent in the performance of units fighting in the south and deployed near the Egyptian border in the north-east.
Moreover, Iraqi Republican Troops were sighted by rebels in southern Sudan in the Fall of 1995, fighting in the Pibor area. About 120 Iraqi crews arrived in the area in stages along with tanks bearing the insignia of Iraqi Republican Guard units. Iraqi artillery forces were involved in the shelling of SPLA camps in Torit with Napalm bombs, killing or wounding 260 people. Uthman Abd-al-Qadir visited Baghdad -- reminding the Iraqis of Sudan's support during the Iran-Iraq War and the Gulf War and requesting massive military support for Khartoum. Indeed, Iraqi military equipment and supplies soon arrived in Khartoum, as additional Republican Guard forces were preparing for direct participation in the war in the south along with the Sudanese units they had trained. Significantly, following Abd-al-Qadir's visit, Iraq deployed to Sudan some 50 "advanced SCUD launchers" and a similar number of al-Hussayn missiles. In October 1995, Iranian and Iraqi engineers, including some missile experts, were upgrading an old airfield in East Sudan for the arrival and storage of additional strategic weapons from Iraq. The majority of the Iraqi SCUD-type missiles were stored in a well protected and well concealed site within the Port Sudan military compound in late 1997/early 1998.
The first joint Iraqi-Sudanese WMD project was facilities initially readied for the handling and service of CW munitions and ultimately the production of basic CW agents. The CW facility was built during 1995 in an area near Wau, in the Bahr-el-Ghazal Province in south-western Sudan, some 300 kilometers from the Uganda border. The key CW facility is located in a big fruit production factory taken over by the military. Although the Wau facility is controlled by the Sudanese military, Iraqi technicians work there to supervise safety and security procedures. Iraqi officers are also in charge of the gas storage site.
At first, the Iraqis sought to exhaust stockpiles of mustard gas they had stored in Sudan since the Gulf War. With a plausible Sudanese source for these munitions -- the Wau facility -- the Iraqis began using chemical munitions in the Fall of 1995, months before the Wau facility became operational. At first, planes piloted by Iraqis dropped crude chemical munitions around Kadugli and in the Namang mountains in southern Sudan. According to Sudanese opposition sources, witnesses reported that "deaths and injuries occurred among residents" and that "there was a big change in the color of the corpses and of animals and trees." Comparable sightings were reported in Afghanistan and South-East Asia. It was impossible to retrieve samples and more precise details because of the region's remoteness. Intelligence reports identified the agents used as low-quality Mustard taken from an early consignment shipped from Iraq to Sudan immediately after the Gulf War.
Meanwhile, Iraq and Sudan built the chemical weapons factory at a secret location near Wau. Production began in the Fall of 1995. At first, an Iraqi team manufactured the Mustard gas. Gradually, they handed over production to the Sudanese military. However, Iraqi technicians remained responsible for final phases of the manufacture of the gas and its safe storage. The Wau factory gave Khartoum the capability of using "home-grown" mustard gas against the rebels, thus not implicating its allies in chemical warfare. Toward the end of 1995, the Iraqi technicians were able to develop a crude but reliable delivery system for the Mustard Gas produced at Wau. Hence, the Iraqis could stop using their old bombs which were now implicating Baghdad. Instead, the Sudanese introduced crude canisters which they rolled off the back of An-24/An-26 transport aircraft. Most of these canisters missed their targets because of poor coordination between Sudanese ground forces and the aircraft.
Soon after production started in Wau, the Sudanese Armed Forces used Mustard Gas canisters against the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) on at least two occasions in late 1995: The first was at Nimule and the second was at Kuya -- both sites are near Juba, Sudan's southern capital then was defended by tens of thousand of government troops against a tightening siege by the SPLA forces. Since late 1995, there have been several reports alleging the use of chemical weapons in southern Sudan, and with varying degrees of independent corroboration and specificity of technical details. In 1997, several reports of use of Mustard Gas canisters during bombing raids in eastern Sudan, mainly in the Tulushi/Tulus mountains area, were corroborated independently.
Meanwhile, the Iraqis and the Sudanese continued to maintain the Iraqi clandestine arsenal in operational status. Some of the Iraqi equipment concealed in Sudan was examined and tested in early 1996, and then buried in several underground sites west of Khartoum. One such site is in Soba. The Iraqis and the Sudanese also carried out tests of chemical agents in the desert not far from the Al-Thoura district of Omdurman. In May, residents got sick when winds shifted suddenly and carried residues into the city.
A new phase in the Iraqi cooperation with Sudan began in early 1997. In mid January, Baghdad officially termed the fighting in southern Sudan a US-Zionist conspiracy. "Washington does not hide its intention to destroy Sudan and it has already taken a series of hostile steps against Sudan, taking advantage of certain well-known developments that have emerged." The Iraqi propaganda machine stated that "Khartoum is being subjected to a US-Zionist scheme that seeks to achieve long-range objectives. Most prominent among these objectives is to ignite a civil war to divide this country, as a prelude to completely destroying Egypt and suffocating it by taking control of the Nile River water." Significantly, Baghdad concluded that "Sudan's national security is a vital part of pan-Arab security. What Sudan is undergoing is a dangerous episode in a series played by the enemies of the Arab Nation and the Muslims. These enemies are trying to destroy any hope for pan-Arab renaissance, scientific advancement, and unity. They are setting the appropriate conditions to establish Zionist-US hegemony over the Arab world."
These were not empty words. In late February, ships began arriving in Port Sudan loaded with Iraqi weapons removed from a storage in Yemen. The first ship to arrive was the al-Obied under the command of Captain Naji Asam Maki. It arrived from Mukalla (in Yemen) carrying, among other arms, 600 anti-tank weapons. Sudan officially denied the arrival of Iraqi weapons.
However, soon afterwards, in early March 1997, Sudan and Iraq pledged mutual support during talks here between Umar al-Bashir and the visiting Iraqi presidential envoy Shabib al-Malik. Bashir asked Malik to assure Saddam Hussein of Sudan's "support for Iraq and its rejection of attempts for UN sanctions against that Arab country." Malik expressed Iraq's support for Sudan "against the aggression it is facing" and promised military and other help. Most important was the conclusion reached by Iraqi military experts that only a ruthless total war has a chance of defeating the Black rebels in southern Sudan. Now, Malik assured Bashir that Iraq was ready to support and facilitate the required escalation given certain specific conditions -- Iraq would build in Sudan sophisticated factories for chemical and biological weapons from systems presently hidden in Iraq and Sudan, as well as components acquired in the West and share some of the products with the Sudanese Armed Forces.
Consequently, in early May 1997, Iraq began to secretly transfer to Sudan equipment and materials for the production of weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein authorized the dispatch to Sudan of various components he had so far kept hidden in Iraq as a strategic reserve. Further more, Iraqi experts arrived in Sudan to begin preparing the storage and production of biological weapons that Saddam originally planned to use against the Kurds. At the same time, Iraqi teams conducted simulation training on firing long-range SCUD missiles even though Iraq is authorized to manufacture and own only short-range un-guided missiles.
By the Summer of 1997, Khartoum completed the building of a new and far more sophisticated chemical weapons production factory in the region of Kafuri, north of Khartoum on the banks of the Blue Nile. A key strategic installation, the Kafuri facility is under the direct command of Brigadier Bakri Hassan Salih, Sudan's Chief of Security Forces. Moreover, two NIF "ideological officials" -- Imad Hussayn and Jamal Zaatan -- supervise the activities in Kafuri on behalf of Hassan al-Turabi. The Kafuri facility is comprised of five separate departments -- laboratories and test-run/prototype production sites for both chemical weapons (including nerve agents) and biological weapons, as well as storage sites for both bulk chemicals and loaded weapons (both chemical and biological). Initial test runs of some of the production processes of chemical weapons, most likely nerve agents, already has taken place. Among the chemical weapons tested in Kafuri are 122mm and 152mm artillery shells as well as rocket and tactical missile warheads. In building this factory, the Sudanese relied on technical assistance from Iraq and Iran. Additional expertise was provided by experts and technicians from Egypt, Croatia, Bulgaria, and Russia who were recruited by Iraqi intelligence on behalf of the Sudanese. The key experts are residing in a luxurious dormitory inside the compound.
The Iraqis also construct a separate facility for the production and weaponization of large quantities of chemical agents. In the Spring of 1996, work already started on a production facility in the Yarmook facility in the Mayu area, south of Khartoum. The first phase of the complex was commissioned on August 15, 1996, and the entire complex was in virtual operational status in the Fall of 1997. Formally known as The Yarmook Industrial Complex, the military-controlled strategic installations cover an area of 10x20 kms in al- Shagara, beyond southern Khartoum. There are over 300 small buildings and sheds in seven clusters in the compound. The complex includes a production line for chemical agents, as well as production facilities for military equipment and weapons connected with the use of chemical weapons (warheads, bombs, and cannisters, as well as protective gears, special modifications to combat vehicles carrying these weapons, etc.).
The Yarmook production lines for chemical agents are a derivative of comparable facilities built in Iraq. The key production facilities are comprised of German-made machines acquired by Iraqi intelligence and smuggled via Bulgaria. Additional equipment, mainly computers, were purchased by the Iraqis in France. In addition, the compound includes a special medical clinic, sport facilities, a mosque, a high security living site where Muslim foreign experts from Iraq, Iran, and Bulgaria live in two dormitories, guest houses for senior officials from Iraq and Iran (who are involved in these projects and make frequent visits to Sudan), as well as a small farm ensuring the supply of fresh milk, vegetables and dates (independent of the chronic shortages afflicting Sudan).
Anticipating large volume production, the Sudanese authorities and the Iraqi experts also began the construction of well protected underground storage sites south of Jebel Awlia (White Nile Province), the Kerari area (north of Omdurman) Shambat al-Araadi (north of Khartoum North), an area west of the Hrriyya bridge (Khartoum), an area near the Horse Race Course Club (in Khartoum South), Green Village (New Development area near Khartoum), as well as in Gedaref, al-Fau, and Shendi. The Sudanese military has recently begun training pilots and artillery officers in the maintaining and use of chemical weapons in a special school set up in the Wadi Seidna military compound (north of Omdurman). Another unique center for the development of chemical weapons for use by Islamist terrorists, mainly those affiliated with Usamah bin-Ladin, is being built near the Islamic Center in Soba (soth west of Khartoum). According to Sudanese opposition sources, Khartoum's plans call for the Kafuri and Mayu installations to go into full production sometimes in 1999. The Iraqi and Iranian experts anticipate the Kafuri installations to be largely operational in the first half of 1999, and the Mayu production and weaponization facilities to be operational in the second half of that year.
Khartoum's self-confidence in its growing chemical warfare capabilities came to light in mid November 1997. Sudan formally threatened Uganda with strikes with chemical weapons if it continued to support the Christian Black rebels. This warning came despite Kampala's previous denials of cooperation with the sudanese rebels and Khartoum's adamant denials of CW capabilities or use.
Although ultimately decisive, the Iraqi involvement in the Libyan WMD program has been complex and at times contradictory. Back during the 1980s, the Libyans ran a massive development and production program of their own. For a while, the Libyans closely cooperated with both the Iranians and the Syrians -- both enemies of Iraq. At the same time, however, Libya relied on the same West European suppliers as Iraq did. Moreover, key middlemen, such as Ihsan Barbouti, served both the Iraqi and the Libyan WMD programs. During the mid-1980s, the Libyans were out-spending the Iraqis, and recruiters of Libyan intelligence were offering huge payments in effort to entice key Egyptian, Iraqi and European scientists working in Iraq to transfer to Libya. Baghdad was apprehensive about the Libyan practices.
By the time the Gulf Crisis erupted in 1990, several Iraqi researchers were already working in Libya as individuals, as were several foreign scientists who had worked in Iraq beforehand. Most were working on Chemical weapons projects, primarily in Rabta. At first Saddam reluctant to share with Qadhafi some of the unique achievements of the Iraqis. However, with pressure from UN inspections mounting, and with intelligence leaking from defectors, Iraq had no alternative but to transfer more and more sensitive projects to Libya as the sole venue for their continuation. Although Sudan was glad to receive anything Iraq had to offer, it had such an abysmal scientific- technological infrastructure that it could not sustain the more sophisticated Iraqi programs. Thus, with not too many takers of the Iraqi systems, Libya would have to do. Meanwhile, Qadhafi was most interested in receiving extensive help from Iraqi scientists for his own covert, biological, weapons program and conditioned his support for Saddam on cooperation in this field. Thus, since the early 1990s, Iraqi scientists have been working in Libya in order to continue the key Iraqi research and production programs into advanced and next generation CW and BW.
At first, Baghdad considered the cooperation with Tripoli a temporary necessity. For a while, in the early 1990s, Iraq did not transfer complete projects to Libya. Consequently, several scientists and engineers from the Iraqi military industries were commuting between Iraq and Libya via Amman. They were using new passports with false names and occupations. However, as the contacts were expanding and the Libyans were being exposed to a wider variety of Iraqi programs, Tripoli decided to formalize and expand the cooperation. A special committee of the Libyan defense establishment arrived in Baghdad and negotiated a comprehensive agreement on expanded cooperation in conventional, chemical and biological weaponry. In accordance with these agreements, the Libyans signed contracts with several Iraqi military industry experts. These contracts were drawn as if they were academic invitations for Iraqi professors to lecture in Libyan universities and institutions. At the same time, however, the key Iraqi program equipment, systems and elements remained concealed inside Iraq in anticipation for the end of the UN inspections so that WMD development and production can be resumed.
Meanwhile, Baghdad at first drew the line concerning the Iraqi nuclear program. Lingering doubts concerning Libya's long-term strategic cooperation with Syria and Iran prevailed, and Iraq would take no chances. In 1991-92, Iraqi intelligence feared a Libyan use of financial enticements as an inducement for defections of Iraqi nuclear scientists to the point of undertaking extreme measures to prevent such a trend.
For example, in July 1992, Iraqi agents shot and killed in Amman, Jordan, Muayad Hassan Naji Janabi -- an Iraqi nuclear scientist. Janabi worked for the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission until 1986, when he was transferred to the Ministry of Military Industries. In 1992, Janabi was on vacation in Jordan. However, he was shot when on his way to pick up Tunisian visas for transit to Libya. He had been offered a "teaching position" at "an atomic institute" in Libya. Baghdad must have been worried because Janabi was supposed to return to Iraq a week earlier and rumors surfaced he had attempted to get to the UK and the US, and failed to get academic visas. By then, Saddam Hussein had banned key personnel in the military-industrial system from leaving Iraq without permission, and fearing that Janabi would not reveal Iraqi nuclear weapons program secrets, he was shot by two Iraqi agents. The two Iraqis were arrested for the assassination but quickly released and sent to Baghdad.
However, by the mid 1990s, Baghdad could no longer be selective in its cooperation with Libya. The BND's 1994 studies of the Iraqi procurement system in Europe was unsettling for it threatened Iraq's ability to revive key WMD programs just as the Iraqi system was being restored to its pre-Gulf War magnitude. Moreover, the UN inspection regime was beginning to grasp the complexity of the Iraqi challenge. Indeed, even before the Summer 1995 "defection" of Lt.Gen. Hussein Kamal, the UN was increasing its efforts to locate hidden stuff. As discussed above, Kamal's "defection" was prompted by Baghdad's apprehension that the UN was capitalizing on data provided by genuine defectors in order to zero in on Iraq's hidden WMD facilities. For example, Iraq's biological facilities were first subjected to a meaningful inspection in April 1995, on the eve of the "defection." Even though by then, Baghdad had already hidden its biological weapons cache and destroyed all evidence of its existence, the mere UN visit to the abandoned sites was too close for comfort.
Meanwhile, with the Iraqi-Libyan cooperation in chemical weapons development and production going well, Saddam authorized already in the Summer/Fall of 1994 the move of other weapons programs to Libya. Arrangements for closer cooperation were quickly made.
In January 1995, Iraq and Libya signed a major agreement whereby Iraqi specialists will work at a secret Libyan establishment on the development of a long-range ballistic missiles with range of about 1,000 km. A senior Iraqi Trade Ministry official, Hajem Attiya Salma arrived in Tripoli for final discussions with AbdAllah Hijazi, the head of Libya's Scientific Research authorities. In the agreement reached, Qadhafi agreed to pay the salaries of the Iraqi experts -- some $1,200 a month -- as well as finance the acquisition of Western technology. Moreover, the Iraqis were promised access to the Chinese, Iranian, and North Korean missile technology Libya had already acquired. Baghdad promised to share all the experience acquired in the Gulf War. Iraq did not have much alternative. Incapable of working, the Iraqi design teams built around experts trained at the best European and Russian establishments were falling apart. Now Qadhafi was offering to fund and provide cover for the revival of the al-Hussein and Badr missiles under the cover of the Libyan al-Fatakh program.
Meanwhile, the Libyans were most interested in the Iraqi experience with biological weapons, particularly the advanced stages of the militarization projects. In the ensuing negotiations, Baghdad acknowledged that Iraq still possessed several biological weapons and warheads for them. The Iraqis would share these technologies with the Libyans provided that Tripoli agreed to also sustain and fund the revival of the Iraqi military nuclear program. By 1995, some of the Iraqi nuclear materials were being held in Algeria while the key systems and design elements were being hidden all over Iraq in dormant state. Iraqi experts were apprehensive that the lack of proper maintenance and storage conditions under the sand in desert temperatures were destroying the sophisticated equipment. Hence, the Iraqi negotiators suggested that Iraqi nuclear fuel could reach Libya by sea within weeks after the signing of an agreement, and that Iraqi experts in Libya would then be able to begin enriching it after installing more small or medium-sized kilns/furnaces.
As expected by the Iraqis, the lure of nuclear weapons was irresistible for Qadhafi. A high-level Libyan delegation led by Major Raad Bin-Id al-Daffi from the Libyan Engineering and Military Industrialization arrived in Baghdad on August 30, 1995. They negotiated with the Iraqis a comprehensive agreement that still serves as the cornerstone of the Iraqi-Libyan strategic and military cooperation. The agreement stipulated the extent to which Libya would go to assist Iraq in the expansion of the Iraqis' own WMD programs as well as in evading the UN stringent surveillance of Iraq's military plants.
The first step was the quick transfer to Libya of an Iraqi military nuclear project that numerous Arab and European experts described as being "in its final stages". By then, after Kamal's "defection" went sour, Saddam gave up on keeping the key elements of the WMD programs in Iraq and ordered their swift transfer to Libya before the UN closed in on them. Hence, several experts and equipment were immediately dispatched to Libya to prepare for the transfer of the nuclear program.
The main item Baghdad was adamant on saving was a limited quantity of semi-enriched nuclear fuel transferred to the Aba Agricultural and Scientific Research Center, east of Baghdad, under the direct supervision of Lt.Gen Amir Rashid, director the Iraqi Military Industrialization Organization (MIO). The initial transfer was made possible by the suspension of UN surveillance of this center after the Iraqis had moved its equipment to Abu-Ghurayb region near Baghdad. In the meantime, Iraq was hiding the nuclear fuel in large underground storage facilities near the Aba center. After conditioning the nuclear material for transportation, it was sent by sea to Libya within weeks.
Meanwhile, a high-level MIO delegation headed by Dr. Jafar Diya Jafar, one of Iraq's leading nuclear scientists, arrived in Libya in mid October 1995 to oversee the installation of the small nuclear furnaces. The Iraqi nuclear program would be located at Sidi Abu Zurayq in the desert 380 km southwest of Tripoli. By the end of 1995, the MIO experts began enriching the Iraqi nuclear material having successfully installed the small- and medium-sized kilns/furnaces there.
The most important indication of the intimate strategic cooperation between Baghdad and Tripoli was in Western Europe. Since the mid 1990s, Iraqi intelligence has been diverting purchases of dual-use and sensitive technologies in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland to Libya. In the process, Libyan intelligence was given access to the Iraqis' most secure shipment routes -- where exported goods are shipped to Bulgaria where local companies are identified as the end-users, and from where the goods are forwarded illegally to Iraq and now also Libya. Furthermore, starting the mid 1990s, Iraqi intelligence has been assisting Russian and other ex-Soviet scientists to acquire third-country passports in Central and Latin America so they can travel to and work in Iraq. Following the new cooperation agreements, Iraqi intelligence began sending these scientists to Libya for work on the joint Iraqi-Libyan WMD projects. Honduras was the site of a major program in 1995-96. Additional Iraqi intelligence operatives, all experts in the procurement of high-technology, arrived in Germany in early 1996. They began a still ongoing effort to revive dormant relationships as well as establish new ones. However, the reorganized Iraqi procurement system is now diverting the bulk of the goods to Libya rather than Iraq.
The first results of the January 1995 ballistic missile agreement were already showing by the Summer of that year. Using Western-made systems and computers smuggled from both Iraq and Europe, the highly experienced Iraqis succeeded to make sense in the Libyan convoluted missile program -- integrating the inputs and technologies from the numerous and often incompatible foreign sources. In the second half of 1996, the Iraqi scientists and know-how provided such a boost to the Libyan ballistic missile program, that NATO's threat assessment had to be revised. The new assessment, NATO Report MC 161/96, concludes that Libya could be in possession of medium-range ballistic nuclear missiles pointed at the NATO Mediterranean flank by the year 2006. The NATO study predicts that within a decade, Qadhafi's Libya will have medium-range ballistic missiles with a range of between 1,000 and 3,000 km that can be fitted with nuclear, chemical, or bacteriological warheads.
In late 1995, Saddam Hussein finally relented and authorized the transfer to Libya the secrets of Iraq's most sensitive armament programs -- particularly the biological weapons program, which Qadhafi's wanted most. With the UN inspections now expected to remain in Iraq for the foreseeable future, Baghdad decided to retain in Iraq only the operational biological bombs and warheads, as well as the equipment required to sustain them in operational posture. In early 1996, Saddam ordered that the surviving sophisticated development and production systems as well as the extensive know how and related documentation would be transferred to Libya.
The large extent of the Iraqi biological warfare effort and the huge magnitude of the systems and documentation that have eluded the UN inspections can be deduced from the fact that it took the Iraqis more than a year to collect their material and prepare it for clandestine shipment to Libya. Only then, once Baghdad was ready to begin the transfer of the BW program to Libya, was Tripoli notified. The framework for the new deal between Libya and Iraq was signed in May during a visit to Baghdad by members of a Libyan industrialists' organization. Soon afterwards, high-level Libyan delegations arrived in Baghdad in mid 1997 to discuss the modalities of the upgrading of the Iraqi support for, and participation in, the Libyan WMD program. On the basis of these discussions, Baghdad and Tripoli finalized the signing of the May 1997 agreement that still dominates their expanding strategic cooperation.
Between late 1997 and early 1998, on the basis of this latest agreement, Iraq undertook two distinct moves that, once completed, would dramatically alter Libya's WMD capabilities.
First, starting late 1997, Baghdad moved to dramatically upgrade the Libyan Chemical Weapons programs. Senior Iraqi scientists with experience in CW production joined other Iraqi researchers some of whom have been in Libya since the 1991 Gulf War, working on CW projects first in Rabta and presently in the plant inside a mountain at Tarhunah, 60 km south-east of Tripoli. The Iraqis are experts in the production of nerve agents and other chemical weapons. The Iraqis' primary contribution is in expediting the move from the research and development phase to the mass production of operational weapons. Once integrated into the Libyan CW program, the Iraqi expertise will enable Libya to achieve self-sufficiency in the production of chemical weapons. Given the current pace of construction in the underground chemical production plant near Tarhunah, the plant can become operational by the year 2000.
The second move was providing Libya with the key to operational Biological Weapons. About a dozen Iraqi scientists involved in biological research arrived in Libya around the beginning of 1998, where special living quarters have been arranged for them. They are to help the Libyans develop a new biological warfare complex under the guise of a Tripoli-area medical facility called General Health Laboratories. The Libyan biological warfare program is believed to be codenamed Ibn Hayan. Since this program will be based in its entirety on the Iraqi covert program to develop biological weapons, the Iraqi experts are expected to reach the weaponization phase quite quickly. Libya is interested in bombs and missile warheads with anthrax and botulism agents. For the running of the Ibn Hayan project, Qadhafi established a special office within the Libyan Ministry of Defense that reports directly to him. The program has been given the highest possible priority by Qadhafi and both Libyan and Iraqi procurement operatives throughout the world have been told to spare no funds in order to expedite the purchase of the sub-systems the Iraqi experts require for the "weaponization" programs.
And so, the US is planning an instant-gratification bombing campaign that would neither destroy Iraq's WMD operational capabilities nor touch its main WMD production lines in Libya and Sudan.
At the same time, the strategic mega-trends in the Middle East, exacerbated by the current crisis environment, entice a dramatic breakout in the form of a regional war. Saddam Hussein is not the only local leader aspiring for war as the best way out of a political deadlock. In the case of Iraq, with the entire Iraqi Armed Forces -- from tanks and artillery pieces to aircraft, and from ammunition stockpiles to fuel dumps -- high on the US target list, Baghdad has a special incentive to "lose" them in heroic martyrdom -- say, spearheading and instigating a regional war with Israel -- rather than have them destroyed by US bombs and missiles. There are enough non-state entities -- from Arafat's pro-Iraq al-Fatah forces to the Islamist HAMAS, HizbAllah and Islamic Jihad -- who would gladly provide the spectacular and lethal provocation required to spark the cataclysmic eruption.
No WMD are required to set the Muslim World ablaze.