No nukes is good nukes
The Daily Telegraph is reporting that United Nations weapons inspectors have uncovered evidence that Iraq is continuing its attempts to build nuclear weapons in defiance of UNSCR 1441. The paper reports that “The discovery was made following spot checks last week on the homes of two Iraqi nuclear physicists in Baghdad.”
U.N. officials had no comment on the documents, the paper said, but “a Western diplomat closely involved with the investigation into Saddam’s nuclear capability” was quoted as confirming that the documents were genuine.
“These are not old documents,” the diplomat was quoted as saying. “They are new and they relate to on-going work taking place in Iraq to develop nuclear weapons. They had been hidden at the … homes [of physicists Faleh Hassan and Shaker al Jibouri] on Saddam’s personal orders. Furthermore, no mention of this work is made in the Iraqi dossier that was submitted to the UN last December.”
Confusingly, Voice of America said that yes, documents outlining research on uranium enrichment had been discovered at the scientists’ home, but that they dated from the 1980s, according to nuclear control chief Dr. Mohamed El Baradei, who, along with chief weapons inspector Dr. Hans Blix, holds Iraq’s fate in their hands.
[Update: The Associated Press, via a story on Salon.com, is reporting that the documents date back to a project cancelled in 1988. Hassan said the program was declared in 1991 and that he kept the documents for “his students.”]
So who’s right? Is it El Baradei? Or the unnamed “Western diplomat”? I have to question the veracity of sources who go unnamed but are said to be “closely involved with the investigation into Saddam’s nuclear capability.” Could that be Western diplomat be an American trying to make the case to a jittery British public that they should lay off Tony Blair and get with the program? Isn’t the timing of this revelation curious, considering that the White House’s resident dove — and loyal trooper — Secretary of State Colin Powell told the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung that the United States would make a “persuasive case” that Iraq hasn’t cooperated and has weapons of mass destruction by month’s end?
It’s a curious discrepancy with huge implications. However, with the Jan. 27 deadline bearing down — the date on which Blix will deliver an interim report on the progress of the weapons inspectors — the United Nations has made clear that it does not see Blix’s dossier as a trigger for war, no doubt further frustrating the United States. America wants the Jan. 27 report to be final and complete and has said it will try to foil any extension of the inspection regime into March.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I believe that, yeah, Saddam’s probably got chemical and/or biological weapons. But with even Britain getting bullish on inspections — mainly because Downing Street believes there will be a “large nuclear find” in the near future — I think the United States needs to calm down and let the inspectors do their jobs. I think there’s a good chance that Saddam can be defanged without a lot of people dying, but then defanging Saddam has never been the real reason to attack Iraq now, has it?