(Autumn 1995) If the United Nations requires any evidence that Saddam Hussein still retains the desire and the capability to make weapons of mass destruction, it need look no farther than Libya. That is where the Iraqi leader is sending his best rocket scientists. With Libyan money and North Korean technical support, the Iraqis are hard at work building a new generation of long-range ballistic missiles.
By keeping his weapons scientists working, Saddam retains the most important part of any future missile project: the brains to make it work.
Trained by Europeans, tutored by Soviets and tested in two wars, Saddam's scientists are an asset to any Third World missile program. Under intense scrutiny from the U.N., Iraq finds it difficult to make use of its weapons experts, but Libya's Colonel Mu'ammar al-Qaddaffi is eager for their services. He is happy to keep these missile men employed and is willing to pay Iraq for that privilege.
Colonel Qaddaffi has invested a great deal of time and money, without much success, in trying to develop a weapon capable of reaching Tel Aviv, London or Rome. The Iraqis have designed and tested such long-range weapons, notably the Al-Husayn and the Badr missiles. Libya has extensive facilities where the Iraqis can recreate and improve upon the arsenal they made for Saddam.
The Iraqi scientists are familiar with Libya's equipment. Both countries bought missile parts, machinery and technology from the same German companies. One such firm was H + H Metalform Maschinenbau und Vertriebs-GmbH. Its directors served nearly two years in jail for violating German export laws.
Many other companies were involved in the Iraqi and Libyan arms programs, including some in Brazil. Iraq is trying to revive the Brazilian connection. Saddam's half-brother and ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Barzan al-Tikriti, created the network of arms and technology smuggling that built up the Iraqi weapons program. He recently offered some Brazilian companies a deal to exchange cheap oil for selected goods. The Brazilian government intervened to stop the negotiations.
Iraq is forbidden to sell oil except for some humanitarian purposes. It is under a U.N. embargo because it has not fulfilled all of the requirements of U.N. resolutions dealing with its arms program.
Iraq has repeatedly spurned U.N. offers to allow some oil to be sold to buy food and medicine. The U.N. increased its offer in April to allow Iraq to sell US$2 billion in oil every six months. This would buy food and medicine, fund war reparations programs, and pay for U.N. inspection and aid operations in Iraq. Saddam refused, saying that such restrictions impinge on Iraqi sovereignty.
In the meantime, Iraq has again cut ration allotments and insists that its people are wasting away for lack of food, medicine and international commerce. This has not, however, stopped Iraq from keeping 400,000 soldiers in uniform, nor has it stopped Saddam from building palaces.
Thirty-nine palaces for Saddam and his family are under construction or renovation, which has cost Iraq US$1.2 billion over the past two years. One palace at Basra is larger than that at Versailles. It has four artificial lakes. Iraq asked the U.N. for a special dispensation to allow it to import marble, alabaster and water fountains for the palaces. The U.N. refused.
Despite the U.N. embargo, Iraq is finding ways to make money. One operation involves the smuggling of oil through Iran. Another involves the leasing of Iraqi scientists to Libya. Both operations are designed to allow Iraq to maintain its potential to make weapons of mass destruction.
The missile scientists are part of a larger brain trust of weapons experts, most of whom are still active in Iraq. Jane's Information Group in London says there are reports of "7,000 Iraqi scientists hiding in the mountains and working away" on weapons research. A former top official of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says the number of scientists and technicians involved is closer to 20,000. They include the key people who created chemical and biological weapons, built missiles and designed warheads. They enriched uranium and came very close to producing an Iraqi nuclear weapon, a program that went undetected by the IAEA.
Not all of Iraq's weapons experts are hidden; many are working almost in plain sight. One of them, Dr. Rihab Rashid Taha Azawi, has several hundred biologists working for her at several facilities in Iraq. She claims they are making vaccines. U.N. inspectors, who have nicknamed her "Doctor Germs," claim that the doctor led the Iraqi biological weapons projects.
A number of large fermentors and other items used in making biological weapons are also unaccounted for, the U.N. inspectors in Iraq report. Over 17 tons of germ culture growth media imported by Iraq is still missing. That is enough to produce about a ton of germ weapons.
Most of the cultures and media, the U.N. arms inspectors say, could be used to make the deadly anthrax virus. Rolf Ekeus, chief of the U.N. inspection effort in Iraq, says that Iraq has failed to disclose all of the facts about its biological weapons programs. He says that there is a "high risk" that Iraq is still trying to develop such arms.
General Wafiq al-Samrai, who served on Saddam's personal staff until he defected to the resistance last November, says that Iraq has about 200 anthrax bombs in a secret underground depot. He claims that these and other weapons are hidden at a base near Salah ah Din, not far from Saddam's hometown of Tikrit.
Saddam is building a new palace near Tikrit. He wanted it to have a lake, so his engineers dug one. To fill it, they diverted the Tigris River.