CIA: Saddam didn't have WMD or capability


WASHINGTON, Oct. 6 (UPI) -- A new report from the man in charge of the so-far fruitless hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq suggests that 12 years of international sanctions on Saddam Hussein had actually succeeded in disarming him.

The report -- based in part on interviews with Saddam himself, now captive at an undisclosed American facility -- reveals that his regime produced no chemical weapons after 1991, and his intelligence service produced only a small amount of poisons - ricin, among others -- most likely meant as an assassination tool. Moreover, as time wore on the Iraqi strongman was getting further and further away from having a nuclear weapon.


"His nuclear program was decaying rather than being preserved," said an official familiar with Iraq Survey Group chief Charles Duelfer's report to the director of the CIA. The official briefed journalists Tuesday but would not allow publication of his comments until Duelfer testifies to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.


The group also found no evidence Saddam Hussein sold his weapons or technology abroad to terrorists or moved vast stocks of weapons out of the country right before the war.

According to the official, Saddam Hussein was so intent to get out from under the United Nations economic embargo imposed after he invaded Kuwait he was complying with the spirit, if not the letter, of the sanctions.

However, he was reluctant to declare and prove his country weapons free because of his fear about what his neighbor Iran might do.

The two fought a decade-long war in the 1980s in which more than a million died, and in which the United States played both sides against the other - openly arming Iraq but also secretly selling missiles to Iran despite an arms embargo. By the time the scheme was uncovered the United States had provided around 1,500 missilesto Tehran.

The report notes that Iraq continued to believe Iran was a threat, and not without reason - as recently as April 2001, Iran fired 60 missiles into Iraq.

Saddam intended to restart the programs at some point in the future, but his first priority was getting the sanctions lifted, the official said.


He believed that having chemical weapons - or at least convincing the world he had them -- had saved his regime and country twice: he used them to beat back the Iranians in one key battle, and he believed the fear they might be used prevented the United States from pushing all the way to Baghdad during the 1991 Gulf War.

"Those were two existential experiences where Saddam was convinced those weapons saved him," the official said.

Once sanctions were lifted the report suggests Iraq would have been months away from being able to produce biological agents again, and one to two years from being able to produce nerve agents in a militarily significant quantity.

Both time frames for production are similar to that of any industrialized country, as the agents can be manufactured in civilian-use facilities.

"We didn't find infrastructure directly keyed to chemical weapons. We didn't find any chemical weapons facilities," the official said.

Nuclear weapons were an even more remote possibility for Iraq, although Saddam Hussein was attempting to keep together and employ the thousands of scientists he would need to restart the program.

National security adviser Condoleezza Rice raised the specter of a nuclear-armed Iraq in September 2002 as the administration began to build its case for war.


"We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud," she said on CNN.

The report also firmly dismisses the notion that Iraq's purchase of aluminum tubes was for the enrichment of uranium, a claim Vice President Dick Cheney made on NBC's Meet the Press in Sept. 20002.

Weapons inspectors who had worked in Iraq, including former Marine intelligence officer Scott Ritter, said at that time that inspectors had certified the country was 90 percent to 95 percent disarmed when they left in 1998.

According to the report, by the spring of 2002 Iraq was convinced it needed to let the U.N. arms inspectors back into the country and was preparing to negotiate to do so. Until the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Baghdad was successful in its campaign to winnow support for the economic sanctions that were in fact gravely hurting the Iraqi people and degrading civilian infrastructure.

The report addresses at length the countries that were dealing with Iraq despite the embargo - but that stopped when the terrorist attacks occurred.

A few months later, U.S. President George W. Bush made his famous "axis of evil" speech, which according to the report underscored the seriousness of the situation for Baghdad and convinced Saddam Hussein he'd have to comply.


However, he believed he could negotiate the conditions of the inspections and subsequently dragged his feet. He did not believe the United States would go to war.

"That was Saddam's miscalculation as we see it," the official said.

Saddam viewed the United States as a much less likely foe than Iran.

"He had kind of an odd view of the United States. He seemed ultimately (to think) the United States would recognize it is in its interests to deal with Iraq," because of its location in the Middle East, its oil, and the fact that it had an energetic, Western leaning population.

"He may have been right, but his mistake was that he thought he would be part of Baghdad" when the United States restored its relationship.

Prison interviews with Saddam are being conducted by a single interrogator from the FBI to make sure that his statements are admissible in court.

The official said Saddam, in person "is very compelling" and "he is looking forward to the theater stage a trial would offer him."

"This guy is a very cagey guy," the official said. "The strategy taken in speaking with him -- what is his incentive to say anything? The only incentive is his legacy - to shape his legacy.


"He's not, obviously, loquacious about his WMD activities but certainly how he viewed his threats, his materials, his internal deliberations and how he viewed the weapons."

The new Duelfer report is more than 1,000 pages in three volumes. It does not contain an executive summary, as Duelfer wants readers to reach their own conclusions, the official said.

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