Iraqi 'Truck Facility' Was Really Nuclear Bombshell

Article excerpt

WHEN the United Nations inspection team entered the Al Hamath workshop area its Iraqi escorts insisted the place was perfectly innocent. The site's two large buildings were but truck maintenance facilities, they said. Or maybe they were machine shops. Empty as the buildings were, who could tell?

Considering that the site boasted a crane labeled "Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission" and enough electrical power to light a small city, the UN inspectors were dubious. They concluded from other evidence that the site was involved in making magnets for production of weapons-grade uranium. "Neither declared usage of these buildings is credible," said the inspectors' report to the UN Security Council.

This incident from the first trip of nuclear inspectors to Iraq set the tone for what came after: dissembling and reluctance on the part of the Iraqis, and a growing recognition on the part of the rest of the world that the Iraqi nuclear program is far broader than any intelligence service had realized.

The dogged UN inspection teams have conclusively proved that Iraq was not satisfied with crude nuclear devices and was planning to build nuclear weapons of great sophistication. No specific target

The Iraqi program was not directed against one country, according to inspection team leader David Kay, but was rather a long-term effort to create an indigenous infrastructure for becoming a nuclear power.

Iraq is undoubtedly still concealing nuclear secrets. And the knowledge in the minds of Iraqi scientists is something no UN team can cart away.

"Clearly, a long-term monitoring and verification program of substantial intrusiveness must be maintained in Iraq to ensure that a clandestine program does not restart," Mr. Kay told a congressional panel last week.

Before the Gulf war, Western intelligence judged Iraq's nuclear program to be somewhat rudimentary, similar to that suspected to be under way in Pakistan. Instead, they found something comparable in management techniques to America's own Manhattan Project.

The Iraqi approach to the most difficult part of weapons production - acquisition of fissionable materials - reflects this. By pursuing three methods of enriching uranium, Iraqi scientists were clearly laying the groundwork for continuing weapons production, not just one bomb. …