Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Iraq's Nuclear Wildcards How Argentina and Brazil Armed Saddam with Terror

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Iraq's Nuclear Wildcards How Argentina and Brazil Armed Saddam with Terror

Article excerpt

LONG in the shadows of East-West arms control, arms trade among Argentina,Brazil, and Iraq has strengthened Saddam Hussein's position in the Persian Gulfcrisis. With Latin-developed mass-destruction technologies in hand, Saddam'snonaligned populism could transcend the politics of Islam and shift the globalbalance of power.

Iraq's Argentine connection dates back to the 1982 Falklands/Malvinas war,when the military junta acquired French-made Exocet missiles from Saddam's largeinventory. With Argentina's economy burdened by debt, Baghdad's petrodollarsbecame the driving force behind Argentina's nuclear-capable Condor missileprogram. Argentina's underground rocket research center at Falda del Carmenprovided Saddam with a secure site for building a missile, far from both thefighting with Iran and Israeli pre-emptive strikes like the one that took outhis Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981.

Technology developed by the Argentine-based missile consortium - whichincluded US and European suppliers - enabled Iraq last year to launch thenuclear-capable Condor II, with its range of 1,240 miles. Although some analystssay the missile, renamed "Tammuz-1" by Saddam, is ineffective because it lacksa state-of-the-art guidance system, pinpoint accuracy is not required for themissile to deliver chemical warheads, or an explosive nuclear device.

Brazil's military government also sold arms to Iraq to obtain the cash tosupport its defense industry during a time of economic crisis. With the adventof democracy, former President Jose Sarney supported the arms deals to offsetthe cost to Brazil of importing nearly half its oil from Iraq. During the 1980sIraq replaced Libya as Brazil's largest market for military exports.

Prior to invading Kuwait, Baghdad contracted to purchase Brazilian-madeAstros II multiple-rocket launchers and SS-60 rockets for $500 million. Brazil,like Libya and North Korea, reportedly continues to airlift military supplies toBaghdad.

Argentina and Brazil agreed to support the UN embargo on trade with Iraq,but neither nation places "end user" restrictions on its military exports.This loophole facilitates the transshipment of Argentine and Brazilian militaryhardware and technology from front buyers to a third country like Iraq; thenuclear and guided missile programs of each nation have a history ofcircumventing international treaties and export controls.

Diplomatic efforts by President Carter to prohibit Buenos Aires and Brasiliafrom developing mass-destruction technology helped drive both nations towardmilitary cooperation with Iraq. Ronald Reagan's "tilt" toward Iraq during itswar with Iran then stepped up military exports from the United States and Europeto Baghdad. Interested in maintaining smooth inter-American military relations,the Bush administration, until recently, did little to discourage the trade inconventional weapons and nuclear and guided missile know-how. …

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