Iraq and the War of Sanctions: Conventional Threats and Weapons of Mass Destruction

By Anthony H. Cordesman | Go to book overview

Chapter 19

Iraq’s Past and Future Nuclear Weapons Capabilities

None of Iraq’s weapons development efforts have been subject to more scrutiny than its nuclear weapons program. UN Security Council Resolution 687 forbids Iraq to develop or acquire nuclear weapons or the means to produce them, and to possess or separate both highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium. Iraq agreed to this resolution, and the Security Council approved it on April 3, 1991. As a result, both UNSCOM and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have been actively involved in the discovery and destruction of Iraq’s massive nuclear weapons program ever since.


IRAQ’S EARLY NUCLEAR EFFORTS

Iraq’s nuclear program is so large that it is difficult to summarize, but UNSCOM and IAEA reporting indicates that Iraq spent up to $10 billion on its nuclear program before the Gulf War, and simultaneously pursued several different enrichment methods. 1

The Iraqi government has stated that it decided to build nuclear weapons in 1988, and that it then set a goal of producing its first weapon in the spring of 1991. In fact, Saddam Hussein took the decision in 1972, when he was still Iraq’s Vice President—although he effectively dominated the Iraqi government. Dr. Kiddhir Abdul Abas Hamaza, who defected from Iraq in 1994, has stated that he returned to Iraq in 1970 after studying physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Florida State University. He then became the chairman of the physics department in Iraq’s nuclear research center near Baghdad. He was approached in 1971 by envoys from Saddam Hussein to start a secret nuclear weapons program under the cover of civil research, and he prepared a weapons development plan for Saddam Hussein which he submitted in 1972. 2

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