Non-Conventional-Weapons Proliferation in the Middle East: Tackling the Spread of Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Capabilities

By Efraim Karsh; Martin S. Navias et al. | Go to book overview

Conclusions

EFRAIM KARSH, MARTIN NAVIAS, AND PHILIP SABIN

ON 14 April 1992 Iraq's main nuclear-weapons production complex at Al-Atheer, some forty kilometres south of Baghdad, was demolished by the IAEA inspectors. It was at this plant that Saddam Hussein had hoped to develop his nuclear device, and its destruction represented the culmination of an unprecedented international effort to neutralize Iraq's non-conventional power.

While it is generally accepted that Baghdad's nuclear- development project has suffered a devastating setback following the 1991 Gulf War, it is less clear whether the international non- proliferation effort has succeeded in completely and permanently removing Iraq from the list of developing states intent upon acquiring nuclear weapons. The Iraqis have always argued that their nuclear programme was designed for purely peaceful purposes, and only after the war, following revelations by deserting Iraqi nuclear scientists and several IAEA inspection tours to Iraq, did it transpire that Iraq's nuclear programme had been far more advanced and extensive than previously assumed, and that it had survived the allied attacks largely intact.

Moreover, to Saddam Hussein nuclear weapons have always meant much more than the 'great equalizer'. They have been a personal obsession--a symbol of Iraq's technological prowess, a prerequisite for regional hegemony, the ultimate guarantee of absolute security. Hence, salvaging whatever he can from his deadly arsenal is, in his eyes, a matter of life and death. It required eleven visits by IAEA inspection teams to Baghdad before Saddam relented and agreed to the destruction of Al-Atheer, together with the neighbouring Al-Hateen high-explosive complex, and his scientists have been less than forthcoming with regard to all procurement details of components, materials, and design know-

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