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April 06, 1990 - Image 36

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-04-06

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Threat Of Nuclear War Cooling?
Iraq, Hussein Heat It Up Again


Foreign Correspondent




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raq's abortive attempt to
smuggle 40 nuclear trig-
gering devices from San
Diego to Baghdad via Lon-
don last week has raised the
question — profoundly
disturbing to Israel in par-
ticular and the West in gen-
eral — about just how far the
Iraqi regime has progressed
down the road toward
nuclear capability.
Ever since President
Saddam Hussein seized
power in 1979, and par-
ticularly since he started the
Gulf War in 1980, Iraq has
massively increased its
stockpile of sophisticated
conventional weapons. To-
day, it is regarded as the
leading military power in
the Arab world.
At the same time, it has
been engaged in two
discrete, but inter-related,
activities: the development
of nuclear weapons and the
development, in cooperation
with Argentina and Egypt,
of a medium-range, ground-
to-ground ballistic missile
which will have the capacity
to deliver them.
Such a combination —
nuclear-tipped ballistic mis-
siles —would give Saddam
Hussein the ability not only
to deliver weapons of
ultimate destruction on his
two principal enemies, Israel
and Iran, but it would also
silence his regional rivals,
notably Syria, and grant
him leadership of the Arab
Western analysts are
alarmed that neither the
Nuclear Non- Proliferation
Treaty, of which Iraq is a
signatory, nor the lesser-
known Missile Technology
Control Regime (MTCR) has
had the slightest effect in
curbing the spread of either
nuclear weapons technology
or ballistic missiles.
The analysts were given
cause for concern last
December when Iraq laun-
ched a 48-ton, three-stage
rocket, Al-Abed (The Wor-
shipper), with a range of
some 2,000 kilometers, mak-
ing Iraq the first Arab state
to produce a home-made
ballistic missile.
This concern was
heightened last month when
ABC-TV broadcast pictures
and construction plans of
what were said to be three
sites for missile develop-
ment, testing and production

near Baghdad.
Iraq has been regarded as
a "threshold nuclear power"
since it embarked on its
nuclear program in the mid-
Its first step down the road
to acquiring nuclear
weapons was an agreement
with France in 1975 to con-
struct the Osirak nuclear
reactor at Tuweitha, north of
Baghdad, in exchange for a
guaranteed supply of oil. Its
second step was an agree-
ment with Italy the follow-
ing year for the technology
that would enable it to pro-
duce weapons-grade
By the start of the '80s,
Western intelligence ser-
vices were regarding Iraq's
nuclear weapons program
with considerable alarm.
They estimated that Osirak
would go "hot" by
September 1981 when ura-
nium rods were expected to
be inserted into the core of
the reactor.
In June 1981, however,
three months before Osirak
was due to go critical, the
Israeli Air Force pre-empted
Iraq's plans. Six F-16
bombers, each armed with
two 1,000-kilogram bombs
and protected by an escort of
six F-15 Eagle fighters,

launched a surgical raid on
the facility and destroyed
the reactor.
Saddam's plans were set
back several years but,
undeterred, he immediately
resumed work on the project,
using financial support from
Saudi Arabia and Pakistan,
technical assistance from a
variety of European com-
panies — and some 15 kilos
of enriched uranium that
apparently escaped the
Israeli raid on Osirak.
Late last year, the London-
based newsletter "Mid-East
Markets" reported that Iraq
had established a network of
companies throughout
Europe to acquire equip-
ment and skills for its
nuclear program and that it
was receiving assistance
from China in its efforts to
produce a nuclear bomb.
Just last weekend, another
link was added to the chain
when it was revealed, also in
London, that the KGB had
joined forces with the CIA
and other Western intel-
ligence agencies in an at-
tempt to identify Western
nuclear scientists who had
been recruited to help de-
velop the Iraqi bomb.
They are particularly anx-
ious to establish whether
there are links between any

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