UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Tracking Number:  155966

Title:  "UN Embargo Puts Iraqi Nuclear Program on Hold." A Carnegie Endowment for International Peace study entitled "Nuclear Ambitions" identifies Iraq, Iran, and Libya as countries pursuing a nuclear capability, according to Joel Kuester, who helped draft the study. (900924)

Translated Title:  "L'Embargo Paralyse le Programme Nucleaire Irakien." (900924)
Date:  19900924


09/24/90 1Me Re U.N. EMBARGO PUTS IRAQI NUCLEAR PROGRAM ON HOLD (Nuclear weapons 5-10 years away, says study) (750) By Berta Gomez USIA staff writer

Washington -- One very positive effect of the current international embargo against Iraq is that it could delay Baghdad's long-standing efforts to obtain a nuclear weapons capability.

Joel Kuester, a staffer at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says the embargo "has effectively put the Iraqi nuclear program 'on hold.'"

Given Iraq's determined efforts to become a nuclear power, he adds, the embargo "is a very good thing."

In a recently published study (completed prior to Iraq's August 2 invasion of Kuwait), the Carnegie Endowment identified Iraq as one of three Middle Eastern countries -- along with Iran and Libya -- that are "actively pursuing" an atomic weapons capability.

The book length report, titled "Nuclear Ambitions," concluded its chapter on Iraq by asserting that the rapid growth of that country's nuclear weapons program "could permit it to engage in 'nuclear blackmail' by the mid- 1990's."

"Though Iraq may be five to ten years away from acquiring nuclear weapons of its own," the study says, "open-ended expansion of its non-nuclear capabilities has seriously heightened the risk that nuclear arms may some day be used in the region."

Kuester, who helped draft "Nuclear Ambitions," says the embargo could change that scenario significantly. Since "Iraq relied heavily on arms smuggling and (other) illicit activities in the West" to develop its nuclear capability, he notes, it would be "extremely difficult" for such activity to continue.

"Although it would be too strong to say that the embargo has completely eliminated" Iraqi progress in the nuclear arena, it does "severely hinder" the effort, Kuester says.

Iraq began to expand its nuclear sector in the 1970's, but made little progress in the 1980's, when most of its energy and attention were focused on the war against Iran.

GE 2 POL106 Moreover, the program's "centerpiece" -- the French- supplied Osiraq research reactor outside Baghdad -- had been destroyed in a 1981 Israeli raid.

According to the Carnegie study, the Osiraq reactor was indicative of Iraqi long-term intentions. Not only was it "unusually large and therefore capable of irradiating uranium specimens to produce significant quantities of plutonium," but Iraq in 1980 and 1981 purchased "inexplicably large amounts of natural uranium...suggesting a secret intention to irradiate the material in Osiraq."

At the end of the Iran-Iraq war Baghdad renewed the expansion of its nuclear sector, but there was by this time a "growing consensus" among international observers that Iraq's ultimate goal was the gradual acquisition of a nuclear weapons capability, the study adds.

Indeed, by mid-1989, U.S. government and other sources believed that an Iraqi nuclear device was five to 10 years away. Concerns were also heightened by evidence that Iraq's new key laboratories were being built underground, and the knowledge that Iraq had emerged from its eight year war with Iran as one of the strongest military powers in the region.

Although Baghdad consistently denied any interest in developing atomic weapons, "Nuclear Ambitions" lists several recent illegal Iraqi attempts to purchase material and technology for the production of nuclear arms.

For example, in February 1989 the U.S. Commerce Department blocked an attempt by Iraq to obtain specialized vacuum pumps which can be used in uranium enrichment plants.

Later that year reports surfaced that a West German firm had supplied Iraq with specialized machinery for manufacturing enrichment centrifuges, and that Iraq had attempted to purchase special magnets that are used to hold enrichment centrifuges in place.

Last March, five persons were arrested in London for trying to export military-grade nuclear triggering devices to Iraq.

In addition to impeding such activity, the embargo, and the military forces assembled to enforce it, could also close off another nuclear option that is available to Iraq. Since 1980, Baghdad has possessed 27.5 pounds of highly enriched uranium fuel (originally intended for the Osiraq reactor) -- an amount Kuester describes as "enough to manufacture one crude device within one year."

The fuel, however, is subject to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iraq cannot seize it without alerting that organization, and therefore

GE 3 POL106 the world. Given the presence of an enormous multinational military force along its border, it is highly unlikely that Iraq would try to use the uranium. "You can imagine" says Kuester, "the firestorm that would ensue" after any Iraqi attempt to seize the fuel. NNNN

File Identification:  09/24/90, PO-106; 09/24/90, EP-116; 09/24/90, EU-106; 09/24/90, NE-112; 09/25/90, AE-211; 09/27/90, AF-407; 09/27/90, AS-428
Product Name:  Wireless File
Product Code:  WF
Languages:  French; Spanish
Thematic Codes:  1NE; 1UN; 5TT
Target Areas:  EA; EU; NE; AF
PDQ Text Link:  155966; 156456; 156439

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list