Friday, February 21, 2003[posted by jaed at 1:47 PM]
No Nukes! No Nukes! No Nukes!
Kenneth Pollack summarizes the problem with waiting Iraq out in today's NYT:
Observers have a very poor track record in predicting the progress of the Iraqi nuclear weapons program. In the late 1980's, the nuclear experts of the American intelligence services were convinced that the Iraqis were at least 5 and probably 10 years away from having a nuclear weapon. For its part, the International Atomic Energy Agency did not even believe that Iraq had a nuclear weapons program. After the 1991 Persian Gulf war, United Nations inspectors found that not only did Iraq have a program far more extensive than anyone had realized, but it was also less than two years away from producing a weapon.
Four years later, the international agency was so certain that it had eradicated the Iraqi nuclear program that it wanted to end aggressive inspections in favor of passive "monitoring." Then a slew of defectors came out of Iraq � including Hussein Kamel al-Majid, the son-in-law of Saddam Hussein who led the Iraqi program to build weapons of mass destruction; Wafiq al-Samarrai, one of Saddam Hussein's intelligence chiefs; and Khidhir Hamza, a leading scientist with the nuclear weapons program. These defectors reported that outside pressure had not only failed to eradicate the nuclear program, it was bigger and more cleverly spread out and concealed than anyone had imagined it to be.
In the late 1990's, American and international nuclear experts again concluded that the Iraqi nuclear program was dormant: yes, the scientists were still working in teams; yes, they still had all of the plans; and yes, they probably were hiding some machinery � but they were not making any progress. Then another batch of important defectors escaped to Europe and told Western intelligence services that after the inspectors left Iraq in 1998, Saddam Hussein had started a crash program to build a nuclear weapon and that the Iraqis had devised methods to hide the effort.
Update: Talking Points Memo has an extensive interview with Pollack, going into more detail on the points raised in the NYT oped.