Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-79)|
THURSDAY 24 OCTOBER 2002
Mr David Chidgey
60. To carry on from the questions put by Sir
John Stanley on deterrence and WMD in Iraq, anecdotally it has
been said that Saddam Hussein believes the only mistake he made
in the Gulf War was not to wait until he had nuclear weapons.
That seems to support the comments he was making. To take it a
stage further in regard to the news that North Korea has in the
last ten days announced that they are rapidly advancing with their
nuclear weapons capability, what linkage do you see with Iraq,
assuming that Iraq would be a willing buyer of nuclear weapons
from North Korea and that North Korea was a willing seller? We
know the record of the North Koreans on civil liberties. What
scenario would you predict in the event that there was a serious
belief that Iraq was negotiating to buy nuclear weapons from North
(Dr Samore) North Korea certainly has been willing
to sell its missiles; that is one of its main sources of hard
currency. It has shown no reservation about selling missiles.
As far as I know, there is no indication of the North being willing
to sell or export nuclear technology or nuclear materials. At
least for the time being I think the nuclear material available
to North Korea will be so scarce and valuable that it is unlikely
to be willing to share it, for practical reasons alone. I would
be concerned over time if the North Koreans can accumulate larger
amounts of nuclear materialand we may see that happening
if the agreed framework falls apart, which I fear is very likely.
At that point, I would become much more worried about North Korea
possibly being willing to sell nuclear material to other countries,
although the problem may by then be resolvedtalking about
a couple of years from now.
61. The worst-case scenario given to us was
that in a willing seller/willing buyer situation, Iraq would have
nuclear warheads within six months. In that scenario, what do
you believe America's chosen strategy and policy might be?
(Dr Samore) If Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons
within six months, I do not think we would be talking about invasion.
If Iraq had nuclear weapons, I think it would make the invasion
option extremely costly and very difficult to contemplate.
Mr John Maples
62. I want to explore with you how far Iraq
has got with its nuclear technology. My understanding is that
it is pursuing a weapons-grade uranium bomb and has given up on
plutonium since the Osiraq reactor was destroyed, and that there
are several elements to this. One is the technology of actually
making the bomb, which a lot of people have found extraordinarily
difficult. My understanding is that Iraq can do that, or is thought
to be able to do it. To acquire the weapons-grade uranium, it
either has to manufacture it itself in centrifuges, which it appears
to be trying to acquire, and that is what would take the six to
ten years or seven to eight years; but to do it quicker you have
to acquire weapons-grade uranium fissile material from somewhere
else. Can you take us through the physics and the weapons-grade
uranium and what sources it might acquire that from, and then
what technological barriers would stand in its way for putting
that into a bomb?
(Dr Chipman) First of all, your assertions are correct,
but Gary Samore used to work for the Lawrence Livermore National
Laboratory, so he is better placed to give a technical answer
to some of your questions.
(Dr Samore) I agree with everything you have said.
The key choke point for the Iraqi nuclear weapons programme is
access to fissile material. We know that they were working on
a design in 1991 that would have required about 20 kg or so of
highly enriched uranium, which is a fairly small amount, but quite
difficult to produce. All of the assessments that have been made
assert that it would most likely take them several years to be
able to build a facility that could produce that amount of highly
enriched uranium; and only if they can get access to foreign equipment
and materials. In terms of getting access to foreign supplies
of fissile material, all of the dossiers mention this as a wild-card,
as a possibility. As far as we know, no group or country has been
able to obtain any large amount of weapons-grade material from
the black market from foreign sources; but it is important to
mention it as a possibility, and in particular people have been
concerned about the security of stockpiles in Russia and some
of the former states of the Soviet Union, where it is known that
there are fairly large amounts of weapons-grade material, and
where the accounting and security of that material is in some
cases lower than Western standards.
63. If he could get his hands on some, he would
need 20 kg for each nuclear weapon that he wanted to make.
(Dr Samore) That is correct.
64. Would we know, or would we have a good chance
of knowing, if he had acquired that?
(Dr Samore) I think it is very unlikely we would know.
65. So he might have it, conceivably.
(Dr Samore) Yes. I assume that if Iraq did have a
nuclear weapon, it would make that known in a way to try and deter
an attack when the time came.
66. At some point before an attack came.
(Dr Samore) Presumably.
67. So if it were able to acquire enough weapons-grade
uranium, that is the only thing that is missing from its ability
to construct nuclear weapons.
(Dr Samore) Yes. In 1991 they were very close to being
able to design a device. It would have been far too large and
heavy to deliver on the missiles that were available to them,
but they were close enough to having something that would produce
a nuclear yield, so we assume that if they continued to do that
kind of work over the last decade, which they could probably do
without high risk of discoveryby now, ten years later,
we assume they have been able to finish the last bits and pieces,
and they would be able to construct something that would be deliverable
at least by an aeroplane.
68. I was going to ask you about delivery by
missile because I understand that Iraq does not have much of an
air force left, and anyway there would presumably be complete
air supremacy over the battlefield. Can Iraq make something that
is small enough to deliver on a missile, and what is the technology
gap there? Do we think they have the technological ability to
(Dr Samore) This is very speculative, but I would
say with the basic kind of design that they were working on, it
is unlikely that they could make it small enough and light enough
to be deliverable by the existing missile we know they have, which
is the al-Hussein missile, a modified scud, 650 km. That requires
quite a small size, which would be difficult for them to achieve
with the basic design they are working on.
69. That is more difficult than making the bomb.
Once they have acquired the material, the making of the bomb would
be relatively easier, but they would have to find some other method
(Dr Samore) It depends on how big the bomb is. Making
a bomb deliverable by aircraft is much easier than a bomb deliverable
by a missile of the type they have, because it has a rather small
diameter and it would be difficult for them to squeeze the design
70. You said in answer to Mr Chidgeyand
we can all see the scenariothat if Iraq had a nuclear weapon,
certainly one of the things it would do would be to deter Western
allies of Gulf countries from intervening in conflicts there because
it would have raised the stakes against them enormously. What
we are looking at, if they were able to acquire material, is somewhere
up to a year from acquiring it to being able to turn it into a
weapon. We do not know if they have got it, though we suspect
they have not, and we would not know if they were to acquire it,
or we might not know if they were to acquire it. We could find
ourselves faced with that scenario at relatively short notice.
(Dr Samore) Sure, it is conceivable. Presumably, Iraq
would want to demonstrate its capabilities through some kind of
test, and that would be the most convincing way of demonstrating
to the world that they have nuclear weapons.
71. In terms of the amount of material needed,
say, for a dirty bomb, what are the fears about that?
(Dr Samore) The dirty bomb is a very different sort
of proposition because there is a much wider range of materials
that can be used, with varying degrees of radioactivity, and Iraq
has some radiological materials in-country that are used for civilian
purposesfor medical purposes or food irradiation and so
forth. In principle, I do not think you can stop Iraq from having
a crude radiological weapon, but I also think that the kind of
damage such a weapon can do is very, very limited. It depends
a great deal on the type of material, how much there is of it
and how effective the dispersal is, but in general it is many
magnitudes of order less than a nuclear explosive.
72. On biological weapons, given the means of
hiding these weapons and the mobility of transport that the Iraqis
now have, the fact that the scientists are there in any event,
problems of dual use and small packets, what prospects are there
available to counter the threat of such weapons, and the fact
that the cookery books are there?
(Dr Chipman) I agree that this falls into the "how
long is a piece of string?" category. As all of our dossiers
state, Iraq has now mobile biological weapons production facilities
that move around the country, which are very difficult to detect.
Any one of dozens of civilian industrial bases could be used for
the production of biological agents, and accounting down to the
last litre of biological agent would be extremely difficult.
(Dr Samore) I agree with that. It is extremely unlikely
that any inspection system, no matter how rigorous, can give you
high confidence of accounting for small quantities of biological
73. Given those difficulties, how do you counter
the concealment strategies which are presumably now very sophisticated?
(Dr Samore) As I say, I think you have to understand
what inspections can do for you and what inspections cannot do
for you. Inspections can give you a high confidence in some areas,
but if you expect them to account for every drop of biological
and chemical weapons in Iraq, I do not think they can succeed.
74. Not every drop, but can a substantial amount
of such weapons, given the speed of production possibility
(Dr Samore) The problem in the biological area is
that a substantial amount could be a thousand litres of anthrax,
and I do not think inspections can reliably detect production
of a thousand litres of anthrax.
75. For biological weapons, I guess the major
fear is that these will be passed clandestinely through to terrorist
networks. Is there any evidence of that happening?
(Mr Simon) Not that I know of.
Sir John Stanley
76. On biological weapons, I think you would
agree that massive, massive mortality could be created by quantities
of anthraxabsolutely fractional compared to the thousand
litres that you have just referred to. Given the fact that it
is in open sources well known that Saddam Hussein has engaged
in a systematic programme of concealment of his BW programme,
do you think it is a real possibility that if the UN weapons inspectors
could go back it is conceivable that they could produce a clean
bill of health for Saddam Hussein, almost a clean bill of health
on biological weapons, in terms of what they have been able to
uncover; when in reality he has a substantial, concealed BW programme
that would have vast mortality implications?
(Dr Chipman) It is worthwhile going back to what the
premise of inspections was in April 1991 and what the premise
of inspections should again be. The inspections were never originally
conceived as a detective operation; the inspectors were forced
to become detectives because of the denial and concealment strategy
used by the Iraqis. Indeed, on April 3, 1991, the Security Council
called on the Iraqis to give within 15 days a full account of
their WMD, and presumed that within 120 days after that UNSCOM
would have verified simply those declarations and then moved the
Security Council towards a lifting of sanctions and the bringing
of Iraq back into the international community. This time around,
the United States will be ever more vigilant to any sign of non-compliance.
Indeed, there is talk now about their potential declaration being
used as a kind of perjury clause, whereby if they declare an amount
that is clearly not true, that that already would be an act of
non-compliance with the new Security Council resolution. The issue
is, who judges that act of non-compliance. I know that that is
a question this Committee has often asked, amongst others to the
Foreign Secretary. The debate now is whether the United States
alone, on the basis of its own national technical means, could
assert that this declaration is not true, then find Iraq in non-compliance
and pursue the serious consequences that the current resolution
Mr Bill Olner
77. How would a US attack on Iraq affect al-Qaeda's
membership, its organisation and its objectives?
(Mr Simon) I think that an American attack against
Iraq would confirm the belief of many in al-Qaeda, and many potential
recruits, that the US and its friends were engaged in a systematic
war against Islam, with the aim of conquering the Muslim world.
To the extent that that is true, recruitment will probably see
an upsurge. The answer is that the war against terrorism will
be complicated to some degree by military operations against Iraq.
78. What if those actions against Iraq are multilateral,
if there was complete UN support, not for regime change but for
(Mr Simon) The texts that are very influential among
al-Qaeda types and recruits to the organisation, texts that can
be found on the Internet or in broadsheets or in bookstores in
the Middle East, already postulate a world-wide infidel conspiracy
against Islam. The United States may bear the brunt of responsibility,
but it is seen as part of a larger challenge, consisting of, depending
on what you read, the UN, the EU, NATO and the Freemasons for
that matter. As odd as that sounds, they have a prominent role
in much of this conspiracy thinking. I do not think that the United
States would be the sole target of the additional resentment that
might be felt in the Muslim world.
(Dr Chipman) While there is no question that likely
al-Qaeda recruits are not interested in the niceties of multilateral
diplomacy, the moderate Muslim community in some important countries
would feel more capable of explaining the reason why the United
States might be engaged in this and gain more credibility within
their own societies if any action against Iraq was seen to have
a multilateral colouration to it.
(Mr Simon) It must be said, though, that these very
governments have no credibility with the people we are worried
79. How does that fit in with Osama bin Laden's
view that the Saudi Government must be overthrown?
(Mr Simon) They do believe that.