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Iraq's Nuclear Threat
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Those who want to downplay the possibility of Iraq developing nuclear weapons are either being willfully ignorant or choosing to stick their heads in the sand.

I've blogged about this article before, from the New York Times, which details accounts of Iraq's nuclear program over the past 27 years and the brutal treatment of scientists working in the program.

Hamza, 59, whose defection was an important intelligence coup for the United States that nearly slipped through American fingers because of the CIA's inattention, drew a chilling picture of life as an Iraqi scientist. He said his colleagues were lavishly rewarded for their successes and tortured by the secret police when they failed to deliver.

He said Iraq's nuclear weapons program was personally directed by Saddam Hussein, Iraq's leader, since its inception 27 years ago. It was abetted, he said, by a host of Western companies, which sold Iraq sophisticated equipment as they "winked and laughed" at patently false cover stories.

Here's an article published in 2000 from the London Times about another more recent defector, Salman Yassin Zweir, who fled Iraq via Jordan:

Zweir was arrested and tortured after refusing to go back to the programme. He escaped to Jordan, where he spoke for the first time last week after being reunited with his wife, who was also tortured, and their two sons, aged seven and six.

"Saddam is very proud of his nuclear team," said Zweir, 39. "He will never give up the dream of being the first Arab leader to have a nuclear bomb."

Most assessments by analysts and intelligence experts conclude that Iraq does not have the capability to produce its own fissile material, and probably would not have the capability to do so until the latter part of this decade. Though the same analysis, such as the one in this IISS dossier, believe that if Iraq acquired fissile material from another country, it could build a nuke in less than a year, probably within a matter of months.

But analysts have underestimated the nuclear capabilities of countries before, most notably North Korea, but also Iraq itself, pre-Gulf War.

The point is, why in the hell would you want to assume the best-case scenario? Cross your fingers and hope you're wrong. To do so is to gamble with the lives of millions, because the use of a nuclear weapon in a major international city would have devasting effects on the country, its neighbors, and the more than likely the world economy.

The protesters tomorrow will profess their concern for the innocent, for the children. But is turning a blind eye to the efforts of a ruthless tyrant to develop nuclear weapons really the most humane course of action?

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