Saddam Had WMD Ambitions
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 7, 2004 Saddam Hussein "clearly had ambitions with respect to weapons of mass destruction," the head of the Iraq Survey Group that searched Iraq for weapons of mass destruction told the Senate Armed Services Committee Oct. 6.
The former dictator intended to resume WMD production in the event U.N. economic sanctions placed on Iraq after the 1991 Persian Gulf War were lifted, Charles A. Duelfer said.
The former dictator also "had a strategy and tactic to get out of the constraints of the U.N. sanctions" and was making progress in that vein before his regime was toppled, Duelfer said.
Duelfer reported that Iraq had no large stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction when U.S. and coalition forces toppled the regime in April 2003. "It is clear that Saddam chose not to have (WMD) weapons at a point in time before" Operation Iraqi Freedom, Duelfer said at the Senate hearing, which discussed conclusions contained in the 1,000-page-plus ISG report.
Saddam got rid of his chemical and biological weapons stockpiles sometime after the Gulf War, Duelfer concluded. There was also no evidence, he noted, that Saddam had a viable nuclear weapons program.
Once U.N. inspections for Iraqi WMDs began after the 1991 war, Duelfer noted, "Iraq chose to yield most of its weapons and bulk agent, as well as the large facilities that were widely known to exist."
The U.N. sanctions also made it unfeasible for Saddam to continue his WMD programs, he explained. "The sanctions were certainly modifying his behavior," Duelfer observed.
However, Duelfer said Saddam manipulated the U.N. Oil-for-Food program to purchase some conventional weaponry for his depleted armed forces. There is evidence Saddam's technicians continued design work on ballistic missiles, he pointed out, although there weren't any raw materials to make them.
Duelfer said Hussein had a vested interest in maintaining to the world that he retained viable stocks of WMDs. "There was the Iranian threat," Duelfer pointed out, noting Saddam "didn't want to be second to Iran and he felt he had to deter them."
Duelfer believes Saddam simply "wanted to create the impression that he had more than he did." And, Duelfer said, the fact that the United States' and other countries' intelligence agencies erred in regard to estimating Saddam's WMD capacity, in hindsight, isn't surprising. After all, "the United States had almost no contact with Iraq over more than a decade" after the Gulf War, Duelfer noted.
And "but for the intervention of the events of 9/11, I think the world would be in a very different position right now," he said.