*Usama Bin Laden has resurfaced with a 20 minute tirade broadcast by al-Jazirah, calling on his followers to attack the United States and to carry out terrorism on its soil, and calling on Iraqi Muslims to resist the coming US invasion. I think there is in fact a danger that Bin Laden will have some appeal for Sunni Arabs in Iraq if Baath-style secular Arab nationalism is completely discredited by a US invasion. In any case, Bin Laden denounced secular socialism of the Baath sort, but said it was all right if there was sometimes a congruence of interests between Islamists and socialists.
I did not see it widely reported, but when Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf was in Moscow recently, he reversed himself on whether Bin Laden was alive. He said there were indications that Bin Laden was alive, and inside Afghanistan. He expressed nearly complete confidence that he was not in Pakistan. He insisted that al-Qaida as an organization in the area is disrupted. Well, maybe. But one notes it is not so disrupted that Bin Laden can’t get a video produced and aired. Disrupted into the grave would be better.
*Dutch F-16s “dropped 5 GBU-12s (bombs) and fired more than 100 rounds of ammunition” in the Baghran valley in Uruzgan province on a band of armed men that had fired on US troops in the valley from about a mile away.
*Asharq al-Awsat has reported some of the elements of a French position paper at the UN calling for more inspectors in Iraq and an increase in the depth of the inspection process.
[The following message derived from a question on [a] list about the
history of the French nuclear reactor, Osirak, and its putative use for an
Iraqi nuclear weapons program.]
There are two major narratives about Osirak. The American Federation of
scientists explains that:
“Iraq . . . wanted to purchase [a] reprocessing plant needed to recover
the plutonium produced in the reactor. Even through these requests were
denied, France agreed to build a research reactor along with associated
laboratories. Iraq built the Osiraq 40 megawatt light-water nuclear reactor
at the Al Tuwaitha Nuclear Center near Baghdad with French assistance.
Approximately 27.5 pounds of 93% U-235 was supplied to Iraq by France for
use in the Osiraq research reactor. The reactor was a type of French
reactor named after Osiris, the Egyptian God of the dead. The French
renamed the one being built in Iraq, “Osiraq” to blend the name Osiris with
that of the recipient state, Iraq. French orthography then made it
The FAS wording obscures the key point that the lightwater Osirak reactor
was incapable of producing plutonium, needed for a bomb. This organization
accepts the standard story that Israeli intelligence gained credible
information that Iraq was using Osirak to seek nuclear weapons. However,
this narrative is by no means historically verifiable, and it raises many
questions. Israel had no obvious intelligence assets in Baathist Iraq in
the early 1980s, and Osirak could not produce plutonium, and the Likud
leadership has been known to shoot first and ask questions later.
FAS explains that after the Israeli raid, “IAEA [International Atomic
Energy Agency] officials . . . reaffirmed their position on the Iraqi
reactor, that is, that no weapons had been manufactured at Osiraq and that
Iraqi officials had regularly cooperated with agency inspectors. They also
pointed out that Iraq was a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of
Nuclear Weapons (informally called the Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT) and
that Baghdad had complied with all IAEA guidelines. The Israeli nuclear
facility at Dimona, it was pointed out, was not under IAEA safeguards,
because Israel had not signed the NPT and had refused to open its
facilities to UN inspections.”
The other major narrative derives from Imad Khadduri, a former Iraqi
nuclear scientist who joined the program in 1975. He gave an extended
interview to Peter Jensen, published in the Irish Times on Jan. 6. He said
that Iraq had no serious nuclear weapons program until *after* the Israeli
bombing of Osirak in 1981. It should also be noted that the main impetus
to nuclear proliferation in the Middle East was Israel’s nuclear weapons
program, the first and still the only successful such program in the area,
which has produced several hundred nuclear warheads.
Khadduri said that “the US had initiated Iraq’s nuclear programme in 1956
by dispatching to Baghdad the “Atom for Peace library” which, during
the Eisenhower administration, was supplied to many world governments and
used by at least two, India and Pakistan, as the starting point for
bomb-making.” He said that the non-military Atoms for Peace program was
continued in Iraq by the Arif government, which bought from the Soviet
Union “a two-megawatt research reactor which went critical in 1966-67.”
He explained that “During 1975 France provided Iraq with a light-water
reactor, Osirak, which was specifically designed to be unsuitable for the
production of plutonium for a bomb.”
He maintained that “The bombing by Israel of Osirak in June 1981 prompted
Iraq to take the decision to go ahead with weaponisation.”
His allegation is supported by large numbers of informed Iraq analysts.
So from the point of view of at least one highly informed insider, the
common US media story about all this is topsy turvey. The US was the one
that got Iraq interested in nuclear power. The Soviets were the first to
give Iraq a small reactor. The French were careful, when they followed up
on these initiatives, to supply a lightwater reactor that could not produce
plutonium, and they refused to supply a reprocessing plant that would
produce plutonium. The Israelis convinced the Baathist regime that it
could only hope to survive as an independent power in the region by having
nuclear weapons of its own. They did this both by aggressively developing
their own impressive arsenal of nuclear weapons, introducing them into the
Middle East conflict as a power factor, and by unilaterally and illegally
bombing the civilian Osirak reactor.
It is not, then, after all, clear or incontrovertible that the Israelis
have done the world any favors by their policies toward nuclear weapons in
the Middle East.
The Khadduri interview can be found here.