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Here We WMD Again: Iraq and the Mythical Pakistani Package

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"Mr. Undersecretary, I bring this to your attention and would propose that, with assurance from the Mukhabarat that the person making the offer will not disseminate information and that the offer is not a "sting' operation, the Mukhabarat should be asked to arrange for the person to provide samples relating to point 1 of the offer to assess "their' real capabilities, despite indications that the Mukhabarat does not see the need for this precaution. ..."

A few words were missing from the handwritten note because the lower left corner of the sheet of paper it was written on was torn off.

Attached to this memorandum was a single sheet of paper, in English, titled "Project A.B," which contained the following information:

Pakistan had to spend a period of 10 years and an amount of 300 million U.S. dollars to get it. Now with the practical experience and the world-wide contacts Pakistan has already developed you can have it [A.B.] in about three years time and by spending about 150 million U.S. dollars.

  1. We will provide the detailed design and actual blue print of A.B. This will cost five (5) million U.S. dollars.
  2. We undertake to procure all the vital components on your behalf and these will be supplied through our Dubai office. Ten (10%) commission will be charged on such procurements. No commission will be charged on purchases to be made direct by you.
  3. All technical assistance will be provided by us through our Dubai office. This will be free advice.
  4. Meetings between the two top persons can be arranged after every 3/4 months to review the project. There will be no charges for such meetings.
  5. If absolutely necessary 2/3 scientists can be pursued [sic, probably meant persuaded] to resign and join the new assignment.

These two documents, together with the other procurement documents contained in both the file and the optical disc, were studied in detail by a special team from the IAEA that submitted its findings to the IAEA team leader, Maurizio Zifferero, in November 1996. The initial analysis of the IAEA concerning the documents in question noted that "there exists some circumstantial evidence that make it impossible to exclude that the offer was not genuine," including the fact that A.Q. Khan, in 1990, had the "technical possibility to provide the kind of services outlined in the offer."

The IAEA also noted that there was a middleman with a Dubai office, as referred to in the documents, with a known connection to Khan and Pakistan's nuclear program. This middleman had a possible connection with a small Swiss company that had assisted Iraq in procuring material used in a uranium centrifuge cascade. The IAEA had, in 1995, informed the Jordanian government about the Swiss-origin material having arrived in Jordan en route to Iraq. The material was seized by Jordan and later inventoried by the IAEA.

The tip-off on this operation came from Israeli intelligence and helped solidify Israeli-IAEA cooperation, which extended into the matter of Mukhabarat procurement in support of Iraq's nuclear program. The IAEA provided Israeli intelligence, through the Israeli ambassador in Vienna, with copies of the relevant procurement documents. The Israeli Military Intelligence, or Aman, formed a special team of analysts who studied the IAEA documents and prepared a paper titled "Involvement of the Mukhabarat in Procurement for the Nuclear Project," which was handed over to the IAEA in early 1997. The Israelis, after having reviewed not only the two documents cited by David Albright but also the entire IAEA file, concluded that "from the partial correspondence we have on this subject it may be assumed that the directors of PC3 had their reservations [about the Pakistani offer] as they feared some sort of deception."

Despite the skepticism that existed in both the IAEA and Israel over the conclusive nature of the evidence pointing to a possible Pakistani offer of assistance to Iraq, the IAEA, ever vigilant, did not close the case. Instead, noting that the entity "15S" had recommended to the "Undersecretary" that they ask "15B" to approach the Pakistani source for samples relating to the Pakistani's offer to provide a detailed design and blueprint of a nuclear weapon, the IAEA zeroed in on other documents. These indicated that the Iraqis had conducted specific tests associated with "flyer plates," a characteristic associated with a levitated-pit design known to be favored by the Pakistanis, as opposed to the more conventional solid-pack, uranium-based implosion design the Iraqis were focused on. Because the Pakistani offer was received in October 1990, and the flyer-plate experiments were planned for December 1990-January 1991, the IAEA believed that the experiments might be linked to new design information Iraq may have received from Pakistan. From the IAEA perspective, the Pakistani offer, as of 1996, was very much an issue worthy of continued investigation.

About the same time that the IAEA coordinated with Israeli intelligence on the seizure of centrifuge parts in Jordan, UNSCOM was engaged in a similar activity, only this time involving ballistic missile components acquired in Russia and shipped via Jordan into Iraq. In July 1995, I had begun a sensitive intelligence-based cooperation, on behalf of UNSCOM, with Israel. One of the principal issues being investigated was that of Iraqi concealment of weapons of mass destruction from UNSCOM and the IAEA. While the original focus was on material in the possession of Iraq prior to 1991, in November 1995 Israel provided UNSCOM with timely information about an ongoing Iraqi effort to procure ballistic missile parts. Using this information, UNSCOM was able to coordinate with the Jordanian government and seize these missile parts 24 hours before they were scheduled to be shipped on to Iraq. As the lead investigator for UNSCOM on this matter, I was given the additional task of looking into ongoing covert procurement activity by Iraq.

By the spring of 1996, this investigation had uncovered a wealth of information, in the form of documents and through interviews with involved personnel. This information pointed to a clear link between the needs of Iraqi industry (in this case, that which was associated with missile production) and the Mukhabarat, which oversaw the various mechanisms associated with procurement, including the creation and vetting of front companies, the placement of Iraqi and non-Iraqi personnel as commercial representatives, and the use of commercial attache's assigned to overseas embassies as couriers for money and information. Because this procurement activity was believed to be relevant to all involved proscribed weapons activities, and not simply ballistic missiles, the decision was made to approach the IAEA for the purpose of engaging in a coordinated effort to tackle the issue of covert procurement. I was tasked with heading this effort.

In November 1996, I flew to Vienna and met with Maurizio Zifferero at the IAEA headquarters. Zifferero agreed that this was a matter of importance for both the IAEA and UNSCOM, and that a joint investigation would be a prudent action. As a first step, we agreed to an exchange of information. In that exchange I provided a briefing, accompanied by a detailed point paper, on the work and findings of UNSCOM to date, and Zifferero did the same, turning over documents and allowing me to meet with his lead investigators on the issue of covert procurement by Iraq in support of a nuclear bomb, including the matter of the unsolicited Pakistani offer.

Our cooperation began in earnest immediately thereafter. In December 1996, I served as the co-chief inspector for an interview-based inspection. We grilled the senior Iraqi nuclear leadership, including Dr. Jafar Dhia Jafar, the erstwhile "father" of the Iraqi nuclear bomb, and his major department heads. The Iraqis were taken aback by the intrusion of UNSCOM, especially by a non-nuclear "specialist" such as me, into what they viewed as sacred territory. But the IAEA stood firm on its commitment to carry out a joint investigation, and the Iraqi objections were brushed aside. In the spring of 1997, there were more joint interview missions, as well as individual efforts by both UNSCOM and the IAEA, the results of which were closely coordinated.

The unity of effort between UNSCOM and the IAEA on this investigation was perhaps best exemplified by our decision to inform one another of our separate "special arrangements" with Israel. With the Israelis supporting the investigations of both the IAEA and UNSCOM into Iraqi covert procurement activities, the matter of overlapping information and duplication of effort was all too real. To resolve this, I flew to Vienna in the summer of 1997 and met there with Gary Dillon, the new team leader for the IAEA on Iraq. Together we met with the Israeli ambassador in Vienna, who had been serving as the primary liaison with the IAEA. Also joining us was a special analytical team from Israeli intelligence, who were well known to Dillon and me. For the first time, they provided a joint briefing for UNSCOM and the IAEA on their findings regarding Iraqi covert procurement, and it was agreed that in the future any information that the Israelis deemed useful could be shared with UNSCOM and the IAEA without prior coordination.

In the end, UNSCOM and the IAEA were able to get to the bottom of the issue of covert procurement carried out by the Iraqi Mukhabarat on behalf of military industry and Iraq's nuclear program. After initially denying that there had been any link between the Mukhabarat and procurement efforts for either military industry or the Iraqi nuclear program, the Iraqis finally came clean. At the heart of this effort was an entity known as the Technical Consultation Co., or TCC. TCC was located on the second floor of a posh seven-story building in the heart of the upscale Mansur district of Baghdad, a few blocks from the main Mukhabarat headquarters complex. TCC was inspected by a joint UNSCOM/IAEA team (I served as the chief inspector for UNSCOM) on Oct. 2, 1997.

TCC was subordinated to Mukhabarat Directorate M-19, which was responsible for covert procurement activity, including the establishment of commercial fronts for developing human intelligence sources, as well as placing Iraqi agents under commercial cover. TCC served as a procurement front for M-19, which serviced the procurement needs of not only the Mukhabarat but the Iraqi government as a whole, including PC-3. M-19 was itself subordinated to Directorate M-4, the Iraqi clandestine service. UNSCOM inspected M-19 in June of 1997.

The twin entities known by UNSCOM and the IAEA as "15S" and "15B" were finally deciphered. The designation "15" represented the code for the liaison activity between PC-3 and the Mukhabarat. "15S" was the code designation for Dhafir Salbi, a senior manager with the Third Group of PC-3, while "15B" similarly designated Ali Barqat, the principal contact for PC-3 at TCC. UNSCOM and the IAEA had previously interviewed Barqat, during the evening of Sept. 22, 1997 (I served as the UNSCOM chief inspector for this interview). Barqat had been in charge of TCC in 1990-1991, the period of interest concerning the Pakistani offer.

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Scott Ritter served as a former Marine Corps officer from 1984 until 1991, and as a UN weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 until 1998. He is the author of several books, including "Iraq Confidential" (Nation Books, 2005) and "Target Iran" (more...)

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