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Iraq Uranium Intel Redux
Posted by: Dale Franks on Monday, April 10, 2006

I don't know why Jon is so adamant about the Iraq/Niger nuclear deal. From what I can tell, the case isn't as clear-cut as Jon makes it out to be. As Christopher Hitchens explains
In the late 1980s, the Iraqi representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency—Iraq's senior public envoy for nuclear matters, in effect—was a man named Wissam al-Zahawie. After the Kuwait war in 1991, when Rolf Ekeus arrived in Baghdad to begin the inspection and disarmament work of UNSCOM, he was greeted by Zahawie, who told him in a bitter manner that "now that you have come to take away our assets," the two men could no longer be friends. (They had known each other in earlier incarnations at the United Nations in New York.)

At a later 1995 U.N. special session on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Zahawie was the Iraqi delegate and spoke heatedly about the urgent need to counterbalance Israel's nuclear capacity. At the time, most democratic countries did not have full diplomatic relations with Saddam's regime, and there were few fully accredited Iraqi ambassadors overseas, Iraq's interests often being represented by the genocidal Islamist government of Sudan (incidentally, yet another example of collusion between "secular" Baathists and the fundamentalists who were sheltering Osama Bin Laden). There was one exception—an Iraqi "window" into the world of open diplomacy—namely the mutual recognition between the Baathist regime and the Vatican. To this very important and sensitive post in Rome, Zahawie was appointed in 1997, holding the job of Saddam's ambassador to the Holy See until 2000. Those who knew him at that time remember a man much given to anti-Jewish tirades, with a standing ticket for Wagner performances at Bayreuth. (Actually, as a fan of Das Rheingold and Götterdämmerung in particular, I find I can live with this. Hitler secretly preferred sickly kitsch like Franz Lehar.)

In February 1999, Zahawie left his Vatican office for a few days and paid an official visit to Niger, a country known for absolutely nothing except its vast deposits of uranium ore. It was from Niger that Iraq had originally acquired uranium in 1981, as confirmed in the Duelfer Report. In order to take the Joseph Wilson view of this Baathist ambassadorial initiative, you have to be able to believe that Saddam Hussein's long-term main man on nuclear issues was in Niger to talk about something other than the obvious. Italian intelligence (which first noticed the Zahawie trip from Rome) found it difficult to take this view and alerted French intelligence (which has better contacts in West Africa and a stronger interest in nuclear questions). In due time, the French tipped off the British, who in their cousinly way conveyed the suggestive information to Washington. As everyone now knows, the disclosure appeared in watered-down and secondhand form in the president's State of the Union address in January 2003.

If the above was all that was known, it would surely be universally agreed that no responsible American administration could have overlooked such an amazingly sinister pattern. Given the past Iraqi record of surreptitious dealing, cheating of inspectors, concealment of sites and caches, and declared ambition to equip the technicians referred to openly in the Baathist press as "nuclear mujahideen," one could scarcely operate on the presumption of innocence...

The Duelfer Report also cites "a second contact between Iraq and Niger," which occurred in 2001, when a Niger minister visited Baghdad "to request assistance in obtaining petroleum products to alleviate Niger's economic problems." According to the deposition of Ja'far Diya' Ja'far (the head of Iraq's pre-1991 nuclear weapons program), these negotiations involved no offer of uranium ore but only "cash in exchange for petroleum." West Africa is awash in petroleum, and Niger is poor in cash. Iraq in 2001 was cash-rich through the oil-for-food racket, but you may if you wish choose to believe that a near-bankrupt African delegation from a uranium-based country traveled across a continent and a half with nothing on its mind but shopping for oil.
If you really want to make an argument for the "Bush Lied" crowd, then it seems to me that, as Murray Waas points out in The National Journal you'd have a much better case arguing about the aluminum tubes, than you do about the Nigerian Uranium deal.
 
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Bush lied... that’s DEFINITE! He lied about winning in 2000, he lied about uranium, he lied about WMD’s, he lied about winning in 2004! He LIED, he’s a LIAR! And don’t try to use facts against me...LALALALA I’M NOT LISTENING!
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
"If you really want to make an argument for the "Bush Lied" crowd, then it seems to me that, as Murray Waas points out in The National Journal you’d have a much better case arguing about the aluminum tubes, than you do about the Nigerian Uranium deal."

Please explain:
Larry Wilkerson on the tubes:
"The consensus of the intelligence community was overwhelming. I can still hear George Tenet telling me, and telling my boss in the bowels of the CIA, that the information we were delivering – which we had called considerably – we had called it very much – we had thrown whole reams of paper out that the White House had created. But George was convinced, John McLaughlin was convinced that what we were presented was accurate. And contrary to what you were hearing in the papers and other places, one of the best relationships we had in fighting terrorists and in intelligence in general was with guess who? The French. In fact, it was probably the best. And they were right there with us.

In fact, I’ll just cite one more thing. The French came in in the middle of my deliberations at the CIA and said, we have just spun aluminum tubes, and by god, we did it to this RPM, et cetera, et cetera, and it was all, you know, proof positive that the aluminum tubes were not for mortar casings or artillery casings, they were for centrifuges. Otherwise, why would you have such exquisite instruments? We were wrong. We were wrong."
http://www.thewashingtonnote.com/archives/Wilkerson%20Speech%20—%20WEB.htm

WSJ says this about Wilkerson statement regarding the French supplied aluminium tubes:
"In explaining its dissent on Iraq’s nuclear program, the INR had, as stated in the NIE of 2002, expressed doubt about:

Iraq’s efforts to acquire aluminum tubes [which are] central to the argument that Baghdad is reconstituting its nuclear-weapons program. . . . INR is not persuaded that the tubes in question are intended for use as centrifuge rotors . . . in Iraq’s nuclear-weapons program.
But, according to Wilkerson:

The French came in in the middle of my deliberations at the CIA and said, we have just spun aluminum tubes, and by God, we did it to this rpm, et cetera, et cetera, and it was all, you know, proof positive that the aluminum tubes were not for mortar casings or artillery casings, they were for centrifuges. Otherwise, why would you have such exquisite instruments?
In short, and whether or not it included the secret heart of Hans Blix, "the consensus of the intelligence community," as Mr. Wilkerson puts it, "was overwhelming" in the period leading up to the invasion of Iraq that Saddam definitely had an arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, and that he was also in all probability well on the way to rebuilding the nuclear capability that the Israelis had damaged by bombing the Osirak reactor in 1981.
Additional confirmation of this latter point comes from Kenneth Pollack, who served in the National Security Council under Clinton. "In the late spring of 2002," Pollack has written:


I participated in a Washington meeting about Iraqi WMD. Those present included nearly twenty former inspectors from the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), the force established in 1991 to oversee the elimination of WMD in Iraq. One of the senior people put a question to the group: did anyone in the room doubt that Iraq was currently operating a secret centrifuge plant? No one did. Three people added that they believed Iraq was also operating a secret calutron plant (a facility for separating uranium isotopes).
No wonder, then, that another conclusion the NIE of 2002 reached with "high confidence" was that "Iraq could make a nuclear weapon in months to a year once it acquires sufficient weapons-grade fissile material." (Hard as it is to believe, let alone to reconcile with his general position, Joseph C. Wilson IV, in a speech he delivered three months after the invasion at the Education for Peace in Iraq Center, offhandedly made the following remark: "I remain of the view that we will find biological and chemical weapons and we may well find something that indicates that Saddam’s regime maintained an interest in nuclear weapons.")"
http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110007540

 
Written By: Anonymous
URL: http://
If you really want to make an argument for the "Bush Lied" crowd, then it seems to me that, as Murray Waas points out in The National Journal you’d have a much better case arguing about the aluminum tubes, than you do about the Nigerian Uranium deal.
The quoted article seems to demonstrate that there may have been legitimate reasons to be suspicious of Iraqi intentions, certainly. However I fail to see how that has any bearing on the administrations continued use of a debunked peice of evidence long after the US intelligence community had already discounted said evidence.

That is rather the operative detail, is it not?
Bush lied... that’s DEFINITE! He lied about winning in 2000, he lied about uranium, he lied about WMD’s, he lied about winning in 2004! He LIED, he’s a LIAR! And don’t try to use facts against me...LALALALA I’M NOT LISTENING!
I beleive this is referred to as an ad-hominem fallacy. Attempting to compare those who might reasonably beleive that the administration intentionally misled or misreprented evidence to those on the ’loony left’ is not a reasonable argument that should sway anyone who actively engaged their brain cells.

What is worse is that you know full well that this characterization does not apply to Jon, and yet you still use it? I would suspect the intellectual dishonesty is intentional, in this case.

 
Written By: Rosensteel
URL: http://
As I wrote in the other comment thread, the stories are interesting though controversial. Regardless, our intelligence status in early ’03 was far less certain than Mr Hitchens seems to be. In fact, it was evolving away from even the "proponderance of analysts" state that had obtained during the 2002 NIE.

When it came time to defend themselves against the criticism, they referred to the status in 2002, but not to the status of the intelligence conclusions in early 2003 when some of those claims were actually made.

Again, I’m not saying they issued flatly false statements. Merely that they were selective, and therefore misleading, in what they did say.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Rosensteel it’s a joke...Though Jon seems to be pretty monomaniacal in his focus of Bush’s supposed crimes, either "lying", "torturing", or possibly "wiretapping."

So lighten up Dude... otherwise I’m figuring you for one of the humourless Leftists/Democrats determined to make this country "safe", from Bush or over-reaching government or Republicans, but safe...
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Actually the best argument, should one want to make it, would not be with Uranium or Aluminum tubes but with the non existant IAEA report cited by Bush. Both the Niger and tube stories are grey areas open to interpretation.

But quoting a non existant report that doesn’t even say what the previous report that did exist says is a "slam dunk" as they say.
 
Written By: davebo
URL: http://

 
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