Tuesday :: May 20, 2003

Rummy Lost Control of Iraqi Nuclear Material


by Steve

You had to know that it hurt Rummy and Uncle Dick to be forced to admit that they have screwed up the custody of Saddam’s radioactive material so bad that we have to allow the IAEA back into Iraq. Although Rummy and Uncle Dick may not want the IAEA back into Iraq to confirm that there were no WMDs posing an imminent threat, they have no choice on the matter of radioactive material. Existing international covenants govern Iraqi behavior and their inventory here, and when we invaded and took over, we became responsible for Hussein’s inventory.

We promptly botched it.

It appears that we cannot account for some of the radioactive material, which was carried off by looters or worse, people who will know what to do with it. Even worse, we told the IAEA we had the situation under control, which was a lie.

The United States has started discussions with the International Atomic Energy Agency to make arrangements for IAEA teams to return to Iraq to determine what may have been stolen from nuclear sites, a State Department official said yesterday.

The negotiations apparently began one day after IAEA General Secretary Mohamed ElBaradei issued a statement saying he was concerned that "nuclear and radioactive materials may no longer be under control" in Iraq, particularly at the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center 30 miles south of Baghdad. Radioactive materials were stored at the site under IAEA supervision before the war.

ElBaradei sent the U.S. government a letter on April 10, a day after the collapse of the Iraqi government, warning about the need to secure the site. The site was at the top of an IAEA list of nuclear sites in Iraq requiring protection.

An IAEA spokesman said ElBaradei was assured at the time by an official at the United States' U.N. mission in Vienna that the site had been secured.

So why would El Baradei trust us ever again on anything?

In Iraq, however, a U.S. Marine engineering company a few days earlier had found the site abandoned and reported that looters were already at the facility. On April 10, a U.S. Army unit arrived and measured radiation levels that made storage buildings too hazardous to enter. Videotape of the site showed wrecked offices and storage drums that once contained either uranium oxide or low-enriched uranium. The Army group withdrew from the IAEA area of Tuwaitha after being told it should not break the agency's sealed containers.

On April 29, ElBaradei sent another letter to the U.S. government expressing his concern after news accounts of looting at Tuwaitha. The IAEA spokesman said yesterday that the IAEA teams that were being prepared to return to Iraq were trained to not only examine what remains at the site and what is missing, but also to try to determine where the missing items went.

If El Baradei and his folks find out that material is missing and presumed lost to those who can do the world harm, it will fall squarely on Rummy’s head. He won’t be able to duck this one.

Steve :: 10:38 PM :: Comments (5) :: Digg It!