Saddam's Biological Arsenal
Could Kill Tens Of Millions

By Martin Sieff
The Washington Times
Seven years after Iraq was forced to accept international inspections at the end of the Gulf war, President Saddam Hussein appears more confident than ever that his arsenal of chemical and biological weapons will keep him safe.
Armed with enough power to kill tens of millions of people, analysts say, it is just a matter of time until he provokes another crisis by trying to disrupt the work of U.N. weapons inspectors.
Even before the U.N. Security Council this week renewed its economic sanctions on Iraq for another six months, Saddam was issuing veiled warnings that he might retaliate against the countries that voted in favor.
Iraq's ruling Revolutionary Command Council and its Ba'ath party leadership warned April 16 that any countries that maintained the economic embargo "will carry the burden of the previous crises as well as the crises to come and for any harm inflicted on our people."
Laurie Mylroie, a biographer of the Iraqi leader, said, "Minimally, Saddam seems to be planning another challenge, akin to the two that have already occurred" in October 1997 and January 1998.
"Saddam has benefited for provoking each of the past two crises, while he has suffered no penalty. Why shouldn't he provoke a third?"
Saddam's confidence, experts said, comes from two sources: his increasingly accurate reading of U.S. and Western responses to his actions and his apparent belief that he can inflict devastating casualties on those who oppose him.
"The Clinton administration's biggest problem in dealing with Saddam has been that it makes threats to inflict serious damage upon him and then doesn't follow through on them," said Dov S. Zakheim of the Center for Strategic and and International Studies, former deputy undersecretary of defense in the Reagan administration.
"Saddam's calculations are different from those of most of us," said Miss Mylroie, of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia. "He has a rare understanding of how to use force and violence in political affairs. Thus, he surprises. And he sees weakness in Washington."
Iraq has enough deadly biological agents to kill every human being on earth, according to a Feb. 4 report by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the British government.
Baghdad also has the capability to inflict devastating attacks of incurable anthrax and other diseases on U.S. military personnel in the Gulf region, according to U.S. military intelligence assessments.
On March 3, the Pentagon announced an accelerated anthrax vaccination program for U.S. military personnel serving in the Gulf.
At a press conference, Lt. Gen. Ronald Blancke, the Army surgeon general, said nothing could be done for the victims of an anthrax attack once they showed symptoms.
Officials of the U.N. Special Commission (Unscom), which is charged with finding and destroying Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, say Iraq bought 39 tons of growth medium, the basic compound needed for biological agents, before 1990. Each ton can yield 10 tons of biological agent.
Seventeen of these 39 tons --enough to kill 50 million to 60 million people -- are still unaccounted for, Rolf Ekeus, then Unscom chief, told a meeting at the Carnegie Institute on Ethics and Social Responsibility in 1996.
Anthrax, a virus that causes hemorrhaging in the lungs and is almost invariably fatal to human and animal life, has never been used in war.
Some experts believe Iraq has the devastating option of unleashing deadly plague viruses covertly on the U.S. civilian population while retaining a plausible deniability that it had done so.
It is ironic that U.S. policy-makers face this dilemma only seven years after one of the most low-casualty and successful military campaigns in history, the 1991 Gulf war.
But a series of miscalculations by both the Bush and Clinton administrations allowed Saddam's regime to survive after the war.
"There is now pretty much of a consensus that we should have destroyed the Republican Guard [Saddam's elite units] in the Gulf war," said Mr. Zakheim.
Both the Bush and Clinton administrations also allowed Iraq to retain a major biological weapons potential and the infrastructure to rapidly expand it because they didn't realize how much was there in the first place, said Patrick Clawson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
"In retrospect, it would appear that we badly underestimated the progress Iraq had made on these programs," Mr. Clawson said.
The full extent of the Iraqi program was revealed in August 1995 when Gen. Hussein Kamel al-Majid, Saddam's son-in-law, defected to Jordan with his family, bringing enormous quantities of top-secret documents with him.
That information, later verified by Unscom investigators, shocked U.N. arms inspectors and U.S. government experts. They revealed that by the time of the Gulf war, the Iraqi biological and chemical weapons production programs were far more advanced than U.S. policy-makers had dreamed possible.
Gen. Kamel's papers, and revelations by other Iraqi defectors, also showed that the month-long U.S.-led air bombardment of Iraq at the beginning of the Gulf war had not destroyed a single SCUD missile, and that Iraq still had at least 45 of them.
Neither Bush nor Clinton policy-makers appear to have understood the ease with which biological weapons can be developed.
"Any country that can make pesticides can make weapons of mass destruction," said military analyst John Hillen of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Mr. Clawson agreed, saying, "Iraq's biological and chemical programs can be restarted relatively quickly. Much of the switchover required in conventional factories and laboratories to prepare for work on them can be done very, very quickly," he said.

Sightings HomePage