- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Saddam Hussein asked his weapons specialists about a timeline to restart production of deadly chemical weapons and the potential to have a fleet of bomb-laden boats to attack American ships in the Persian Gulf, a CIA report says.

The report from Charles Duelfer, the CIA’s chief weapons inspector for Iraq, shows Saddam consistently looked for ways to violate United Nations’ weapons prohibitions before the March 2003 invasion that knocked him from power.

Mr. Duelfer’s Iraq Survey Group found no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, despite intelligence reports before the war that Saddam still possessed the arsenal, as he did in the early 1990s. The inspector this week filed an addendum to his final report of last year.

Anecdotes about the dictator’s weapons ambitions came principally from three senior defense ministry officials who are incarcerated in Iraq. The most talkative, the report indicates, was Abduallah al Mullah Huwaysh, a key defense industry official from 1997 until the fall of Baghdad in April 2003.

“Huwaysh recalled that Saddam approached him immediately following a ministers’ meeting to ask how long it would take to restart production of chemical agents,” the report says. Huwaysh told Saddam in 2001 that Iraq could make mustard gas almost immediately, but two other deadly agents previously produced by Iraq, VX and sarin, would take much longer.

Huwaysh said that a year later Saddam inquired again, asking “Do you have any programs going on that I don’t know about?” He told investigators Saddam was increasingly worried about his declining conventional forces and feared an attack from Iran. Saddam’s forces used chemical weapons to kill thousands of Iranians in the 1980s.

Huwaysh said that as far as he could determine no element of the regime had restarted production of weapons of mass destruction before the 2003 invasion.

He told of another conversation with Saddam in 2002 when the leader ordered Huwaysh to begin production of a ballistic missile that could travel more than 300 miles and be able to hit targets in Israel and Iran.

Such a weapon would be in violation of U.N. cease-fire resolutions. Saddam also said he had decided not to let U.N. weapons inspectors re-enter the country, after thwarting their efforts in 1998. His move led to President Clinton’s ordering the bombing of Iraq for four days in Operation Desert Fox.

“To avoid disclosure of this program, Saddam ordered that no written documentation and no phone calls were allowed,” the Duelfer report states. “By early 2002, Saddam was convinced support for sanctions was eroding and they would soon disappear irrespective of what happened with Iraqi missile programs.”

In 1997, Saddam ordered the establishment of a secretive arms developing unit called the 28 Nisan Group. One task was to develop eavesdropping equipment. Another was to build remotely controlled, explosives-laden boats that would target U.S. shipping in the Gulf. Saddam agreed to cancel the program after his intelligence chief said meeting the goal was impossible.

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