Syria’s President Bashir al-Asad is in secret negotiations with Iran to secure a safe haven for a group of Iraqi nuclear scientists who were sent to Damascus before last year’s war to overthrow Saddam Hussein.
Western intelligence officials believe that President Asad is desperate to get the Iraqi scientists out of his country before their presence prompts America to target Syria as part of the war on terrorism.
. . . Under the terms of the deal President Asad offered the Iranians, the Iraqi scientists and their families would be transferred to Teheran together with a small amount of essential materials. The Iraqi team would then assist Iranian scientists to develop a nuclear weapon.
Read also Saddam, the Bomb and Me, by the head of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear centrifuge program.
Another factor in the mothballing of the program was that Saddam Hussein was profiting handsomely from the United Nations oil-for-food program, building palaces around the country with the money he skimmed. I think he didn’t want to risk losing this revenue stream by trying to restart a secret weapons program.
Iraqi scientists had the knowledge and the designs needed to jumpstart the program if necessary. And there is no question that we could have done so very quickly. In the late 1980’s, we put together the most efficient covert nuclear program the world has ever seen. In about three years, we gained the ability to enrich uranium and nearly become a nuclear threat; we built an effective centrifuge from scratch, even though we started with no knowledge of centrifuge technology. Had Saddam Hussein ordered it and the world looked the other way, we might have shaved months if not years off our previous efforts