Iraq's Nuclear Shell Game

June 19, 1991

The disclosure that Iraq lied to the U. N. Security Council about its nuclear and chemical weapons stocks should, by now, be no surprise at all. Iraq told the world it would not attack Kuwait, then attacked. U. S. forces, aided by Western and Arab troops, evicted Iraq from Kuwait but stopped short of dismantling its forces or its government.

Also not surprising is the behavior of Iraq's government, which in cold blood gassed people it claimed as citizens in the northern Kurdish towns at the close of the Iran-Iraq war, then launched new mechanized attacks on the Kurds as the dust of Desert Storm settled. What is surprising is that anyone in authority in the United States or the United Nations expected anything other than duplicity, evasions and attempts to mislead from an Iraqi government obviously determined to regain ascendancy in the volatile Mideast region.

That determination is matched by the expressed will of the Security Council to put an end to the threats Iraq has directed at its neighbors. Thus, International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors have placed under tamper-proof seal the remnants of the 45 kilos of enriched uranium Iraq said it stocked, the remainder of which allegedly lies under tons of rubble from American bombing. Thus, agency inspectors did not accept Iraqi blandishments about the limited amount of chemical weapons and missiles Iraq claimed to own April 18, and have prodded Iraq to surrender substantially more.

The allegations by an Iraqi scientist that Iraq has still more nuclear material, up to 40 kilos of enriched uranium, must be investigated with utmost care. International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors did note, after arrival at Tarmiya, a nuclear site north of Baghdad, that the plant appeared to have been hurriedly stripped before they got there. Iraq, which cavalierly launched a major war and deliberately caused an environmental disaster rather than relinquish its claims on its neighbors, cannot be allowed to build up a nuclear stockpile.

Finally, the behavior of those nations that supported Iraq at the United Nations and continue to complain about the Security Council sanctions must now be questioned. Denouncing the superpowers' nuclear arsenals as immoral has developed into a fine old game in the Third World, but when the nations doing the denouncing seek to develop or steal such weapons, or sit quietly by while others do so, it drains legitimacy from their claims. Nuclear immorality is the same in anyone's arsenal, Third World as well as First.

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