THE FIRST two days of last January's U.S. air war against Iraq aimed especially at obliterating Saddam Hussein's programs to develop nuclear, chemical and biological warfare weapons, the most feared parts of his arsenal. The Pentagon counted this effort a success. But now, unexpectedly, come ominous indications that some nuclear facilities may have escaped detection and attack.
An Iraqi nuclear scientist who recently defected to American forces in northern Iraq says that a number of secret nuclear sites remain, housing among other things about 88 pounds of weapons-quality nuclear material whose existence Iraq has failed report to the United Nations. That's enough material to arm two bombs about the size of the weapon that was dropped on Nagasaki in 1945.
Hussein's game is clear: delay, deny, conceal and obfuscate, in the hope that eventually the U.N. special commission and the Security Council will buy Iraq's story that everything that was supposed to have been revealed has been revealed. At worst, this tactic will postpone an easing of the sanctions, prolonging the hardships on Iraqis but probably not jeopardizing the survival of a regime that seems to have reconsolidated its grip on power. At best, it could allow Iraq to go on surreptitiously producing and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.