Last updated on: 1/23/2009 5:19:00 AM PST
Did Saddam Hussein try to acquire uranium yellowcake or aluminum tubes for the purpose of developing nuclear weapons?
General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission stated in its "Fact Sheet on Uranium Enrichment" (accessed Feb. 6, 2007):
"The uranium fuel cycle begins by mining and milling uranium ore to produce 'yellow cake,' which is then converted into uranium hexafluoride (UF6). The UF6 is then enriched before being made into nuclear fuel. Throughout the global nuclear industry, uranium is enriched by one of two methods: gaseous diffusion and gas centrifuge...The gas centrifuge process has been widely used in Europe for about 30 years to enrich uranium for the commercial nuclear power market. The process uses a large number of rotating cylinders [aluminum tubes] interconnected to form cascades..."
Feb. 6, 2007 - Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
George W. Bush, MBA, 43rd US President, stated in his Jan. 28, 2003 "State of the Union" address:
"The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb.The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide."
Jan. 28, 2003 - George W. Bush, MBA
The Privy Council, United Kingdom, stated in its July 14, 2004 report titled "Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction," also known as the "Butler Report":
"We conclude that, on the basis of the intelligence assessments at the time, covering both Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the statements on Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa in the Government’s dossier, and by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, were well-founded. By extension, we conclude also that the statement in President Bush’s State of the Union Address of 28 January 2003 that:
'The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.'
July 14, 2004 - Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction (Butler Report) (1 MB)
Privy Council Office (PCO), United Kingdom
Dr. Khidir Hamza, former Director General of the Iraq Atomic Energy Commission, on Sep. 19, 2002 told the US House Armed Services Committee:
"The nuclear weapons program is now almost complete waiting for the enrichment sector, which makes 90% of the program to finish its job and put together a working production facility...
The recent announcement of interception of large orders for aluminum cylinders indicate that the process of putting together large enough units for full production is not complete yet. At the same time it also indicates that Iraq has already bypassed the initial testing and possibly pilot plant stage.
Also Iraq always uses duplicate sourcing of materials and supplies which may mean that it is already in possession of enough materials for a small scale production facility.My estimate is that Iraq may be in actual production in two years with enough accumulated product for two to three nuclear weapons in three years. The problem however remains that we are dealing with a series of indicators but no first hand witness."
Sep. 19, 2002 - Khidhir Hamza, PhD
Colin Powell, MBA, US Secretary of State at the time of the quote, stated in his Feb. 5, 2003 address to the United Nations Security Council:
"Saddam Hussein is determined to get his hands on a nuclear bomb. He is so determined that he has made repeated covert attempts to acquire high-specification aluminum tubes from 11 different countries, even after inspections resumed.
These tubes are controlled by the Nuclear Suppliers Group precisely because they can be used as centrifuges for enriching uranium. By now, just about everyone has heard of these tubes, and we all know that there are differences of opinion. There is controversy about what these tubes are for.
Most U.S. experts think they are intended to serve as rotors in centrifuges used to enrich uranium. Other experts, and the Iraqis themselves, argue that they are really to produce the rocket bodies for a conventional weapon, a multiple rocket launcher.Let me tell you what is not controversial about these tubes. First, all the experts who have analyzed the tubes in our possession agree that they can be adapted for centrifuge use. Second, Iraq had no business buying them for any purpose. They are banned for Iraq."
Feb. 5, 2003 - Colin Powell, MBA
The US Department of State stated in its Dec. 13, 2002 publication "Iraq: From Fear to Freedom":
"During 2001 and 2002, Baghdad has sought to buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes that most intelligence experts believe are intended as components of centrifuges to enrich uranium."
Dec. 13, 2002 - US Department of State
Joseph Wilson, former US Ambassador, stated in his July 6, 2003 Op-Ed article in the New York Times titled "What I Didn't Find in Africa":
"In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report. While I never saw the report, I was told that it referred to a memorandum of agreement that documented the sale of uranium yellowcake — a form of lightly processed ore — by Niger to Iraq in the late 1990's. The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response to the vice president's office...
I spent the next eight days drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people: current government officials, former government officials, people associated with the country's uranium business. It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place...
Those are the facts surrounding my efforts. The vice president's office asked a serious question. I was asked to help formulate the answer. I did so, and I have every confidence that the answer I provided was circulated to the appropriate officials within our government.The question now is how that answer was or was not used by our political leadership. If my information was deemed inaccurate, I understand (though I would be very interested to know why). If, however, the information was ignored because it did not fit certain preconceptions about Iraq, then a legitimate argument can be made that we went to war under false pretenses."
July 6, 2003 - Joseph Wilson
Charles Duelfer, MSc, Special Advisor to the Director of Central Intelligence on Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction, stated in the Sep. 30, 2003 Iraq Survey Groups' (ISG) comprehensive report:
"Postwar interviews included prominent figures from Iraq’s pre-1991 centrifuge effort, including its director, the project manager for rotor manufacture, other former staff, as well as the head of the overall nuclear weapons program. ISG also interviewed numerous officials directly involved in the 81-mm rocket effort and Iraq’s Military Industrialization Commission (MIC). None of these officials admitted to any intended end use of the tubes beyond rockets...
Efforts to press the Iraqis on other inconsistencies in individual recollections on history, production, questionable engineering practices, or accomplishments also did not produce statements to link the tubes to any effort other than 81-mm rockets."
Mohamed ElBaradei, JSD, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), stated in his Jan. 27, 2003 report to the United Nations Security Council in New York:
"A particular issue of focus has been the attempted procurement by Iraq of high strength aluminium tubes, and the question of whether these tubes, if acquired, could be used for the manufacture of nuclear centrifuges. Iraqi authorities have indicated that their unsuccessful attempts to procure the aluminium tubes related to a programme to reverse engineer conventional rockets.To verify this information, IAEA inspectors have inspected the relevant rocket production and storage sites, taken tube samples, interviews relevant Iraqi personnel, and reviewed procurement contracts and related documents. From our analysis to date it appears that the aluminium tubes would be consistent with the purpose stated by Iraq and, unless modified, would not be suitable for manufacturing centrifuges; however, we are still investigating the issue."
Jan. 27, 2003 - Mohamed ElBaradei, JSD
David Albright, MS, former Nuclear Weapons Inspector in Iraq in 1990 and current President of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), stated in his Mar. 10, 2003 article titled "The CIA's Aluminum Tubes' Assessment: Is the Nuclear Case Going Down the Tubes?":
"Some of the characteristics of the tubes are compatible with a centrifuge use, but all of the characteristics fit a use in a rocket that Iraq was producing indigenously.
The tubes' length, wall thickness, and diameter in particular are consistent with a use in this rocket. Although these tubes could be used as a centrifuge rotor if they were cut, the resulting tube would result in a poor quality centrifuge. Its relatively small diameter and thick walls could create new and potentially significant problems that the Iraqis would need to overcome.
An IAEA team of centrifuge experts, quoted by ElBaradei in his report to the Security Council, went further, concluding that "it was highly unlikely that Iraq could have achieved the considerable redesign needed to use [the tubes] in a revived centrifuge" program. In addition, no one has ever built large numbers of Beams' centrifuges or produced significant amounts of enriched uranium in a cascade of such machines."
Mar. 10, 2003 - David Albright, MS