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Policy

Hunt Ends For Iraq's Weapons

U.S. inspector says search "has gone as far as feasible"

by LOIS EMBER
May 2, 2005 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 83, ISSUE 18

IRAQ SURVEY GROUP

Duelfer
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Credit: PHOTO BY CHUCK KENNEDY/NEWSCOM
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Credit: PHOTO BY CHUCK KENNEDY/NEWSCOM

Chief U.S. weapons inspector Charles A. Duelfer has wrapped up a two-year hunt for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and he concludes that United Nations sanctions and inspections imposed in 1991 had essentially checked Iraq's weapons aspirations. His Central Intelligence Agency-sponsored Iraq Survey Group (ISG) officially disbanded earlier this month.

In a recently released note and an addendum to an ISG report issued last fall, which is available at www.cia.gov, Duelfer writes: "The WMD investigation has gone as far as feasible." He argues for the release of those detained weapons scientists and engineers who cooperated with ISG.

Duelfer admits to the small risk that these scientists might share their skills with neighboring countries or terrorists, but he suggests their expertise has dwindled considerably since the end of the 1991 Gulf War. During debriefings, they confirmed that Iraq had used the nerve gas VX against Iran during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s and against the Shia uprising in Karbala, Iraq, after the 1991 war, he writes.

The addendum notes that an Iraqi scientist helped insurgents build chemical mortars. However, Duelfer's predecessor, David A. Kay, says this was "probably bathtub mustard agent, which is not very effective but is easy to produce."

If kept under government control, Iraq's chemical and biological infrastructure "does not pose a proliferation concern," nor do its remaining dual-use nuclear materials and equipment. Any future surprise, Duelfer writes, is likely to be in the biological weapons area "since the signature and facilities for these efforts are small compared to the other WMD types."

Remaining unresolved is whether Iraq moved weapons and WMD materials to Syria before the 2003 war. ISG believes it unlikely that official transfers occurred but couldn't rule out "unofficial movement of limited material."

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