-- Of all Iraq's rocket scientists, none drew
warier scrutiny abroad than Modher Sadeq-Saba
engineering PhD known for outsized energy
and gifts, Tamimi, 47, designed and built
a new short-range missile during Iraq's four-year
hiatus from United Nations arms inspections.
Inspectors who returned in late 2002, enforcing
Security Council limits, ruled that the Al
Samoud missile's range was not quite short
enough. The U.N. team crushed the missiles,
bulldozed them into a pit and entombed the
wreckage in concrete. In one of three interviews
last month, Tamimi said "it was as if they
were killing my sons."
Tamimi had other brainchildren, and these
stayed secret. Concealed at some remove from
his Karama Co. factory here were concept drawings
and computations for a family of much more
capable missiles, designed to share parts
and features with the openly declared Al Samoud.
The largest was meant to fly six times as
was hidden during the UNMOVIC visits," Tamimi
said, referring to inspectors from the U.N.
Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission.
Over a leisurely meal of lamb and sweet tea,
he sketched diagrams. "It was forbidden for
us to reveal this information," he said.
covert work, which he recounted publicly for
the first time in five hours of interviews,
offers fresh perspective on the question that
led the nation to war. Iraq flouted a legal
duty to report the designs. The weapons they
depicted, however, did not exist. After years
of development -- against significant obstacles
-- they might have taken form as nine-ton
missiles. In March they fit in Tamimi's pocket,
on two digital compact discs.
nine-month record of arms investigators since
the fall of Baghdad includes discoveries of
other concealed arms research, most of it
less advanced. Iraq's former government engaged
in abundant deception about its ambitions
and, in some cases, early steps to prepare
for development or production. Interviews
here -- among Iraqi weaponeers and investigators
from the U.S. and British governments -- turned
up unreported records, facilities or materials
that could have been used in unlawful weapons.
investigators have found no support for the
two main fears expressed in London and Washington
before the war: that Iraq had a hidden arsenal
of old weapons and built advanced programs
for new ones. In public statements and unauthorized
interviews, investigators said they have discovered
no work on former germ-warfare agents such
as anthrax bacteria, and no work on a new
designer pathogen -- combining pox virus and
snake venom -- that led U.S. scientists on
a highly classified hunt for several months.
The investigators assess that Iraq did not,
as charged in London and Washington, resume
production of its most lethal nerve agent,
VX, or learn to make it last longer in storage.
And they have found the former nuclear weapons
program, described as a "grave and gathering
danger" by President Bush and a "mortal threat"
by Vice President Cheney, in much the same
shattered state left by U.N. inspectors in
review of available evidence, including some
not known to coalition investigators and some
they have not made public, portrays a nonconventional
arms establishment that was far less capable
than U.S. analysts judged before the war.
Leading figures in Iraqi science and industry,
supported by observations on the ground, described
factories and institutes that were thoroughly
beaten down by 12 years of conflict, arms
embargo and strangling economic sanctions.
The remnants of Iraq's biological, chemical
and missile infrastructures were riven by
internal strife, bled by schemes for personal
gain and handicapped by deceit up and down
lines of command. The broad picture emerging
from the investigation to date suggests that,
whatever its desire, Iraq did not possess
the wherewithal to build a forbidden armory
on anything like the scale it had before the
1991 Persian Gulf War.
Kay, who directs the weapons hunt on behalf
of the Bush administration, reported no discoveries
last year of finished weapons, bulk agents
or ready-to-start production lines. Members
of his Iraq Survey Group, in unauthorized
interviews, said the group holds out little
prospect now of such a find. Kay and his spokesman,
who report to Director of Central Intelligence
George J. Tenet, declined to be interviewed.
Dec. 13, as a reporter waited to see the dean
of Baghdad University's College of Science,
two poker-faced men strode into the anteroom.
One was an ex-Marine named Dan, clad in civilian
clothes, body armor, a checkered Arab scarf
and a bandolier of eight spare magazines for
his M-16 rifle. The other identified himself
to the receptionist only as Barry.
asked to see the dean, Abdel Mehdi Taleb,
immediately. Dan preceded Barry into Taleb's
office, weapon ready, then stood sentry outside.
to Taleb, Barry asked -- once again -- about
the work of immunologist Alice Krikor Melconian.
For months, Taleb said, the Americans had
sent scientists and intelligence officers
to investigate the compact, curly-haired chairman
of the university's biotechnology department.
Iraqi scientists said U.S. investigators asserted
they have reason to believe Melconian ran
a covert research facility, location unknown.
In July, colleagues said, Melconian emerged
from her office with a burly American on each
arm and was placed into the back seat of a
car with darkened windows. U.S. investigators
held her for 10 days in an open-air cell and
then released her.
by associates as shaken by her arrest, Melconian
said she has done no weapons research and
knows of no secret labs. "I have never left
the university," she said. "I have nothing
more to say about this. I do not want to make
any more trouble."
others on campus, and at a few elite institutes
elsewhere, Melconian remains under scrutiny
in part because investigators deem her capable
of doing dangerous biological research. Investigators
said they are casting a wide net at Iraq's
"centers of scientific excellence" in an effort
to confirm intelligence that is fragmentary
and often lacks essential particulars.
Iraq Survey Group, which has numbered up to
1,400 personnel from the Defense Department,
Energy Department national laboratories and
intelligence agencies, is looking for biological
weapons far more dangerous than those of Iraq's
former arsenal. A U.S. National Intelligence
Estimate, published in October 2002, said
"chances are even" that Iraqi weaponeers were
working with smallpox, one of history's mass
killers. It also said Iraq "probably has developed
genetically engineered BW agents."
the Associated Press first reported, a scientific
assessment panel known as Team Pox returned
home in late July without finding reason to
believe Iraq possessed the variola virus,
which causes smallpox. Even so, interviews
with Iraqi scientists led to a redoubled search
for work on animal poxes, harmless to humans
but potentially useful as substitutes for
smallpox in weapons research.
Taha, the British-educated biologist known
in the west as Dr. Germ, has generally been
described by U.S. officials as uncooperative
in custody since May 12. But according to
one well-informed account of her debriefing,
she acknowledged receiving an order from superiors
in 1990 to develop a biological weapon based
on a virus. That same year, a virologist who
worked for her, Hazem Ali, commenced research
truthful and correctly recounted, Taha's statement
exposed a long-standing lie. Iraq's government
denied offensive viral research. One analyst
familiar with the debriefing report, declining
to be identified by name or nationality, said
investigators believe that Taha's remarks
demonstrate an intent to use smallpox, since
camelpox resembles no other human pathogen.
that from the lips of the people involved
is kind of like that MasterCard commercial:
'Priceless,' " the analyst said.
is no corresponding record, however, that
Iraq had the capability or made the effort
to carry out such an intent.
according to the same debriefing account,
said Iraq had no access to smallpox. Ali's
research halted after 45 days, with the August
1990 outbreak of war in Kuwait, and did not
resume. And Taha, like all those in custody,
continues to assert that biowar programs ceased
entirely the following year.
alarming even than Taha's statement, investigators
said, were highly classified indications that
Iraq sought to produce a genetically altered
virus. Australian scientists reported in 2001
that an apparently innocent change in mousepox
DNA transformed the virus into a rampant killer
of mice. Investigators spent months probing
for evidence that Iraq sought to master the
technique, then apply it to vaccinia -- a
readily available virus used to inoculate
against smallpox -- and finally to smallpox
group scientists discovered no sign of pox
research save at the Baghdad College of Veterinary
Medicine, which declared the work to U.N.
inspectors in 2002. Researchers there were
manipulating the viruses that cause goatpox
and sheeppox, in well-documented efforts to
develop vaccines. U.S. investigators arrested
Antoine Banna, the Cornell-trained dean, but
soon released him. Much the same result followed
a probe of avian virus research at the Ghazi
was legitimate research, but if they wanted
to swing the other way they had some of the
wherewithal to do that," said an analyst apprised
of the results.
investigators paid a call on Noria Ali, a
genetic engineer who wears the head cover
and long robes of an observant Muslim, "they
said they knew there was [genetic] research
on these viruses, and we had secret labs for
this work," Ali said.
acknowledged a history that attracted suspicion.
In 1990, she said, Rihab Taha ordered her
to build a genetic engineering lab at Iraq's
principal bioweapons research center. The
Special Security Organization warned her that
"any person who talks about his work will
be executed," Ali said. But Iraq's invasion
of Kuwait left the lab unfinished, an account
confirmed by U.S. and European experts.
could have done a lot in this lab, but the
fact is that this lab never existed," Ali
survey group's most exotic line of investigation
sought evidence that Iraq tried to create
a pathogen combining pox virus with cobra
venom. A 1986 study in the Journal of Microbiology
reported that fowlpox spread faster and killed
more chickens in the presence of venom extract.
Investigators received a secondhand report
that Iraq sought to splice them together.
an artificial life form -- created by inserting
genetic sequences from one organism into another
-- is called a "chimera," after the fire-breathing
monster of Greek mythology commingling lion,
serpent and goat.
have asked about developing some kind of chimera,
a pox with snake-venom gene," said Ali Zaag,
dean of the university's Institute for Biotechnology.
"You have seen our labs. For us, these capabilities
are science fiction."
also searched for what one of them termed
"starter sets" of pathogens, laboratory samples
that could be used for later production. For
each suspected weapon, the investigators carried
a supply of "labeled antibodies," a classified
technology used in field kits that resemble
home pregnancy tests. "We didn't find anything,
so certainly not anything engineered," a coalition
Pox, as the group of investigators dubbed
itself, eventually dropped the chimera investigation.
got to learn to walk before you start running,"
said a European government scientist who studied
Iraq's biological programs last year. "The
evidence we have about the virus program is
they hadn't started to walk yet."
Zaag said, the chimera hunt resumed. This
time the investigators are intelligence officers.
Their approach, Zaag said, is "We'll give
you a few more days to reveal something, and
then we'll have to take you." Spokesmen for
the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency
declined requests for interviews.
'the Traitor' Knew
last month, fresh evidence emerged on a very
old question about Iraq's illegal arms: Did
the Baghdad government, as it said, rid itself
of all the biological arms it produced before
1991? The answer matters, because the Bush
administration's most concrete prewar assertions
about Iraqi germ weapons referred to stocks
allegedly hidden from that old arsenal.
new evidence appears to be a contemporary
record, from inside the Iraqi government,
of a pivotal moment in Baghdad's long struggle
to shield arms programs from outside scrutiny.
The document, written just after the defection
of Saddam Hussein's son-in-law on Aug. 8,
1995, anticipates the collapse of cover stories
for weapons that had yet to be disclosed.
Read alongside subsequent discoveries made
by U.N. inspectors, the document supports
Iraq's claim that it destroyed all production
stocks of lethal pathogens before inspectors
knew they existed.
defection of Hussein Kamel was a turning point
in the U.N.-imposed disarmament of Iraq in
the 1990s. Kamel, who had married one of Saddam
Hussein's daughters, Raghad, and controlled
Baghdad's Military Industrial Commission,
told his Western debriefers about major programs
in biological and nuclear weaponry that had
gone undetected or unconfirmed. Iraq was forced
to acknowledge what he exposed, but neither
inspectors nor U.S. officials were sure Kamel
had told all there was to tell.
handwritten Iraqi damage report, composed
five days after the defection, now suggests
that Kamel left little or nothing out.
author is Hossam Amin, then -- and until his
April 27 arrest -- the head of Iraq's National
Monitoring Directorate. As liaison to the
inspectors he provided information and logistical
support, but he also concealed the government's
Taha Mahmoud, who was private secretary to
Amin in 1995, said in an interview that Amin
flew into a rage when he learned Kamel had
slipped across the border to Jordan. "It was
as if he was hit with a hammer," Mahmoud said.
days later, Amin dispatched a six-page letter
to the president's son Qusay.
person who provided a copy to The Washington
Post had postwar access to the presidential
office where he said he found the original.
Iraqis who know Amin well and experienced
government investigators from the United States
and Europe, who analyzed the document for
this article, said they believe it to be authentic.
They cited handwriting, syntax, contemporary
details and annotations that match those of
previous samples. Markings on the letter say
that Qusay read it, summarized it for his
father and filed it with presidential secretary
Abed Hamid Mahmoud.
before his "sudden and regrettable flight
and surrender to the bosom of the enemy,"
Amin wrote, "the traitor Hussein Kamel" received
a detailed briefing on "the points of weakness
and the points of strength" in Iraq's concealment
then listed, in numbered points, "the matters
that are known to the traitor and not declared"
to U.N. inspectors.
knew Iraq tried to enrich uranium for a nuclear
weapon, but not, Amin wrote, about the "crash
program" to fabricate a bomb with French reactor
fuel by 1991. They knew Iraq made biological
toxins, but not that it put them in Scud missile
warheads. There were major facilities -- Dawrah
Foot and Mouth Disease Institute, a centrifuge
factory in Rashdiya, and the Al Atheer bomb-fabrication
plant -- whose true purposes were unacknowledged
after Amin sent the letter, Kamel's debriefings
and subsequent inspections exposed every item
in Amin's catalogue.
now, Kamel's debriefers suspected that "maybe
he decided to keep something for himself,"
said Ali Shukri, a Jordanian military officer
who debriefed Kamel on behalf of the late
King Hussein, speaking in an interview in
Amman. After reading Amin's letter in silence
and then rereading it, Shukri looked up and
said Kamel had held back nothing.
most significant point in Amin's letter, U.S.
and European experts said, is his unambiguous
report that Iraq destroyed its entire inventory
of biological weapons. Amin reminded Qusay
Hussein of the government's claim that it
possessed no such arms after 1990, then wrote
that in truth "destruction of the biological
weapons agents took place in the summer of
was those weapons to which Secretary of State
Colin L. Powell referred in the Security Council
on Feb. 5 when he said, for example, that
Iraq still had an estimated 8,500 to 25,000
liters of anthrax bacteria.
things Amin's letter did not say may also
be meaningful. If Iraq had succeeded in spray-drying
anthrax spores to extend their life and lethality,
that would have been among the most important
secrets of its wide-ranging weapons program.
The letter did not speak of it. The letter
also enumerated Baghdad's nuclear secrets,
but mentioned nothing to suggest Iraq manufactured
unknown parts of an "implosion device" to
was only one important thing, Amin said, that
Hussein Kamel did not know: some of the locations
where Iraq hid its library of arms research.
That supports long-standing suspicions that
Iraq held back portions of a knowledge base
that could speed revival of development and
production one day.
U.S. intelligence official, who was provided
with a copy of Amin's letter for comment,
said the government would not discuss it in
detail. He said an initial check of records
"suggests that we have not previously seen
the letter." Without the original and an account
of its origins, he said, government analysts
"cannot verify the authenticity of the letter."
He added, "It is plausible and, from a quick
scan of it, presents no immediate surprises."
Anwar Masraf, an affable project engineer,
made an appointment last summer to see an
investigator from David Kay's survey group.
He had information, he said in an interview,
that might help the Americans interpret two
trailer-mounted production plants found near
Mosul in April and May.
waited more than one hour in the Palestine
Hotel," Masraf said. "He did not show up."
watched with curiosity, in coming months,
as the Bush administration touted its discovery
of mobile germ-weapon factories.
joint study released May 28 by the CIA and
Defense Intelligence Agency called the trailers
"the strongest evidence to date that Iraq
was hiding a biological warfare program."
Two days later, in Poland, President Bush
announced: "For those who say we haven't found
the banned manufacturing devices or banned
weapons, they're wrong. We found them."
Iraqi engineers told investigators that the
discovered trailers were meant for hydrogen,
the CIA dismissed the "cover story."
July, with contrary evidence piling up, Kay
described the trailer episode as a "fiasco."
He told BBC Television, which broadcast the
tape Nov. 23: "I think it was premature and
so, Kay's October report to Congress left
the question unresolved. Kay said he could
not corroborate a mobile germ factory, but
he restated the CIA argument that the trailers
were not "ideally suited" for hydrogen.
Masraf found Kay's investigator at the Palestine
Hotel, he said he would have explained that
Iraq actually used such trailers to generate
hydrogen during the eight-year war with Iran.
Masraf and his former supervisor at the Saad
Co. said Masraf managed a contract to refurbish
some of the units beginning in 1997.
to the two men, Iraq bought mobile hydrogen
generators from Britain in 1982 and mounted
them on trucks. The Republican Guard used
one type, Iraq's 2nd Army Corps another.
artillery units relied on hydrogen-filled
weather balloons to measure wind and temperature,
which affect targeting. Munqith Qaisi, then
a senior manager at Saad Co. and now its American-appointed
director-general, said the trailers used a
chemical -- not biological -- process to make
hydrogen from methanol and demineralized water.
feature that analysts found most suspicious
in May -- the compression and recapture of
exhaust gases -- is a necessity, Masraf said,
when gas is the intended product.
the late 1990s, the Republican Guard sent
some of its trailers for refurbishment at
the Kindi Co. The 2nd Army Corps signed a
similar contract with Saad Co. Masraf said
the first units were finished in 2001, including
the two discovered by coalition forces around
account may also clear up an unexplained detail
from the May 28 intelligence report: traces
of urea in the reaction vessel aboard one
of the trailers. Qaisi said the vessels corroded
badly because Iraqi troops disregarded strict
orders to use only demineralized water.
stupid army pissed in it, or used river water,"
Thursday, Dec. 11, a rumpled man with a high,
balding crown arrived late for work at the
University of Technology. In his unpainted
office, about the size of a family sedan,
electrical fixtures drooped from cement walls.
Abdul Noor once moved among the nation's elites.
He played a part in the most ambitious undertaking
of Iraqi industrial science: creation from
scratch, and largely in secret, of the wherewithal
to design and manufacture an atomic bomb.
When the 1991 Gulf War intervened, an Iraqi
bomb was -- informed estimates vary -- six
months to two years from completion.
Noor watched as that multibillion-dollar enterprise
was reduced to slag under the cutting torches
of U.N. inspectors, who arrived under Security
Council mandate after Iraq's defeat in Kuwait.
Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, Abdul Noor
said, U.S. forces have been questioning him
for indications that the nuclear program was
have just come from such an interview," he
said, apologizing for the hour. "They didn't
give names. They did not say where they were
from. I am kept as long as they wish to keep
the Americans want to talk about, almost always,
is Khalid Ibrahim Said.
1991, Said was going to be the man who built
Iraq's atomic bomb. Other leading figures
were responsible for uranium enrichment. Said
led the team -- "PC-3, Group 4," in Iraq's
cryptic organization chart -- that would form
40 pounds of uranium into a working nuclear
device. Abdul Noor was Said's powder metallurgist.
died on April 8 when Marines opened fire on
his moving car near a newly established checkpoint.
His loss grieved Kay's nuclear investigators,
who had many questions for him. When they
came across Said's last experiment, the late
bomb designer moved to the center of their
spent his final days in a warehouse filled
with capacitors and powerful magnets. He and
his team were building what they described
-- in a mandatory disclosure to the International
Atomic Energy Agency -- as a "linear engine."
The purpose, Iraq declared, was air defense.
machine in Said's warehouse was more commonly
known as a "rail gun." It used electromagnetic
pulses to accelerate a small object to very
U.S. investigators arrived, they found the
gun had been "shooting an aluminum projectile
at an aluminum target plate like the skin
of an airplane," said an analyst who reviewed
their report. But rail gun technology is thought
to be decades from use in a practical weapon,
and investigators believed Said might have
something else in mind.
of an extremely high-velocity projectile in
a target chamber, they said, might be used
to measure the behavior of materials under
pressures that compare to a nuclear implosion.
Such "equation of state" experiments, as physicists
call them, could be applied to nuclear warhead
design. When the U.S. nuclear team looked
closely at that question, however, it "saw
no evidence of equation of state work" with
the rail gun, according to an authoritative
summary of the team's report.
sad look crossed Abdul Noor's face when he
tried to explain his bafflement at suspicions
that Iraq had secretly rebuilt -- "reconstituted,"
as the Bush administration put it in the summer
and fall of 2002 -- a nuclear weapons program.
He and his colleagues still know what they
learned, Abdul Noor said, but their material
condition is incomparably worse than it was
when they began in 1987. "We would have had
to start from less than zero," he said, with
thousands of irreplaceable tools banned from
import. "The country was cornered," he said.
"We were boycotted. We were embargoed. The
truth is, we disintegrated."
his late friend Said, Abdul Noor said: "I
don't know what was in his heart. Probably
he wanted to return to [nuclear weapons work]
one day. That is in the category of dreams."
common view among investigators today is that
Said had the motive but not the means. One
Western physicist who knew Said well said
the rail gun enabled Said to maintain his
team and "hone their skills on diagnostics,
flash X-ray cameras, measuring very high speeds,
and measuring impacts of ramming things together."
The physicist added, "It's basic science.
There's no relation to actual [bomb] design
investigators have yet to be convinced. They
continue to look for warhead research in the
guise of the rail gun.
they were asking me that again," Abdul Noor
said. "I was not on the same wavelength. I
could see they were not pleased with me."
on Red on Blue
is another explanation for the rail gun, according
to one man who worked on it and does not want
to be named. It was, he said, a deception
operation against Saddam Hussein.
resented U.S. air patrols over "no-fly zones"
where Iraqi aircraft were forbidden in northern
and southern Iraq. After trying for years
to challenge the patrols, another Iraqi said,
"we had yet to scratch the wing of one American
gave the president an answer involving futuristic
technology. He was a good enough applied physicist
to understand the long odds against success,
Said's anonymous colleague said, but the project
earned him favor, prestige and a substantial
every field of special weaponry, Iraqi designers
and foreign investigators said, such deceit
was endemic. Program managers promised more
than they could deliver, or things they could
not deliver at all, to advance careers, preserve
jobs or conduct intrigues against rivals.
Sometimes they did so from ignorance, failing
to grasp the challenges they took on.
to an absolute ruler was hazardous, Iraqi
weaponeers said, but less so in some cases
than the alternatives. "No one will tell Saddam
Hussein to his face, 'I can't do this,' "
said an Iraqi brigadier general who supervised
work on some of the technologies used in the
Kay's survey group has turned up other such
cases. Analysts are calling the phenomenon
"red-on-red deception," after the U.S. practice
of using red to stand for enemy forces and
blue to stand for friendly ones. In some cases,
they said, "red on red" amounted to "red on
blue" -- because Western intelligence collected
the same false reports that fooled Hussein.
Taha Mahmoud, who worked for Iraq's National
Monitoring Directorate throughout its 12 years,
said spurious programs also led to needless
conflict with U.N. arms inspectors.
couldn't build anything," Mahmoud said of
overpromising weaponeers, "but they had to
hide the documents because they related to
and a procurement system based on smuggling,
Iraqi scientists said, abetted those who inflated
Healey, a Canadian nuclear physicist and longtime
inspector in Iraq, said entire programs were
devised, or their design choices distorted,
in order to siphon funds.
had a system to graft money out of oil-for-food,"
he said, referring to the U.N. program that
supervised Iraqi exports and imports after
1991. "What you had to have was a project
-- the more expensive the better, because
the more you can buy, the more you can graft
out of it. You'd have difficulty believing
how much that explains."
with internal deception, many analysts now
believe, was deception aimed overseas. Hussein
plainly hid actual programs over the years,
but Kay, among others, said it appears possible
he also hinted at programs that did not exist.
Blix, who was executive chairman of UNMOVIC,
the U.N. arms inspection team, said in a telephone
interview from Sweden that he has devoted
much thought to why Hussein might have exaggerated
his arsenal. One explanation that appeals
to him: "You can put a sign on your door,
'Beware of the dog,' without having a dog.
They did not mind looking a little bit serious
and a little bit dangerous."
who sold false or exaggerated stories in Washington,
Iraqi and American experts said, layered on
still another coat of deception.
end up with a Picasso-like drawing -- distorted,"
said Ali Zaag, the Baghdad University biotechnologist.
Pole in the Tent'
line of thought in the survey group now, as
it constructs a narrative of the Iraqi threat,
is that the Baghdad government set out to
revive its nonconventional programs in sequence.
Instead of beginning with "weapons of mass
destruction" -- nuclear, biological or chemical
-- Iraq began with the means to deliver them
are very significant to us because they're
the long pole in the tent," Kay told "BBC
Panorama." "They're the thing that takes the
longest to produce. . . . The Iraqis had started
in late '99, 2000, to produce a family of
missiles that would have gotten to 1,000 kilometers
was referring to Tamimi's work, though the
designer and details have not been made public
before. If reached, a 625-mile range would
have menaced Tel Aviv, Tehran, Istanbul, Riyadh,
the world's richest oil fields and important
U.S. military installations from Turkey to
the Persian Gulf.
that might have happened -- or whether --
is difficult to forecast. Of all Iraq's nascent
programs, Tamimi's was among the most advanced.
A closer look at its prospects helps answer
a question common to all four fields of forbidden
arms: Was the country capable of carrying
out the presumed intentions of its leader?
is a man of robust self-esteem, but he expressed
no confidence about his long-range missile,
which depended on clustering five engines
in a single stage. (An intermediate version
called for two engines.) Western missile experts,
who suggested questions and reviewed answers
from a reporter in multiple rounds of interviews
with Tamimi, emerged uncertain of the timetable
best estimate was that it would take six years
-- if the missile worked at all -- to reach
a successful flight test. Tamimi would need
less time with major help from abroad, but
considerably more if he had to conceal the
work from U.N. monitoring that persisted until
the United States invaded in March. U.S. government
spokesmen declined to provide an estimate.
"was the star" of Iraq's three rival rocket
establishments, said a French expert who has
known him for years. Another European rocket
scientist said of Tamimi: "In our country
he would be a very good design engineer."
Tamimi lacked access to the modern tools and
technical literature of his profession. He
left Czechoslovakia's Antonin Zapotecky Military
Academy in 1984 with a doctorate degree and
a collection of Russian rocketry texts now
entering their third decade in print. For
the essential modeling of thrust, flight qualities,
trajectory and range, he relied on unsophisticated
software written in Baghdad. In an e-mail
exchange, Tamimi expressed strong curiosity
about what the "more accurate modeling programs"
of overseas experts might show about his designs.
faced challenges he had not encountered before,
some of which he knew about and others he
did not. He knew he would have difficulty
lashing together multiple engines and igniting
them at the same instant. "The main problem
was synchronization, which we hadn't solved
yet," he said.
fit multiple engines in an airframe based
on the existing Al Samoud missile, Tamimi's
designs called for a flared missile that nearly
doubled in diameter -- from 760mm (30 inches)
to 1500mm (59 inches) -- from top to bottom.
Foreign experts said the shape would produce
enormous strains. "If it didn't break up going
up, it would most likely do so on reentry,"
said a Western expert who did not want to
be named, after submitting Tamimi's sketches
and descriptions to an evaluation team. "To
avoid that, they would have to develop some
sort of separation system to abandon the wider
bit, and also master terminal guidance after
said "we did not consider the problem of separation."
For terminal guidance, which steers a missile
in its final approach to target, Tamimi pinned
his hope on Russian technology he did not
have in hand.
test flights, the Al Samoud missile never
landed -- literally -- within a mile of its
target. In 2001, Tamimi obtained a small black-market
supply of precision Russian gyroscopes. He
hoped they would increase the missile's accuracy
from about 1.5 miles to 500 yards. To increase
accuracy still further, he said "we were near
success" in negotiating a contract -- he would
not say with whom -- for a complete Russian-built
inertial navigation system.
knew very well where he was going, especially
in guidance and gyroscope equipment," a foreign
enormous problem for Tamimi's program, however,
was that he designed it to allow procurement
of parts under cover of the openly declared
Al Samoud. When inspectors ruled the Al Samoud
illegal and destroyed its production lines
in March, Tamimi said, he began to doubt the
Hussein ordered this work, but where would
we get the materials?" said an Iraqi general
who declined to be named and who kept close
tabs on Tamimi's missile designs. "This was
the case in every field. People would prepare
reports under the order of Saddam Hussein
and the supervision of the people around Saddam
Hussein. But it was not real."
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