There is a lot of talk about Iraq having the capability to launch a nuclear attack. According to the International Institute of Strategic Studies, a respected London-based independent research group, Iraq still does not have the uranium to make a nuclear weapon. In the ’90’s, UN inspectors located and destroyed most of Iraq’s nuclear facilities. These facilities are very difficult to rebuild. Now, if they can’t make the uranium, they can buy it on the international market. However, uranium is the most difficult commodity to acquire in such markets because it has to be weapons-grade (or highly enriched).
However, Iraq does have hundreds of nuclear experts on its payroll. These experts who work for the Iraqi government have been going at it for over 20 years. As a result, they have a lot of experience, and have tried many different ways to produce a nuclear weapon. According to Cheney in “Meet the Press,” intelligence operations have been successful at intercepting and preventing the Iraqi government from purchasing materials necessary to build a centrifuge. This centrifuge is required to convert low-grade uranium to weapons-grade uranium. The facts that Hussein employs many nuclear scientists and is trying to acquire materials for a centrifuge is indicative of his intentions to build a nuclear bomb.
Yet, these centrifuges are only a part of a larger facility. The facilities required to convert low-grade uranium are immense, and require vast amounts of energy. The size and energy that uranium conversion requires make detection via U.S. satellites and radar easy. In other words, Iraq can’t produce weapons-grade uranium without the U.S. knowing. So, can Iraq get what it wants some other way?
There are a lot of other questions in which the U.S. government is not sure it has answers. The brass-tacks question, then, is whether a nation should go to war based on what it doesn’t know? According to Steve Inskeep of NPR,
US officials and independent experts are essentially saying, “We’re not going to know if Iraq has a nuclear weapon or not.” What US officials would rather focus on is Iraq’s intent here. They will say clearly Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would like to have a nuclear weapons, and that’s not a possibility that Americans, they say, should be comfortable with.
Did you ever wonder why Saudi Arabia is against a war with Iraq, even when its government hates Saddam’s regime? You guessed it: oil. Currently, Saddam is an outcast in the Mideast oil community, and is unable to market his oil to its fullest potential in the world markets. As long as Saddam is around in Iraq, Saudi Arabia is the de facto major supplier, and does not have to worry about Iraq eating into its market share. The last thing that the Saudi prince wants is a leader in Baghdad – with the full support of the U.S. – pumping all the oil he wants. Moreover, according to Thomas Friedman of the NYT, a new regime set up by the U.S. would become an example of democracy, tolerance, pluralism and secularism to the Arab community. That is a threat not just to Saudi Arabia, but to the Muslim communities there, too.
On the military side, clearly, the Bush Administration demonstrated that the U.S. does not need NATO to topple the Taliban. If the U.S. Armed Forces can eliminate its enemies without NATO’s help, then it can eliminate Saddam Hussein without NATO, now. However, the U.S. couldn’t rebuild Afghanistan alone. It needed help. If the U.S. manages to overthrow Saddam, it needs the support of the international community to rebuild Iraq. Bottom-line: the U.S. needs international support now in order to successful rebuild Iraq once Saddam is overthrown.
How is the rest of the world reacting to Bush’s war cries? Jiang Zemin of China is against a U.S. pre-emptive strike on Iraq because it would set a precedence for Taiwan. Jacques Chirac of France is against U.S. acting unilaterally. Apparently, France is a stronger “player” in the world community when the U.N. Security Council is the decisive body. Chirac is against a pre-emptive strike because it would set a precedence for action without U.N. (and, therefore, French) approval. Vladimir Putin of Russia is against a pre-emptive strike because Iraq owes $8 billion in debt. He fears that a war in Iraq might absolve its debts. Moreover, Iraq currently supplies Russia with oil and other commodities. A war in Iraq might cut off those trade relations.