Qaddafi Buckles after Eying Saddam in His Spider Hole

Long viewed as a highly unpredictable and erratic dictator, Muammer Qaddafi has again made the world sit up. It took him less than a week to assimilate the ignominy of fellow dictator Saddam Hussein’s surrender. The United States was much criticized for exposing the unsightly details of Saddam’s capture, humiliating not only the man but also his nation and Arabs in general. However, the Americans clearly believe that gentle means will not achieve their goals of winning a war and carving out a new Iraq and different Middle East. Above all, they are determined to demonstrate that, regardless of hardships and losses in battle, the United States is calling the shots.
The Libyan ruler, though his secret nuclear weapons program was a lot further advanced than believed in the West, picked up the message and decided prudence was the better part of valor.
After months, if not years of haggling, Qaddafi gave the nod to US president George W. Bush and British premier Tony Blair to announce his decision to scrap his nuclear and chemical weapons programs and forgo missiles of more than 186-mile range, capable of delivering payloads of more than 1,100lb. He acknowledged contacts with North Korea on Scud development.
An unidentified White House official reported US and British experts had inspected 10 sites, including a centrifuge program for enriching uranium. These sites will be opened now to international monitors. Bush called on other leaders to follow Libya’s example, obviously looking hard at North Korea and Iran.
Bush may justly boast that the feat of disarming Libya of its WMD was the greater for having been achieved by diplomacy rather than the use of force. To understand its implications for the Bush administration’s global strategic goals and see where the Middle East is heading, it is important to catalogue what Libya has in the way of weapons of mass destruction.
debkafile‘s military and intelligence sources point to two programs. One was semi-clandestine. It involves the pursuit of chemical and biological weapons and the long-range missiles capable of delivering them. The second aimed at obtaining a nuclear weapons capability and was carried forward in total hush.
Chemical-Biological Weapons Program
Libya has a huge underground facility at Rabta which in the 1980s stockpiled 100 tons of mustard gas and chemicals for making nerve agents. Some mystery surrounds this plant. Much of it was destroyed in a large fire towards the end of the decade and since then most of its departments are said to be inactive.
Aside from Iraq, Libya is the only Arab country which the United States has bombed from the air. An American air raid in 1986 hit Qaddafi’s residence and killed his adopted daughter.
It is very possible that Qaddafi instigated the fire to rid himself of international pressure on his unconventional weapons programs which, at the time, had turned to the development of missile warheads capable of carrying toxic weapons to every corner of the Middle East, the African continent and southern and western Europe.
In 1990, Tripoli claimed to have shut the facility down. It was reopened in 1995 for pharmaceutical production, a tale Washington did not believe.
Nuclear Weapons Program
Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon warned last summer that Libya may well attain a nuke before Iran. Accepting the estimate that Iran will reach its target in the course of 2004 or early 2005, Libya would have had its bomb by mid-2004.
More than a year ago, on October 25, 2002, DEBKA-Net-Weekly revealed that Libya aided by North Korea was working on a nuclear weapons program at a top-secret underground site near the Kufra Oasis of the Sahara in southeastern Libya. The team was made up of North Korean scientists, engineers and technicians, as well as 200-300 Iraqi nuclear scientists, whose salaries are paid to this day – possibly out of Saddam’s secret bank accounts which are controlled by his cousin Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikrity.
The two Arab dictators were therefore partners in the development of a nuclear bomb. If Sharon’s intelligence was correct, the deposed Iraqi ruler would have been in a position to arm himself with a jointly-funded nuclear weapon at the same time as Qaddafi, by mid-2004. A small band of Iraqi scientists carrying the necessary items would have simply joined the traffic of Arab combatants and terrorists heading into Iraq through Syria and brought the weapons into the country.
Throughout the 34 years of his totalitarian regime, most of the time as a pariah state, the Libyan ruler has often proved eccentric but never slow-witted. In 1999, in an effort to gain international acceptance, he surrendered two Libyans to international justice for masterminding the 1988 PanAm airline crash over Lockerbie that killed 270 people. Earlier this year, he agreed to compensate the victims’ families. The UN rewarded him by lifting its sanctions against his country, although the United States still lists the Qaddafi regime as sponsor of terror.
Scenting the way the American wind is blowing through the Middle East, the Libyan ruler decided to make the grand gesture of renouncing his nuclear ambitions. The Christmas present he gave President Bush means a lot more for US strategic objectives than is immediately apparent.
After Iraq was knocked out of the equation, North Korea, Iran and Libya still maintained a working tripartite axis for developing nuclear weapons. This neat setup of rogue states, Qaddafi’s exit has now severed.
Not much is known about how this nuclear partnership worked. debkafile‘s analysts believe it functioned on the principle of each member farming out vital sections of its projects to its fellow-members. The distribution of these modules helped each partner pull the wool over the eyes of International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspectors.
Iran, which is now in the final stages of uranium enrichment for its nuclear program, is badly hit, having counted on taking delivery and fitting into place key parts of its weapons project made in Libya. The Iranians have made substantial investments of money and manpower in their nuclear program. But they may have no choice now but to slow down or reduce output. North Korea may also be forced to scale back the production of nuclear devices as well as counting the loss of a lucrative source of income for its Scuds and nuclear technology.
Qaddafi by quitting the nuclear race has also ditched Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria, all of whom secretly put money in the Kufra project, hoping for a stake in Libya’s nuclear umbrella.
The development also sounds a warning bell in Israel. If Washington manages to dispose of Iran’s nuclear program and Syria’s unconventional weaponry, attention will focus on Israel as the only remaining nuclear power in the Middle East.

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