Wednesday, March 19
Saddam's bomb
The Rediff Special/Shyam Bhatia/Daniel McGrory, March 19, 2003

On May 18, 1974, Saddam Hussein was chairing a meeting of the Revolutionary Command Council in his vice-presidential office when a nervous aide slipped a single sheet of paper in front of him. It was a copy of a news story from Reuters that morning, confirming that India had successfully tested a nuclear bomb in the remote Thar desert of Rajasthan. Saddam was impressed, but not amused.

'If the Hindis (Indians) can do it, why can't we?' he asked those at the table.

He had already secretly spent millions on his bomb project and had precious little to show for it. And yet here was starving India, an inferior Third World country that had dragged its bomb to the test site on the back of an ox cart, banging on the doors of the exclusive nuclear club.[...]

The first six defectors embraced by the Americans were generously rewarded to tempt other colleagues to follow them. The one man they wanted above all was Dr Jaffar Dhia Jaffar. CIA agents who masqueraded as UN inspectors were told their priority was to contact Jaffar and offer him anything he wanted.

Relatives living abroad were courted. His half-English sons were approached and colleagues who had worked with him in the West were contacted to persuade him to leave Iraq. Nothing worked.

Jaffar is so closely watched he knows it would be suicide to try to make a run for it. He is not even sure he wants to. No other job will ever match what he has now. Where else will he have the opportunity to play with the most powerful forces of nature? Jaffar sees himself as the father of the Iraqi bomb. Saddam may have paid for the nuclear programme, but Jaffar has made it work.[...]
[Excerpted from Saddam's Bomb, by Shyam Bhatia and Daniel McGrory, TimeWarner ]

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