One of the many reasons that the entire Niger “Yellowcake” story was ridiculous was that Iraq under Saddam had no need to buy more unrefined uranium. As the United States government and the Bush administration knew full well, they already had a large stockpile under IAEA seal prior to the US/UK invasion in March 2003:

Following the 1991 Gulf War, the International Atomic Energy Agency removed all known Iraqi stocks of highly enriched uranium and plutonium, in accordance with the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 687. As of 2002 the only positively confirmed nuclear material left in Iraq is 1.8 tons of low-enriched uranium and several tons of natural and depleted uranium. The material is in a locked storage site at the Tuwaitha nuclear research facility near Baghdad. Under the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, this stock of material is checked once a year by an IAEA team. The most recent check was in January 2002, and none of the material had been tampered with at that time.

So, the IAEA after Gulf War I had removed all of the highly enriched uranium that had been produced and placed all the low enriched and raw material under seal subject to yearly inspections by an IAEA team. Nothing we were told about prior to the war in our media, of course. We were much too concerned about the threat of “mushroom clouds” that could spring up at any moment. Nonetheless, one of those international organizations the Bush team so often likes to disparage actually had a good handle on Saddam’s nuclear weapons program, or lack thereof:

All known indigenous facilities capable of producing uranium compounds useful for fuel fabrication and for isotopic enrichment were destroyed during the Gulf War; IAEA inspected and completed the destruction of facilities; IAEA monitored the sites as part of their OMV activities.

So, of course, we invaded. And what happened next was quite frankly a catastrophe, as this story dated June 6, 2003 from BBC News online makes clear:

Tuwaitha was once one of the most heavily guarded facilities in Iraq – a vast sprawling nuclear site just south of Baghdad.

But during the war, Tuwaitha’s guards disappeared, the gates to the site were opened and looters poured in.

The UN’s nuclear agency had warned the Americans that Tuwaitha needed protection. It came too late.

By the time American soldiers had secured the site in early May, barrels containing uranium had been stolen.

Local people say the looters were not after the uranium itself, which they tipped onto the ground so they could take away the containers to store food and water.

Some have since fallen sick with nose-bleeds, vomiting, breathing difficulties and skin problems.

Workers living on the site, worried about being contaminated themselves, buried the spilled uranium in cement and made a desperate appeal to visiting journalists for international help.

Weeks later, the nuclear experts are finally arriving.

But the Americans have given the go-ahead for only a limited mission.

Inspectors will not be allowed to address the health and safety risks that are terrifying the local population.

One scientist who used to work at Tuwaitha told the BBC that as well as uranium the site had also has nuclear waste and four sources of highly radioactive material that have now gone missing.

But that was just the beginning . . . (more to follow, including a report on the Bush administration’s multiple secret plans for Iraq’s oil)

A modified version of this story has been cross-posted at Daily Kos.
American priorities were never concerned with Iraq’s nuclear program. Indeed, stability and security in the country wasn’t much of a priority either, as the Baghdad rioting and looting following our troops’ entrance into that city made clear. Instead, the most significant objective of our forces was something far more dear to the hearts of Bush, Cheney and their neo-con friends: Iraq’s oil. Here’s the scoop from Greg Palast (originally published in March 2005):

Two years ago today – when President George Bush announced US, British and Allied forces would begin to bomb Baghdad – protesters claimed the US had a secret plan for Iraq’s oil once Saddam had been conquered.

In fact there were two conflicting plans, setting off a hidden policy war between neo-conservatives at the Pentagon, on one side, versus a combination of “Big Oil” executives and US State Department “pragmatists”.

“Big Oil” appears to have won. The latest plan, obtained by Newsnight from the US State Department was, we learned, drafted with the help of American oil industry consultants.

Insiders told Newsnight that planning began “within weeks” of Bush’s first taking office in 2001, long before the September 11th attack on the US.

An Iraqi-born oil industry consultant, Falah Aljibury, says he took part in the secret meetings in California, Washington and the Middle East. He described a State Department plan for a forced coup d’etat. . . .

Secret sell-off plan

The industry-favoured plan was pushed aside by a secret plan, drafted just before the invasion in 2003, which called for the sell-off of all of Iraq’s oil fields. The new plan was crafted by neo-conservatives intent on using Iraq’s oil to destroy the Opec cartel through massive increases in production above Opec quotas.

The sell-off was given the green light in a secret meeting in London headed by Fadhil Chalabi shortly after the US entered Baghdad, according to Robert Ebel.

Mr Ebel, a former Energy and CIA oil analyst, now a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, told Newsnight he flew to the London meeting at the request of the State Department.

Mr Aljibury, once Ronald Reagan’s “back-channel” to Saddam, claims that plans to sell off Iraq’s oil, pushed by the US-installed Governing Council in 2003, helped instigate the insurgency and attacks on US and British occupying forces.

“Insurgents used this, saying, ‘Look, you’re losing your country, you’re losing your resources to a bunch of wealthy billionaires who want to take you over and make your life miserable,'” said Mr Aljibury from his home near San Francisco.

“We saw an increase in the bombing of oil facilities, pipelines, built on the premise that privatisation is coming.”

Privatisation blocked by industry

Philip Carroll, the former CEO of Shell Oil USA who took control of Iraq’s oil production for the US Government a month after the invasion, stalled the sell-off scheme.

Mr Carroll told us he made it clear to Paul Bremer, the US occupation chief who arrived in Iraq in May 2003, that: “There was to be no privatisation of Iraqi oil resources or facilities while I was involved.”

* * *

New plans, obtained from the State Department by Newsnight and Harper’s Magazine under the US Freedom of Information Act, called for creation of a state-owned oil company favoured by the US oil industry. It was completed in January 2004 under the guidance of Amy Jaffe of the James Baker Institute in Texas.

Formerly US Secretary of State, Baker is now an attorney representing Exxon-Mobil and the Saudi Arabian government.

Questioned by Newsnight, Ms Jaffe said the oil industry prefers state control of Iraq’s oil over a sell-off because it fears a repeat of Russia’s energy privatisation. In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, US oil companies were barred from bidding for the reserves.

Ms Jaffe says US oil companies are not warm to any plan that would undermine Opec and the current high oil price: “I’m not sure that if I’m the chair of an American company, and you put me on a lie detector test, I would say high oil prices are bad for me or my company.”

Let me summarize that for you. The United States, with input from the major oil companies began planning for a coup against Saddam before 9/11. After 9/11, the coup plan was scrapped by the neo-con plan to invade and privatise Iraq’s oil industry, in the neocon hope (fantasy) that they could break the power of the OPEC oil cartel. Big Oil, through a former Chairman of Shell Oil, Phillip Carroll, and also through an employee of Bush loyalist, James Baker, then stepped in to protect their own interests and the interests of the Saudis. Thus, the only in-fighting among the Bush crew was over which plan for that oil to pursue. Guess we now know why we went into Iraq, don’t we.

But what about Iraq’s yellowcake and other low enriched uranium stockpile? You know, the stuff from which our fears were formed by the Bush All-Spin Team? The reason we were told there was such an urgent need to invade in the first place? Well, this article from the Greenpeace site gets us up speed as of December, 2004:

Greenpeace spokesperson Mike Townsley said at the time of our inspection “If this had happened in the UK, the US or any other country, the villages around Tuwaitha would be swarming with radiation experts and decontamination teams. It would have been branded a nuclear disaster site and the people given immediate medical check-ups. The people of Iraq deserve no less from the international community. That they are being ignored is a scandal that must be rectified without delay.”

Nothing has been done to date. And in their response to our warning about vanishing inventories, the best the IAEA could say was this:

“The Agency has offered the Iraqi authorities advice on the safety and security of nuclear and other radioactive material. However, the Agency’s assistance is based on requests, and, in line with the Agency’s confidentiality regime, the Agency can only publish protected information with the consent of the concerned State or States. Some of your enquiries and suggestions may therefore more appropriately be directed to the Iraqi Interim Government […] At this stage, it is important that IAEA inspectors return to Iraq…”

What does the IAEA have to say about this? Well in it’s October 2005 formal report to the UN Security Council regarding Iraq, it said:

Since 17 March 2003, the IAEA has not been in a position to implement its mandate in Iraq under resolution 687 (1991) and related resolutions.

This statement has been included in each report given to the UN Security Council since the date of the American led invasion of Iraq.

Lest you think this is just a tragic, but primarily local environmental disaster, let me remind you that in the recent Iraqi elections religious Shi’a parties won control of the government, parties with close ties and affiliations with the ruling mullahs in Iran. Iran is actively pursuing a nuclear program which all agree has the potential to produce nuclear weapons. Finally, because of our past failure to secure the Tuwaitha facility, low enriched and raw uranium has been (and still may be) available to anyone who wishes to cart it off. We know for a fact that some of that uranium found its way to Holland in a shipment of scrap metal.

If Iraqi uranium can be sent to Europe without anyone being the wiser, imagine how much could have been acquired by Iran, or Syria or even a terrorist organization who could use it to make a dirty bomb, even if they lack the resources to fashion a nuclear device.

Meanwhile the Bush administration fights with itself over how Iraq’s oil will be divvied up, and who will benefit from that division. Any questions about what matters most to Bush? Spreading freedom and democracy? Fighting terrorists over there so we don’t have to fight them over here? Protecting us from Iraq’s nuclear weapons program related activities? Or that big elephant in the room that everyone is too shy (or afraid) to talk about?

What do you think?


Here’s a link to the documents which back up Palast’s report: Link

And here’s the link to seesdifferent’s diary at Daily Kos on this story from November of this year. I know this isn’t exactly news to us who frequent liberal blogs, but it bears repeating, and if we are to act as an effective progressive outlet for news and information, we need to keep pushing these stories that don’t get reported by our major media in America until they do start reporting on them.

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