Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The International Atomic Energy Agency has told the UN Security Council that equipment and materials useful in making nuclear weapons have been disappearing from buildings where they were securely held and monitored by the IAEA before the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Because the United States kicked the United Nations inspectors out before the invasion and has not allowed them back in since, they can track the equipment only indirectly, via satellite imagery. Of course, with Saddam Hussein overthrown, no centralized government anymore, and a raging insurgency, the danger of nuclear materials falling into the wrong hands are stronger than ever, and the consequences more dire than ever.

Michael Levi of King's College in London, an expert on nuclear terrorism, points out that the U.S. is largely to blame for this situation, since it failed to secure or guard the munitions dumps and nuclear sites that are all over Iraq.

"'There was a definite lack of regard [by the US] in guarding nuclear sites,'" the Monitor quotes him as saying. "'There is no question that this should have been guarded.'"

Though US officials said their fear of "a mushroom cloud" nuclear blast was a top reason for toppling Saddam Hussein, in the aftermath of war US troops permitted the extensive looting of critical sites, including Iraq's nuclear facilities at Tuwaitha, south of Baghdad. Local areas later had to be tested for contamination, and sensitive equipment returned.

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