How Libya Stopped Loving The Bomb

Speaking of Iran, check out this article in Opinion Journal which analyzes Libya’s surrender of it’s nuclear weapons program.

How and why did Col. Gadhafi, the despotic, still dangerously capricious leader, decide to abandon a lifetime of revolution and terrorism and abandon the WMD programs he had pursued since seizing power in a coup in 1969? What role did American intelligence play in that decision? And how much change can Col. Gadhafi tolerate and still retain power?

Col. Gadhafi’s hip, 34-year-old son, Saif-al-Islam, told me in Vienna–where he earned an M.B.A. and lives when he’s not carrying out tasks for his father, or studying for a doctorate in political philosophy at the London School of Economics–that his father changed course because he had to. “Overnight we found ourselves in a different world,” said Saif, referring to the Sept. 11 attacks. “So Libya had to redesign its policies to cope with these new realities.”

But a review of confidential government records and interviews with current and former officials in London, Tripoli, Vienna and Washington suggest that other factors were involved. Prominent among them is a heretofore undisclosed intelligence coup–the administration’s decision in late 2003 to give Libyan officials a compact disc containing intercepts of a conversation about Libya’s nuclear weapons program between Libya’s nuclear chief and A.Q. Khan–that reinforced Col. Gadhafi’s decision to reverse course on WMD.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

(h/t Ann Althouse)

15 thoughts on “How Libya Stopped Loving The Bomb”

  1. Anti-Bush forces have long maintained Libyas flip was a culmination of decades long diplomatic courting that by an amazing coincidence fulminated weeks after the toppling of Husseins regime. Sure. And I’m a Chinese jet pilot.

  2. Read the whole article; I don’t think it makes either case – in fact it specifically suggests that it was a complicated mixture of reaction to the invasion, great intel, and effective diplomacy.

    A.L.

  3. Our Libyan ‘allies’ are still supporting terrorism around the world. We’re just pretending that they’re not.

    Now reports have emerged of officials of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) arriving Trinidad in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks to identify persons who trained in terrorism in Libya and who may in some way be linked to criminal mastermind Osama bin Laden, the Saudi dissident suspected of involvement in a series of massacres.

    A center of attention there is one Yasin Abu Bakr, a former Trinidadian policeman who now heads Jamaat al Muslimeen, a Black Muslim group. Abu Bakr has close ties to Libya and in fact was also visiting Qadaffi earlier this month. Abu Bakr brags about the assistance he receives from the Libyan leader…

    ..A Washington expert on the Caribbean-Libyan connection said that the U.S. “isn’t going to pay much attention to it.” He indicates that Washington “has a tacit agreement with Qaddafi that he can do whatever he wants in Africa, the Caribbean or elsewhere, as long as he stays out of the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East.”

    Their nuclear program was a haphazard mess held together with bubble gum and duct tape. Libya ‘gave it up’ in exchange for more money and repectability than a lunatic and kleptocrat like Gadhafi ever deserved.

    I expect we’ll follow the same course in Iran, spending billions of dollars and giving legitimacy to yet another loony crook who, in a sane world, would be living in a halfway house and sweeping floors in the local food co-op.

    So, what have we won here?

  4. Washington was skeptical. To prevent leaks and sabotage by neoconservatives and other officials opposed to normalizing relations with Tripoli, details of the Libyan overtures and some half-dozen secret meetings that followed the March overture over the next seven months in London, Geneva and even Tripoli were known to only a handful of senior U.S. officials.

    So: “Washington” normally assumes that “neoconservatives and other officials” are saboteurs to be circumvented?

    With how much justice?

    How well does manoeuvring first against domestic opponents normally work out? Does it make United States intelligence efforts more efficient or less efficient?

  5. Saddam was in bed with Col. Gadhafi?

    A.L.

    Don’t forget Col. Gadhafi new found case of religion happened shortly after Saddam was drug from his rat hole.

    John Loftus has long maintained that Saddam and Gadhafi were collaberating together using AQ Kahn tech with the assistance of the Chinese via the Norks in exchange for large sums of money.

    This was being done underground out of site and under the noses of the IAEA. This stuff was airlifted out of Libya and was last at the Oak Ridge National Lab in TN.

    If true, nice move by Saddam to continue his nuke program out of site and out of mind of the IAEA in Iraq where everyone was looking.

    RBT

  6. Saddam was in bed with Col. Gadhafi?

    A.L.

    Don’t forget Col. Gadhafi new found case of religion happened shortly after Saddam was drug from his rat hole.

    John Loftus has long maintained that Saddam and Gadhafi were collaberating together using AQ Kahn tech with the assistance of the Chinese via the Norks in exchange for large sums of money.

    This was being done underground out of site and under the noses of the IAEA. This stuff was airlifted out of Libya and was last at the Oak Ridge National Lab in TN.

    If true, nice move by Saddam to continue his nuke program out of site and out of mind of the IAEA in Iraq where everyone was looking.

    RBT

  7. A.L.,

    You missed the most important section in the two judith Miller peices and especially the implications for Iranian nuclear capability:

    bq. The nuclear front was more troubling. Not only had Libya developed highly compartmentalized chemical and nuclear programs that were often unknown even to the Libyans who worked at the facilities, *they had already imported two types of centrifuges from the Khan network — aluminum P-1s, (for Pakistan-1), and 4,000 of the more advanced P-2s.* By 1997, Libya had already gotten 20 preassembled P-1s from Khan and components for another 200. In 2000, it got two P-2 model centrifuges, which used stronger steel, and had ordered 10,000 more. *Libya had also imported two tons of uranium hexafluoride to be fed into the centrifuges and enriched as bomb fuel.* In fact, *it had managed to acquire from the Khan network what it needed to produce a 10-kiloton bomb, or to make the components for one, as well as dozens of blueprints for producing and miniaturizing a warhead,* usually the toughest step in producing an atomic weapon.

    * * *

    bq. *Many analysts no longer doubted that Libya could have made a bomb, eventually, if the program had not been stopped and it had found a way to supplement its limited technical expertise.* Though most of the rotors for the centrifuges were initially missing (many turned up months later on a ship near South Africa) experts said that had the centrifuges been properly assembled in cascades — always dicey in a technologically challenged state — *Libya could have produced enough fuel to make as many as 10 nuclear warheads a year.* “We definitely would have done it,” said Mr. Ma’atouq, head of the program, just before my tour of Tajura, site of Libya’s research reactor and its “hot cells” where scientists could separate fuel for a bomb. *”Our original goal was to do so between 2006 and 2008, and if the program was accelerated, by 2007, with a year to spare,”* he said.

    bq. Mr. Ma’atouq confirmed Saif’s assertion that Libya had decided to renounce the nuclear and other WMD programs, after months of debate within Col. Gadhafi’s inner circle. He said that Libyan experts had advised Col. Gadhafi that the programs no longer served Libyan national interests. “We had discussed many options for securing our state,” Mr. Ma’atouq recounted. “I’m an engineer, a practical man. And I said: Let’s assume we have these weapons. What would we do with them? Who is the target? Who would we use them against? The U.S.? We had no delivery system. Yes, nuclear weapons are a deterrent, but it’s better to have nothing at all than a deterrent without a means of delivery.”

    bq. Initially, Mr. Ma’atouq said, Libya had tried to seek Russian help in building a complete nuclear-fuel cycle. But although the Soviets in 1981 had sold Libya the reactor at Tajura, Mr. Ma’atouq complained that they kept raising the price of related material. No deal had been made by the time the Soviet Union collapsed, and by 1995, Libya was left with little choice but to try to develop the bomb indigenously. *In 1998, he said, it turned to the Khan network to help “speed things up. We wanted to make the supplier a one-stop shop. We used no other suppliers.”*

    The A.Q. Khan network showed up in 1998 and the Libyan’s bomb would have been available in 2008.

    That sounds an awful lot like the South African time line, doesn’t it?

    More importantly, A.Q. Khan has been dealing with the Iranians more than 15 years.

    Those who argue Iran don’t have nukes have to demonstrate a higher standard of evidence than those who say they do possess nuclear weapons.

  8. This report was by Judith Miller. Why not find a report by somebody who isn’t known to be thoroughly tainted?

  9. Ms. Miller is and remains a good reporter – I recommend her book “Germs” in particular, as it covers incidents far beyond Iraq including some domestic bioterrorism attempts in the USA.

    Being a reporter does not convey omniscience, and indeed a reporter’s job is very similar to an intelligence agent’s (in many places, they’re regarded as the same thing). Like their intel counterparts, it is possible for a reporter to be wrong without being tainted, especially when reporting about aspects of totalitarian/closed societies that the people in charge of such places do not wish to make known. Of course, it is also possible for a reporter to be wrong and display behaviour that does taint them (paging Mary Mapes…).

    It can fairly be said of Ms. Miller that she did a lot of diligent research on a big and important story, reported many things that Saddam himself thought to be true, and followed her reports into Iraq during the invasion with the intent of verifying them on the spot (and the real possibility of not finding what she believed to be there).

    That’s a pretty good record of work, and the kind of honest approach that I’d want from any reporter on any issue.

    There are things a reporter can do that do taint them morally or professionally, but if your standard is simply that she doesn’t hew to your party line (as it seems to be), then it’s impossible to take you seriously.

  10. No, Miller deliberately and consistently spread disinformation before. Is there any reason to think she isn’t deliberately spreading disinformation now?

    Why would you take anything she reports seriously until you’ve thoroughly checked it? And if you have to do that, why not start from some source that isn’t already completely discredited?

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