DEBKAfile, November 10, 2001

10 November: Three violently anti-American leaders suddenly burst into speech last Wednesday, November 7 – all in the hearing of the media. The most wanted terrorist in the world, Osama bin Laden, waved his nuclear-chemical warfare threat in an interview he granted to the Pakistani editor Hamid Mir, in a secret place north of Kabul; the commander of his al-Qaeda, the Egyptian Jihad Islami leader Dr Ayman al-Zawahri, pledged the “holy war” would continue, in an interview to the Qatar TV station al-Jazeera; and the semi-official Baghdad newspaper, Babil, reported a surprise visit by Saddam Hussein to the heads of Iraq’s nuclear program.
DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources believe that Saddam, during his November 6 visit, ordered his nuclear executives to make nuclear devices in stock ready for arming, the first time this order has ever been issued.

A day later, bin Laden declared “…if America uses chemical or nuclear weapons against us then we may retort with chemical and nuclear weapons. We have the weapons as a deterrent.” Asked where he got the weapons from, he responded: “Go to the next question.”

Our sources find indications that the three appearances were closely synchronized, pointing to a high degree of publicity – or even operational coordination between Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.
In 1997, before Saddam threw them out of the country, United Nations arms inspectors reported “credible intelligence” that Iraq had built and maintained three or four “implosion devices” that lacked only cores of enriched uranium to make 20-kilotons nuclear weapons. Since then, very little information on the types and quality of Iraq’s nuclear devices has reached US, British, French or Israeli intelligence agencies, but informed sources believe it safe to assume that Saddam has since made up his deficiency.

Saddam’s November 6 visit took his nuclear program heads, including Dr. Fadhi al-Janabi its director, by surprise. It could only have taken place outside Baghdad, because at the end of July, according to DEBKAfile ’s military sources, Saddam moved his own and the nuclear commission’s offices to secret shelters outside the capital. At the same time, he massed troops on Iraq’s northern frontiers with Syria and Jordan, fearing a US attack on Iraq’s northern oil fields, especially Mosul and Kirkuk.

 DEBKAfile’s Middle East intelligence sources add that Dr. al-Janabi only had three hours’ notice of the presidential visit. He was advised that the event would produce the most important communiqué ever issued on Iraq’s nuclear capability. Saddam arrived attended by two of his sons, Qusai, in the uniform of an Iraqi general and Odai, who edits and owns Babil.

In covering the visit, Babil’s November 7 report contains two ominous references: one calling the researchers and engineers of the National Nuclear Program “warriors”; the second, a quote from Saddam’s words to them: “When the human brain is alive and has a big objective, it will not be diverted from its goal when constrained, but will search for more effective means to reach the goal.”

Taken together, these references imply warm praise for the “warriors” of Iraq’s nuclear program for their success in developing ways and means of overcoming the obstacles heaped by international sanctions on Iraq’s road to attaining nuclear weapons.

Bin Laden’s nuclear warning confirms DEBKA-Net-Weekly’sOctober 12 disclosure that the Islamic terrorist had procured nuclear weapons, a report repeated later on this site. The White House stated it was taking bin Laden’s threat very seriously - and no wonder. DEBKAfile ’s intelligence sources think it possible that the al Qaeda chief may have accumulated as many nuclear devices of unknown types as Saddam, with only a part of his nuclear stock kept in Afghanistan; some devices may even have been smuggled into the United States.

DEBKAfile’s military sources discern the omission by bin Laden and the Iraqi leader of any mention of biological weapons, probably to deny the Bush administration any pretext for tying either with the anthrax outbreak in the United States amid proliferating warnings of an impending smallpox attack.