Disturbing intelligence dampens news of the Khaddafy conversion
26 December 2003
Col. Moammar Khaddafy has made the deal of his career.
Khaddafy has offered to trade his weapons of mass destruction and medium-range ballistic missiles for Western support for his regime and succession to his son. It's a deal that is rife with danger for the United States and Europe and begs the following question: Can a democracy make a strategic deal with a rogue state?
Yet another question is whether Khaddafy, who has led Libya to the advanced stages of a nuclear weapons program, can be expected to walk away from his goal of making his country a nuclear power.
For years, Libya was known as the clown of rogue states. Khaddafy ordered his terrorists to bomb U.S. and Western interests only to see them get caught.
Western intelligence agencies determined that Libya has long wanted nuclear and other nonconventional weapons. But Western leaders dismissed this prospect. After all, the conventional wisdom was that the Libyans couldn't find reverse on a Soviet tank.
Wrong. Britain and the United States found that Libya has been in the advanced stages of weapons of mass destruction programs. Contrary to all open-source assessments, including that of the CIA, Libya completed developing the nuclear fuel cycle and had prepared the infrastructure for nuclear weapons.
Israel was the first to warn of Libya's nuclear program. As early as September 2002, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called Libya a nuclear threat and said the North African state was developing an atomic bomb as well as the missiles to deliver them. The CIA stayed mum and most State Department officials dismissed the assertion as alarmist.
The evidence also pointed to Libyan efforts to obtain medium- and even intermediate-range missiles from North Korea. Israeli intelligence warned that Libya was preparing the infrastructure for the No-Dong intermediate-range missile or a variant, such as Iran's Shihab-3.
The Middle East Military Balance 2001-2002, published by Tel Aviv University's Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, spelled out Libya's WMD and missile capabilities nearly two years ago. The publication, regarded as one of the most authoritative on Middle East militaries and capabilities, said Egypt and Iran have been involved in missile development in Libya and that the first No-Dong missiles arrived in Libya in 2000.
"Libya received its first No-Dong IRBMs [intermediate-range ballistic missiles] from North Korea," the Jaffee Center report stated.
Since 2000, Libya was said to have received 50 No-Dong missile systems from North Korea. The latest Jaffee Center military balance for the years 2002-2003 declares that Libya received 50 No-Dong MRBMs [medium-range ballistic missiles] from North Korea. Included were seven No-Dong launchers.
In late 2002, Libya received nearly a dozen North Korean Scud B and C missiles via Yemen, a so-called ally of Washington in the war against Al Qaida.
Spanish authorities seized the North Korean shipment in the Red Sea a year ago but it was released under orders from the United States.
Over the weekend, officials in Britain and the United States acknowledged that Libya had make incredible advances in its WMD and missile programs. Officials said they had visited some of Libyan facilities and quietly expressed alarm at what they had seen.
U.S. officials said a British and U.S. team found that Libya had constructed a centrifuge that was enriching uranium. Several other centrifuges were also found, as part of what they said was a complete infrastructure for producing nuclear weapons.
British and U.S. experts, including those from the CIA, gained access to Libyan facilities and found uranium enrichment activity at more than 10 sites, officials said.
The team, which visited Libya in October and December, was also shown significant quantities of chemical agents.
The team was also shown a Libyan medium-range missile program that included the Scud C. The missiles, having a range of 500 kilometers, were said to have been obtained from North Korea.
But the British and U.S. announcement did not say from where Libya had received its nuclear expertise. Worse, the announcement did not say whether Libya had transferred the missile and nuclear expertise to other countries.
What is clear is that Libya did not operate in a vacuum. Western intelligence sources said Libya has received nuclear expertise from Iran and Pakistan. Over the last two years, several Libyan delegations secretly visited Iran's uranium enrichment facilities. Pakistani and North Korean scientists have visited Libya to advise on Tripoli's WMD and missile program.
What's worse is that Libya is believed to have been sharing nuclear and missile expertise with neighboring Egypt, the most trusted U.S. ally in the region and which receives $2 billion in annual U.S. aid. Over the last few years, U.S. satellites traced a series of suspicious traffic of trucks and other heavy vehicles between Egypt and Libya. Some of those trucks appeared to be the size that would carry missile components.
By 2002, the Bush administration began to ask Egypt a series of discreet questions about its cooperation with Libya. The questions infuriated the Egyptian leadership and the U.S., seeking support for the effort against Iraq, backpedaled.
Officials believe that Egypt has acquired a range of missile and nuclear weapons capability from Libya. They said Iraq and North Korea were the main helpers for Tripoli's strategic programs and that Libya was also fronting for the Egyptian regime of President Hosni Mubarak. Today, the officials said, scores of Iraqi and North Korean experts are in Tripoli.
The positive spin on the Libyan WMD and missile programs is not only a political move by London and Washington. It could be the prelude to how Britain and the United States will regard Iran's nuclear program. After all, both Iran and Libya have followed the same route -- years of concealment of nuclear weapons activities in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Libya has also violated its commitments to the Biological Weapons Convention.
It's a message that President George Bush himself stressed regarding Libya and other rogue nations. Forget regime change. Forget democracy. If a country owns up to its WMD and missile programs, then the United States is prepared to wipe the slate clean.
For the aging Khaddafy, this is the best news yet in wake of Saddam Hussein's demise in Iraq. "Leaders who abandon the pursuit of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons -- and the means to deliver them -- will find an open path to better relations with the United States and other free nations," Bush said.
Geostrategy-Direct, www.geostrategy-direct.com, December 30, 2003
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