Mahi Obeidi, an Iraqi nuclear scientist, headed clandestine efforts by the Saddam Hussein regime to produce enriched uranium for nuclear weapons. Now he is cooperating with U.S. authorities. Obeidi has already provided investigators with components of a gas centrifuge and detailed plans to build these complex machines. White House press spokesman Ari Fleischer explains why this is important:
"Dr. Obeidi told us that these items, the blueprints and the key centrifuge pieces, represented a template for what would be needed to rebuild a centrifuge uranium-enrichment program. He also claimed that this concealment was part of a secret, high-level plan to reconstitute the nuclear weapons program once sanctions had ended."
Most of Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons production facilities were destroyed by coalition forces during the 1991 Gulf War. It was then that Saddam Hussein's son Qusay ordered Obeidi to bury centrifuge components and plans in the rose garden of his home.
The concealment of these materials is further proof that Saddam Hussein fully intended to reconstitute his nuclear weapons program as soon as international sanctions were lifted on Iraq. More evidence is being found, but the process takes time. Saddam Hussein had four and a half years without any international inspections to conceal weapons of mass destruction and the facilities that produce them.
Thousands of sites must be inspected. Thousands of people must be interviewed. Thousands of documents must be collected and reviewed by experts before the full extent of Iraq's secret weapons programs is known.
What is known is that Saddam Hussein failed to account for tons of chemical weapons, thousands of liters of biological weapons agents, such as anthrax, and thousands of bombs and shells specially designed to deliver these horrific weapons.
Dr. Obeidi's cooperation should encourage other Iraqis to come forward and tell what they know about Saddam's weapons programs. The people of Iraq and the world deserve to know.