Interview with Hussein Kamel:
Text of the
transcript is here pdf format.
Gen. Hussein Kamel, the former director of Iraq's Military
Industrialization Corporation, in charge of Iraq's weapons
programme, defected to Jordan on the night of 7 August 1995,
together with his brother Col. Saddam Kamel. Hussein Kamel took
crates of documents revealing past weapons programmes, and
provided these to UNSCOM. Iraq responded by revealing a major
store of documents that showed that Iraq had begun an unsuccessful
crash programme to develop a nuclear bomb (on 20 August 1995).
Hussein and Saddam Kamel agreed to return to Iraq, where they were
assassinated (23 February 1996).
The interview was conducted in Amman on 22 August 1995, 15 days
after Kamel left Iraq. His interviewers were:
- Rolf Ekeus, the former executive chairman of Unscom (from
1991 to 1997).
- Professor Maurizio Zifferero, deputy director of the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and head of the
inspections team in Iraq.
- Nikita Smidovich, a Russian diplomat who led UNSCOM's
ballistic missile team and former Deputy Director for
Operations of UNSCOM.
During the interview, Major Izz al-Din al-Majid (transliterated
as Major Ezzeddin) joins the discussion (p.10). Izz al-Din is
Saddam Hussein's cousin, and defected together with the Kamel
brothers. He did not return with them to Iraq in 1996, moving
instead to Jordan and now to an unknown European country.
In the transcript of the interview, Kamel states categorically:
"I ordered destruction of all chemical weapons. All
weapons - biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were
Kamel specifically discussed the significance of anthrax, which
he portrayed as the "main focus" of the biological
programme (pp.7-8). Smidovich asked Kamel: "were weapons and
Kamel replied: "nothing remained".
He confirmed that destruction took place "after visits of
inspection teams. You have important role in Iraq with this. You
should not underestimate yourself. You are very effective in
Kamel added: "I made the decision to disclose
everything so that Iraq could return to normal." (p.8)
Furthermore, Kamel describes the elimination of prohibited
missiles: "not a single missile left but they had blueprints
and molds for production. All missiles were destroyed."
On VX, Kamel claimed: "they put it in bombs during
last days of the Iran-Iraq war. They were not used and the
programme was terminated." (p.12).
Ekeus asked Kamel: "did you restart VX production after
the Iran-Iraq war?"
Kamel replied: "we changed the factory into pesticide
production. Part of the establishment started to produce medicine
[...] We gave insturctions [sic] not to produce chemical
Despite the significance of these claims, it was not known that
Kamel made this assertion until February 2003. Kamel's claim was
first carried on 24 February 2003 by Newsweek,
who reported that Kamel told U.N. inspectors that Iraq had
destroyed its entire stockpile of chemical and biological weapons
and banned missiles, as Iraq claims (Newsweek,
reported that the weapons were destroyed secretly, in order to
hide their existence from inspectors, in the hopes of someday
resuming production after inspections had finished. The CIA and
MI6 were told the same story, Newsweek reported.
However, these facts were "hushed up by the U.N.
inspectors" in order to "bluff Saddam into disclosing
still more", according to Newsweek.
CIA spokesman Bill Harlow angrily denied the Newsweek report.
"It is incorrect, bogus, wrong, untrue," Harlow told
Reuters the day the report appeared (Reuters,
24 February 2003).
On Wednesday (26 February 2003), a complete
copy of the Kamel transcript -- an internal UNSCOM/IAEA document
stamped "sensitive" -- was obtained by Glen Rangwala.
The Significance of Hussein Kamel
Kamel's departure from Iraq was the major turning point of the
inspections saga. As UNSCOM said in their final substantive
" the overall period of the Commission's disarmament
work must be divided into two parts, separated by the events
following the departure from Iraq, in August 1995, of Lt.
General Hussein Kamal".
January 1999 letter to U.N. Security Council, Enclosure 1,
Kamel's defection has been cited repeatedly by President Bush
and leading officials in both the UK and US as evidence that (1)
Iraq has not disarmed; (2) inspections cannot disarm it; and (3)
defectors such as Kamel are the most reliable source of
information on Iraq's weapons.
- Prime Minister Tony Blair in his statement
to the House of Commons on 25 February 2003, said:
"It was only four years later after the defection of
Saddam's son-in-law to Jordan, that the offensive biological
weapons and the full extent of the nuclear programme were
- President Bush declared in a 7
October 2002 speech: "In 1995, after several years of
deceit by the Iraqi regime, the head of Iraq's military
industries defected. It was then that the regime was forced to
admit that it had produced more than 30,000 liters of anthrax
and other deadly biological agents. The inspectors, however,
concluded that Iraq had likely produced two to four times that
amount. This is a massive stockpile of biological weapons that
has never been accounted for, and capable of killing
- Colin Powell's 5
February 2003 presentation to the UN Security Council
claimed: "It took years for Iraq to finally admit that it
had produced four tons of the deadly nerve agent, VX. A single
drop of VX on the skin will kill in minutes. Four tons. The
admission only came out after inspectors collected
documentation as a result of the defection of Hussein Kamal,
Saddam Hussein's late son-in-law."
- In a speech
on 26 August 2002, Vice-President Dick Cheney said
Kamel's story "should serve as a reminder to all that we
often learned more as the result of defections than we learned
from the inspection regime itself".
Hussein Kamel was not in the process of providing excuses for
the Iraqi regime. Much of the interview is taken up with his
criticisms of its mistakes: "They are only interested in
themselves and not worried about economics or political state of
the country. [..] I can state publicly I will work against the
regime." (p.14). And yet, when it comes to prohibited
weapons, Kamel is unequivocal: Iraq destroyed these weapons soon
after the Gulf War.
The Significance of the Kamel Transcript
The above quotes from President Bush, Prime Minister Blair and
Secretary Powell refer to material produced by Iraq before the
1991 Gulf War. The administration has cited various quantities of
chemical and biological weapons on many other occasions -- weapons
that Iraq produced but which remain unaccounted for. All of these
claims refer to weapons produced before 1991. According to Kamel's
transcript, Iraq destroyed all of these weapons in 1991.
Kamel's statement casts into new light the claims made by the
Iraqi government that it destroyed its non-conventional weapons in
the period immediately after the end of the Gulf War. This topic
remains highly potent, with Hans Blix declaring that "[o]ne
of three important questions before us today is how much might
remain undeclared and intact from before 1991" (statement
of 27 January 2003 to the Security Council). If Kamel is to be
taken as seriously as the UK and US administrations have
previously held him to be, then his claim that "[a]ll weapons
- biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed"
should be taken seriously.
Text of the
transcript is here pdf format.
This briefing was produced by Glen Rangwala. Thanks to Seth
Ackerman of FAIR for his assistance in putting it together.
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