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Context of 'June 2, 2003: Iraqi Nuclear Scientist Gives US Authorities Material Related to Iraq’s Former Nuclear Program'

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Beginning on May 1, American nuclear physicist David Albright attempts to contact US defense officials to inform them that Mahdi Obeidi—the Iraqi nuclear scientist who once headed Iraq’s gas centrifuge program for uranium enrichment—has valuable information that he wants to share with the United States. But according to Albright, his inquiries are initially “rebuffed.” Finally, on May 7, he finds someone at the CIA who is interested. A little more than three weeks later, US authorities will investigate this lead (see June 2, 2003). [CNN, 6/26/2003; Newsweek, 8/8/2003; Washington Post, 10/26/2003]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, David Albright, Central Intelligence Agency, Mahdi Obeidi

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Iraq under US Occupation

Mahdi Obeidi, the Iraqi nuclear scientist who once headed Iraq’s gas centrifuge program for uranium enrichment, leads US investigators to the rose garden behind his house where they dig up “200 blueprints of gas centrifuge components, 180 documents describing their use and samples of a few sensitive parts.” These items had been buried under orders from Qusay Hussein in 1991. (see February 5, 2004). [CNN, 6/26/2003; Newsweek, 8/8/2003; Washington Post, 10/26/2003 Sources: David Albright]

Entity Tags: Qusay Hussein, Mahdi Obeidi

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Iraq under US Occupation

Mahdi Obeidi.Mahdi Obeidi. [Source: CNN]Mahdi Obeidi is taken into custody by US Special Forces. He is released on June 17, 2003. During his detention, Obeidi is interviewed by US authorities seeking to learn more about Saddam’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons. But instead of meeting with a US nuclear physicist as Obeidi expects, he is interviewed by CIA agent Joe T., the main proponent of the theory that the 81mm aluminum tubes Iraq attempted to import in July 2001 (see July 2001) had been meant for a centrifuge program. Joe’s area of expertise, however, is not nuclear physics. His background relates to export controls (see Early 1980s) (see 1999). When asked about Saddam’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons, Obeidi does not tell Joe T. what he wants to hear. Instead, he tells him that Saddam abandoned the program in 1991 as the Iraqi government had claimed in its December 7 declaration to the UN. He adds that if the program had been restarted, he would have known about it. He also says that the tube shipment confiscated by the CIA in July 2001 was completely unrelated to nuclear weapons. Those tubes—with a diameter of 81mm—could not have been used in the gas centrifuge designed by Obeidi, which specified tubes with a 145mm diameter. “The physics of a centrifuge would not permit a simple substitution of aluminum tubes for the maraging steel and carbon fiber designs used by Obeidi,” the Washington Post will later report. Obeidi and his family will later move to a CIA safe house in Kuwait. [Newsweek, 8/8/2003; Washington Post, 10/26/2003 Sources: David Albright] At the end of the summer, he will receive permission to move to an East Coast suburb on the basis of Public Law 110 , which allows “those who help the United States by providing valuable intelligence information” to resettle in the US. [Central Intelligence Agency, 11/2/2003 Sources: David Kay]

Entity Tags: Joe Turner, Mahdi Obeidi

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, who served as the first US administrator in post-Saddam Iraq, says in an interview with the National Journal Group that the US will probably keep troops in Iraq for “the next few decades.” He adds that “one of the most important things we can do right now is start getting basing rights” in northern and southern Iraq. “To me that’s what Iraq is for the next few decades. We ought to have something there… that gives us great presence in the Middle East. I think that’s going to be necessary.” [National Journal, 2/6/2004]

Entity Tags: Jay Garner

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Iraq under US Occupation

Top Iraqi officials head to Washington for the second meeting of the Iraq-US Joint Economic Commission. The first meeting took place in September. At a press conference, Iraqi Finance Minister Adil Abdel Mahdi tells reporters that the new Iraqi government is implementing, or intends to implement, a number of major changes to the country’s economy. Some of the reforms he mentions would be part of a new oil law that will be “open to investment, to foreign investment downstream, maybe even upstream.” He explains that the law is being developed by a “high-ranked official from the Oil Ministry” in consultation with “his counterparts and with agencies here in the States.” Mahdi also says that Iraq will review the oil contracts that Saddam Hussein had inked with countries like France and Russia. “So I think this is very promising to the American investors and to American enterprises, certainly to oil companies,” he says. Mahdi also defends an agreement the Iraqi government recently made with the IMF to implement certain reforms, which included an end to food subsidies (see September 29, 2004). “I think this is a necessity for the Iraqi economy,” Mahdi says. “We really need to work on our subsidy side. Subsidies are taking almost 60 percent of our budget. So this is something we have to work on… Other measures really were a real necessity for the Iraqi economy before becoming conditions asked by the IMF.” But as Inter Press Service notes, Iraq’s food subsidies system “have kept millions of Iraqis from starvation under US and UK-pressed sanctions imposed by the United Nations after the 1991 Gulf War.… It is believed that many more Iraqis would have died if not for Hussein’s strong subsidies system that gave food to Iraqi families.” An issue that is apparently not discussed during the two-day meeting between US and Iraqi officials is the large amount of money that is known to have been defrauded from the CPA. In response to a reporter’s question, Mahdi says only, “No, this issue has not been discussed. We are interested to follow such issues, of course. Whatever concerns corruption or money, we are interested.” [US Department of State, 12/21/2004; Inter Press Service, 12/24/2004]

Entity Tags: Adil Abdel Mahdi

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

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