SADDAM AND THE WMD….In a way, the Duelfer report is anticlimactic. Between the Kay report, Mahdi Obeidi’s book, and over a year of searching, we already had a pretty good idea that Saddam Hussein had neither WMD nor WMD programs.

However, the report does provide an apparently final answer to the intriguing question of why Saddam didn’t come clean with the UN inspectors even though (as the report also makes clear) he knew perfectly well he had nothing to hide. The answer turns out to be Iran:

Hussein often denied U.S. assertions that he possessed banned weapons in defiance of U.N. resolutions, but for years he also persisted in making cryptic public statements to perpetuate the myth that he actually did have them. The Iraq Survey Group believes that he continued making those statements long after he had secretly ordered the destruction of his stockpiles.

Based on the interrogations, it appears that Hussein underestimated how seriously the United States took the weapons issue, and he believed it was vital to his own survival that the outside world ? especially Iran ? think he still had them.

It was a strategy, Hussein has told his FBI interrogators during the last 10 months, that was aimed primarily at bluffing Iraq’s neighbor to the east.

“The Iranian threat was very, very, palpable to him, and he didn’t want to be second to Iran, and he felt he had to deter them. So he wanted to create the impression that he had more than he did,” Duelfer, the Iraq Survey Group head, told members of the Senate on Wednesday.

Apparently he also felt that it was fear of WMD that caused the U.S. to leave him in power after the 1991 war. Thus, if he remained ambiguous about it, it would deter us again in 2003.

There have been dozens of theories about why Saddam didn’t come clean if he really didn’t have WMD, but it looks like this one is the winner. Just another in a long line of Saddam’s infamous strategic blunders.

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