Saddam nearly relaunched nuclear weapons program in 1990

The offer, made in 1990 by an agent linked to disgraced Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, guaranteed Iraq a weapons-assembly line capable of producing nuclear warheads in as little as three years. But Iraq lost the chance to capitalize when, months later, a multinational force crushed the Iraqi army and forced Hussein to abandon his nuclear ambitions, according to nuclear weapons expert David Albright, who describes the proposed deal in a new book.

Iraqi officials at the time appear to have taken the offer seriously and asked the Pakistanis for sample drawings as proof of their ability to deliver, the documents show. “With the assurance of [Iraqi intelligence agency] Mukhabarat . . . the offer is not a sting operation,” an Iraqi official scrawls in ink in the margin of one of the papers…

But the newly uncovered documents suggest that Khan’s offer of nuclear assistance was more comprehensive than previously known. A 1990 letter attributed to a Khan business associate offered Iraq a chance to leap past technical hurdles to acquire weapons capability.