Plans for a Baghdad subway were used instead to build underground tunnels to hide Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, says one of the Iraqi dictator's former top scientists. Dr. Hussein Shahristani, once Iraq's top nuclear scientist, speaks to Steve Kroft for a 60 Minutes report to be broadcast Sunday, Feb. 23, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
Shahristani says subway plans drawn up by several international firms were given to the Iraqi military. "[Hussein] told his military, 'Well, we have these designs for the tunnels, go ahead and do them, but not for metro, for our weapons of mass destruction. We can hide them, move them around,'" he tells Kroft. "I've spoken to one person who has been in these tunnels," says Shahristani, "We believe now it is more than 100 kilometers of very complex network, multi-layer tunnels."
Among the weapons Shahristani believes may be hidden in the tunnels are deadly agents like Sarin, possibly anthrax and also the nerve agent VX. The oily, sticky VX is what the former chemist's contacts are telling him Hussein wants to use to form a chemical belt around Baghdad. "VX… will kill within a few minutes or a few seconds… The lethal dose of it is one milligram. So nobody can escape and whoever wants to attack the city has to cross this chemical belt first and then enter into street fighting," says Shahristani.
The tunnels may also hide Hussein or provide an escape route for him. "He actually has a tunnel that can withstand a nuclear blast and if he survives in the tunnel, he has won the war because, for him, winning the war means surviving it," Shahristani says.
U.N. inspectors have told 60 Minutes they have heard of the tunnels for years, but cannot find their entrances. The U.S. government may know more about them, however. A Pasadena, Calif., firm designed a portion of the subway years ago and its blueprints are now in the hands of government officials.
Shahristani was tortured and spent 11 years in solitary for refusing to build an atomic bomb for Hussein. He escaped prison during an Allied bombing raid during the Gulf War. He hopes to return to his homeland and help rebuild it after the war he is sure will begin soon.