Former CIA agent Valerie Plame, famously outed in 2003 after her husband disputed claims about Saddam Hussein’s nuclear ambitions, is warning the Islamic State group could acquire a nuclear bomb.
Plame, a heroic figure to critics of the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq, tells Whispers the Obama administration should add the specter of a nuclear-armed terrorist state to its case for crushing the Iraq- and Syria-based jihadi group.
Plame says the hypothetical threat is more serious now than in 2003, when the U.S. deposed Hussein.
“Saddam Hussein was posturing because he lived in a very tough neighborhood,” she says, blaming the invasion on "cherry picked intelligence" and neoconservative politicians. “They’re not analogous.”
Plame has no inside information about the militant group’s ambitions, but says “you cannot rule out that they are actively seeking nuclear capability.”
“They clearly have a nihilist view of the world and acquiring nuclear weapons would certainly serve that purpose,” she says.
How, exactly, would the militants get a nuclear weapon?
Uranium mines in Africa are an unlikely first step, Plame says. “Building a nuclear weapon is not an option given the enormous infrastructure that’s required, so you’re left with buying one or stealing one, which unfortunately is still very much a possibility,” she says.
Nine countries, including the U.S., own nuclear weapons. Plame, now an author and anti-nuclear weapon activist, says those bombs should be destroyed to ensure they are never used or stolen.
Plame first raised the alarm about nuclear weapons and the Islamic State on Wednesday in a statement circulated to promote a Friday rally outside the White House. She doubled down in a Friday editorial published by The Hill. “Nuclear terrorism is all but inevitable unless we work quickly and urgently to secure all nuclear materials and eradicate all nuclear weapons,” she wrote.
The Obama administration and various international allies are currently bombing the Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria. The bombings inside Iraq began in August and were expanded to Syria on Monday. Human rights and the potential for attacks outside the region are the primary rationales for attacking the group.
Plame's latest book, "Burned," is a novel about a nuclear arms dealer. It hits bookstores October 21.