Home

Supplemental Materials

Glossary

Authors and Acknowledgements

Contact Us


Personal Reflections on Cooperation with Iraq in the 1980s

by Karl Heinz Schaab*

April 6, 2001

I was born June 28, 1934 in Michelstadt, Germany. Duirng the 1950s and 1960s, I worked at various companies, including as a skilled technician doing development work on composite materials.

On September 1, 1970, I went to MAN New Technology in Munich, Germany. There I worked as a laboratory technician, and worked on the development and assembly of pieces made out of composite materials, such as carbon-fiber.

On April 1, 1982, I stopped working for MAN because I was dissatisfied with my situation there. I turned my attention to expanding business for a company that I had created in 1978 in the name of my wife that made cases or boxes for medical equipment. In 1984 I turned this business into a GmbH, or a limited liability corporation. The company's name, RO-SCH, GmbH, consists of the first letters of my wife's maiden name, Ronniger, and my name. RO-SCH was located in Kaufbeuren, which is about 100 kilometers southwest of Munich.

RO-SCH produced various items out of composite materials for a variety of clients, including Audi, Mercedes Benz, Roehm, IBM, Heckler & Koch, Siemens, and Digital Equipment.

My first contact with Iraq

My first contact with Iraq started in early 1989. In March or April 1989, Dr. Bruno Stemmler, a colleague and friend from MAN, visited my house in Kaufbeuren. He asked me if I could make a needle with a small ball welded to its end. The ball must be very spherical, or made to high precision. Dr. Stemmler told me that this work was related to a new job he thought he would get at the University of Baghdad in Iraq.

I was surprised by this new job, but I thought Stemmler deserved it. I believed he could be an able professor. But at that time, we did not discuss this proposition further. He only explained to me that he was going to work on the gas centrifuge in Iraq, which was his specialty. He also mentioned that he planned to work on solar energy, and hydrogen for energy generation. I told him that I was not able to make such needles, and thus turned down his request.

I had first met Stemmler in 1971 or 1972. At that time, he was the head of uranium separation experiments at MAN New Technology and the head of MAN's test stand laboratory for centrifuges. I established a close contact with him towards the end of 1975. By then, Stemmler had been removed from heading the test stand facility and had been given office space in the same building where I was working on the assembly of composite material parts.

This building was numbered B-24 and was away from the main building. The building housed other projects, including the workshops responsible for quality control and controlling items received by MAN.

Stemmler and I developed a friendly and collegial relationship, which later also developed into a business relationship. Once in a while, he would visit me privately or attend my birthday celebrations. I helped him solve professional mechanical or technical problems. I also assisted him with home repairs. In return, he helped me with calculations and chemical problems. Therefore, working with Stemmler was normal, or at least not unusual.

Soon after our meeting in Kaufbeuren, Dr. Stemmler and I organized a visit of four Iraqi scientists to RO-SCH. According to Stemmler, the Iraqis were interested in contracting with RO-SCH and wanted to learn more about my company. This is not unusual, because every client wants to make sure that a company meets their expectations. And companies can present prospective clients with their production processes, products, and experts. During this visit we discussed several aspects of manufacturing composite-fiber objects, including the process of winding fibers. We also talked extensively about a laboratory-scale winding machine. However, the Iraqi visitors were mainly interested in finding ways to improve ballistic armored shields for cars. After our discussions, the Iraqis left without making any offers for work.

I was keenly interested in this meeting and hoped for orders for RO- SCH. Dr. Stemmler, I thought, would likely need machines and tools for his future professorship in Bagdad, which I could possibly supply. Moreover, I assumed back then, that an armored shield project could be lucrative for me. I had some thoughts and ideas, which had not occurred to the competing firms.

Second meeting with Iraqis

Towards the end of April or May 1989, Dr. Stemmler contacted me again. He told me that the Iraqis wanted to meet in Austria because they did not have a visa for Germany. Dr. Stemmler asked me if I was interested in participating in a meeting in Austria. Also Walter Busse, who had attended the meeting at RO-SCH, was planning to participate, and he would like to see me join them. Dietrich Hinze, who headed H&H Metalform also would attend. I agreed and joined the meeting in Berwang, in Austrian Tirol. The Iraqi group included the four scientists who had visited RO-SCH.

Most of the meeting was dedicated to a discussion of the flow-forming of tubes, which was the specialty of Hinze and Busse. Busse had been head of metal production at MAN New Technology and was a specialist in all aspects of making maraging steel components of a gas centrifuge. Most of the meeting involved Busse answering questions posed by the Iraqis. I did not contribute that much, because I know little about this technique.

One time when I could contribute was during the discussions about balancing flow-formed tubes. They talked about how to avoid creating an imbalance during the production of steel tubes in a flow-forming machine. Furthermore, the Iraqis asked about how to balance tubes, and which machines could do adequate balancing. When the question arose as to a supplier of balancing machines, I named the Darmstadt firm Schenk, and Dr. Reutlinger in particular. We also discussed how to balance tubes in a balancing machine, and I provided advice on equipment and a method to do so.

I was also asked to talk about the technique of pressing the metal endcaps into a steel tube, but I did not know this technique. Busse could answer this question, however.

During the meeting Dr. Stemmler discussed the air stand, which he said he needed urgently for his work in Baghdad. An air stand is a measuring device specifically tailored to hold a rotor tube so that you can measure and observe certain characteristics while the rotor spins at low speeds. The stand also allows the operator to make adjustments to optimize the motor and magnet of the rotor. In this discussion, Stemmler was the specialist. He had extensive experience with the running of rotors at MAN. I could also help Stemmler with hand drawings, which allowed the Iraqis to better understand what Stemmler was describing technically.

Towards the end of the meeting, one Iraqi asked me if I could perform a complicated winding pattern in a carbon-fiber rotor, called "crossfree" winding, that is used in the production of high-performance service pieces. I answered yes. But I asked myself where the Iraqis got this knowledge from, because I had had the impression that the Iraqis had no knowledge of such matters.

I assume today that either Stemmler or Busse had told the Iraqis about crossfree winding. It was obvious that, during this meeting, the topic was the gas centrifuge--exactly as Dr. Stemmler had mentioned to me at the beginning of the year when he described his new job at the University of Baghdad.

I saw a chance for RO-SCH to build an air stand, and perhaps also a laboratory-scale winding machine. My employees, whom I always cared for, would have profited significantly from this work. They would receive better pay and do the type of work they were qualified to do. In the past, they had often been forced to do simple, mechanical works at RO-SCH, because the job situation was not lucrative in Germany.

First Visit to Iraq, June 1989

Soon afterwards, I received an invitation to visit Iraq through H&H Metalform, which acted like an agent for Iraq on such matters. I agreed to meet Hinze in Zurich, and then we would fly together to Baghdad.

We arrived in Baghdad late at night, and were met by an Iraqi who took us to our hotel. The next day we were driven to an office building in downtown Baghdad for discussions. All subsequent talks took place in the same room in this building.

The meetings, which involved two to three Iraqis, focused on several topics. A recurring topic was the balancing of the steel tubes, or more precisely how to balance the tubes according to the technique I had described to them earlier in Austria. From the discussions it was apparent that this problem was urgent to the Iraqis.

Although I thought this technique was simple, I soon learned that the Iraqis couldn't understand it. I would soon realize that everything we talked about had to be repeated over and over again. Today, I think I know why: Those people were simply afraid to make a mistake.

Later, we discussed in more detail the manufacture of armored plate for cars. We talked about how to increase the protection offered by the armored plates.

I assume today that the armored car plates were only a pretext for the Iraqis to create a business relationship with me. But I realized that only after my third visit to Iraq. Up to that moment, I believed that the armored plates were important to the Iraqis, because I could provide innovative, improved ballistic armored plates that the Iraqis wanted. After all, I later also made plates for armoring the protective vests of the Egyptian police. I also made armor for transport helicopters. On a later trip to Iraq, I provided the Iraqis with samples of armored plates and the qualification tests of these plates, which we did at the Bureau of Weights and Measures in Munich.

Shortly before my departure from Baghdad, the Iraqis showed me a general assembly drawing of a subcritical steel centrifuge machine. They asked me if I was familiar with this machine. They wanted to know if this design represented an old or new type of machine. I told them that, as far as I knew, this type of machine was still used in Germany. I could not find out who provided this drawing to the Iraqis, but my opinion is that it must have come from either Stemmler or Busse.

I was also asked what was more modern: the steel machine or the carbon-fiber machine. I answered that the fiber machine was the machine of the future. They didn't ask anything else in this context. I noticed, however, that the production of the needle (which Stemmler first approached me about) was a central problem; this topic arose in each discussion.

Second Visit to Iraq

My second meeting in Baghdad was around July 1989. Like the first trip, I flew to Baghdad with Hinze, and we were taken to our hotel by an Iraqi we knew.

The next morning or afternoon we were driven to the same building as during the previous visit. The same Iraqis attended the meetings as before.

During this visit the main topic was the rotor magnet. Iraqi calculations had shown that the upper bearing magnet would not work at high speed; it would burst at these speeds. The only solution was a wrap of antimagnetic material, such as carbon-fiber or a strong steel. We also discussed testing equipment that could check each circular or ring magnet so as to exclude a failure. With the help of hand drawings, which I had made in Iraq, I described to the Iraqis how I would test the ring magnets and make the necessary equipment. After long discussions, I was asked to provide an offer for the above work.

The Iraqis asked whether I was able to produce these carbon-fiber rings around the magnets. I said that if they specified the type of fiber and the dimensions of the ring magnets, I could surely produce such rings.

I think I was also asked during this visit to make an offer for the laboratory-scale winding machine. Technically, such a small machine would not have been a problem for me to make. However, I had to determine if this equipment required an export license, or at least a "negative-certification." Later, I asked the German federal official in the office responsible for export questions about obtaining a negative certification. The official told me that I would need an end-user certificate, which means the consumer has to certify in writing the use of the machine. I reported back to the Iraqis what I had been told by the customs official. After that, the Iraqis did not ask me to make the laboratory-scale winding machine.

Meeting in Auerbach, August or September 1989

Approximately one month after returning from Iraq, Dr. Stemmler invited me to a meeting with the Iraqis in Auerbach, which is one or two hours south of Frankfurt. During the drive from Bavaria, Stemmler told me that he had "harmless" centrifuge drawings, which he would like to sell to the Iraqis. I was at first surprised that he talked to me about such sales, but I saw that the documents were marked "office use only" and are freely available to every MAN employee.

In the past, Stemmler had told me that he had given many documents to Iraq and that sometimes he had received money for providing the documents. He thus assumed that in the future he was unlikely to get a good price for providing documents. He thus asked me to offer the drawings instead of him. He said that the drawings, piece lists, and delivery specifications were classified for "office use only," which also means that the drawings and other documents were not recorded in a registry, unlike those labeled "VS-geheim" (secret) or "VS vertraulich" (confidential). If any of the drawings had had the stamp confidential or secret, I would have never agreed to sell these documents.

When we arrived at our hotel in Auerbach, he showed me the documents. I could see that there were one or two original blueprints of gas centrifuge components. There was also a drawing of a multi-tube, or "supercritical," carbon-fiber centrifuge. I concluded this because there also was a drawing of a bellows, which are used only in multi-tube centrifuges.

I asked Stemmler where these drawings came from. He responded that I should be able to imagine that myself. I remember that the drawings had the Uranit stamp. Because Dr. Stemmler had access to all departments at MAN and also had good relations with Uranit, I thought that one of the two firms was the original source. However, he never talked about it in any concrete form.

I cannot say anything more detailed with regard to the source of the drawings. Perhaps Stemmler got the drawings himself, or maybe Busse provided them. Both had the opportunity to obtain such documents.

I agreed to try to sell the documents to the Iraqis. Stemmler suggested a price of 50,000 to 150,000 Deutsch Marks (DM). If I were successful, he said that he wanted to have 20 percent for himself, and that the rest was for me. He seemed sure that the Iraqis wanted the drawings, and that they were willing to pay the money.

That night, two or three Iraqis arrived at the hotel. In the course of the meetings, which mainly focused on Stemmler's efforts with the Iraqis, he said that I had documents which could be interesting. I then went to get the documents and showed them to the Iraqis.

Contrary to what Stemmler had anticipated, the Iraqis didn't show a big interest in these drawings. This caught me by surprise. Today I know why. The only piece which they didn't already know was the bellows; the rest of the documents concerned pieces of a sub-critical machine. Later, I returned the documents to Dr. Stemmler.

The meetings were mostly conducted by Dr. Stemmler in English, which I could not understand. So, it was quite boring for me. I only remember that when the word "hex" came up, Dr. Stemmler asked his Iraqi partners to speak more softly. I had assumed that they were talking about uranium hexaflouride, which is the gas used in the gas centrifuge.

During this meeting, we spoke again about the air stand. In this context Dr. Stemmler asked me again to draw some sketches to illustrate his technical explanations.

Third Visit to Iraq

Not long after the meeting in Auerbach, I took my third trip to Iraq. While there, I negotiated to make the air stand and the associated measurement equipment. Most of the design's details had been developed between the Iraqis and Stemmler. (Later, the Iraqis picked up the air stand in Kaufbeuren.)

We also discussed the needle and the cup in which the ball of the needle fits. The cup must also be machined quite precisely, within about two thousands of a millimeter. I subsequently solved the problems in manufacturing the cup.

Trip to Vienna, Austria, September/October 1989

Approximately one month later, an Iraqi telephoned me and asked to meet in Vienna. The centrifuge team wanted to talk to me again about the drawings that they had seen in Auerbach. I contacted Dr. Stemmler, who had the documents. I explained to him the situation, and we agreed that Stemmler would bring the documents to Vienna. I had a bad feeling about bringing these documents across the border. It appeared too unsafe. Dr. Stemmler wanted to sell those documents to Iraq, but I did not want to risk being discovered. Back then, I had not thought that I was doing anything illegal, but I didn't want to have to explain the documents at the border, in case I was searched and questioned.

Dr. Stemmler explained to me that he was permitted to have these documents, because he had invented the components described in them. Thus, he said he was the intellectual father and co-owner of these documents. He convinced me that he had a right to have these documents. In this way, he calmed me down.

Stemmler drove to Vienna, and he placed the documents in a safe, or locker, at a main train station. He met me at the airport and gave me the key to the locker at the Vienna airport. I took a taxi to the train station and retrieved the documents. I took them to the Sheraton hotel, where I met the Iraqis.

The Iraqis examined the documents and asked the price. A bit unsure, I asked for 150,000 DM but they said they were only willing to pay 60,000 DM. After further negotiations, we agreed on 100,000 DM.

The documents included drawings of the centrifuge end caps, the feed and extraction system, the recipient (or outer container), a molecular pump, a 3-meter long centrifuge, and a bellows.

The drawings were blueprints and photocopies that had Uranit stamps. All drawings were either unstamped or stamped for "office use only." I do not recollect any MAN stamps. I do not recall if the drawings with Uranit stamps had circulated at MAN.

The Iraqis retrieved the funds in cash from their embassy in Vienna. On the same day I returned home. Dr. Stemmler picked up his share of the money at my house. He kept his promise and took only 20 percent of the payment. I still do not why he let me receive 80 percent of the total. I thought that my share was too large.

You will probably wonder why I could still believe in Stemmler's university project, given the almost conspiratorial way that we were proceeding. But at the time, I still believed Stemmler's story that he intended to conduct a laboratory research and teaching gas centrifuge project at the University of Baghdad. I just thought: Well, the Iraqis just want to save development time and that is the reason they are willing to pay a lot. I thought at the time: Maybe those generous financial offerings were also meant to increase Stemmler's interest in accepting the professorship in Baghdad.

Today, I see that I was too na´ve (blue eyed). Dr. Stemmler, however, had never lied to me. I had not developed any feeling of mistrust. My lawyer, Michael Rietz, once told me that the court would have to accuse me of closing my eyes to certain things and not developing reasonable doubts. That is certainly right.

Trip from Cyprus to Baghdad, November 1989

In November 1989, while I was on vacation in Cyprus with my wife, I learned that the Iraqis wanted me to come to Baghdad. When I arrived in Baghdad, the Iraqis asked me if I would wind carbon-fiber rotor tubes for centrifuges. I agreed, but I told them that I needed to know exactly which layer design I was supposed to wind. I needed to know the exact measurements of the tubes and also the type of fibers to wind. We also talked about an epoxy or glue mixture for the windings, and where to obtain the right epoxy.

We also discussed the supply of a press to insert the upper and lower end caps into a tube. We also discussed the process of gluing the end caps into the tube. During these discussions, it was clear that the topic was the centrifuge tubes.

At the end of the visit, I agreed to provide the equipment that could be attached to a balancing machine to hold centrifuge rotors. The Iraqis handed me a drawing and asked me to order two special "chucks." The chucks would be used to hold the end caps of the rotor while it was in the balancing machine. The drawing contained the dimensions of a machine from the firm of Dr. Reutlinger. The chucks were later picked up at RO-SCH by the Iraqis. Whether the chucks were taken to the firm Reutlinger or directly to Iraq, I do not know.

After I returned to Germany, I turned to producing a couple of sample tubes (with no end caps) in order to determine the winding program and see if I could manufacture the tubes precisely. In January 1990, Stemmler and two Iraqis came to RO-SCH, and I gave the Iraqis two of the sample tubes. Approximately three or four days later, the Iraqis came back with changes in the winding pattern. The Iraqis asked me to produce 15 such tubes. I produced 16 tubes that matched the Iraqi specifications. The Iraqis picked up these tubes at my company and put them into the trunk of their car.

From Mr. Hinze I had learned that the company Alwo (in Switzerland) was asked to produce a carbon-fiber winding machine for Iraq. I was annoyed about that deal, but I still agreed to provide the equipment in which the fiber is moistened in the glue before it is wound.

In addition, the senior boss of Alwo, Mr. Albrecht, visited me with two colleagues and a technical drawer who came from an engineering office that I did not know. They asked me for information about the mechanical and control equipment of the winding machine.

In early 1990, an Iraqi centrifuge expert called me from Switzerland. He told me that he did not have a visa for Germany. He asked me to come to Kreutzlingen, Switzerland where Alwo is located. During the visit, the Iraqi explained that the layer structure of the carbon-fiber rotors had to be changed again, because of new calculations. I also received an offer to wind 20 carbon-fiber rings, which would encircle and strengthen the baffles of a centrifuge. They also told me that they wanted me to reinforce ring magnets with carbon-fiber. They also gave me the data necessary for that, such as fiber-type and the measurements of the ring magnets. The Iraqis picked up the 20 carbon-fiber rings at my company in March 1990. I was not told anything about the transport route.

Fifth and Last Trip to Baghdad, April 1990

I received an invitation to spend two weeks vacation in Iraq with my wife. We happily agreed, looking forward to pleasant temperatures and an interesting cultural program. An Iraqi accompanied us as a translator and guide. It was a great experience to see the old places of culture and to walk on historical grounds.

The last three evenings of the vacation, however, I was picked up at the hotel and taken to what looked like a university building. It was the first time that I had seen a laboratory in Iraq. I was taken into a room with equipment that corresponded to a laboratory-scale operation. In the same room there was a press that was certainly not qualified for the pressing of the end caps into a rotor. There also was the set of chucks, which I had delivered to Iraqis. There was also a frequency converter. The air stand that I had delivered was in that room, but still in its original packaging. I was asked to put together the air stand, which I was happy to do because an offer requires that the client receive a fully working tool. When we turned on the air stand it worked according to specifications.

Next, I pressed a ring magnet into one of my carbon-fiber rings. Together with the Iraqis, I glued and pressed (with the press-machine) the lower and upper end caps into a tube. In order to harden the glue, the rotor was put in a laboratory oven for 12 hours. On this occasion, I was told that the end caps were manufactured in Switzerland.

The next evening I screwed the ring magnet into the upper end cap of the rotor, which I had glued together the previous night, and the needle with its ball into the bottom cap. With this rotor, the first simple experiments were done on the air stand. I expected Stemmler to conduct the basic investigations on the air stand, similar to those that are done at technical universities or in development departments of industry.

That same evening, the Iraqis took me to an adjacent room and showed me their vacuum test stand that they had obviously constructed and built themselves. It had been constructed poorly. Earlier, Stemmler and I had faxed the Iraqis an offer to make a vacuum test, but the Iraqis were uninterested in accepting our offer.

Together with the Iraqis, I put the rotor from the air stand into the vacuum stand. This vacuum strand consisted of a steel outer casing, or recipient, which did not have a molecular pump. The addition of a molecular pump would likely have made the stand suitable for uranium separation experiments. With the Iraqi stand, it was only possible to run the motor mechanically to achieve a certain speed. To my knowledge only basic examinations were possible here. It appeared to me that this vacuum stand resulted from using the design included in the offer that Stemmler and I had sent to Iraq by fax. Despite the test stand's major failings, particularly in its ability to hold a vacuum, the Iraqis were obviously proud of their achievement.

My impression proved to be correct. The next evening they tried to put together the vacuum stand. But the vacuum was not sufficient to bring the rotor up to its desired speed. The vacuum broke down when only half of the desired speed was reached, probably because the friction was too high. (The stand may have worked if there was a molecular pump.)

Finally, the experiment had to be stopped, but the machine was turned off so abruptly that the rotor was damaged. Further experiments were not done in my presence. As a result, I cannot say anything about possible uranium separation experiments that were done later and succeeded, according to Iraqi declaration to the International Atomic Energy Agency Action Team.

The next day I returned to Germany with my wife. That was my last visit to Iraq.


Notes

*Presented by Kevin O'Neill on behalf of Karl Heinz Schaab at the following conferences: (1) "Non-Proliferation, Nuclear Security and Export Control: Lessons and Challenges," sponsored by ISIS and the Center for Export Control, Moscow, April 19-20, 2001, and (2) "International Seminar on Export Controls and Nuclear Proliferation," sponsored by ISIS and the Export Control Laboratory of the Institute of Physics and Power Engineering, Obninsk, April 23-24, 2001. [Back to the top]


All information contained in this web product is (C) Copyright ISIS, 2003