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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 naïve (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
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
*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]