How to deal with a scofflaw Iraq remains a pivotal issue in determining the future of the nuclear non-proliferation regime. Saddam Hussein's flagrant violation of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) prior to the Persian Gulf War and his subsequent failure to comply with UN Security Council resolutions mandating the verified destruction of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, culminating in his refusal to accept inspectors from the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM), constitute a brazen challenge to both the NPT and the Security Council. After almost a year of heated bickering, the Security Council has agreed to replace UNSCOM with a new organization, the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC). Unless the new organization succeeds, Saddam will have shown the world that even in defeat a nation can successfully flaunt its legal obligations under the NPT and Security Council resolutions.
In dealing with the new organization, the United States must recognize that a successful policy toward Iraq demands achieving a broad consensus, including among the five permanent Security Council members, on objectives and tactics. Without such a consensus, sanctions cannot be successfully enforced or more forceful actions contemplated.
To this end, the United States should make preventing Iraq from attaining the capability to use nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction its primary objective-a goal that serves the security interests of the other permanent members and all other states of the region. This objective, while more important, is less demanding than the requirement in Security Council Resolution 687 calling for the verified complete elimination of Iraq's former programs to develop weapons of mass destruction. Although Resolution 687 is recognized in UNMOVIC's charter, it is probably unattainable without complete Iraqi cooperation, which is unlikely, and should not be allowed to prevent fulfillment of the more fundamental objective of containing Iraq's future capabilities.
The argument is made that Saddam will never accept UNMOVIC inspections, and this may well be the case. However, in the absence of a new organization, Saddam would certainly not accept inspectors and would rely on hiding behind differences among the permanent members. But, if France, Russia and China can persuade Saddam to accept the new arrangement, the broader objective will be greatly facilitated; if they fail, there will be a new rationale for enforcing sanctions and ultimately employing force if evidence of capabilities to use weapons of mass destruction becomes apparent.
The suggestion has been made that even if Saddam accepts inspections, they would be worse than useless because, in the absence of complete transparency, he could manipulate access to create the illusion of compliance. In the real world, so much is known about the Iraqi programs from UNSCOM and U.S. national intelligence that the inspection of selected suspicious sites would reveal ongoing programs; and if inspections were denied, it would provide cause for further action.
The fact that the new organization will be under the UN secretary-general, and therefore elicit greater international participation, should be looked on as a positive move toward strengthening the international consensus, which was weakened by charges of U.S. domination. While not as closely tied into day-to-day operations, the United States can continue to make information available, as is done with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), without creating the destructive perception that the inspection process is being used by the United States to collect information for its own purposes.
After a difficult selection process, the Security Council wisely agreed upon Hans Blix, former head of the IAEA, to lead UNMOVIC. Charges that he was responsible for the failure to discover Iraq's nuclear program are absurd. At the time, the IAEA was essentially constrained to the inspection of declared facilities. Although special inspections were possible in principle, the United States had apparently chosen not to share its extensive pre-Gulf War knowledge of the Iraqi nuclear program with the IAEA. Subsequently, utilizing U.S. intelligence, Blix brought North Korean violations of the NPT to the Security Council's attention and championed the IAEA's "93+2" improvement program, which confirms the agency's access to suspect sites as well as its use of national intelligence.
The international community has agreed that it must deal with Iraq's transgressions. The administration must now make every effort to assist the new organization as a multinational effort and not compromise it by attempting to micromanage or overburden its operation. The objective now is not to find the last piece of undeclared equipment, but to build a strong international consensus that Iraq will not be allowed to emerge as a nuclear threat to its region and the world.