Former Weapons Inspector Returns to Iraq

Scott Ritter, a former weapons inspector with the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), returned to Iraq July 29 to film interviews with senior Iraqi officials, including Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, for use in a documentary he is producing.

Baghdad authorized Ritter to visit weapons sites in Iraq, but the former inspector declined the offer, concerned that skeptics would deride the video as Iraqi propaganda. Ritter plans to have the documentary fully edited by the end of September. The film is being financed by a $400,000 line of credit from an Iraqi-American businessman, but Ritter says that he has complete control over the film's content.

In an article in the June issue of Arms Control Today, Ritter advocated redefining Iraq's disarmament obligations along "more realistic qualitative benchmarks" in return for the readmittance of inspectors, thus ending the current standoff with Iraq. (See p. 34.) Once Iraq is found to be complying with the new standards and a new monitoring regime is established, sanctions would be lifted. The former inspector asserts that, for all intents and purposes, Iraq was disarmed when UNSCOM inspectors left Iraq in December 1998 and that Iraq has not meaningfully reconstituted its weapons of mass destruction programs.

During an August 1 press briefing, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said that "it is fairly obvious" the State Department disagrees with "some of the assertions made by Mr. Ritter."