Searching for the Truth About Iraq's WMD: An Interview with David Kay

David Kay, former lead inspector of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), spoke with ACT editor Miles Pomper and research analyst Paul Kerr March 5 on the search for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq. In the wide-ranging interview, Kay urged Vice President Dick Cheney to come clean about the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He also addressed what really happened to Iraq’s unaccounted-for biological and chemical weapons, called for enhanced international inspections of suspected WMD facilities, and said the Iraq war was not worth waging on WMD grounds alone.

The following are excerpts from the interview. For a complete transcript, click here

ACT: Vice President Cheney recently said that there might still be weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq. Your mid-January report was obviously fairly skeptical of that possibility. Do you think he’s being realistic? Do you think his comments are helpful?

Kay: I certainly think it’s important to continue the search for reasons of the procurement network, if nothing else, and I think all of us recognize that, since Iraq had weapons pre-1991, it is possible that their efforts to destroy them were less than 100 percent complete. I mean, most things in Iraq don’t run at 100 percent efficiency. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if there turned out to be rockets or mortars with pre-1990 gas, and so it’s worth doing. What worries me about the vice president’s statement is, I think, people who hold out for a Hail Mary pass—and lo and behold, maybe we’ll find that stockpile a year or two years out, so everyone keeps searching—delay the inevitable looking back at what went wrong. I believe we have enough evidence now to say that the intelligence process, and the policy process that used that information, did not work at the level of effectiveness that we require in the age that we live in. I mean, it is very hard for institutions to fix problems while they’re in denial as to whether the problem really existed. And I am concerned that statements by the vice president and others—principally the vice president and the administration—really raise that issue.

ACT: Prior to the war, you were one the leading critics of the United Nations weapons inspectors’ effectiveness, yet you’ve now said that the results of your search indicate that the UN inspectors and sanctions were more effective than any of the critics had thought.

Kay: Well, when you get there, when you’re on the inside and you have freedom to look at both what went on, as well as to interview the Iraqis who were involved, it’s hard not to come away with the impression that they greatly feared [UN Special Commission (UNSCOM)][1] inspections and monitoring. And they clearly took steps in the ’90s based on their belief that certain things would be found by the inspectors as they continued. And generally most inspectors—and this includes heads of the inspection process—if you go back and read statements from [former UNSCOM chiefs] Rolf Ekeus and Richard Butler, we focused on the limitations that the Iraqis were imposing on the inspections. And so we were looking at the difficulty that the inspectors had in operating, whereas the Iraqis, we now understand, were looking at the effectiveness the inspectors were achieving even with those limitations.

Now on sanctions, I think the issue is somewhat more complicated. The Iraqis never really suffered greatly from lack of money as a result of sanctions. What sanctions did more than anything else—because the Iraqis defeated sanctions by resorting to black market, illegal activities—is clearly push an Iraqi decision-making system and economic system that was already corrupted and based on the Saddam Hussein family, loyalty and all. It pushed it even more into the criminal vein and, as it distorted the economic process of the country, it really played to the worst elements, which were really very bad, of the regime.

And so, that the graft, the corruption, the figure which we’ve been given of about 60 percent of the skimming off the UN oil-for-food program went into new palace construction, an extraordinary figure. What sanctions did is it really, it drove the system to go underground, become corrupt, become clandestine, and much of the procurement of the weapons systems in the ’80s were completely aboveground, arrangements with Western suppliers mostly, which were not hidden from view, by and large. And so, it really did have an impact that was distorting on their capability, and I think may have been the final thing that pushed them over the brink to what I call this vortex of total fraud and corruption that they were sinking into.

ACT: What about their ability to actually get necessary materials or dual-use items and so on?

Kay: Well here again, it may be whether we’re looking at the glass half full or half empty. They managed to continue to import a large amount of technology—both expertise and goods—that clearly were prohibited by the sanctions program. Now, clearly that amount is less than they would have been able to import if there had been no sanctions program. So, I think it did inhibit their imports. It certainly made the imports more expensive in that they had to go a clandestine route for importation. Now, there’s no evidence that money was a limitation on their program. What was a limitation was having the difficulty of getting it clandestinely and not always being able to openly procure from the best possible source, having to work through three middlemen or so to get it, and getting it through a series of countries that transshipped it. So, I think it is fair to say that sanctions did limit the robustness of their program. Although I do think, I’m still struck, having spent the last six, seven months there, at how much they were able to get illegally. It just happened we were lucky that it was a system that was breaking down, so most of the stuff they got they weren’t able to effectively use.

ACT: In a recent speech at the U.S. Institute for Peace, you mentioned that international inspections can play an important role in coping with future WMD threats. What do you think is the proper role for international inspections regimes such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), and what’s your opinion on suggestions that UNMOVIC be retained as some sort of permanent inspections body?

Kay: Well, let me deal with the first one and come back to the last one. I think the challenge right now is to try to find a way to break out of this old argument between those who support international institutions and treaties and those who found them to be less effective and have concentrated on unilateral military solutions, and to seek ways to make international inspections more effective. You’ve got to realize, if you just take the nuke programs, you’ve got the Iranians now saying they had an illegal nuclear program that the IAEA did not identify for about 18 years until recently. And the Libyan program seems, although the information—at least in the open press—is less, seems to have been going on through 12 and 15 years. Also not detected. So, quite apart from Iraq, there is this issue of, “Can we make inspections more robust, so that programs like this would indeed be detectable?” I think the answer is yes. I think a combination of intelligence capability and new inspection technology can make those organizations much more effective [and] we have an obligation to do that. I think in the process of doing that, then the role for the existing international institutions that have inspections regimes—that’s principally the [Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)] and the [nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)]—I think is very good and is important to do. It still leaves us with this problem of biological [weapons], where we have a treaty, but we don’t have an inspection [regime].[2]

ACT: Doesn’t it also leave us with the problem of missile proliferation?

Kay: Well, and missiles…you don’t have inspections. What you’ve got—and clearly it’s not working and that’s important to understand—is you thought, if you impose requirements on those states that have missile capabilities, that would be one way of controlling it. Now it’s quite clear, as a result of what happened in Iraq, states didn’t exercise that authority very well. And so indeed, you do need to consider, I think, whether, in fact, there is an inspection capability that needs to be created around the missile area. In some ways, that’s going to be as difficult as biological, but it certainly needs to be done. The issue of retaining UNMOVIC, to me it’s a hard one to understand, because how would that play against IAEA inspection capabilities? In other words, what would its mission be?

ACT: Hans Blix, the former head of UNMOVIC, has suggested that the organization concentrate on the biological and missile areas,[3] that these could be somewhere that UNMOVIC could play a role.

Kay: Well, it, it might be, although I would think the recent history of negotiating [Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC)] expansion would suggest that it’s more likely to be done among specialists that are focused in the same way you did IAEA nuke inspections or CWC. The slice of those states that have the technical capabilities and have the programs make it easier than a sort of UN negotiation. I think the same thing. I mean, the whole [Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)] arose out of that similar belief. We need to reexamine that and say, “Would it be easier to get more effective regimes if we did it multilateral across all regime areas or across those two that don’t have major inspection capabilities right now?” I’m just not certain.…I would hate to see anything that would weaken either the…legitimacy of the CWC or the impetus to improve the NPT. I think the urgency on the nuclear area and on the chemical area is such that I would hate to see, for example, the additional protocol become the last step in the modernization of the NPT while we wait for some broader international negotiation that would make UNMOVIC more capable. Now, if the argument is going to be, “Well, we’ll just make UNMOVIC capable for biological and for missiles, and we’ll let the reformation of the NPT and the improvement of the CWC just go along the natural [path],” I guess that makes, that’s less of an issue in terms of how it impacts with…it doesn’t strike me that’s a logical nature. And so much of UNMOVIC came out of the Iraqi experience. I mean, it’s the logical successor to UNSCOM. Actually, I think many states would be reluctant to become subject to something that had that sort of parentage. UNSCOM and UNMOVIC were designed for a defeated state that was in opposition to the UN. I would like to believe that we…some of the rights to go anywhere, anytime, anyplace, that UNSCOM pioneered and that UNMOVIC later took up, would be key parts of this reformation of the inspection process. But I’m not sure that it’s going to be easy to negotiate that in terms of the parentage of UNMOVIC. I’m agnostic on this, as to which is going to be the easiest way.

I think the important lesson that you do want to survive out of UNMOVIC and UNSCOM is the lessons that in certain cases you need expanded rights to provide security and confidence that the state is living up to its obligation. Now whether those expanded rights ought to be within IAEA, CWC…and you do have this fact that for two regime areas, missiles and biological, you don’t have a fully robust organization. And so the question has to be, should we now push again on the BWC and push to further institutionalize MTCR so it looks more like NPT, CWC, or should we just take it in to the UN? It strikes me the argument is not clear as to which is better on that one. In one sense, I feel better about an inspection process that doesn’t draw artificial lines between nuke and chem and bio and missiles, because most states as they operate those programs don’t draw those distinctions. So an inspection regime like UNMOVIC has an inherent advantage over stovepiping of the IAEA or some other. On the other hand, the reluctance to go the Security Council-supported route, for political reasons, is so great I wonder if it would really be utilized. And in some ways, we’re at the point that modernization of the IAEA/NPT inspection regime now for the first time really looks feasible, much more than just the Additional Protocols,[4] because of Libya, because of Iran, because of North Korea. I would hate for that to die because, well, we’re gonna wait and see if we can’t enhance another inspection regime to take over the hard cases.

ACT: Prior to the invasion last March, U.S. officials claimed to have intelligence Iraq was defeating inspections efforts through various denial and deception tactics. What evidence has emerged regarding Iraqi cooperation with UN inspectors?

Kay: Actually, a fair amount of evidence. I think that’s one case in which the claim is largely supported. That is, we have a number of interviews and interrogations that we conducted of scientists and engineers who had been interviewed by UNMOVIC who said that they had not told UNMOVIC the truth, and they then proceeded to take us to documents and equipment and records that they had sequestered away and gave them to us. And they said it simply was that they didn’t believe that UNMOVIC could protect them from the secret police organization, intelligence organization of the Iraqi state, that they had been warned not to cooperate, they had been briefed, and they went into great detail about how they had been briefed prior to interviews. So, there was that.

There also were major discoveries of equipment and facilities, and the interesting thing about that is not so much that UNMOVIC didn’t find—it’s very difficult without intelligence to find stuff in Iraq or anywhere, and that includes the ISG. The interesting thing is, we got access to the records and to the people involved in the discussions in which the Iraqis themselves had decided which facilities they would reveal—put into the full, final, complete declaration [in U.N. Resolution] 1441—and which ones they would not. So, it’s quite clear the Iraqis took some out, [took some facilities] off the table. And we were able, because the Iraqis were more free to talk, to find those. We also discovered that the Iraqis had hidden certain facilities in places that are typically difficult for inspectors to go—mosques is one facility—the best English translation is Chamber of Commerce. It really, it was the Union of Industrialists, which had equipment which should have been declared to the UN of a biological-chemical nature. So, there was a fairly robust D&D [Deception and Denial ] program, considering what they had to hide, which, I mean, they weren’t hiding large production facilities or large stockpiles.

Now, I think it would be unfair to say that that was just designed to mislead UN inspectors. They were even more fearful of U.S. air attack. So, a lot of the deception and denial techniques were designed to shield the facilities from being identified by—and this is over a long term, throughout the ‘90s—being identified by the U.S. because they feared air attacks, like Desert Fox.[5]

ACT: In the lead-up to the war in March 2003, several UN Security Council members formulated proposals to strengthen the UN inspection regime, give Iraq more time to comply. If these had been accepted, would they have garnered more Iraqi cooperation? Would the UN-mandated monitoring and verification system have been effective in halting future Iraqi prohibited weapons activities?

Kay: I think you’ve got to distinguish between those measures that would have led to fuller Iraqi disclosure, or disclosure of Iraqi activities, and the question of whether those measures would have, in fact, inhibited a massive restart of the Iraqi program. I think the limitation on discovery and disclosure was the fear of the people involved of Saddam Hussein and his police. And I don’t think any measures would have really overcome that fear. On the other hand, I think in retrospect it is obvious that rigorous inspections and accompanying sanctions play an important role in limiting the possibilities of the Iraqis to restart their program.

Now, some of their programs were more difficult to, for inspectors to limit and detect than others. The missile program is an interesting one because of [United Nations Resolution] 687, the [Persian Gulf War] cease-fire arrangement which allowed them to keep a missile program [of missiles with ranges not exceeding 150 km]. So, it was always a cat-and-mouse game throughout the UNSCOM years with the missiles. Were the missiles going to exceed a 150-mile range limitation or not, what was the payload, and all of that. I think that was, that was almost an inherent limitation that we had to live with regardless of how big our…but it…and it didn’t limit the cooperation of foreign states.

I don’t think the measures that were being discussed prior to the war would have detected the Russian assistance, for example, for that missile program. That assistance came in two forms: actual scientists and engineers who came to Baghdad who collaborated, and…they collaborated in a building that was not identified as part of the missile establishment. And then the collaboration continued when they went back to wherever they came from, and that was electronic and that probably wasn’t discoverable. But I think vigorous inspection, I think it did lead to the Iraqi decision to get rid of their large stockpiles. I think…they viewed it as limiting their ability to restart the program while inspectors were there. So, I think there was a gain from it. It would not have rooted out their capability, and it would not have stopped small-scale cheating, but I think it would have played a role in limiting a large scale restart of that program.

Now, a lot of this is something you know a lot better in retrospect than you knew at the time, and everyone ought to be on the up and up about this. Most intelligence reports from around the world said that the Iraqi chemical and biological programs had already been restarted and they had weapons. Turns out, I think, those reports were wrong, and now we know that they were wrong because inspections were more of a hindrance and they feared them more in the mid-‘90s than we anticipated.

But the interesting question is, Why after ’98 when the inspectors left didn’t they restart the chemical and biological programs? The answer I have tentatively is two-form. One is that the chaos and corruption was such that Saddam really just wasn’t interested and they had limited capabilities to do it. They went for programs that were essentially science fiction, for detection and killing stealth aircraft instead. And secondly, he thought, and most of the Iraqi senior scientists we interviewed thought, that the restart of a biological and chemical program was something they could do quickly. What they didn’t have was the delivery system. So, I think what we ought to pay attention to that missile program. And the real question is whether that missile program would have been successful if the war hadn’t intervened.…[Hussein] had pretty high range goals for them, to get up to 1000 kilometers.…By 2005, 2006, would they have had those missiles? My strong suspicion is that in fact they just weren’t technically capable of doing that, even with foreign assistance. It would have taken them longer. They would eventually have gotten it if the war hadn’t intervened, but their own technical chaos, the declining state of efficiency of all of their manufacturing areas just would make that very difficult even with foreign assistance.

ACT: This obviously goes back to the question about the UN enforcing its own resolutions, but UN Resolution 687 did mandate that there would be an ongoing monitoring and verification system to exist after Iraq was said to have dismantled its nuclear, chemical, biological, and extended missile programs. It wasn’t just a question of saying “forgive and forget, we’ll go away now,” even in a world where we lifted sanctions. It’s true that it’s harder to detect small-scale cheating, but to get a missile of that type of range, you have to have testing…

Kay: Well, I think that monitoring system, the [Resolution] 687 monitoring system, which ended of course when the inspectors left in ’98, I mean that was ripped out by the Iraqis…If they had progressed to full-scale monitoring, would it have limited the Iraqi restart of the program? I think, I’m confidant to say that I think it would have detected really large-scale restart on most of the programs. What I’m not confidant of is whether in fact the international community would have responded. That’s a quite different…for example, the League of Nations response to German rearmament was, “Oh so what?” And it wasn’t that it wasn’t detected—it was detected.

The other thing that complicates that answer, or at least my view of the answer, is that, if sanctions had really come off, I think it would have been harder to detect a restart of the biological program or of the chemical program than otherwise. The monitoring program of [Resolution] 687 was very tough as long as Iraq’s economy was essentially in the straitjacket of sanctions because you controlled everything that went in legitimately, and so you could look for the deviants, the outliers, for the things that weren’t legitimate. And you had the on-site inspection accompanying the monitoring, which everyone forgets. It wasn’t just technical monitoring, it was really inspectors still on the scene, and that’s what I think the Iraqis really feared.

So…you couldn’t have stopped small-scale cheating. And small-scale cheating in the biological area is probably significant—but it would have detected, I think, industrial production of missiles. It might not have detected importation. It would have detected a restart of the nuke program easily.

ACT: Let me ask you a bottom-line question. You have said that, despite your discoveries, you still supported the war because of the pre-war human rights situation and the related horrors that you discovered there. Just leaving that aside a minute, if it was just a WMD-based decision, do you think that invading Iraq was a wise decision?

Kay: Well, here again, it’s the great advantage of thinking I know the truth. I think [that] not having discovered stockpiles of WMD, you come to the conclusion that if that was the only thing you considered, that all these other things were off the table and didn’t matter to you, clearly it was not [wise]. It was not worth it. Now, that’s my personal perspective, I understand how others could have a different perspective in the shadow of 9/11, if you looked at the record of Iraq, having continued to defy in many ways the UN, would you have, and you had on your table, intelligence reports [pointing to possession of chemical and biological weapons].

ACT: UNMOVIC had said that the ISG’s findings added little to the evidence that UN inspectors found. How do you reconcile those claims?

Kay: Well I think that’s wrong, for example, in the missile area. I think in the missile area, if you just take public stuff that’s in Risen’s piece today and the October report, there’s a considerable amount of stuff that UNMOVIC did not understand.

But on the other hand, I don’t want this to be seen…I value what UNMOVIC found. I mean I think that it extended [the knowledge of] UNSCOM. What it really didn’t resolve—UNSCOM in some ways made it harder to resolve—is this material balance issue. The missing…500 liters of missing x, the missing y, which mostly dealt with material that UNSCOM had determined—correctly I think—that Iraq had imported but that the Iraqis could not account for. UNSCOM didn’t resolve that. I think in the end you’ll find that ISG is able to resolve most of that.

You know, the war would have been completely different if Dr Blix—and it’s not UNMOVIC’s fault, don’t misunderstand me, I don’t think it’s UNMOVIC’s fault, I think it’s Iraq’s fault—but if Dr. Blix had been able to report to the Security Council that “all of these missing amounts, we now understand where they were, they’re accounted for, they did not go into new weapons, etc.” Because of the Iraqi behavior and reporting, and the physical difficulty of resolving the material balance issues, no one was able to resolve that. And so, I think we did add considerably, and the final report will explain in detail far more convincing—well, UNMOVIC was unconvincing in the sense that they were unable to resolve it. I mean these were real differences, simply unresolvable. I think because the Iraqis are now able to talk, because we’ve got access to documentation and we’ve been able to put that puzzle back together, you will in the following report find a pretty convincing case that says most of these amounts are accounted for and did not go into new weapons.

ACT: So, what happened to these weapons? Were they destroyed or something else?

Kay: It varies. Some were destroyed. Some were destroyed in ways that the Iraqis were embarrassed to admit, how they had been destroyed. Some disappeared in the normal chaos and accidents that occurred. Realize they fought two wars they lost before this one—the Iran-Iraq war and the Persian Gulf War—and so, and those weapons, the unresolved amounts, revolved around importation of goods prior to the 1991 Gulf War and had been used to a large extent in the Iranian war. We figured out exactly in each one by piecing it together…and some of these explanations are terribly embarrassing to the Iraqis. Like I say, one major one involves disposal of weapons material and biological agents in ways that were not only not approved, but dangerous to the health of people in Baghdad, or thought to be. And so, they just covered it up, and they weren’t going to tell anyone that they had gotten rid of it that way. I don’t want to go into exact details, I’ll leave that to the next ISG report as you attempt to verify it. So, I mean I think it’s unfair to say that the ISG has added nothing. In one sense, confirming, as I think we will confirm, some of UNMOVIC’s conclusions, is important as well. But I think just on the missile area, I think it would be hard to sustain that argument.

ACT: Could we just go back to something you said about in terms of the records. One of the frequent arguments made is that, when the Iraqis couldn’t produce records, UNMOVIC would say you should have records to produce or, if you don’t have that, you should have some personnel who did it. I know one explanation was that Iraqi society was just not as well organized as we had thought it to be. It sounds like what you’re saying today is different, that there were ways to account for the weapons and they just didn’t in many cases.

Kay: All of us—and that includes UNSCOM and UNMOVIC—all of us dealing with Iraq knew that Iraq had tremendous record-keeping requirements, and they really kept records on almost everything. And so, this inability to produce records on people that were involved on the destruction hung in everyone’s mind as just not a credible explanation. I think what we have found out is that, while there were some areas where records were not kept, the explanations for why they didn’t keep records were not the ones they consistently gave to the UN. It was just reasons of protecting themselves and the regime from how they had destroyed certain things. That some of the records would have disclosed what they thought were importation networks that were not known about. There were a variety of reasons, not a single case. And there are some areas where, in fact, you’re going to have to say the Iraqis were right. The chaos of the moment, losing two wars, led to some destruction and disappearance of stuff that was undocumented, and, you know, they were telling the truth.

And this gets back to really a fundamental point in the Iraqi case, which the Iraqis themselves have recognized: many of those under interrogation…that is, they got in the habit in 1991 of lying. They were caught in a series of lies, so that when they later told the truth in some cases—like why some of these records don’t exist—no one would believe them because they were already convicted as consistent liars. It wasn’t the fault of UNSCOM, it certainly wasn’t the fault of UNMOVIC, and it largely wasn’t the fault of the outside analysts. It was Iraq’s fault for having ever gone down this way of such massive lying—principally in the initial stage to the IAEA and then subsequently on the biological area and the chem area to UNSCOM. Or the missile area when you caught them with the gyroscopes they had imported and some turned up in the Euphrates. You know, they just, they lied about everything, so when they told the truth they didn’t get credit for telling the truth. We thought it was just another lie.

ACT: Well, often they didn’t have any way to demonstrate they were telling the truth.

Kay: It’s hard to demonstrate when you say, “We didn’t keep records of this.” How do you prove it? And it was hard because it came back to, “Okay, well, bring the people involved who were there when it was destroyed,” and they refused to do that. The explanation for that happens to be because those people were deadly fearful that, if the regime understood—and the regime being Saddam—how they destroyed some of this material, their heads would have been in a noose.

ACT: In your January 28 testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, you said that the looting and destruction of the facilities after the invasion hampered the ISG’s ability to get a complete picture of Iraq’s weapon program, and you made some comments earlier about the lack of prewar planning for securing those facilities. How would you assess the initial plans for locating and securing WMD there?

Kay: Practically useless. I do not think the U.S. military gave a very high priority to locating WMD. They gave the highest priority to WMD that might possibly be used against troops during the course of the war. And that was their great fear, so on the actual battlefront, attempts that were designed to deter any possible Iraqi use or to make it overwhelming that they would gain no advantage from using it, I think those activities were actually good.

But the longer-range issue of finding what was in the WMD, locating the infrastructure, and protecting it was horrible. I mean, Tuwaitha—the principal nuclear research center that we know about—was essentially left unprotected. There was vast looting of radioactivity material and sources, looting of technical equipment. Records were destroyed. Now it was even worse in office buildings in Baghdad where the Military Industrialization Commission, for example, had its headquarters—those records were very, very valuable but they were looted and burned. The Ministry of Finance: looted and burned. And those went unprotected for well over a month, from April 9 to the end of May. I remember in May going out to the headquarters of the Iraqi Intelligence Service, and it was a field day. Anyone could go in and collect records and dig through.…These were unprotected. This was not a task that the military planned to take on or gave a high priority to.

ACT: In terms of export control regimes, people talk about choke points, the kinds of technologies you can control—you can’t control PlayStation 2s, maybe you can control other things. Do you think that expertise is a choke point?

Kay: I now sort of look at your technical expertise as being almost like your PlayStation 2 analysis—when you don’t necessarily have to go to the country, but you can do it with a team operating out of a research institute in a capital somewhere else, or you can, as in the A.Q. Khan era, you can take the expertise on designing central parts of a centrifuge and take them to a factory in Malaysia that then translates them into hardware. The technical expertise never goes directly to Libya. We just forget, it’s such a different world that the technical expertise is now pretty broadly spread in most of these areas.So, I don’t see it being an effective choke line.

I actually have come to the conclusion that international inspection is even more important now than it ever was. The on-the-ground examination of what’s going on is irreplaceable as to what it can do. And so, we’ve got to find a way to be sure that that inspection is as well equipped and well funded, organized, and with the maximum access possible, rather than believe that sitting back some place staring through space, or even with domestic export control laws, that you’re going to be able to stop it that way. There’s not going…I think the conclusion from Iraq—and I think out of Iran and Libya—is going to be there really is no substitute for effective inspections.

And really, the good news part of that story is, I think, if there is effective inspection, the need for unilateral pre-emptive action becomes much less critical. And the type of pre-emptive action that you might need, if you were to need it, becomes much less. You don’t have to defeat a country, you may at some point decide you have to take out a facility [if] international inspectors are being denied access. That’s really a lot different.


1. UNSCOM was formed in 1991 after Iraq’s defeat in the Persian Gulf War to verify that Iraq complied with UN-mandated disarmament tasks. For a list of relevant UN resolutions, see

2. The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) was signed in 1972 but lacks enforcement and verification provisions. Efforts to negotiate a binding protocol fell apart in 2001, when the Bush administration rejected a proposed draft and any further protocol negotiations, claiming such a protocol could not help strengthen compliance with the BWC and could hurt U.S. national security and commercial interests. For more details, see

3. See “Verifying Arms Control Agreements: An Interview with Hans Blix, the Outgoing Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC,” Arms Control Today, July/August 2003, pp. 12-15,

4. In response to its failure more than a dozen years ago to discover secret nuclear-weapon programs by Iraq and North Korea, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) began an effort in 1993 to make it more difficult for states to pursue nuclear weapons illicitly. That effort eventually produced the voluntary Additional Protocol, designed to strengthen and expand existing IAEA safeguards for verifying that non-nuclear-weapon states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) only use nuclear materials and facilities for peaceful purposes. For more details, see

5. A three-day air campaign launched by President Bill Clinton in 1998 after UNSCOM inspectors withdrew from Iraq, claiming their inspections were being hampered.