Login/Logout

*
*  
"I want to thank the Arms Control Association … for being such effective advocates for sensible policies to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and most importantly, reduce the risk of nuclear war."
– Senator Joe Biden
January 28, 2004
Iraq

Nuclear Inspectors Return to Iraq, Pentagon Balks

Paul Kerr

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors have returned to Iraq to account for and secure nuclear material that had been under IAEA safeguards. Meanwhile, coalition forces have yet to turn up any weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, and the CIA has tapped a former IAEA inspector to help them in the search.

The IAEA announced June 6 that it is conducting an inventory of nuclear material at a storage site near the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center, following reports that nuclear material had been looted there during the recent invasion.

The nuclear material stored at Tuwaitha had been under IAEA safeguards from 1991 until just before the recent conflict. The IAEA is responsible for monitoring safeguards agreements undertaken by states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. IAEA inspectors last visited the site in February.

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei stated that “the initial report [from inspectors] is that most of the material is accounted for,” according to a June 22 Reuters article.

But Pentagon officials emphasized in a June 5 press briefing that these inspections do “not set any precedent for future IAEA involvement in Iraq” and are only for securing the site at Tuwaitha as per the IAEA’s safeguards agreement. Such inspections of a declared installation are separate from those the IAEA conducted to enforce UN Security Council resolutions requiring Iraq to dismantle its suspected nuclear weapons and related facilities.

The officials emphasized that the inspection is a “cooperative effort” and that coalition forces are providing logistics support and security.

A knowledgeable U.S. official said in a June 20 interview that Washington will “revisit” UN weapons inspectors’ mandates, as per UN Security Council Resolution 1483, and has not ruled out readmitting the inspectors. The resolution, adopted in May, “reaffirms that Iraq must meet its disarmament obligations...and underlines the intention of the Council to revisit the mandates” of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the IAEA. UNMOVIC was charged with verifying that Iraq had dismantled its arsenal of chemical and biological weapons and destroyed its missiles with a range of more than 150 kilometers.

The United States, however, has indicated little interest in allowing the inspectors to return to Iraq. Pentagon officials said June 5 that Washington is concerned for the inspectors’ security. U.S. officials have also said that there is no need for UN inspectors because coalition forces are already performing disarmament tasks.

Hans Blix, who retired July 1 as executive chairman of UNMOVIC, told Arms Control Today June 16 that UN inspectors should verify that Iraq is free of WMD because that process “would have greater international credibility.” He added that UN inspectors could also perform a long-term monitoring function to ensure that Iraq does not reconstitute its prohibited weapons programs. (See ACT, July/August 2003.)

The UN inspectors left Iraq March 18, the day before the coalition invasion started and after almost four months of work. Their departure followed U.S. failure to gain support from Security Council members opposed to the immediate use of force against Iraq.

Although coalition forces have discovered two trailers that U.S. officials believe were components of mobile facilities designed to produce biological weapons agents, no actual weapons have been discovered. (See ACT, July/August 2003.)

Washington Augments Inspections

The Pentagon also provided new details about the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), formed in May to ferret out Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Major General Keith Dayton, currently with the Defense Intelligence Agency, has been assigned to head the group. The ISG will have between 1,300 and 1,400 personnel, with 200-300 devoted to searching for weapons on the ground.

During a May 30 press briefing, Dayton contrasted the ISG’s methods with the current coalition search. Rather than selecting sites for weapons searches from an existing list of possible sites, the ISG will consolidate intelligence capabilities in order to exploit new intelligence and identify sites where weapons are likely to be found. Undersecretary of Defense Stephen Cambone stated during the same briefing that forces first assigned to locate weapons were supposed “to support the combat forces…[and] weren’t prepared…to do the kind of wide-scale analytic work” that the ISG will perform.

The CIA announced June 11 that George Tenet, director of Central Intelligence, has appointed former IAEA inspector David Kay as special adviser for strategy regarding Iraqi WMD programs. Kay’s task is “refining the overall approach for the search for Iraq’s” WMD while working with the ISG, the agency said.

Administration officials continue to assert that coalition forces will locate prohibited weapons in Iraq, attributing the lack of discoveries to Iraq’s skill at concealing weapons, the need to interview scientists knowledgeable about Iraq’s weapons programs, the looting and burning of evidence at suspected weapons sites, the need to review relevant documents, and the possibility that Iraq might have destroyed or moved prohibited weapons. (See ACT, May and June 2003.)

 

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors have returned to Iraq to account for and secure nuclear material that had been under IAEA safeguards.

Verifying Arms Control Agreements

An Interview With Hans Blix

Although the United States has stepped up its search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD), no such weapons have yet been found.

Hans Blix, outgoing executive chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and former director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), shared his perspective on a number of Iraq disarmament issues during a June 16 interview with Arms Control Today editor, Miles Pomper, and ACA research analyst, Paul Kerr.

[Note: What follows is an edited, excerpt of the full transcript. To access the complete version please click here.]


 

ACT: So let me just start with maybe the most general question, I’m sure one that you’ve heard before: Are you surprised that U.S. forces haven’t found any weapons of mass destruction [WMD] yet?

Blix: No, I would not say I am surprised, but nor would I have been surprised if they had found something. Our position was always that there was a great deal that was unaccounted for, which means that it could have been there and the Iraqis had not explained what had happened to it, except to say in a general way that it was all destroyed in the summer of 1991.

We warned, and I warned specifically and explicitly, against equating “not accounted for” with “existing.” And you’ll find that we consistently said that Iraq must present any proscribed items or provide evidence of what has happened to them. And if they do not succeed in providing evidence, then the conclusion for us is that one cannot have confidence that these are gone and that therefore, at least in the past, in terms of the past resolutions, there was not a ground for lifting sanctions.

I am surprised, on the other hand, that it seems that so many of the U.S. military seemed to have been convinced that there would be lots of weapons of mass destruction, particularly chemical weapons, for them to take care of as soon as they went in and that they would practically stumble on these things. If anyone had cared, in the military circles, to study what UNSCOM [the United Nations Special Commission] was saying for quite a number of years, and what we were saying, they should not have assumed that they would stumble on weapons.

ACT: What do you think accounts for the discrepancy between this assumption on the U.S. military side and what was in the UNSCOM reports and what you found in your investigations?

Blix: I think primarily little attention to the United Nations and what it does up in New York and more attention to the huge organization that is the U.S. military force.

ACT: It’s not a question of different intelligence methods of gathering things or political pressures or other factors?

Blix: No—well, of course there was a lot of political feeling that [then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein] was bad, which was true, and which I shared. [Laughter.] But going from there to saying that “well, it was a foregone conclusion that there was a lot” [of WMD] was not really tenable logic. It is true that he had the intention and he had these programs; we all know that. And, in popular thinking, maybe, if you have someone committing a crime once, you are inclined to think there will be a second time. But if you are a lawyer, if you are in a court, you are not supposed to say that it is automatic that someone who is accused a second time is guilty because he was guilty the first time. I think the matters have to be looked at on the merits, and this is what we tried to do here, and…we were being cautious.

ACT: What do you think the lack of prohibited weapons finds says about the effectiveness of the investigations that you carried out and that the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] carried out? You got a lot of criticism at the time from the administration and other people about how effective they were, and do you think that this shows you were more effective than they claim?

Blix: Let’s distinguish between what is said at the official level with what is said at other levels. I mean, my relations with the U.S. mission here, with their representatives to the Security Council, with their representatives in the State Department, and Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, were—there was no criticism of what we were doing. On the contrary, there was support for it. And even at the time, when the media were suggesting that we were withholding some evidence, there was no such suggestion made on the Security Council. These were spins that came at a lower level.

ACT: On the substance of the question, do you think that your investigations were more effective than perceived at the time, whatever the origin of the criticism?

Blix: I think our investigations were quite effective, but we never claimed that we could get into the last cave or corner in Iraq, and, when I was at the IAEA, [current IAEA Director-General Mohamed] ElBaradei and I both said that there will always be a residue of uncertainty, however far you can get. Now I think that given the many things unaccounted for we were relatively far from hitting that residue; so we were never conclusive about it. There is only one case when we really got very close to asserting that there was something left, and that was with the anthrax, where I think we certainly had strong indications that everything hadn’t been destroyed in 1991. But having gone through the evidence of that case with the particular scientists here, I came to the conclusion that the evidence was not compelling, so we stopped short of saying that it does exist.

Now, we too, of course, were aware that the Iraqis must have learned a lot about concealment in the years and knew a lot about the techniques of the inspectors. So, we could not be sure that there were not underground stores that exist. We, in fact, were looking for ways in which one could explore that particular area, but you can’t look into every cave in a big country. We were also looking into the question of mobile transport of WMD because it was alleged that they moved things around all the time, which is hardly plausible for a whole stock of chemical weapons for a country, but there could have been some. And this was an area in which we were really looking for things. So we didn’t exclude that we could stumble upon something. And the question came then when, you remember, we found the chemical weapons warheads, which were empty of any chemicals. But we found 12 of them and then another four, I think. And we asked ourselves, and I said to the Security Council: “Is this the tip of the iceberg? Or is it simply broken up pieces of an ice that has broken in the past?” And I wouldn’t answer it at the time, kept both possibilities open. As I look at it today, perhaps I’m a little more inclined to think that it was debris from the past.

We looked at the stash of documents which we found on the basis of a tip from an intelligence agency. And, again, this had been said from intelligence in the past that the Iraqis were farming out documents to farmhouses and individuals and did not have them in archives. So the find was fitted into that picture. Could it have been part of a more general behavior? We still don’t know. But it could also have been an individual scientist who brought documents home, even though some were confidential. Both possibilities are open, and we never found another one, but I don’t exclude that it could have happened.

ACT: Can you speculate on why—

Blix: Ah, one point more. That is that, if you study our latest report, in the appendix we have information about when did UNSCOM, in particular, find things and when did they destroy things. And you’ll find that, in the first place, UNSCOM hardly ever stumbled upon something or found something that really was concealed. It was declared—either the sites were declared or the weapons were declared. And they destroyed practically all—the vast majority was destroyed before the end of 1994. After 1994, through their investigations and through the Kamel papers,1 they managed to identify that a number of things had been tainted, had been used, in installations. Equipment had been used for the production of weapons. Then they decided, this must be destroyed. So the little things were destroyed of that but not weapons. And I think that it is a detail now that the U.S. hasn’t found anything and we didn’t find anything. I think it’s interesting to go back and see that, in fact, after 1994, not much was found and destroyed. That has escaped attention. I don’t think we have called much attention to it either, but it struck me, and so we brought that forward.

ACT: Let’s talk a little about the Kamel papers. One of the criticisms that was made before was that the investigators didn’t find things on their own, that they were basically relying on defector testimony. How would you rate [defector testimony] versus on-the-spot investigations in terms of their effectiveness of getting at weapons programs and what is there?

Blix: Well, of course, if you count Kamel as a defector, which he was, this was a very valuable source of documents. But it did not lead anybody to a new weapon that was hidden. It demonstrated that they had weaponized biological weapons and, according to what the Iraqis said, then destroyed them. So it was a very interesting piece of history. It showed that they’d been lying, but [defectors] didn’t lead directly to any weapons. In the nuclear field, it revealed that the Iraqis had a crash program under Kamel from the end of 1990 and to some part of 1991 in order to make a nuclear weapon out of fissionable material, which were under safeguards, and that they just didn’t have time to do it. However, it did not lead the IAEA to any more fissionable material. It had already been taken out of Iraq by the time they found the Kamel papers. So it was very interesting historically, revealed something that the Iraqis had kept quiet about, but it did not lead the IAEA to any weapons.

And when it comes to comparison between the value of defectors and the value of other intelligence or what the inspectors found, I would say that the IAEA, for which I was responsible at the time, did a pretty good job, with the exception of these crash programs about which we knew nothing. However, it was in discussions with Professor Jaffar [Dhai Jaffar, deputy chairman of the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission] that the big revelations came about the program, and through very painstaking research by our team, led by Professor [Maurizio] Zifferero [former deputy director of the IAEA and head of the IAEA’s Iraq Action Team], not by David Kay [chief inspector of a nuclear weapons inspection team in Iraq and now special adviser for strategy to the Bush administration in the WMD search in Iraq]—he had no notion of their nuclear program. He was not a nuclear physicist. But Professor Zifferero, vilified by Mr. [Gary] Milhollin [director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control], he was the one who really traced the program and understood it.

ACT: You mentioned the mobile laboratories when we were talking a little bit earlier. If they were, as the Iraqis claim, not used for biological weapons but were actually producing hydrogen [for civilian purposes], why didn’t they declare them? Doesn’t it strike you as strange?

Blix: Yes, a little. I mean, we were the ones who said to the Security Council that we asked the Iraqis for the images or declarations of whatever could have been seen as mobile, and they gave us a number of photographs, and none of these really fit with the ones that have now been discovered. Maybe there is some explanation for it, but we are not aware of it. And I agree, it is puzzling—and not the only puzzling detail.

ACT: More broadly, let’s say that the Iraqis have been telling the truth all along and that they don’t have these weapons. Why would they not show the evidence of that and avoid a war?

Blix: Why didn’t they declare everything?

ACT: Yeah, why not come clean?

Blix: When it came to biological, clearly they were lying, and they knew that. Now, why did they do that if they had no weapons left? I’m not sure that the logic and the emotions and psychology works exactly the same way as they might do here. Maybe they felt ashamed to admit weaponization? I mean one theory why they—if they had no weapons after ’91, then of course there’s a much bigger enigma than that, and that is why did they behave all along as they did during the whole 1990s? Because they suffered through sanctions all the way through. And I’ve been speculating about it, and I think more people than I will speculate about it.

One speculation that’s been made in The Washington Post, which may have been plausible, is that, while on the one hand they would say to the Security Council, “We’ve done everything, now you lift sanctions.” On the other hand, maybe they did not mind that people say, “Well maybe they have something”—a deliberate ambiguity. It’s possible—the mystique of maybe having some biological weapons. Maybe they’re playing around. That is one possibility. Now, why should such a mystique—why should they pursue that until they are occupied? That seems a little peculiar. Maybe by the force of its own logic or by miscalculation, brinksmanship.

And I have one other speculation, and that’s regarding pride. I saw that the chief minder of the chemical sector—when he was asked this question—he talked about pride. And I think that goes fairly deeply into my view of how inspections should operate here, that the Iraqis are very proud, as are the Pashtuns in Pakistan. The Afghans are extremely proud people. And that [the Iraqis] felt that, okay, these resolutions are accepted by us. We will live by them but not one inch longer, not more intrusion than is absolutely [necessary]. And they were legalistic about this.

I find it very hard to understand some of their denials of access that they had otherwise, where they were quibbling about five inspectors or 10 inspectors going in and eventually going into a house that was totally empty. There must have been a strong element of pride, and that was why, when I came here from the very outset, I said we are in Iraq for effective and correct inspections. We are not there for the purpose of humiliating them, harassing them, or provoking them. There were many other elements too that we differed from UNSCOM, but this was one, and I still think that pride might have been an element. And while we had lots of frictions and difficulties with them, in any case, we had, I think, a less difficult relation than UNSCOM had. We had, in particular, never any denial of access, and we had a good deal of cooperation when it came to setting up the infrastructure. So did UNSCOM have cooperation, but they, of course, had many denials of access.

ACT: As you said, [the Iraqis] seemed to be getting a little more cooperative, at least giving you the semblance of cooperation toward the end. If the inspections had continued, do you think you would have been able to get more substantive cooperation out of them, or was it bogged down in this difficult process?

Blix: Well, it seems to me that the interview process would have been the most promising of them. Maybe they would have found some further documents, occasionally found some, but not very many. We thought that after we had found this stash of documents, that when they appointed [former Minister of Oil General Amer] Rashid, and it was the [Rashid] Commission that could get the documents all over the country. I thought that if they had them—now this is a moment for them to [turn over the documents] without loss of face—they would find themselves in the right. I applauded their department officials. The same way with the commission they appointed after we had found the 12 warheads. It is far better—this now could be done without loss of face. But nothing came of it.

Now what would have happened then, if we had not been able to clear up and give really solid evidence, was that there would have been more indications of cooperation in substance, yes, but still a lot of things would have—might have—remained unaccounted for, which wouldn’t have been very satisfactory. And we don’t know where we would have gone, maybe the U.S. would have said, “Well we are waiting for two months, this is it, that’s the end of it.” And others would have said, “They are really cooperating now, there are no problems.” What we really [would have been] in now is continued containment. Now, that was not a welcomed word in Washington. They didn’t like the idea of containment; they wanted something decisive. And, well, their patience was not even enough for us going until March, so at what time point would they have lost patience? I don’t know.

I’m not opposed to containment, and I said so at the time. I agree that containment has its drawbacks. In particular, and I think I mentioned it publicly, that there could be a fatigue in the Security Council, that the guard will be let down. I understand that also. So it has some shortcomings. At the same time, I think one must be—then see what shortcomings has the other solution. All of the lives lost, all of the destruction. And we haven’t seen all the other drawbacks that may come from it; nor have we seen all the benefits that could have come from it. They’ll be on there—the balance of that particular account is not finished. But I was not personally against aerial containment actually that we had for a long time.

And, in particular, when you look at the most important—I mean we, you and me, talk about WMD as if it were one homogenous area, which, of course, it is not. I mean, the nuclear is vastly more important, and there’s a question of whether we really want to call chemical weapons “weapons of mass destruction.” Biological [weapons are] more like terror weapons than weapons of mass destruction. However, in the nuclear field, I think that it was clear that it would have taken quite some time before they were up and running again because the whole infrastructure was destroyed. They could have, I agree they could have, succeeded in importing 18 kilograms of plutonium. They might have had the expertise to make a bomb, yes, but even that would have required some infrastructure; so the matter of intervention to prevent further development in the nuclear field was probably the weakest. It was the most important area, I agree, but it was the weakest.

ACT: When you had to leave Iraq, what were the disarmament tasks that were the most pressing, the issues you really wanted to get resolved?

Blix: I think that mobile business was. That and the underground [facilities for concealing prohibited weapons and related equipment]. And we had taken it up with the Iraqis, both of these items, and we were discussing concepts for how to approach the mobile business with the Iraqis and with others. We talked about having checks at the roads with Iraqi staff and us having helicopters, dashing in here and there, taking samples of these random checks and so forth. We never got to that; it wouldn’t have been easy. None of the police forces we talked with gave us a really good model for it, but we were working on that.

And this goes back—the mobile thing went back to my experience in the IAEA in 1991. After all, the calutrons were on trucks, and they were—it was an IAEA team headed by Mr. Kay, who helped to take pictures of it. So we had experience that the Iraqis did move things around on trucks, but whether they were live things or debris, that was another matter. In any case, they had the habit of moving things by trucks in the big country, so that was not implausible. This was one experience from the past. But as [General Amir] al-Saadi [a senior adviser to Saddam Hussein] said to me when we talked about moving biological stuff around, he shook his [head] and said merely the collision risk of all this stuff on the highways would have deterred him. I didn’t write it off because of his remark, but I understood him.

ACT: How would you describe…the U.S. participation and commitment to the inspection process before the war? Was the United States doing all it could do to enable your inspections to succeed? Were other countries, such as France and Russia, doing all they could do to support the inspections?

Blix: Well, in the early stages, there was not so much intelligence, and we asked for it from [Secretary of State] Colin Powell and others—Condoleezza Rice—and we were sure that we would get it. I would say that after 1441, the resolution, was adopted and after the president had met Mr. ElBaradei and myself, there was more intelligence given, and at no time did we really complain about lack of support—lack of intelligence, yes; but lack of support, no. No, they helped us to run courses here, offered us equipment, et cetera. We were not complaining about that.

And, as of January—some time around January, I guess—I did not also complain about the number of sites intelligence that we were getting. The problem was rather that the U.S. or elsewhere—I don’t want to distinguish between the various intelligence agencies—that they did not lead us to interesting sites. As I have said publicly several times, we went to a lot of sites given to us by intelligence from around the world, and in only three cases did we find anything; and in none of these cases did it relate to weapons of mass destruction. Now, at this stage, in the middle of June, when the U.S. inspectors have been there for quite some time and, I think, have probably gone to all of the rest of the sites, and they haven’t found them very helpful either. So should anyone be surprised then, in retrospect, that we did not?

Now where did [the information about] these sites come from? Some came from satellites, and it’s not so easy to see everything and conclude the right things from satellites, and many came from defectors. So while I by no means want to belittle the value of defectors’ information, I think I like the more experienced—the professionals in the intelligence [community] are very cautious about the information they get from defectors, and I think the whole case of the Iraqi affair bears out that you have to treat such affairs with prudence.

ACT: There is speculation that Iraq destroyed prohibited weapons pretty recently, before the U.S. invasion. Do you think this is possible, given UNMOVIC and IAEA’s presence, that they could have destroyed the weapons without your knowledge?

Blix: This is not the only explanation we heard. One explanation is that they took things to Syria. Another one was that they dug it down so deep that they didn’t have time to dig it up. The third one would be that they have already given it to terrorists. And the fourth one is they destroyed it just before the U.S. came or just before the inspectors came. Well, I see these explanations with increasing, accelerating interest and curiosity, but I’d like to see evidence of any one of them.

But to your precise question, I think it would have been difficult for them to hide the destruction of rather large stashes of chemical weapons under the noses of the inspectors. I don’t exclude anything in this world.

ACT: If you had to assess your own tenure there, how successful were you? How would you sum it up?

Blix: I would say that we have—we showed something that was not a foregone conclusion. Namely, that it was possible to create an international inspection mechanism that was effective, that worked under the Security Council, and that was independent of intelligence agencies but cooperated with them and had assistance from them. And I think that this is a valuable experience for the future because I think that there may yet be a need for international inspections. …

ACT: Now that you’re moving on, in terms of UNMOVIC, at this point, what role can and should UNMOVIC play?

Blix: Well, it’s entirely up to the Security Council. We are its humble servants.

ACT: Presumably, they might take your advice.

Blix: I’m not so sure. Well, maybe some of them. [Laughter.] No, I think there are two things that could be in the future. One is the verification of disarmament. A report by the inspectors who are there now would have greater international credibility if they were examined and if the reality were examined by international inspectors. Whether they are interested in that, I don’t know.

The second is long-term monitoring. Will they want to have long-term monitoring in Iraq? That’s still not rescinded from the resolutions. It was in all the resolutions, and the resolutions also talk about this future zone free of weapons of mass destruction. I think there’s something a little paradoxical about reducing the institutionalized transparency by doing away with something that was there, especially if we are looking for an enhanced verification for the region at some stage, including the Additional Protocol, [an agreement designed to provide for more rigorous IAEA inspections]. And you would do away then with any verification [that Iraq does not possess biological weapons]. So you would have inspectors presumably on safeguards and the NPT [nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] and chemicals, maybe. But they would be a step backwards on inspections. So for the long term, it’s a possibility, and I think that would be better in the hands of international inspectors than national ones.

But for the rest, the UN Security Council had in UNSCOM’s and UNMOVIC’s archives and personnel a unique, elite, trained force. Especially the roster of inspectors is a practical and inexpensive way of holding an inspectorate ready—valuable particularly regarding missiles, a priority for which you have no international organization. I do not think that the council wants to send ad hoc inspections every week, but it could be from time to time, and it would not need to have a very big stable force here. We would organize the training forces and organize the roster and the readiness.

For the rest, I think that they should write up the experiences here in some sort of digest because if they do not retain UNMOVIC, then maybe they will set up something in the future, and the document has experiences from both [UNSCOM and UNMOVIC] which are valuable. …


NOTE

1. Hussein Kamel, Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law who directed Iraq’s illicit weapons programs, defected in 1995. Shortly after, Baghdad provided inspectors with papers from Kamel’s farm detailing Iraq’s offensive biological weapons program.

[Return to text]

 


 

 

Blix Discusses UNMOVIC Experience As Controversy Over Iraq's Weapons Continues

Sections:

Body: 

For Immediate Release: June 20, 2003
Press Contacts: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107; Paul Kerr, Research Analyst, (202) 463-8270 x102

(Washington, D.C.): Although the United States has stepped up its search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD), no such weapons have yet been found. As a result, Congress is holding inquiries into the use of pre-war intelligence on Iraq's prohibited weapons by the Bush administration. Investigating this intelligence, however, is only part of the larger task of evaluating the effort to deny Iraq nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, and how to deal with other states intent on acquiring WMD.

Hans Blix, outgoing Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), shared his perspective on a number of Iraq disarmament issues during a June 16 interview with Arms Control Today editor, Miles Pomper, and ACA research analyst, Paul Kerr.

Regarding the fact that U.S. forces have not yet found prohibited weapons in Iraq, Blix told Arms Control Today: "I would not say I am surprised, but nor would I have been surprised if they had found something. Our position was always that there was a great deal that was unaccounted for, which means that it could have been there and the Iraqis had not explained what had happened to it. Except to say in a general way that it was all destroyed in the summer of 1991." He added, "We warned, and I warned specifically and explicitly, against equating 'not accounted for' with 'existing.'"

Blix answered questions on other issues, including:

  • UNMOVIC's experience performing WMD searches in Iraq;
  • The future role for UNMOVIC in Iraq;
  • The role of international weapons inspections elsewhere; and
  • Why U.S. inspectors have not found prohibited weapons and why Iraq was not more forthcoming.

Excerpts from the Blix interview will appear in the July/August issue of Arms Control Today, which will include two feature articles on the role of national intelligence in combating weapons proliferation:

Greg Thielmann, a recently retired senior State Department intelligence official, details how a 1998 commission chaired by Donald Rumsfeld manipulated threat assessments on foreign ballistic missile development to justify proposals for the rapid deployment of a national missile defense.

Gregory V. Treverton, a senior RAND analyst and former Vice-Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, questions whether U.S. intelligence alone can support a policy of preemption to take out nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs in states of concern.

The full Blix interview is available at http://www.armscontrol.org/events/blixinterview_june03.asp.

More information resources on Iraq are available online at http://www.armscontrol.org/country/iraq/.

# # #

The Arms Control Association is an independent, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to promoting public understanding of and support for effective arms control policies to address security threats posed by nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, as well as conventional arms.

Description: 
Media Advisory

Country Resources:

Interview with Hans Blix, Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC)

Sections:

Body: 

Hans Blix, outgoing Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), shared his perspective on a number of Iraq disarmament issues during a June 16 interview with Arms Control Today editor, Miles Pomper, and ACA research analyst, Paul Kerr.

What follows is a transcript of the interview.

ACT: So let me just start with maybe the most general question, I'm sure one that you've heard before: Are you surprised that U.S. forces haven't found any weapons of mass destruction [WMD] yet?

Blix: No, I would not say I am surprised, but nor would I have been surprised if they had found something. Our position was always that there was a great deal that was unaccounted for, which means that it could have been there and the Iraqis had not explained what had happened to it, except to say in a general way that it was all destroyed in the summer of 1991.

We warned, and I warned specifically and explicitly, against equating "not accounted for" with "existing." And you'll find that we consistently said that Iraq must present any proscribed items or provide evidence of what has happened to them. And if they do not succeed in providing evidence, then the conclusion for us is that one cannot have confidence that these are gone and that therefore, at least in the past, in terms of the past resolutions, there was not a ground for lifting sanctions.

I am surprised, on the other hand, that it seems that so many of the U.S. military seemed to have been convinced that there would be lots of weapons of mass destruction, particularly chemical weapons, for them to take care of as soon as they went in and that they would practically stumble on these things. If anyone had cared, in the military circles, to study what UNSCOM [United Nations Special Commission] was saying for quite a number of years, and what we were saying, they should not have assumed that they would stumble on weapons.

ACT: What do you think accounts for the discrepancy between this assumption on the U.S. military side and what was in the UNSCOM reports and what you found in your investigations?

Blix: I think primarily little attention to the United Nations and what it does up in New York and more attention to the huge organization that is the U.S. military force.

ACT: It's not a question of different intelligence methods of gathering things or political pressures or other factors?

Blix: No--well, of course there was a lot of political feeling that Saddam was bad, which was true, and which I shared (laughter). But going from there to saying that "well it was a foregone conclusion that there was a lot" [of WMD] was not really tenable logic. It is true that he had the intention and he had these programs; we all know that. And, in popular thinking, maybe, if you have someone committing a crime once you are inclined to think there will be a second time. But if you are a lawyer, if you are in a court, you are not supposed to say that it is automatic that someone who is accused a second time is guilty because he was guilty the first time. I think the matters have to be looked at on the merits, and this is what we tried to do here and that we were being cautious.

ACT: What do you think the lack of prohibited weapons finds says about the effectiveness of the investigations that you carried out and that the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] carried out? You got a lot of criticism at the time from the administration and other people about how effective they were and do you think that this shows you were more effective than they claim?

Blix: Let's distinguish between what is said at the official level with what is said at other levels. I mean, my relations with the U.S. mission here, with their representatives to the Security Council, with their representatives in the State Department, and Condoleezza Rice, the National Security Adviser, were--there was no criticism of what we were doing. On the contrary, there was support for it. And even at the time when the media were suggesting that we were withholding some evidence, there was no such suggestion made on the Security Council. These were spins that came at a lower level.

ACT: On the substance of the question, do you think that your investigations were more effective than perceived at the time, whatever the origin of the criticism?

Blix: I think our investigations were quite effective, but we never claimed that we could get into the last cave or corner in Iraq, and, when I was at the IAEA, [current IAEA Director-General Mohamed] ElBaradei and I both said that there will always be a residue of uncertainty, however far you can get. Now I think that given the many things unaccounted for we were relatively far from hitting that residue, so we were never conclusive about it. There is only one case when we really got very close to asserting that there was something left, and that was with the anthrax, where I think we certainly had strong indications that everything hadn't been destroyed in 1991. But having gone through the evidence of that case with the particular scientists here, I came to the conclusion that the evidence was not compelling, so we stopped short of saying that it does exist.

Now, we too, of course, were aware that the Iraqis must have learned a lot about concealment in the years and knew a lot about the techniques of the inspectors. So, we could not be sure that there were not underground stores that exist. We in fact were looking for ways in which one could explore that particular area, but you can't look into every cave in a big country. We were also looking into the question of mobile transport of WMD, because it was alleged that they moved things around all the time. Which is hardly plausible for a whole stock of chemical weapons for a country, but there could have been some. And this was an area in which we were really looking at for things. So we didn't exclude that we could stumble upon something. And the question came then when, you remember, we found the chemical weapons warheads which were empty of any chemicals but we found 12 of them and then another four I think, and we asked ourselves, and I said to the Security Council: "Is this the tip of the iceberg? Or is it simply broken up pieces of an ice that has broken in the past?" And I wouldn't answer it at the time, kept both possibilities open. As I look at it today, perhaps I'm a little more inclined to think that it was debris from the past.

We looked at the stash of documents which we found on the basis of a tip from an intelligence agency. And again this had been said from intelligence in the past that the Iraqis were farming out documents to farmhouses and individuals and did not have them in archives. So the find was fitted into that picture. Could it have been part of a more general behavior? We still don't know. But it could also have been an individual scientist who brought documents home, even though some were confidential. Both possibilities are open and we never found another one, but I don't exclude that it could have happened.

ACT: Can you speculate on why--

Blix: Ah, one point more. That is that, if you study our latest report, in the appendix we have information about when did UNSCOM, in particular, find things and when did they destroy things. And you'll find that, in the first place, UNSCOM hardly ever stumbled upon something or found something that really was concealed. It was declared--either the sites were declared or the weapons were declared. And they destroyed practically all--the vast majority was destroyed before the end of 1994. After 1994, through their investigations and through the Kamel papers,1 they managed to identify that a number of things had been tainted, had been used, in installations, equipment had been used for the production of weapons-then they decided, this must be destroyed. So the little things were destroyed of that, but not weapons. And, I think that it is a detail now that the U.S. hasn't found anything and we didn't find anything. I think it's interesting to go back and see that, in fact, after 1994, not much was found and destroyed. That has escaped attention. I don't think we have called much attention to it either but it struck me, and so we brought that forward.

ACT: Let's talk a little about the Kamel papers. One of the criticisms that was made before was that the investigators didn't find things on their own, that they were basically relying on defector testimony. How would you rate [defector testimony] versus on-the-spot investigations in terms of their effectiveness of getting at weapons programs and what is there?

Blix: Well, of course, if you count Kamel as a defector, which he was, this was a very valuable source of documents. But, it did not lead anybody to a new weapon that was hidden. It demonstrated that they had weaponized biological weapons and, according to what the Iraqis said, then destroyed them. So, it was a very interesting piece of history. It showed that they'd been lying, but [defectors] didn't lead directly to any weapons. In the nuclear field, it revealed that the Iraqis had a crash program under Kamel from the end of 1990 and to some part of 1991, in order to make a nuclear weapon out of fissionable material, which were under safeguards, and that they just didn't have time to do it. However, it did not lead the IAEA to any more fissionable material. It had already been taken out of Iraq by the time they found the Kamel papers. So, it was very interesting historically, revealed something that the Iraqis had kept quiet about, but it did not lead the IAEA to any weapons.

And when it comes to comparison between the value of defectors and the value of other intelligence or what the inspectors found, I would say that the IAEA, for which I was responsible at the time, did a pretty good job, with the exception of these crash programs about which we knew nothing. However, it was in discussions with Professor Jaffar [Jaffar Dhai Jaffar, Deputy Chairman of the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission] that the big revelations came about the program. And through very painstaking research by our team, led by Prof Zifferero [Maurizio Zifferero, former Deputy Director of the IAEA and head of the IAEA's Iraq Action Team] not by David Kay [chief inspector of a nuclear weapons inspection team in Iraq and now Special Advisor for Strategy in the WMD search in Iraq]-he had no notion of their nuclear program. He was not a nuclear physicist. But Professor Zifferero, vilified by Mr. Milhollin [Gary Milhollin, director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control], he was the one who really traced the program and understood it.

ACT: You mentioned the mobile laboratories when we were talking a little bit earlier. If they were, as the Iraqis claim, not used for biological weapons but were actually producing hydrogen [for civilian purposes], why didn't they declare them? Doesn't it strike you as strange?

Blix: Yes, a little. I mean, we were the ones who said to the Security Council that we asked the Iraqis for the images or declarations of whatever could have been seen as mobile and they gave us a number of photographs and none of these really fit with the ones that have now been discovered. Maybe there is some explanation for it but we are not aware of it. And I agree, it is puzzling and not the only puzzling detail.

ACT: More broadly, let's say that the Iraqis have been telling the truth all along and that they don't have these weapons, why would they not show the evidence of that and avoid a war?

Blix: I agree with you, I think it is a little bizarre. Maybe they considered them to be not a dual-use item. If they were to produce hydrogen, as they say, for weather balloons, was that a dual-use item at all? Maybe it had not drifted up to Amin and to al Saadi [Hussam Mohammed Amin, head of the Iraqi National Monitoring Directorate and Amir Al Saadi, a senior adviser to then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein].

Ewen Buchanan (UNMOVIC Public Information Officer): Maybe they didn't bother to tell the others.

Blix: I do not immediately jump to the conclusion that it was a lie. It could be.

ACT: Not just on that particular program but in the general sense of all their--of all the things you were missing.

Blix: Why didn't they declare everything?

ACT: Yeah, why not come clean?

Blix: When it came to biological, clearly they were lying and they knew that. Now, why did they do that if they had no weapons left? I'm not sure that the logic and the emotions and psychology works exactly the same way as they might do here. Maybe they felt ashamed to admit weaponization? I mean one theory why they - if they had no weapons after '91, then of course there's a much bigger enigma than that, and that is why did they behave all along as they did during the whole 1990s? Because they suffered through sanctions all the way through. And I've been speculating about it and I think more people than I will speculate about it.

One speculation that's been made in the Washington Post, which may have been plausible is that, while on the one hand they would say to the Security Council, "We've done everything, now you lift sanctions." On the other hand, maybe they did not mind that people say, "Well maybe they have something"-a deliberate ambiguity. It's possible-the mystique of maybe having some biological weapons, maybe they're playing around. That is one possibility. Now, why should such a mystique - why should they pursue that until they are occupied? That seems a little peculiar. Maybe by the force of its own logic or by miscalculation, brinksmanship.

And I have one other speculation and that's regarding pride. I saw that the chief minder of the chemical sector --when he was asked this question-he talked about pride. And I think that goes fairly deeply into my view of how inspections should operate here, that the Iraqis are very proud, as are the Pashtuns in Pakistan, the Afghans are extremely proud people. And that [the Iraqis] felt that, okay, these resolutions are accepted by us. We will live by them, but not one inch longer, not more intrusion than is absolutely [necessary], and they were legalistic about this.

I find it very hard to understand some of their denials of access that they had otherwise, where they were quibbling about five inspectors or ten inspectors going in, and eventually going into a house that was totally empty. There must have been a strong element of pride, and that was why when I came here from the very outset, I said we are in Iraq for effective and correct inspections. We are not there for the purpose of humiliating them, harassing them, or provoking them. There were many other elements too that we differed from UNSCOM, but this was one and I still think that pride might have been an element and, while we had lots of frictions and difficulties with them, in any case, we had I think a less difficult relation than UNSCOM had. We had, in particular, never any denial of access, and we had a good deal of cooperation when it came to setting up the infrastructure. So did UNSCOM have cooperation, but they of course had many denials of access.

ACT: In your recent report, you said that Iraq was cooperative in terms of process but not equally cooperative in terms of substance, and that the long list of unresolved disarmament issues had not shortened. On the other hand, you also said that inspections contributed to a better understanding of previous weapons programs. Could you elaborate a little bit? How does the inspection produce a better understanding if no outstanding disarmament issues were resolved?

Blix: Well, I think that there are biologists that learned more about [the Iraqi] biological program. We were given access, for instance, to some binder of documents-a fairly extensive thing-which did give them a better understanding. But it did not explain or give evidence that 8,500 liters were all they had [the total anthrax production that the Iraqis had acknowledged to UNMOVIC] or that they'd all been destroyed.

In the chemical field, we were interested in explanations about VX and whether it was stabilized or not stabilized. I'm told, by the experts that they understood some things better, obviously.

Buchanan: If I could chime in. From the UNSCOM days, it is true, the better understanding often led to more questions rather than anything else.

Blix: That's true. Take the Air Force documents.2 I mean, they did give us the Air Force documents. The famous Air Force document was given to us and we examined it and everybody agreed it was authentic. And it raised new questions. There was one enigma gone and another one coming up.

But as to the first part of your question about the difference between cooperation on process and on substance: Yes, of course, from the outset they were cooperative on process, and this was a marked difference from the past. And we were also trying to be as professionally correct as we could, although they accused us of being spies from time to time and asked "why could you ask such questions, these are not legitimate questions." But at the same time we felt that on the substance, they were to be active-as the council resolution required-and the 12,000 pages that we received as the declaration we thought were not really containing much new, mostly repetition of old finally complete declarations from the past. This was almost arrogant--that was our view, maybe we were mistaken in this judgment, but that was how we saw it, and similarly when they gave us 400 names, we had more names ourselves. And, combined with their assertion that these are "so-called disarmament issues," it was a somewhat arrogant attitude - we perceived it as such.

And that was the background for my statement in January, that they were not of substance, and that statement shook them. When I came back the next time, they were--[Iraqi Vice President Taha] Ramadan was indignant about it. It shook them clearly. And then it seemed to me that they changed very much, and they suggested all kinds of methods. They also zeroed in on the points which they knew that we were particularly interested in: on the VX, and on the anthrax, and on the SCUD missiles. So from that time, they became proactive, not just active but proactive. And we welcomed that.

However, we had to look at everything with cold eyes and examine [these efforts, which] didn't really solve anything. And in that respect, I warned the council that it may not, and eventually as we analyzed and submitted our thirteenth report, no we don't think that it really solved any of the issues of the past. As an example, we talked about the idea they had that we should take soil in places where they had poured anthrax into the ground, examine the soil, and look at the products that were there and see whether we could draw some conclusions about the quantities of anthrax that had been poured into there. Well our scientists were skeptical about it, but we were willing to go along and try the experiment. And so there was an effort, but whether this was an attempt to throw more dust in our eyes, or whether it was a genuine desperation on their part, that they had no other evidence, we don't know. We simply had to conclude that we did not have more evidence.

We also said in the discussion of interviews that, if you don't have any documents, then clearly interviews become even more important. They gave us lots of names of people who had taken part in the transport of missiles and the destruction of anthrax and the destruction of VX, and this was the most interesting avenue we would have pursued if we had remained, with all the handicaps that you have, in pursuing interviews in a totalitarian country. And I still feel a little puzzled that they could have detailed lists about even who transported what in 1991 without keeping any records of how much they transported. That's mystifying to me, though I do not exclude that there could be some natural explanation that they could destroy all the stuff, they could destroy all of the documents, but they couldn't destroy all the people, even in a country like Iraq.

ACT: As you said, they seemed to be getting a little more cooperative, at least giving you the semblance of cooperation, toward the end, if the inspections had continued, do you think you would have been able to get more substantive cooperation out of them or was it bogged down in this difficult process?

Blix: Well, it seems to me that the interview process would have been the most promising of them. Maybe they would have found some further documents, occasionally found some, but not very many. We thought that after we had found this stash of documents, that when they appointed [former Minister of Oil, General Amer] Rashid, and it was the [Rashid] Commission that could get the documents all over the country. I thought that if they had them-now this is a moment for them to do it [turn over the documents] without loss of face-they would find themselves in the right. I applauded their department officials. The same way with the commission they appointed after we had found the 12 warheads. It is far better-this now could be done without loss of face. But nothing came of it.

Now what would have happened then, if we had not been able to clear up and give really solid evidence, was that there would have been more indications of cooperation in substance yes, but still a lot of things would have - might have - remained unaccounted for, which wouldn't have been very satisfactory. And we don't know where we would have gone, maybe the U.S. would have said, "Well we are waiting for two months, this is it, that's the end of it." And others would have said, "They are really cooperating now, there are no problems." What we really are in now is continued containment. Now that was not a welcomed word in Washington, they didn't like the idea of containment, they wanted something decisive. And, well, their patience was not even enough for us going until March, so at what time point would they have lost patience? I don't know.

I'm not opposed to containment, and I said so at the time. I agree that containment has its drawbacks. In particular, and I think I mentioned it publicly that, there could be a fatigue in the Security Council, that the guard will be let down. I understand that also. So, it has some shortcomings. At the same time, I think one must be-then see what shortcomings has the other solution. All of the lives lost, all of the destruction, and we haven't seen all the other drawbacks that may come from it, nor have we seen all the benefits that could have come from it. They'll be on there - the balance of that particular account is not finished. But I was not personally against aerial containment actually that we had for a long time.

And in particular when you look at the most important-I mean, we-you and me talk about WMD as if it were one homogenous area, which of course it is not. I mean, the nuclear is vastly more important and there's a question of whether we really want to call chemical weapons "weapons of mass destruction." Biological [weapons are] more like terror weapons than weapons of mass destruction. However, in the nuclear field, I think that it was clear that it would have taken quite some time before they were up and running again because the whole infrastructure was destroyed. They could have, I agree they could have, succeeded in importing 18 kilograms of plutonium. They might have had the expertise to make a bomb, yes, but even that would have required some infrastructure, so the matter of intervention to prevent further development in the nuclear field was probably the weakest; it was the most important area, I agree, but it was the weakest.

ACT: When you had to leave Iraq, what were the disarmament tasks that were the most pressing, the issues you really wanted to get resolved?

Blix: I think that mobile business was. That and the underground [facilities for concealing prohibited weapons and related equipment]. And we had taken it up with the Iraqis, both of these items, and we were discussing concepts for how to approach the mobile business with the Iraqis and with others. We talked about having checks at the roads with Iraqi staff and us having helicopters, dashing in here and there, taking samples of these random checks and so forth. We never got to that, it wouldn't have been easy. None of the police forces we talked with gave us a really good model for it, but we were working on that.

And this goes back-the mobile thing went back to my experience in the IAEA in 1991. After all, the calutrons were on trucks, and they were, it was an IAEA team headed by Mr. Kay, who helped to take pictures of it. So we had experience that the Iraqis did move things around on trucks, but whether they were live things or debris, that was another matter. In any case, they had the habit of moving things by trucks in the big country, so that was not implausible. This was one experience from the past. But as Al-Saadi said to me when we talked about moving biological stuff around, he shook his and said merely the collision risk of all this stuff on the highways would have deterred him. I didn't write it off because of his remark, but I understood him.

ACT: I just have a couple of questions about the inspections, the process, getting into the weeds a little more. I have heard some say that there is no such thing as no-notice inspections, and he asserted that even during UNMOVIC's time in Iraq that the Iraqis had advance notice, that it was routine practice to give the Iraqis advance notice of inspections. Is that accurate? If it's not, was there any evidence that you noticed that the Iraqis knew you were coming?

Blix: No, we have heard people say that UNSCOM was penetrated and for that reason, the Iraqis would have known and, in some cases at any rate, that we were coming. We know that when our inspectors set out from the Canal hotel, Iraq would watch in what direction they were going and I know there were some cases our people sort of went around Baghdad so they alerted them all around the country. But once, of course, you are on the road, well then, they will observe that and the minders will inform those who maybe are in the direction they are coming and could prepare. However, we do not believe we were penetrated by the Iraqis here or in the Canal hotel. We do not think that any of these [Iraqis] actually knew where we were coming, until we were setting out on the road and they could start guessing it.

Now, added to that, I think is that, if they have a few hours notice, there is no way you can dismantle a missile program or move out a hell of a lot of chemical weapons. But you can of course squirrel away documents, vials-yes, that can be done. And UNSCOM had seen in the past how they were taking away some documents. But as for hardware, I think that's much harder unless it's small pieces of various kinds.

Buchanan: I think there was a common misunderstanding. Just because the Iraqis went out with us didn't mean to say they knew where we were going. People say, "why do you take them along with you?" They just followed, quite literally. And, yes, it's true, we would say to the chemical minder, "We want to meet you tomorrow in the morning at 8 o'clock because we're going out again." We just say the chemical team is going out at 8 in the morning but not where. There were some of these commentators that we talk of, yes and tomorrow we want you to take us to al-Qa'qa.

Blix: The only cases where we or the IAEA actually told them were in cases where we needed equipment to do something in particular, but they were very few cases. So I don't think this is really tenable.

ACT: I was going to ask you about a comment that [President Bush's national security adviser] Condoleezza Rice made during a March 9 interview3 when she said that "the IAEA missed--"

Blix: Yeah, thank you, wonderful. I've been looking for that. What date was it?

ACT: March 9th.

Blix: Nine. Nine of March. Good. (laughter) I'd like to see the evidence for that. (laughter) I'm sure she didn't find that evidence herself.

ACT: But my question was--

Blix: She refers to 1991, '95, and '98.

ACT: Right, and I was asking if you could comment on the accuracy of that statement.

Blix: Well, I've been intrigued by this statement, and [Secretary of State] Colin Powell also referred to, I think 1991, and I've seen [Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul] Wolfowitz says that we were ready to close the nuclear weapons chapter before--when?

ACT: Three months after the end of the Gulf War.

Blix: I don't frankly understand. I'd love to see what evidence they have, in fact I love evidence in general (laughter). But I'd love in particular to see this since I was responsible for the IAEA at the time. Now, what we can say and I have said to [all this] is that, before the Gulf War, the IAEA had a safeguard system that was constructed by august member states, and which we operated to the full satisfaction of the said august member states. (laughter) And that this system was inadequate to discover undeclared installations and it was even asked to go to strategic points, to stretch its limitations to see what it could do within it. And the said august states woke up to the necessity of beefing up the system when it was discovered that Iraq had a great deal that was not declared. It would not have been politically possible to move in that direction before this disaster. And I am part of the disaster, yes. But neither did the CIA nor even Mossad to my knowledge know that the Iraqis had undeclared installations. Well we were in good company and I do not see why the IAEA alone should bear the burden for that.

We did take steps to beef it up when they came to fruition in 1997, the additional protocols which have not yet been ratified by-there are lots of people, states that have not done it. But nevertheless they are on the way and this is an interesting and promising development.

Now so much for '91. We did not see evidence of a nuclear weapon at the first inspection, but I think almost very shortly after the first inspection. We were there before UNSCOM- we could see that they had a program of enrichment, the calutrons were discovered there relatively early and identified. We did not jump from that conclusion that they have the bomb, nor would it have been permissible to do so. However, we asked - we certainly did not say or conclude that they have it. And it was relatively soon - or soon enough that they came with a drawing of the weapon. And so, I don't understand what the critics have mention in 1991. (It's true that in the safeguards report, that came in early 1991, the safeguards department probably reported that it had not seen any diversion of any fissionable material under safeguards but it didn't pronounce itself about anything that was not placed under safeguards.

So, that's 1991. For 1995, the critics have in mind the Kamel papers that revealed the crash program that Iraq had in 1990 and 1991. We didn't know about that. Well, the program failed, but we couldn't fail. This was nothing that went on in 1995; it was going on in 1990. And for 1998, I had no idea what the critics referred to.

So I think it would be very interesting if these criticisms that were never made at the time, by the United States or anybody else, at the IAEA--that this be substantiated. I've seen Mr. Milhollin and others say this - that doesn't surprise me the slightest - but I was taken aback when it came from Condoleezza Rice. I know she didn't do the research herself; I'm sure it would have been more solid then. But I would be very interested to know what was that basis of it.

ACT: How would you describe-since you're talking about Dr. Rice-how would you describe the U.S. participation and commitment to the inspection process before the war? Was the United States doing all it could do to enable your inspections to succeed? Were other countries, such as France and Russia, doing all they could do to support the inspections?

Blix: Well, in the early stages, there was not so much intelligence, and we asked for it from Colin Powell and others-Condoleezza Rice-and we were sure that we would get it. I would say that after 1441, the resolution, was adopted, and after the president had met Mr. ElBaradei and myself, there was more intelligence given, and at no time did we really complain about lack of support-lack of intelligence yes, but lack of support no. No, they helped us to run courses here, offered us equipment, etc. We were not complaining about that.

And, as of January-some time around January, I guess-I did not also complain about the number of sites intelligence that we were getting. The problem was rather that the U.S. or elsewhere-I don't want to distinguish between the various intelligence agencies-that they did not lead us to interesting sites. As I have said publicly several times, we went to a lot of sites given to us by intelligence from around the world and in only three cases did we find anything and in none of these cases did it relate to weapons of mass destruction. Now, at this stage, in the middle of June, when the U.S. inspectors have been there for quite some time and I think have probably gone to all of the rest of the sites and they haven't found them very helpful either. So should anyone be surprised then, in retrospect, that we did not?

Now where did [the information about] these sites come from? Some came from satellites, and it's not so easy to see everything and conclude the right things from satellites, and many came from defectors. So, while I by no means want to belittle the value of defectors' information, I think I like the more experienced - the professionals in the intelligence [community] - are very cautious about the information they get from defectors, and I think the whole case of the Iraqi affair bears out that you have to treat such affairs with prudence.

ACT: U.S. officials were reportedly frustrated with some of your reports to the Security Council. Is that accurate, and how would you respond to that?

Blix: If they are, I think they ought to be more articulate. My boss was the Security Council. I take my instructions from them, I read every ounce of criticism that came from the council. I do not see any criticism there.

ACT: So these were, as you said, certain lower level people?

Blix: Well, maybe that's a technique that you give spins on something at a lower level and you read in the newspapers what some people feel there at the official level. This might be suppressed, I don't know, but in any case at no time did I feel any criticism from the Security Council. On the contrary, I think I felt support and appreciation.

I read about, of course, the most flagrant cases, where allegations to the newspapers that we had suppressed information about the drones and about the cluster bombs probably. But we felt both cases were areas where we were exploring, where we were not ready to say that these are violations. And I have not seen that the U.S. has come out to say that these were violations, that these were smoking guns. So, I don't think that we were so wrong. If they had still felt that way, I assume they would not have been all that tight -lipped about it.

ACT: If you had to assess your own tenure there, how successful were you? How would you sum it up?

Blix: I would say that we have - we showed something that was not a foregone conclusion. Namely, that it was possible to create an international inspection mechanism that was effective, that worked under the Security Council, and that was independent of intelligence agencies but cooperated with them and had assistance from them. And I think that this is a valuable experience for the future because I think that there may yet be a need for international inspections.

Inspections under international organizations have greater acceptability in the world and I think they have also greater credibility than national inspections. Thereby, I don't say that national inspections have no credibility. If the inspectors who are in Iraq now come up with 100 tons of chemical weapons, well that's it. But we have seen how they have been jumping somewhat to conclusions on the mobiles. And I can see the pressure they're under but nevertheless one has to be cautious about that. So, I think there may be use in the future for this and that the experience is valuable and it's my reading of the Security Council that this is also the view of the council. I have not heard the U.S. dissent from it. Sure, the U.S. is a big country and there are many people in Washington, and I understand-as well as you-I understand there are some people there who are deeply skeptical about it and also people who would like to see it under their own control, rather than under of some more-or-less anonymous, international civil servants. This I understand, but there are arguments against this and that is both the credibility and the acceptability of it.

Now this is intriguing because we have different kinds of inspections in the world, and I remember saying at the State Department when we discussed Resolution 1441 that you could have had another one - that the Security Council could have asked the United States to set up the inspections from the beginning, just as it asked the U.S. to lead them in the Korean War. But that was not what they did. In resolution 1284, they said we should set up an inspection that was independent and where the inspectors were international civil servants, as contrasted to the inspectors under UNSCOM who remained civil servants and had per diems and travel expenses from the United Nations. Now there was a signal in this that we were to have a geographical distribution as in the United Nations system, that it was to be an international inspectorate and not any kind of adjunct to western intelligence.

ACT: You were saying something about this permanent body and lessons for the future. You wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal a few months ago about inspections everywhere.

Blix: Well, the headline was theirs, don't you know. The headlines are always yours, I take no responsibilities for headlines. (laugh)

ACT: Yes, but could you elaborate more on what your notion of this organization and how this would function?

Blix: Well, we read now about the North Korean situation that the U.S. and others say that it must be irreversible and it must be verifiable, so I ask myself now what kind of verification are they planning for North Korea? Are they planning bilateral American inspections? Or are they still looking at the IAEA, or do they want to have inspection system under NATO, or what? I don't know. But the IAEA has the safeguards agreement with the operator, and to my knowledge the U.S. is supporting the safeguards system, even to the extent of asking for more funds for it. Although I haven't seen that they do the same thing for the OPCW [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-the international organization that carries out inspections under the Chemical Weapons Convention]. Maybe they did, I haven't seen it.

So I think the U.S. is also not throwing out inspections but it's natural for some people who have command of an area that they would like to have it all under their control. Well, I understand these guys, but there are some things you can gain by being together with others. You may have to give something, but you also gain something. Therefore, I think there may yet be opportunities for it.

I can go back to the early days of the nuclear sphere, when the U.S. sold technology and hardware to other countries, and they had bilateral American inspections. There were American inspectors going to the countries to check that what they had sold was used only for peaceful purposes. Now that was transferred to the IAEA, through explicit agreements, transferred to be multilateralized and institutionalized. And there were several reasons behind that. I think that's what both UNSCOM and UNMOVIC have shown is that we can have very effective inspections under an international system. In Iraq, maybe with the exception of something that will come up, we have not been accused of not having been effective. They were both correct and effective.

Now things might have been different if the Iraqis had stonewalled, but then you report [that]. I mean, the chances that inspectors will catch anybody red-handed are not very great. A country that is about to act in such a way would rather deny access, but then you would have smoke. Rather than a smoking gun, you have smoke. And that is interesting enough because that sets in motion the alarm bells and sets in motion the diplomatic, economic, and other measures that the government can take.

This is what happened in the case of North Korea. We didn't find a smoking gun-in fact, we don't know how much more plutonium they had than they declared. But they were not - it was not an honest report that they had. They had reprocessed more than once, [although North Korea declared that they had only reprocessed once] so they must have had more plutonium now. This was smoke. The Pentagon and the CIA came to the conclusion later that they had one or two bombs. Well, the IAEA has never said that. It's possible, because they might have reprocessed the whole batch. It's conceivable, but it's the worst case scenario, as it were. It's legitimate for them to play with that

But what the IAEA achieved then was getting the smoke coming up, setting in motion the whole procedure with the Security Council and the formidable [Robert Gallucci, lead U.S. negotiator on the 1994 Agreed Framework that attempted to freeze North Korea's nuclear weapons program] who came to an Agreed Framework, which I think probably was the best-or least bad-we could do at the time. I've never felt any criticism here.

ACT: There is speculation that Iraq destroyed prohibited weapons pretty recently before the U.S. invasion. Do you think this is possible, given UNMOVIC and IAEA's presence, that they could have destroyed the weapons without your knowledge?

Blix: This is not the only explanation we heard. One explanation is that they took things to Syria. Another one was that they dug it down so deep that they didn't have time to dig it up. The third one would be that they have already given it to terrorists. And the fourth one is they destroyed it just before the U.S. came or just before the inspectors came. Well, I see these explanations with increasing, accelerating interest and curiosity, but I'd like to see evidence of any one of them.

But to your precise question, I think it would have been difficult for them to hide the destruction of rather large stashes of chemical weapons under the noses of the inspectors. I don't exclude anything in this world.

ACT: Do you think any chemical or biological weapons that are still there would still be viable?

Blix: It varies. Any biological weapons that were dried, like dried anthrax, that would be viable. Even slurry might--might not be. A lot of the chemicals would not be viable.

Buchanan: A lot depends on the agent. Botulinum toxin has a very short life.

Blix: And the precursors might be there.

ACT: Now that you're moving on, in terms of UNMOVIC, at this point, what role can and should UNMOVIC play?

Blix: Well, it's entirely up to the Security Council. We are its humble servants.

ACT: Presumably, they might take your advice.

Blix: I'm not so sure. Well, maybe some of them (laughter). No I think there are two things that could be in the future. One is the verification of disarmament. A report by the inspectors who are there now would have greater international credibility if they were examined and if the reality were examined by international inspectors. Whether they are interested in that, I don't know.

The second is long-term monitoring. Will they want to have long-term monitoring in Iraq? That's still not rescinded from the resolutions. It was in all the resolutions and the resolutions also talk about this future zone free of weapons of mass destruction. I think there's something a little paradoxical about reducing the institutionalized transparency by doing away with something that was there, especially if we are looking for an enhanced verification for the region at some stage, including the Additional Protocol [an agreement designed to provide for more rigorous IAEA inspections]. And you would do away then with any verification [that Iraq does not possess biological weapons]. So you would have inspectors presumably on safeguards and the NPT [nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] and chemicals maybe. But they would be a step backwards on inspections. So for the long-term it's a possibility, and I think that would be better in the hands of international inspectors than national ones.

But for the rest, the UN Security Council had in UNSCOM's and UNMOVIC's archives and personnel a unique, elite trained force. Especially the roster of inspectors is a practical and inexpensive way of holding an inspectorate ready. Valuable particularly regarding missiles, a priority for which you have no international organization. I do not think that the council wants to send ad hoc inspections every week, but it could be from time-to-time, and it would not need to have a very big stable force here. We would organize the training forces and organize the roster and the readiness.

For the rest, I think that they should write up the experiences here in some sort of digest because if they do not retain UNMOVIC then maybe they will set up something in the future and the document has experiences from both [UNSCOM and UNMOVIC] which are valuable.

ACT: For some sort of institutional memory ?

Blix: We have ourselves some of that already. We have the handbook that we worked out and which was not made public but which was used and made available to our College of Commissioners that might not be applicable in the same way to another situation because it was somewhat tailored to the resolutions, of course. Nevertheless, there is a lot to be learned, I think we can learn for the future. We have tried to commit to paper some of these experiences.


NOTES

1. Hussein Kamel, Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, who directed Iraq's illicit weapons programs, defected in 1995. Shortly after, Iraq provided inspectors with papers from Kamel's farm detailing their offensive biological weapons program

2. A document indicating that Iraq had used fewer chemical munitions during the Iran-Iraq war than it had previously stated.

3. Excerpt from "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," ABC TV, March 9, 2003:

Condoleezza Rice: It's extremely important not to draw conclusions too early about who is making progress on a nuclear program. I was a little concerned that IAEA remarks about the Iraqi nuclear program the other day seemed to draw certain conclusions.

George Stephanopoulos (Off Camera): It said they hadn't revived the nuclear program.

Condoleezza Rice: Right, and the IAEA of course missed the program in '91, missed the program in '95, missed it in '98. We need to be careful about drawing those conclusions particularly in a totalitarian state like Iraq.

Description: 
Interviewed by Miles A. Pomper and Paul Kerr

Country Resources:

With War in Iraq Over, Where Are the Weapons?

Paul Kerr

One month after President George W. Bush’s May 1 declaration of an end to major combat operations in Iraq, U.S. forces are continuing their search for nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons but have so far failed to make any significant discoveries. The future of UN weapons inspections in Iraq remains uncertain.

Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith told the House International Relations Committee during a May 15 hearing that the United States has searched about 20 percent of approximately 600 known weapons of mass destruction sites, warning that the process “will take months, and perhaps years.”

Undersecretary of Defense Stephen Cambone told reporters during a May 7 briefing that the United States was sending an additional 2,000 personnel to Iraq to augment search efforts. The personnel will comprise the Iraq Survey Group, tasked with finding prohibited weapons. Cambone emphasized the importance of interviewing knowledgeable Iraqi officials and the evaluation of documentary evidence.

Explanations for the failure to find weapons vary. Administration officials have previously attributed the lack of discoveries to Iraq’s skill at concealing weapons, the need to interview scientists knowledgeable about Iraq’s weapons programs, and the possibility that Iraq might have destroyed prohibited weapons or transferred them to another country. (See ACT, May 2003.)

U.S. officials continue to assert that the coalition forces will locate chemical or biological weapons in Iraq. During a May 16 interview with Russian television, Secretary of State Colin Powell cited Baghdad’s submission of an incomplete declaration about its prohibited weapons programs to the UN Security Council as evidence that the regime had been hiding such weapons.

Security Council Resolution 1441 required Iraq to submit a “currently accurate, full, and complete declaration of all aspects of its [weapons of mass destruction] programmes.” Iraq turned over a 12,000-page declaration to UN officials in Baghdad last December, but it contained little useful information and left many questions unanswered.

The most important weapons-related find has been the discovery of two trailers that U.S. officials believe were built to produce biological weapons agents. The first trailer was found April 19, and the second was discovered May 9, U.S. officials said. The second trailer did not appear to have been completed.

Powell told the Security Council February 5 that Iraq was using mobile biological laboratories as part of a larger effort to conceal its prohibited weapons programs.

U.S. experts say the trailers “appear to have had no purpose but to produce biological agents, and that they are…almost identical, in some respects,” to the vehicles Powell described, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher stated in a May 21 press briefing. Powell said in a press briefing that same day that U.S. experts do not know whether the trailers were used to produce biological agents because they “have been cleaned” with disinfectants and experts “can’t find actual germs on them.”

Role for the IAEA and the UN?

Meanwhile, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors are planning to return to Iraq, according to a May 23 agency press statement. The United States agreed to let the inspectors return following repeated calls from IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei. Agency spokesman Mark Gwozdecky said the inspectors are planning to return “before the end of the week,” according to a May 26 Associated Press article.

Expressing deep concern about press reports indicating that civilians have been looting nuclear sites, ElBaradei called for the United States to “allow IAEA experts to return to Iraq” in a May 19 statement. He indicated that he had warned the United States on April 10 of the “need to secure the nuclear material stored at Tuwaitha”—Iraq’s nuclear research center—and provided Washington with the “information about the nuclear material, radioactive sources, and nuclear waste in Iraq.”

ElBaradei said he wrote to the United States again April 29 because, although the IAEA had received “assurances” from the United States that the site was being protected, he was concerned by further reports of looting. The United States did not respond to that message, he added.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged during a May 14 hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee that looting had taken place at nuclear sites that were unguarded by U.S. forces.

In response to ElBaradei’s May 19 suggestion, Washington is making arrangements with the agency to “conduct a joint inspection of the safeguarded storage area near Tuwaitha,” Boucher said May 21. He emphasized that the IAEA’s inspection of the Tuwaitha sites will fulfill its responsibilities under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and is a separate issue from the question of whether the agency will conduct the intrusive inspections mandated by Security Council resolutions concerning Iraq.

The nuclear material stored at Tuwaitha has been under IAEA safeguards since 1991. The IAEA is responsible for monitoring safeguards agreements undertaken by states-parties to the NPT.

ElBaradei called the security problems a “safety and security” issue in his May 19 statement. IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming stated that the Tuwaitha site contains “radioactive sources that could be used” to make radiological weapons, according to a May 6 Agence France-Presse report. A radiological weapon uses conventional explosives to disperse radioactive material, but such a device would not come close to causing the destruction of a nuclear weapon, which is triggered by a nuclear reaction.

Meanwhile, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1483 on May 22 by a 14-0 vote, ending economic sanctions on Iraq and spelling out the United Nations’ postwar role in the country. Some sanctions on military goods remain in place.

The resolution also “reaffirms that Iraq must meet its disarmament obligations...and underlines the intention of the Council to revisit the mandates of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission” and the IAEA, but it does not specify whether those organizations should resume inspections in Iraq.

UN weapons inspectors left Iraq March 18—the day before the coalition invasion started—after almost four months of work, following U.S. failure to gain support from Security Council members opposed to the immediate use of force against Iraq.

Intelligence Investigated

Several reviews of the intelligence community’s assessments of Iraq’s nuclear, chemical, and biological programs are underway. A CIA spokesperson said in a May 27 interview that a review of intelligence gathering in Iraq was “put in motion” last October as part of a “lessons-learned” exercise. A team of retired intelligence officials is conducting the review, which has been underway for several weeks, the spokesperson added.

Meanwhile, Congress initiated two other investigations of the intelligence community. The chairman and ranking member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, Porter Goss (R-FL) and Jane Harman (D-CA), sent a letter asking for detailed information about intelligence assessments of Iraq’s weapons programs, as well as other matters, a committee staff member said in a May 27 interview.

Describing the investigation as a “routine step,” Goss said in a May 25 appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation that its purpose is to “understand how good [intelligence community] sources and methods are.” Harman added during the same broadcast that the lack of chemical or biological weapons discoveries in Iraq to date “raises some questions” about the quality of U.S. intelligence.

On the Senate side, the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WVA), have asked the CIA and the State Department to conduct “a formal investigation” into the intelligence community’s use of intelligence documents that were apparent forgeries.

 

 

One month after President George W. Bush’s May 1 declaration of an end to major combat operations in Iraq, U.S. forces are continuing their search for nuclear, chemical...

The Post-Hussein Era: America, Russia,

Representatives Curt Weldon and Chet Edwards

The nations of the world are moving warily into the post-Saddam Hussein era. Bruised feelings, suspicions, and strained relations among old and new friends and allies abound. France, Germany, and Russia, which once saw little of common interest, now nurse a common grudge against what they see as America’s willingness to ignore their counsel. Healing all of these wounds will be important for America’s national interest, but none is more significant than restoring our increasingly close strategic relationship with Russia, for Russia is the only country that can make or break our war on terrorism.

Of paramount importance to the lives and safety of the American people are the massive stockpiles of nuclear weapons and materials and the expertise for building them that Russia and the other independent states inherited from the Soviet Union. The size of those inventories and that pool of scientific know-how, along with their dangerous vulnerability to theft or diversion, continue to pose dangers of immense proportions, dangers that we have not done enough to address.

A recent Department of Energy estimate put the amount of Russian weapons-usable nuclear materials at more than 1,500 tons.1 That is enough for more than 100,000 nuclear weapons.2 Just one weapon with an explosive power of 10 kilotons, somewhat smaller than the Hiroshima bomb, detonated at Grand Central Station in New York could kill about a half-million people and inflict about a trillion dollars of direct economic damage. The U.S. government considers that a real possibility; in October 2001, it was concerned that al Qaeda might have smuggled a 10-kiloton warhead into lower Manhattan. The fact that a Russian nuclear commander had recently reported that he could not account for a warhead that size ostensibly under his control was part of the reason for the concern.3

If a terrorist group setting off such a weapon were to claim the ability to detonate one or more additional bombs, the effect on the American people, our government, and our economy would be too horrific to assess.

It has been 12 years since Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) and then-Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA) alerted the nation to this kind of danger and successfully proposed bold, forward-looking legislation establishing threat-reduction programs in the states of the former Soviet Union. They saw the danger to the United States, and to the whole world, of the Soviet-era nuclear legacy that had fallen to Russia and the other states of the former Soviet Union.

The Need for More Threat Reduction

The Nunn-Lugar and related nonproliferation programs are beginning to account for and secure the nuclear stockpiles of the former Soviet Union while developing sustainable commercial employment for the tens of thousands of scientists and technicians who used to work in the development and production of weapons of mass destruction. The programs are aimed at exactly the right targets. As Nunn recently observed, “It becomes obvious from analyzing the terrorist path to a nuclear attack that the most effective, least expensive way to prevent nuclear terrorism is to secure nuclear weapons and materials at the source. Acquiring weapons and materials is the hardest step for the terrorists to take, and the easiest for us to stop.”4

What is distressing to note, looking back over the past decade, is that we have not moved with greater speed and determination to protect American lives from this great danger. These programs, despite being effective, are too small and have been operating at a pace that does not match the size and urgency of the problem. To cite just one example, working with Russia, we certainly by now should have completed “comprehensive upgrades” at all vulnerable nuclear sites in that country. These upgrades involving sophisticated security systems are along the lines of what we use here in the United States to protect our own stocks of weapons-grade materials. According to the Department of Energy’s fiscal year 2004 budget documents, even by October 2004, comprehensive upgrades will not have been completed at facilities containing enough material for more than 22,000 nuclear weapons. This is far too risky given that a recent CIA report faulted the security of Russian nuclear arsenal facilities, noting that “undetected smuggling has occurred.”5

There is little to be gained from pointing fingers. Neither the Clinton administration, the Bush administration, nor the Congress, under either Democratic or Republican leadership, has given these programs the priority they deserve.

It strains credulity that we are apparently comfortable with leaving such large quantities of bomb material so lightly protected, or essentially unprotected, in sites in the former Soviet Union for years and years while we keep our own under heavily guarded, highly sophisticated, electronically based security. There is no doubt that terrorists not only want nuclear weapons but that they are actively attempting to acquire them. A Harvard study commissioned by the Nuclear Threat Initiative recently reported that “[i]n October 2001, the commander of the force that guards Russia’s nuclear weapons reported that during that year, terrorist groups had twice carried out reconnaissance at Russian nuclear warhead storage sites—whose very locations are a state secret.”6 This report was confirmed by the official Russian government newspaper.7 In addition, there have been numerous other reports in the Russian press of terrorists reconnoitering nuclear warhead transport trains.8 Also, it has been reported that the 40 armed Chechens who seized hundreds of hostages at a Moscow theater in October 2002 had considered seizing a nuclear reactor with hundreds of kilograms of highly enriched uranium (HEU)—enough to build several nuclear weapons.9

As the readers of this publication are well aware, the bipartisan task force headed by former Senate Republican Leader Howard Baker and former Clinton administration White House counsel Lloyd Cutler concluded in January 2001 that an effort in the magnitude of $30 billion over eight to 10 years was necessary in order to deal with nuclear threat reduction and nonproliferation problems in Russia.10 We have not yet even approached that level and are currently devoting only about $1 billion a year to this problem.

Last year at the Group of Eight (G-8) summit in Kananaskis, Canada, the participants established a Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction and promised to “raise up to $20 billion” for the initiative over the next 10 years. That is still $10 billion shy of the Baker-Cutler recommendation and is spread over a much broader range of problems than preventing the proliferation of Russia’s nuclear weapons, materials, and know-how. It will address the spread of weapons of mass destruction on a global basis and include matters relating to nonproliferation, disarmament, counterterrorism, and nuclear safety and environmental issues. Thus, whether or how much the G-8 initiative will actually increase threat-reduction and nonproliferation efforts in Russia cannot be discerned at this point.

For example, the U.S. pledge of $10 billion essentially assumes a straight-lining of the U.S. programs at 6 percent less than the fiscal year 2002 level 11 and would be even less in real dollars after adjusting for inflation.

Another factor requiring increased U.S.-Russia nonproliferation efforts over the coming years is the fate of the thousands of Russian strategic warheads that will be removed from deployment under the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT). The already beleaguered Russian system of accounting, securing, and destroying nuclear weapons and materials will be further stressed by the downloading of these warheads. Ensuring that these warheads do not proliferate should be a key U.S. objective in the years to come.

Clearly, we in Congress need to be doing more to enhance and accelerate these programs. A leading observer has noted the unsatisfactory pace of the U.S. programs this way: “Continuing on the current course…could leave key objectives unmet at the end of this decade.”12 That plainly is unacceptable.

But resources are not the only problem. The United States and Russia still have not ironed out the problems of working together efficiently, including problems of access to sensitive sites in Russia where security upgrades are necessary and of the need for the United States to be assured that work that has been paid for has been completed. Other problems include the fact that there are dozens of U.S. programs operated by three cabinet departments and other agencies. Thus, problems in the coordination or synchronization of the programs continue to arise.13

The challenges are as urgent as they are clear, and they require two immediate responses. First is ensuring that U.S.-Russian relations are on a plane where these nuclear nonproliferation programs can move ahead more aggressively and the difficulties in carrying them out can be resolved. This clearly is an issue requiring the attention of Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin in their June 1 summit in St. Petersburg and in any subsequent talks between the leaders. Americans and Russians alike need the protection that these programs can provide, and they need that protection now. Many have recommended that these two leaders each designate a top-level official reporting directly to their respective president to lead and coordinate these programs.14 We agree. In both countries, these officials should each be charged with developing an integrated plan for their government’s part in these efforts, meeting with their counterpart, offering advice on the budgetary requirements for carrying out these plans, and alerting their president when problems requiring his intervention arise.

Urgent Next Steps

A strong congressional effort to take the Nunn-Lugar-type programs to a new level is necessary and is beginning to take shape. On April 10, we, together with a bipartisan group of 22 other members of Congress, introduced the Nuclear Security Initiative Act of 2003 to do just that.15 Many of these provisions have been included in the House version of the fiscal year 2004 defense authorization bill. (See ACT, June.) The Senate and the White House would be wise to endorse them as Congress hashes out the final House-Senate compromises on the defense bill.

Important next steps for Congress to address include: Enhance Security Upgrades and Expand Them to Research Reactors

We should accelerate the Department of Energy’s International Nuclear Materials Protection and Cooperation (MPC&A) program in order to quickly improve basic security measures at all nuclear weapons and materials storage facilities in the former Soviet Union. According to the Department of Energy’s own fiscal year 2004 budget documents, by October 2004, enough nuclear material to build 16,000 bombs will still be in Russian facilities lacking the most basic security protection, such as fences, strengthened doors and locks, and bricked-up or barred windows. These are the protections—the kind you would expect to find at a warehouse for storing home appliances in the United States—that can prevent ordinary burglars from breaking into buildings containing the makings of enormous tragedies in U.S. cities.

In addition, hundreds of facilities around the world, many of them too poor to provide basic security, have various quantities of plutonium or HEU.16 This situation poses a grave and immediate threat to our security, and we need a new approach to deal with it.

The recent success in Vinca, Yugoslavia, is illustrative. A research reactor facility there that had received HEU from the Soviet Union cooperated with an international team that returned the material to a secure site in Russia, where it was reduced to non-weapons-usable, low-enriched uranium (LEU). The United States provided $2 million to $3 million for this project, and making up for a gap in the U.S. government’s authority, a private nonprofit group, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, donated $5 million.17 But we cannot afford the several months of interagency negotiations and the enlistment of private help that are currently needed to cobble together each of the dozens of Vinca-like projects that need to be undertaken as quickly as possible around the world.

Our legislation provided for such an expedited effort by permitting expansion of the MPC&A program authority to countries outside the former Soviet Union. It also would allow the administration to offer incentives to convince managers to part with fissile material that they see as critical to a research reactor’s reason for existing. Thus, our broader program would include the authority to purchase vulnerable HEU and plutonium and transport it to the United States or elsewhere for secure storage or neutralization and the authority to offer targeted financial and other incentives to encourage facilities to release the material. Incentives might include assistance with managing nuclear waste, funding to convert a reactor to the use of LEU, and decommissioning reactors and related facilities. Where it might be practical for a country to retain the fissile material, our expanded MPC&A program could assist with security upgrades that are considered adequate and sustainable.

Acceleration of HEU Blend-Down Program

Under a 1993 U.S.-Russian HEU Purchase Agreement, the U.S. Enrichment Corporation (USEC), a corporation serving as the U.S. executive agent under the agreement, each year buys about 30 tons of Russian HEU that has been removed from dismantled nuclear weapons and blended down to LEU, which is not weapons usable. USEC then sells the LEU on the U.S. market to nuclear power companies. The amount of HEU blended down annually is geared not to U.S. or Russian security demands but to what the U.S. market will bear without causing prices to drop too far or pushing American producers out of business. The agreement covers 500 tons of HEU and will run through 2013.
There are at least another 600 tons of HEU in Russia, however, that must be dealt with. Thus, section 3157 of the Bob Stump National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003 authorized a new program for blending down additional quantities of HEU in Russia that are not covered by the 1993 agreement. Our bill provides funds for expediting the expanded program of blending down HEU that is critically important to our security.

Fighting the Smuggling of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Related Materials

Another provision of the bill addresses the need to back up our efforts to secure nuclear weapons and materials with measures to combat smuggling of the weapons, materials, and technologies. Although terrorist organizations lack the capacity at this time to attack the United States with a ballistic missile, it is quite likely that a terrorist organization that gained control of a nuclear weapon or the material to build one could smuggle it into the United States across our northern or southern border or by boat. Only about four kilograms of plutonium or 20 kilograms of HEU is needed for a bomb.18

Several states of the former Soviet Union with stockpiles of nuclear materials, however, lack the legal and institutional frameworks to monitor and control exports effectively, as well as the infrastructure and personnel necessary to implement such controls. In many cases, these countries have borders that are thousands of miles long and national governments that often do not have the ability to monitor, patrol, or secure them. According to the latest estimate, only 45 percent of Russia’s customs checkpoints have operable radiation detectors and monitors.19 Some borders in the former Soviet Union are considered particularly sensitive, including points of entry into Iran on the Caspian Sea.

The same provision also recognizes the great challenge we face in monitoring the more than 20,000 shipping containers that enter the United States each day. New technology could help us determine if any vessel in a port contains nuclear material. If we placed such equipment in ports overseas, we could determine whether a vessel is free of nuclear materials before it departs for the United States rather than after it has entered a U.S. port.

Our legislation authorizes aid to the former Soviet states to improve their border controls, to track and intercept illicit transfers of weapons of mass destruction and the materials and technologies for building them, and to work with other countries to install in their ports devices to detect nuclear or radiological weapons or materials.

“Silk Road” Initiative

In addition to work in Russia to reduce the threat of weapons of mass destruction, more work needs to be done in the countries on Russia’s periphery to ensure that materials and weapons that terrorists might attempt to smuggle out of Russia are interdicted and to ensure that people with weapons of mass destruction expertise in states of the former Soviet Union other than Russia find gainful, peaceful employment. To this end, we want to establish a “Silk Road” Initiative (SRI). The SRI would provide assistance to develop sustainable employment opportunities for scientists, engineers, and technicians formerly employed in the production of weapons of mass destruction in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. These countries—new and struggling democracies that have been very helpful to the United States in the war against terrorism—would benefit considerably from this assistance, and U.S. national security would be enhanced.

Under the leadership of the secretary of energy, the SRI would incorporate the best practices under current and former Department of Energy “brain drain” programs with Russia and facilitate commercial partnerships between private entities in the United States and scientists, engineers, and technicians in the Silk Road countries. Our bill requires that, before fully implementing this new program, the secretary of energy carry out a pilot program with respect to one Silk Road state, preferably Georgia.

Chemical, Biological Weapons Plan

In addition to addressing the threat posed by nuclear weapons, the United States needs to improve its efforts to reduce the threat posed by biological and chemical weapons. Our legislation would address two of the most important steps that could be taken on this front: the creation of a comprehensive plan for biological and chemical weapons nonproliferation programs in the states of the former Soviet Union and the designation of a senior official to coordinate those programs. For too long, these programs have operated without a strategic vision and strong leadership. The principal objectives of this proposal are to focus the very top levels of government on the issue; to fill the need for one high-level official to take responsibility for overseeing and coordinating these programs; and to establish priorities, identify gaps and overlaps, and take advantage of synergies.

Inventory Nuclear Weapons

During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union produced more than a thousand metric tons of weapons-grade nuclear material, enough to build approximately 175,000 nuclear warheads.20 In 1986, at the height of the U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons buildup, the two countries possessed almost 64,000 nuclear warheads.21 Today, the United States and Russia possess more than 95 percent of the world’s assembled nuclear weapons and weapons-grade material.

Unfortunately, the Russian nuclear establishment is unable to account fully for its inventory of weapons-grade material and nuclear weapons. With its closed society, complete with closed and isolated nuclear cities, closed borders, and an intrusive KGB, the Soviet Union never saw the need for the extensive record keeping and physical security measures the United States adopted for nuclear installations during and since the Cold War. This appears to have been especially true for weapons-grade nuclear material and maybe even for portable “tactical” nuclear warheads.22 Now that we are partners with a newly democratic Russia, we need to do all we can to correct that situation in order to help us work together to secure weapons and materials.

For these reasons, the United States must establish a comprehensive inventory of U.S. and Russian nuclear warheads and materials, accompanied by exchanges of the inventory information. Our legislation requires that particular attention be paid to tactical warheads and warheads that are no longer operationally deployed. Such inventories and exchanges, which would be the first steps in a long process, would accelerate the process of establishing fissile material and warhead inventories in which both sides have confidence. Additional steps would include ongoing declarations, inspections to check the accuracy and completeness of the declarations, and measures to verify the dismantling or safe storage of warheads and the elimination of warhead components.

Other provisions included in our proposal further strengthen programs to provide former weapons of mass destruction scientists and engineers with sustainable commercial employment, accelerate programs for closing nuclear weapons production facilities in Russia, enhance the program for improving security at facilities in Russia containing “dirty bomb” radiological materials, and establish a formal Duma-Congress nuclear threat reduction working group.

Preventing terrorists and hostile states from acquiring nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction is the central requirement of the U.S. national security agenda. As President Bush has stated, “The gravest danger our Nation faces lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology. Our enemies have openly declared that they are seeking weapons of mass destruction, and evidence indicates that they are doing so with determination. The United States will not allow these efforts to succeed…. We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best…. History will judge harshly those who saw this coming danger but failed to act.”23 By taking the steps outlined above, the leadership of the United States will be acting to fulfill its primary duty—protecting the security of the American people.


NOTES

1. March 6, 2003, letter from the Associate Administrator for Management and Administration of the National Nuclear Security Administration, Department of Energy, reprinted in the General Accounting Office report, “Weapons of Mass Destruction: Additional Russian Cooperation Needed to Facilitate U.S. Efforts to Improve Security at Russian Sites,” GAO-03-482 (March 2003), p. 80 (hereinafter GAO report).

2. This figure is based on the conservative assumption that all of this material is highly enriched uranium, requiring about 20 kilograms (44 pounds) for a nuclear weapon, although it contains much plutonium, of which only about 4 kilograms (about 9 pounds) is needed. See Matthew Bunn, Anthony Wier, and John P. Holdren, “Controlling Nuclear Warheads and Materials: A Report Card and Action Plan,” (Project on Managing the Atom, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University 2003), p. 13, n. 9 and accompanying text, available at http://www.nti.org/e_research/cnwm/index.asp (hereinafter NTI study).

3. Massimo Calabresi and Romesh Ratnesar, “Can We Stop the Next Attack?” Time, March 3, 2002.
4. Sam Nunn, “Keynote Address,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace 2002 Non-Proliferation Conference, November 14, 2002, available at http://www.nti.org/c_press/speech_samnunn_1114.pdf.

5. Central Intelligence Agency, “Annual Report to Congress on the Safety and Security of Russian Nuclear Facilities and Military Forces,” (February 2002), available at http://www.cia.gov/nic/pubs/other_products/icarussiansecurity.htm.

6. NTI study, p. 14.

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid.

10. “A Report Card on the Department of Energy’s Nonproliferation Programs with Russia,” Task Force of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (January 2001).

11. The fiscal year 2002 level totaled $1.065 billion. William Hoehn, “Observations on the President’s Fiscal Year 2004 Budget Request for Nonproliferation Programs and the Former Soviet Union,” (Russian American Nuclear Security Advisory Council, February 11, 2003), available at http://www.ransac.org/new-web-site/index.html.

12. Text of April 24, 2003, letter from the Russian-American Nuclear Security Advisory Council to the U.S. Congress on the future of weapons of mass destruction threat reduction, available at http://www.ransac.org/new-web-site/index.html.

13. NTI study; GAO report, p. 43, (concluding that the Departments of Defense and Energy need “an integrated plan” for their related programs for helping secure Russia’s nuclear warheads).

14. NTI study, pp. 122-24.

15. In addition, another two cosponsors subsequently signed on.

16. NTI study, p. 142.

17. Department of State, Fact Sheet, August 23, 2002.

18. NTI study.

19. U.S.-Russian Legislative Working Group on Nonproliferation, “Statement on the Need to Expand Nonproliferation Export Control Assistance to Russia,” adopted January 28, 2003.

20. Harold Feiveson and Steve Fetter, “Verifying Deep Reductions in Nuclear Forces,” in Harold Feiveson, ed., The Nuclear Turning Point: A Blueprint for Deep Cuts and De-alerting of Nuclear Weapons (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1999), p. 221.

21. Natural Resources Defense Council Nuclear Notebook, “Global Nuclear Stockpiles, 1945–2002,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 58, no. 6, (Nov./Dec. 2002), pp. 103–104.

22. John D. Steinbruner, Principles of Global Security (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2000), pp. 73-80.

23. The White House, “The National Security Strategy of the United States of America,” September 2002.

 


Curt Weldon (R-PA) is a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee. Chet Edwards (D-TX) is a member of the House Appropriations Committee.

 

 

  

The Case of Iraq's "Missing" Weapons

Daryl G. Kimball

The stated rationale for President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq was intelligence indicating the presence of chemical and biological weapons and renewed nuclear weapons work. Turning its back on a UN arms inspections process it never fully supported, the administration embraced pre-emptive war as its preferred method of curtailing the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

After scouring Iraq for more than two months, however, the Pentagon has thus far failed to uncover evidence backing up the administration’s prewar claims. The case of the “missing” Iraqi weapons requires that we re-examine the administration’s rush to war in Iraq, as well as the use of intelligence to justify pre-emptive action against other states. It also underscores the enduring technical and political value of international weapons inspections.

To be sure, Iraq has possessed chemical and biological weapons, used chemical weapons, and pursued nuclear weapons in the past. During the 1990s, the first group of UN inspectors destroyed the bulk of Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons and dismantled its nuclear bomb program, but the Iraqi government failed to cooperate fully. For this very reason, arms control advocates pressed for the prompt return of the UN inspectors with expanded capabilities and authority. After three months of renewed inspections in 2002 and 2003, scant evidence of WMD was uncovered. Still, more time and cooperation was needed to resolve a number of serious questions about unaccounted-for nerve and mustard agents, as well as chemical and biological munitions.

Although the administration now cites several reasons for the war, its chief claim was that UN weapons inspections had failed and that Iraq’s WMD posed an imminent threat. In his February 5 presentation to the United Nations, Secretary of State Colin Powell asserted that “Saddam Hussein has chemical weapons.” A British government report suggested that such weapons could be ready for use within 45 minutes. Vice President Dick Cheney went even further, saying March 16 that Iraq had “reconstituted nuclear weapons.”

Now it is the Bush administration urging patience, as the U.S. “military exploitation teams” that are searching Iraq come up empty-handed. Bush has even suggested that suspected WMD might have been destroyed before or during the invasion. Although it dismissed France’s prewar proposal to boost the number of UN inspectors, the Pentagon has belatedly decided to increase the number of U.S. specialists looking for Iraq’s banned weapons.

Should the absence of dramatic weapons finds be surprising? Not really, given the likelihood that UN inspections had effectively denied Iraq militarily significant WMD capabilities. Neither should it be surprising if the Pentagon finds dual-use technology and documentation about prohibited weapons work in the past—after all, Iraq did have active WMD programs at a time when Hussein was considered an ally by Washington.

What is shocking is the failure of U.S. and British forces to secure known Iraqi nuclear facilities in the final days of the war. The Department of Defense says only 200 personnel were assigned to the task. Reports indicate that widespread looting occurred at the Tuwaitha facility and six other sites in early April. As a result, dangerous nuclear materials might now be in unfriendly hands—one of the dangers Bush said the war would prevent. Not until late last month did the Pentagon agree to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to return to help secure the sites.

The lack of clear evidence of Iraqi WMD makes it all the more apparent that the latest round of tougher UN inspections were successful in stopping Iraq from assembling a militarily significant chemical or biological weapons arsenal and that they blocked further nuclear weapons activities. UN and IAEA inspectors should be allowed to return to Iraq to complete the task of long-term monitoring and disarmament. Unfortunately, the U.S.-drafted Security Council resolution on postwar arrangements effectively denies UN inspectors the opportunity to do so.

The case of Iraq also underscores the limitations of national intelligence as a basis for pre-emptive war. A good deal of the administration’s case against Iraq was built on information from groups with an interest in the overthrow of Hussein, such as the Iraqi National Congress. In a 2002 report, the CIA itself documented the unreliability of such sources.

If, over time, the dire prewar assessments of Iraq’s weapons prove false, it will be harder to win support for efforts to check the proliferation behavior of foes and even friends. In the long run, the United States can ill-afford to undermine international inspection efforts or injure its own credibility by invoking shaky assessments of weapons dangers to fit preconceived political or military objectives.

 

U.S. Issued Warning on Threat of Possible Iraqi WMD Use

Wade Boese

One of the unknowns leading up to and during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was the U.S. response if Iraqi forces used chemical or biological weapons against U.S. troops or allies. Fortunately, Iraq did not carry out such an attack, sparing an answer.

Nevertheless, the question lingers and remains relevant because other countries hostile to the United States are known or thought to possess chemical and biological weapons.

At various times in the past, U.S. officials have said that the United States might respond to a chemical or biological weapons attack with nuclear weapons. The United States has pledged, however, not to use nuclear weapons against countries not possessing them that are party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty unless such a country joined a nuclear-armed country in attacking the United States, its forces, or allies. Proliferation experts have also debated whether a nuclear response would be proportionate to chemical or biological weapons use.

As the likelihood of war grew and then became reality, Bush administration officials narrowed their public comments about how the United States would respond to a chemical or biological attack. It is not known if any private threats were communicated to Iraqi leaders.

Over the first months of this year, U.S. officials would not forswear, although they did downplay, the possibility of retaliating with nuclear weapons if Iraq used chemical or biological arms, arguing that no option would be ruled out. Both in the days prior to the outbreak of the war and during the fighting, top officials did not threaten to retaliate with or even allude to possible U.S. nuclear use. Instead, they directed their public statements to Iraqi military commanders and soldiers, telling them that they would be punished as war criminals if they used chemical or biological weapons.

When President George W. Bush issued an ultimatum March 17 that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his sons had 48 hours to leave Iraq or face military action, he warned Iraq’s military not to obey any order to use weapons of mass destruction, a term referring to chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. If Iraq employed these types of weapons, Bush indicated that the act would constitute a war crime and stated that those responsible would be prosecuted as war criminals. He warned, “And it will be no defense to say, ‘I was just following orders.’”

Bush did not say that the United States would reserve the right to respond any way it wanted—warnings that other senior officials previously voiced—but neither did he refute the earlier statements.

Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press January 26, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card suggested that the United States might retaliate with nuclear weapons to a chemical or biological attack. Hussein “should anticipate that the United States will use whatever means necessary to protect us and the world from a holocaust,” Card said. When asked if that included nuclear weapons, Card responded, “I’m not going to put anything on the table or off the table.”

Secretary of State Colin Powell and White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer also declined in January and February to explicitly renounce nuclear weapons as an option in a possible conflict with Iraq, saying U.S. policy was not to rule anything out. Powell, however, noted February 9, “It does not mean we are going to use nuclear weapons.”

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld took a similar line in a February 13 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, contending past U.S. policy dictated that the United States “not foreclose the possible use of nuclear weapons if attacked.” He added, however, that the United States could accomplish what it needed to with conventional capabilities and described the implication of one news article that nuclear weapons might be used in Iraq as “unfortunate.”

A day after the U.S.-led invasion began March 19, Rumsfeld repeated Bush’s warning that the use of weapons of mass destruction would be a war crime and the perpetrators would be found and punished. Rumsfeld repeated this message over the next several days.

Bush also reiterated his earlier statement when questioned March 27 whether the United States would use nuclear weapons in response to an Iraqi chemical or biological attack. At first, the president answered vaguely, replying, “We will deal with it.” But in response to a follow-up question, he stated, “Well, they’ve been sent a message…if you launch a weapon of mass destruction, you’ll be tried as a war criminal. And I urge those Iraqi generals who have any doubt of our word to be careful, because we’ll keep our word.”

The U.S. military sought to deter or prevent Iraqi use of chemical or biological weapons through a variety of methods. In addition to seizing territory from which the weapons could be launched and striking potential delivery systems and possible storage sites, leaflets were dropped from planes to dissuade Iraqi soldiers from using such weapons. One leaflet read, “No one benefits from the use of weapons of mass destruction.”

U.S. warnings were targeted at Iraqi decision-makers and those with their “fingers on the trigger,” in the words of General Tommy Franks, who commanded the U.S.-led attack. Franks added March 24, “We have very carefully said, ‘Don’t do it.’” Brigadier General Vincent Brooks claimed April 7 that chemical weapons had not been used, in part, due to “influence against decision-makers.”

Another explanation could be that Iraq did not have or possessed limited quantities of such weapons. No chemical or biological weapons have been unearthed since the war started.

In December 2002, the Bush administration released a document, titled “National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction,” asserting that the United States would reserve the right to respond to any weapon of mass destruction attack with “overwhelming force—including through resort to all of our options.” Reportedly, the Bush administration adopted as U.S. policy a more explicit formulation in September 2002. That classified document, known as National Security Presidential Directive 17, is said to authorize the use of nuclear weapons as an option in retaliation for a chemical or biological weapons attack. (See ACT, January/February 2003.)

U.S. Issued Warning on Threat of Possible Iraqi WMD Use

Troops Search for Weapons in Iraq; UN Debates Sanctions

Paul Kerr

U.S. military forces are continuing their so-far fruitless search for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq. Meanwhile, a debate has begun about whether United Nations weapons inspectors should return to Iraq, now that the military conflict has mostly ended.

Although there have a been a number of press reports that coalition forces have located evidence of an Iraqi WMD program, no conclusive proof has been found. For example, reports that U.S. forces had discovered mobile laboratories for making biological weapons agents turned out to be false, according to U.S. Army Chief Monte Gonzales in an April 15 CNN interview. General Vincent Brooks stated April 22 that U.S. forces have “not found any weaponized chemicals, biological agents, or any nuclear devices at this point.”

U.S. officials have repeatedly claimed that coalition forces will find evidence that Iraq has a hidden WMD program but say it will be necessary to interview Iraqi scientists and other officials to find prohibited weapons. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asserted during an April 13 interview on CBS’s Face the Nation that “we’re not going to find” prohibited weapons without the help of knowledgeable Iraqis.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher argued April 9 that the fall of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein provides an opportunity for Iraqi scientists to speak without fear of intimidation, saying the Hussein regime “never allowed” Iraqi scientists to speak freely to UN inspectors. UN inspectors reported that the Iraqi government had allowed them to conduct some interviews without the presence of government officials or recording devices a few weeks before the invasion.

Rumsfeld introduced an additional theory to explain the lack of weapons discoveries in an April 13 interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, saying the United States has “reports” that Iraq might have sent prohibited weapons to a neighboring country. Boucher refused to say during an April 21 press briefing whether the United States had evidence that this had occurred.

President George W. Bush offered a third explanation for troops’ failure to find WMD, asserting during an April 24 interview with NBC’s Tom Brokaw that Iraq “perhaps…destroyed some” prohibited weapons.

U.S. officials emphasized that the process will take time. Major General Stanley McChrystal stated April 14 that the inspections process “will go for an extended period of time” and that inspection teams have visited only a “small percentage” of suspected weapons sites.

Although U.S. officials had said they possessed intelligence information suggesting that some Iraqi forces had chemical weapons and the authority to use them, no such weapons were used during the conflict.

UN weapons inspectors left Iraq March 18—the day before the coalition invasion started—after almost four months of work, when the United States failed to gain support from Security Council members opposed to the immediate use of force against Iraq.

UN Inspectors’ Role Debated

Meanwhile, the Security Council debated the future role UN weapons inspectors might play in Iraq. Under existing Security Council resolutions, sanctions imposed on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait cannot be lifted until inspectors from the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) determine that Iraq has complied with disarmament requirements imposed after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Several resolutions also call for inspectors from UNMOVIC and the IAEA to perform a long-term monitoring role to prevent reconstitution of prohibited weapons programs.

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said in an April 22 press briefing that Washington wants the Security Council to pass a new resolution to lift the sanctions, arguing that they “no longer serve a useful purpose.” Boucher indicated April 21 that Washington wants to maintain “some restrictions on…military goods.”

Although Boucher said April 23 that the administration has not ruled out a future role for UN weapons inspectors in Iraq, Fleischer indicated April 22 that the administration was cool to the idea, saying “the United States and the coalition have taken on the responsibility for dismantling Iraq’s WMD.” A UN official stated in an April 28 interview that the United States has approached some members of the UNMOVIC staff and asked them to join U.S. inspection teams.

Exactly when the United States wants the sanctions lifted is unclear. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte said in an April 22 press statement that the sanctions “should be lifted as soon as possible.” Boucher stated, however, that the sanctions should be lifted “at an appropriate time,” after the United Nations makes necessary adjustments to the UN-administered oil-for-food program.

France proposed suspending the sanctions during an April 22 Security Council meeting, French Ambassador to the United Nations Jean-Marc de la Sabiliere told reporters. Russia and France had previously supported lifting the sanctions only in accordance with existing UN resolutions, which would require UN inspectors—rather than U.S. inspection teams—to verify Iraq’s disarmament.

Boucher described the French proposal as “a move…in the right direction” during an April 23 press briefing, but he also said that “more work [needs] to be done” to settle the issue. He added that the United States is reluctant to cut a deal in the United Nations over the inspections issue.

UNMOVIC Executive Chairman Hans Blix briefed the Security Council April 22, stating that UNMOVIC inspectors are completing the “analysis and assessment of data” from past inspections. He added that UNMOVIC is maintaining a field office in Cyprus and has 85 inspectors under contract until mid-June. After that, UNMOVIC would have to reactivate inspectors from its 315-person roster, he said.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Blix argued that the Security Council “would like to have the inspection and verification [completed by UN teams], which bear the imprint of that independence and of some institution that is authorized by the whole international community.” He added that UNMOVIC inspectors could work with coalition forces, saying “I don’t see an adversarial relation.”

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei also said that his agency should resume work in Iraq “as soon as possible” in an April 22 statement to the Security Council, adding that “the IAEA continues to be the sole organization with legal powers…to verify Iraq’s nuclear disarmament.”

Fleischer stated April 22 that the United States’ existing disarmament procedures provide sufficient transparency and credibility.

 

 

 

Troops Search for Weapons in Iraq; UN Debates Sanctions

Military Authorized to Use Riot Control Agents in Iraq

Kerry Boyd

President George W. Bush has authorized the use of riot control agents in Iraq under specific circumstances, such as controlling rioting civilians, a Pentagon spokesman confirmed April 23. Although Pentagon officials say that the authorization is legal under U.S. and international law, many experts say using riot control agents in a military operation would violate the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and offend U.S. allies. (See ACT, April 2003.)

In 1975, President Gerald Ford signed Executive Order 11850, renouncing “first use of riot control agents in war except in defensive military modes to save lives.” (See ACT, March 2003.) The order calls on the secretary of defense to ensure the military does not use riot control agents in war “unless such use has Presidential approval, in advance.” The order lists four cases in which U.S. troops may use riot control agents: “in areas under direct and distinct U.S. military control,” such as to control rioting prisoners of war; in a situation where hostile forces use civilians “to mask or screen attacks”; for rescue missions; and “in rear echelon areas outside the zone of immediate combat to protect convoys from civil disturbances, terrorists and paramilitary organizations.” The order remains in effect today.

“There is a very careful process for the decision as to whether or not riot control agents may be used on the battlefield, requiring presidential authorization, which may be delegated to the combatant commander,” W. Hays Parks, special assistant to the Army judge advocate general, said in a Defense Department briefing April 7. “But it’s not something that we do lightly,” he added.

Although U.S. troops in Iraq are now operating under rules of engagement that allow them to use riot control agents under certain circumstances, those rules do not extend to all coalition forces. British Defense Secretary Geoffrey Hoon said in a March 27 press conference that British troops would not use “non-lethal chemical weapons…in any military operation or on any battlefield.”

The Debate

The British decision not to use riot control agents hints at a significant difference in interpretation of the CWC between the United States and many other CWC member states. The treaty, which bans chemical weapons, allows states-parties to possess riot control agents but is vague on the legality of their use. The treaty defines riot control agents as chemicals that “can produce rapidly in humans sensory irritation or disabling physical effects which disappear within a short time following termination of exposure.”

The CWC, which entered into force in 1997, bans the use of riot control agents “as a method of warfare.” However, it allows the use of “toxic chemicals and their precursors” in “law enforcement including domestic riot control purposes,” provided that “the types and quantities are consistent with such purposes.” The gray area between using riot control agents for domestic law enforcement and for warfare remains undefined.

The Pentagon argues that using riot control agents in Iraq under the circumstances allowed by U.S. law would not violate the CWC, which the United States signed in 1993. In a March 9 written response to an article in London’s The Independent that criticized U.S. policy, Victoria Clarke, assistant secretary of defense, said, “[U]se of these agents for defensive purposes to save lives would be consistent with the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits the use of riot control agents as a method of warfare.”

Many arms control experts and, apparently, other CWC member states disagree. They argue that using riot control agents in Iraq would undermine the CWC, which is intended to prevent the use of chemical weapons. Critics say U.S. use of chemical agents would appear hypocritical, since U.S. leaders cited Iraq’s possession of lethal chemical agents as a major justification for invading the country. Some experts also argue that using riot control agents against a military, such as Iraq’s, that possesses gas masks would only harm civilians while not affecting enemy soldiers.

In addition to riot control agents, some arms control analysts had speculated that the United States might use chemical calmatives, which have a much more serious effect on the body and behavior than riot control agents. In her response to The Independent, however, Clarke wrote, “The allegation that the U.S. intends to use calmative agents in a prospective war with Iraq is absolutely false.”

 

 

 

Military Authorized to Use Riot Control Agents in Iraq

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Iraq