"In my home there are few publications that we actually get hard copies of, but [Arms Control Today] is one and it's the only one my husband and I fight over who gets to read it first."

– Suzanne DiMaggio
Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
April 15, 2019

The Task of Disarming Iraq

Daryl G. Kimball

Despite the overall success of the global nonproliferation regime, a small number of nuclear and non-nuclear states threaten to undermine the norm against the development, possession, and use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The record of Iraq is particularly troublesome, and it remains vital that the United States and the international community firmly, appropriately, and effectively respond to Baghdad’s proliferation behavior.

Prior to the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein violated the rules established by the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). In the decade since, he has resisted United Nations Security Council mandates to allow weapons inspectors to dismantle Iraq’s proscribed weapons and missile capabilities.

Despite Iraq’s failure to cooperate and the gradual erosion of Security Council consensus on inspections, the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) from 1991 to 1998 succeeded in ridding Iraq of most of its WMD capabilities and stockpiles. It has been four years since UN weapons inspectors operated in Iraq, however, and it is now difficult to assess Iraq’s capabilities with precision. It is therefore prudent to assume that Iraq has or will soon have biological and chemical weapons and that it may, within a matter of years, acquire nuclear weapons.

It is vital that the response to Iraq’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction reinforce the rule of law and the norm against WMD everywhere. The necessary, though difficult, next step is for the United States to secure the Security Council’s reaffirmation and Iraq’s acceptance of a UN inspections regime under new, more effective rules.

Upon arriving in office, President George W. Bush supported the readmission of UN weapons inspectors in Iraq. More recently, top-level Bush administration officials argue that UN inspections are bound to fail and that nothing short of a pre-emptive military invasion and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein will suffice.

Such an approach risks greater instability in the Middle East and would require a long-term U.S. presence in Iraq. It would also increase the likelihood that Iraq might use weapons of mass destruction to lash out at its neighbors and the invading force. This scenario could provoke Israel to launch a pre-emptory or retaliatory strike against Iraq, possibly involving nuclear weapons. The cure could be worse than the disease.

Furthermore, pre-emptive military action—particularly in the absence of Security Council backing—would reinforce the perception and the growing reality of the Bush administration’s arrogant and unilateralist approach to foreign affairs. Worse still, asserting a world order based on U.S. interests and military primacy would undermine the international security principles and institutions the United States has long sought to uphold.

A successful policy toward Iraq begins with winning consensus from the five permanent Security Council members for a new resolution that fortifies Resolutions 1284 and 687 by calling on Iraq to admit the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC). The resolution should authorize unconditional access by UNMOVIC to inspect and dismantle Iraq’s WMD capabilities and use of appropriate and necessary means by Security Council members to enforce its activities.

Gaining Iraq’s acceptance of the current or a fortified inspectorate will not be easy. Washington must focus diplomatic pressure on France, Russia, and China, who can help persuade Saddam to readmit the inspectors. Given the choice of supporting nonproliferation norms or allowing a rogue state to defy the Security Council and risk U.S. military action, President Bush should be able to win Security Council support. Iraq must also be convinced that its cooperation and compliance with no-notice, intrusive inspections on an indefinite basis would protect it from invasion. If a unified Security Council tries and fails to persuade Iraq to submit to new inspections, the United States would be in a far better position to pursue UN authority for military enforcement of UN resolutions.

Given what UNSCOM and Western intelligence sources have learned about Iraqi weapons programs, new inspections of suspicious sites are likely to reveal important evidence of any ongoing WMD-related activities. What if UNMOVIC and the Security Council determine that Iraq is effectively blocking the implementation of the inspectors’ work or that it continues to develop prohibited weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them? The new Security Council resolution should make it clear that the cost of Iraqi noncooperation outweighs that of cooperation.

Complete and verified elimination of Iraq’s WMD programs, as called for in Resolution 687, is probably unattainable without full Iraqi cooperation, which is unlikely. But, if the inspection effort is focused on, and measured by, its contribution to the more fundamental objective of preventing Iraq from developing or using weapons of mass destruction, it will have made an enormous contribution to international peace and security.

Despite the overall success of the global nonproliferation regime, a small number of nuclear and non-nuclear states threaten to undermine the norm against the development, possession...

UN Security Council Overhauls Iraqi Sanctions Regime

June 2002

By Alex Wagner

More than a year after it set out to revitalize the Iraqi sanctions regime, the United States won unanimous approval from the UN Security Council for a resolution that effectively lifts the international embargo on civilian trade with Iraq. The council’s 15-0 vote on May 14 came as the United Nations and Baghdad appear to be making progress on talks that would result in the return of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq.

The adoption of what Secretary of State Colin Powell has touted as “smart sanctions” removes UN export controls on purely civilian goods, allowing Iraq to import any nonmilitary item through a streamlined UN review process. Under the old regime, Iraq could import food items and certain infrastructure, health, and agricultural materials but was effectively prevented from importing most other civilian cargo.

Contracts with military applications will still be barred, and items delineated on a “Goods Review List” that have both civilian and military uses will require additional scrutiny before Iraq can import them. Two inspection bodies, the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), are charged with examining all contracts that incorporate items on the Goods Review List.

Through the resolution, the Security Council also extended for another six months the oil-for-food program, under which Baghdad’s oil-sale revenues are placed into a UN-controlled escrow account that funds all of Iraq’s purchases.

The Bush administration began planning last year to revise the sanctions on Iraq, believing that the now-11-year-old regime was not effective and wanting to respond to international criticism that sanctions—not the policies of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein—were responsible for the humanitarian problems of the Iraqi people.

In May 2001, the United States and United Kingdom issued a draft proposal to reinvigorate the regime. In addition to lifting the civilian embargo and implementing a Goods Review List, the administration had wanted to tighten restrictions on Iraqi oil customers and designate permitted border crossings into Iraq to prevent Baghdad from illegally exporting oil to pay for imported, proscribed weapons and technology.

However, Washington and London apparently dropped their efforts to stem smuggling because of stiff opposition from Iraq’s neighbors, who profit from the illicit trade. As a result, the Security Council only approved a draft Goods Review List in late November 2001. Since then, U.S. and Russian diplomats have negotiated minor revisions to the list.

Because the new resolution eliminates nearly all the red tape that had held up Iraq’s import of some civilian goods, Washington views the new resolution as a public relations coup. During a May 14 interview with Washington File, Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation John Wolf said, “These changes will further highlight that the situation of the Iraqi people is due to the [Iraqi] regime’s subversion of the UN system intended to provide for their well being. With this simple process for civilian goods in place, there can be no excuse for evasion of the focused controls aimed at preventing the Iraqi regime’s rearmament.”

Speaking to reporters May 14, Powell called the vote “a major achievement.” That same day, U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Negroponte noted that unanimous approval of the resolution was a “significant accomplishment, both politically and technically.”

Unsurprisingly, Iraq was critical of the Security Council’s action because it did not remove all sanctions, but Baghdad agreed on May 16 to accept the new arrangement. In a May 16 address carried over state-run television, Hussein blasted the move, saying it sought to forestall “Iraq’s awakening and effort to develop its scientific and technical resources.”

Although the United States remains committed to eventually disposing of the Hussein regime to neutralize the perceived Iraqi threat, the Bush administration continues to support an ongoing Iraq-UN dialogue to discuss the readmission of UN weapons inspectors into Iraq.

A second round of talks between the UN and Iraq concluded without agreement on May 3, but UN Secretary General Kofi Annan expressed hope that an upcoming third round would produce a deal.

Under the terms of the 1991 Persian Gulf War ceasefire, Iraq agreed to allow unfettered, comprehensive weapons inspections. Iraq’s subsequent resistance to inspections led to the removal of inspectors just prior to a U.S.-led bombing campaign in December 1998. For some time, senior Bush administration officials have expressed concern that Iraq has been actively rearming since inspectors left the country.

Speaking to the press May 3, Annan described the three days of talks with Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri as “useful and frank,” emphasizing, “We did move forward.” Sabri echoed Annan’s characterization, saying the talks were “useful, frank, and focused.”

Annan also said that for the first time since inspectors left Iraq, the two sides held “thorough” disarmament discussions that focused on the technicalities of resuming inspections. UNMOVIC chairman Hans Blix participated in the first round of talks in March and was joined by IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei for the most recent session. (See ACT, April 2002.) At a May 3 press briefing, ElBaradei and Blix both estimated inspections would last about one year with full Iraqi cooperation.

A UN official said that the talks yielded “no breakthroughs” but noted that the focus on disarmament was “a positive sign.” The Iraqi delegation had wanted to raise additional topics such as the no-fly zones over Iraq and the lifting of sanctions, but Annan refused to discuss these subjects, the official said.

Iraq’s delegation will now report back to Baghdad and confer with Iraq’s leadership, while the UN awaits an answer as to whether Iraq will permit a return of inspectors. The UN and Iraq are scheduled to resume discussions in early July. The UN official said that the two sides might hold the next meeting in Vienna and that Annan is unlikely to agree to any additional rounds of talks.

UN Security Council Overhauls Iraqi Sanctions Regime

UN Talks With Iraq Fail to Yield Progress on Weapons Inspections

Alex Wagner

Marking his first high-level discussions with Baghdad since May 2001, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan met with Iraqi representatives March 7 in New York but was unable to persuade them to permit the return of international weapons inspectors.

Although the talks produced no progress on Iraq’s refusal to readmit inspectors, in violation of Security Council resolutions and the terms of the 1991 Persian Gulf War cease-fire, Annan remained positive, calling the talks “a good start.” Speaking after briefing the Security Council March 8, Annan said he had continued to demand no conditions on inspections and unimpeded access to suspected Iraqi weapons sites.

After the March 7 meeting, Annan’s spokesman, Fred Ekhart, described the dialogue as “frank and useful.” According to another UN official, the “cordial” atmosphere of the talks was decidedly different than previous discussions, due largely to the personal style of Foreign Minister Naji Sabri, who led the Iraqi delegation. The official said that, although Sabri did not accept the terms of UN Resolution 1284, he did not reject them either.

Resolution 1284, passed in December 1999, created the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and charged it with completing Iraq’s disarmament. UNMOVIC succeeded the now-defunct UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM), which was withdrawn from Iraq in late 1998 prior to U.S.-led air strikes.

Although apparently willing to allow some sort of inspections to resume, Iraq has reportedly demanded prenotification of inspection times and sites, as well as a predetermined timetable for how long inspections can continue—conditions that the United States considers unacceptable.

Perhaps most noteworthy about the dialogue was the willingness of the Iraqi delegation, which included Baghdad’s international weapons inspection liaison, Major General Hussan Amin, to meet for the first time with UNMOVIC chairman Hans Blix. In his March 8 remarks, Annan termed the presence of Blix and Amin “significant,” calling it “an indication” that Iraq is “taking this issue seriously.”

James Cunningham, U.S. deputy ambassador to the UN, was more pessimistic about the meeting, telling reporters that the secretary-general “did not get a positive response from the Iraqis.” Cunningham, however, commended Annan for keeping the focus “where it should be, properly,” that is, on implementation of Security Council resolutions as opposed to Iraq’s grievances with the 11-year sanctions regime.

Annan will meet again with Sabri in New York on April 18 and 19.

U.S. Intentions

The UN meeting came as Vice President Richard Cheney traveled to Middle East capitals in a quest to gauge support for U.S. military intervention against Iraq, but in a March 11 interview on The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice stressed that Cheney was not seeking to warn U.S. friends and allies in the region about an impending attack.

Some analysts have suggested that the U.S. push for inspections, which it believes Iraq will reject, is being carried out simply to force a showdown that would facilitate military action. Washington, in making its case for regime change, has repeatedly emphasized the threat that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein poses to the world and to his own people. At a March 13 press conference, President George W. Bush said that “all options are on the table” regarding action in Iraq, calling Hussein “a problem” his administration was “going to deal with.”

Although he acknowledged that the Bush administration has “made very clear” that “the region would be better off with a different regime in Baghdad,” Cunningham disputed suggestions that the United States considered the UN dialogue with Iraq merely “a sideshow.”

Russia has taken issue with the “personalization” of the U.S. approach to Iraq. In a March 17 interview on Meet the Press, Russian Defense Minister Sergi Ivanov said that “the problem is not with Saddam Hussein…[but] with weapons of mass destruction.” When asked if Moscow would support a military operation to change the Iraqi regime, Ivanov said only that he hoped the United States would inform Russia if it made such a decision.

Bush Labels North Korea, Iran, Iraq an 'Axis of Evil'

Alex Wagner

Apparently attempting to increase international pressure on “rogue states” that could use weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or provide them to terrorists, President George W. Bush characterized North Korea, Iran, and Iraq as “an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world,” in his January 29 State of the Union address.

Although he provided no new information about the activities of these countries, Bush stated that his administration would act to prevent “regimes that sponsor terror” from threatening the United States and its allies with WMD. Bush told the nation that North Korea, Iran, and Iraq “pose a grave and growing danger” and could provide WMD and missiles “to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred.”

Bush did not give specifics on what plan of action might be in store or when the United States might act, but he noted that he “will not wait on events while dangers gather,” warning that his administration “will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.”

During a January 31 speech to the Conservative Political Action Committee, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice elaborated on the threat posed by the named rogue states, saying Bush’s speech put state sponsors of terrorism “on notice” and enunciated the “growing danger” posed by North Korea, Iran, and Iraq.

She cited North Korea as “the world’s number-one merchant for ballistic missiles, open for business with anyone, no matter how malign the buyer’s intentions,” called Iraq “determined to acquire” WMD, and said Iran’s “direct support of regional and global terrorism” and “aggressive efforts” to develop WMD “belie any good intentions it displayed” after September 11.

Analysts have voiced concern that Bush’s speech was setting the stage for military actions against one or all of these states in the next iteration of the administration’s war on terrorism. Senior administration officials have acknowledged that a full range of options are being developed for Iraq, but while visiting Seoul February 20 Bush said he had “no intention of invading North Korea.” At a February 12 hearing before the Senate Budget Committee, Secretary of State Colin Powell also said that there is no plan to begin a conflict with Iran. Rather, the administration is likely to try to apply pressure on both Russia and China to end all nuclear and missile cooperation with Tehran. (See U.S. Presses Russia on Nuclear, Missile Cooperation With Iran.)

Unsurprisingly, Pyongyang, Tehran, and Baghdad all dismissed Bush’s accusations. North Korea’s state-run television called Bush a “nuclear maniac” and characterized his remarks as “reckless” and “tantamount to a declaration of war.” In a statement carried by Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said Bush’s rhetoric was “intervening, warmongering, [and] insulting.” Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan rejected Bush’s charges as well, calling them “stupid” and “inappropriate.”

Some of Washington’s closest allies were also highly critical of Bush’s rhetoric. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw speculated that Bush’s remarks were intended to appease domestic political constituencies rather than warn of a credible threat. In Washington on February 1, Straw reasoned that the State of the Union address “was best understood by the fact that there are midterm congressional elections in November.” In a February 6 interview on Inter Radio, French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine called Bush’s terrorism-based approach to foreign affairs “simplistic” and said that the Bush administration dealt with “international issues in a unilateral manner.”

Perhaps the strongest criticism came from Chris Patten, the European Union’s foreign policy chief. In an interview published in the February 9 Guardian, Patten said that Bush’s address was “more rhetoric than substance.” He also called the speech “unhelpful” and said that it is “hard to believe” that Bush’s axis of evil comment was a “well thought-through policy.”

Powell rejected characterizations like those of Vedrine in testimony before the House International Relations Committee on February 6, stating, “The suggestion that…the United States is acting unilaterally and not consulting with our European partners…simply couldn’t be further from the truth.” However, Powell added, “When it is a matter of principle, and when the multilateral community does not agree with us, we do not shrink from doing that which we think is right, which is in our interests, even if some of our friends disagree with us.”


Name-Calling or Nonproliferation?

Daryl G. Kimball

In a potent political one-liner delivered in January, President George W. Bush prominently labeled Iran, Iraq, and North Korea an “axis of evil” that is supporting terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. While the threat of terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction is real, the problems of terrorism and proliferation are not identical and cannot be addressed with a one-size-fits-all approach.

The president is to be commended for focusing attention on the ongoing threat of nuclear, chemical, biological, and missile proliferation in dangerous regions. But his gratuitous name-calling in the absence of practical, country-specific nonproliferation strategies has complicated the task of addressing proliferation problems, particularly in North Korea.

Bush’s statement puts North Korea and Iran in the same category as Iraq and has raised concerns about military action against all three. Our friends and allies may eventually agree to collective military action to enforce Security Council mandates for UN weapons inspections in Iraq, but leaders in South Korea, Japan, and Europe correctly understand that the most effective approach to Pyongyang is resuming the North-South-U.S. dialogue.

While in Seoul for a February state visit, Bush had to clarify that the United States “has no intention of invading North Korea,” and he reiterated his administration’s willingness to talk “anytime, anywhere” with Pyongyang on a range of security issues. Yet, in the same speech, he repeated harsh recriminations that substantially undermine the possibility that the North will re-engage. The president’s tough talk may play well in Washington’s conservative political circles, but it has plunged the United States and North Korea into another cycle of mistrust and missed opportunity.

Rather than launching verbal jabs and waiting for the North to resume the security dialogue, the United States should take concrete steps on the most significant issues: averting a looming crisis on the implementation of the 1994 Agreed Framework to dismantle Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program and resuming negotiations on a verifiable freeze of the North’s ballistic missile enterprise. To start, Bush should appoint a new, high-level coordinator for North Korea policy. The coordinator’s first task would be to bring some practical ideas and proposals—not harsh recriminations—to the bargaining table.

The Agreed Framework is a good, but imperfect, deal that both parties must honor. Under the agreement, the United States is facilitating construction of two safeguarded light-water nuclear power reactors, and, in exchange, North Korea is to verifiably abandon its nuclear weapons program. So far, this deal has effectively frozen Pyongyang’s nuclear program, but difficulties lie ahead.

North Korea will soon be obligated to comply with all International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, which prohibit military nuclear activities. It must do so when a “significant portion” of the two light-water nuclear power reactors are completed but before delivery of their nuclear components. Due to construction delays, a significant portion of the reactors will not be built until approximately 2005. IAEA inspection of declared and undeclared nuclear facilities in North Korea could take two to three years. Further slippage could set off a new high-stakes confrontation.

Prompt initiation of inspections is important, even though the Agreed Framework does not yet require North Korea to admit the IAEA. If the Bush administration is interested in results, it should re-affirm its support for the Agreed Framework, not threaten to stop implementation as some in Congress have suggested. Working with South Korea and Japan, Bush should, if necessary, be prepared to offer incentives—including in-kind food and electricity aid—for North Korean cooperation on early inspections. Such an arrangement could simultaneously improve the likelihood of completing the inspections and address shortcomings in the Agreed Framework’s implementation.

Through dialogue, not diatribes, Bush also has an opportunity to halt North Korea’s ballistic missile program—a prime source of global missile proliferation. In the final days of the Clinton administration, negotiators reportedly came “tantalizingly close” to an agreement. Sadly, the Bush administration has failed to pursue this possibility, though it is clearly in U.S. security interests. Given the North’s pledge to halt missile testing through 2003, there is still a window of opportunity to secure a sufficiently verifiable agreement that bans further missile exports, production, and testing and that bars further missile deployments.

Though Kim Jong-Il’s regime is difficult, undemocratic, and uninterested in its people’s welfare, history shows that pragmatic, principled engagement with such states can produce results that enhance U.S. security. Unless he is willing to seriously pursue such a course, Bush may fumble one of the United States’ better opportunities to solve one of the world’s thorniest nuclear and missile proliferation challenges.

Security Council Moves Closer To Adopting Iraqi 'Smart Sanctions'

Alex Wagner

The UN Security Council took a step closer to implementing a “smart sanctions” regime in Iraq on November 29 by unanimously agreeing to adopt a once-contentious Goods Review List, which aims to streamline the process of selling civilian goods to Baghdad.

Approved as part of a resolution that renewed the UN oil-for-food program for the eleventh time since 1996, the list contains weapons-related and dual-use items that would require UN approval before being exported to Iraq. The new resolution states that the Security Council intends to adopt the Goods Review List—“subject to any refinements”—for implementation on May 30, when the current phase of the oil-for-food program expires. The list can only be modified with the Security Council’s approval.

Iraqi Ambassador to the UN Mohammed Aldouri signed a memorandum of understanding December 2, accepting the resolution.

Once the list is adopted, Baghdad will be allowed to import—without UN oversight—any civilian, nonweapons, or dual-use items not specifically enumerated on the list. Contracts containing items on the list would need the UN Iraq Sanctions Committee’s approval before export. Proceeds from Iraqi oil sales held in a UN-controlled escrow account would pay for the items.

Under the current regime, all of Baghdad’s nonhumanitarian purchases are subject to UN review. But the arrangement allows Iraq to sell unlimited amounts of oil on the international market, with the proceeds placed in a UN account. The only legal way for Iraq to sell oil is through the oil-for-food program.

By facilitating the flow of civilian goods to Iraq, the “smart sanctions” proposals envisioned by the Bush administration aim to undermine arguments that sanctions are hurting the Iraqi people. It also seeks to tighten the existing sanctions regime to prevent Iraq from using smuggled oil revenues to develop weapons systems.

The planned adoption of the Goods Review List addresses the first point. However, the resolution does not take up the issues of strengthening border controls or cracking down on Iraq’s illegal oil-smuggling relationships with Jordan, Turkey, and Syria. The UN currently tolerates Baghdad’s oil sales to these states, which are conducted outside of the oil-for-food program, because of their importance to these nations’ economies. Iraq can use the revenues from these unaccountable oil sales for weapons purchases because these transactions lack the UN oversight.

A number of proposals for bringing these relationships under UN auspices were included in a draft June resolution put forth by the United Kingdom and backed by the United States, but they were subsequently scuttled by Russian opposition. (See ACT, July/August 2001.) Implementation of such proposals, however, would be difficult because they require Iraq’s neighbors to abandon extremely profitable transactions voluntarily.

Despite the absence of a means to stem Iraqi oil smuggling, U.S. officials appeared satisfied with the resolution. Ambassador John Negroponte, the U.S. permanent representative to the UN, remarked on November 29 that the unanimity with which the Security Council made the decision “should send a signal to Iraq” that the United States is committed to revamping the current sanctions regime. At a December 3 press briefing, Secretary of State Colin Powell said he too was “pleased” with the outcome.

Washington’s key Security Council ally, the United Kingdom, expressed a similar sentiment. On November 30, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw called the Security Council vote “a significant step forward” that demonstrates that the “international community is united over how to apply controls to the Baghdad regime.” Straw went on to say that Iraq is now “free to meet all its civilian needs” while leaving Saddam Hussein “with no excuses for the suffering of the Iraqi people.”

The review list had been the primary sticking point during the Security Council’s consideration of the U.S.-U.K. “smart sanctions” proposal in May and June. At the time, France and China approved the list. But Russia, contesting certain items on the list, refused to endorse the measure and issued a veto threat, forcing Washington and London to postpone the debate to November.

A UN official suggested that, because the revised review list is largely similar to the one proposed in June, Russia’s veto threat had stemmed more from a desire to maintain and possibly expand commercial relations with Iraq than disagreement with the list itself. The official characterized Russia’s turnaround as a “major concession,” noting that the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States had brought Washington and Moscow closer together and focused new attention on the urgency of dealing with Iraq’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

While not discounting the value of improved U.S.-Russian relations since September 11, a U.S. official emphasized that stronger French and Chinese support for the list had isolated Russia on the issue. The official explained that France and China officially supported the list in June 2001 because they knew that they could hide behind a Russian veto. Since then, however, negotiations with Washington and London persuaded Paris and Beijing to come out in full support for the arrangement.

The U.S. official was “optimistic” that the Security Council would finalize the list by June, although elements of the list are “likely to change.” The official also said that strong Security Council support could allow Russia to pressure Iraq to allow UN weapons inspectors to return to the country.

U.S. Names Countries Thought to Be Violating BWC

Seth Brugger

During a November 19 speech, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton accused Iraq and North Korea of breaching the terms of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) and warned of possible violations by other countries.

Bolton spoke to delegations from BWC member states on the opening day of a conference that is convened in Geneva every five years to review and improve upon the treaty’s implementation. The accord outlaws biological weapons but contains no verification measures.

Bolton told the conference that Washington is “extremely concerned” that some states are engaging in treaty-prohibited activities and is “concerned” about potential use of biological weapons by terrorist groups. Specifically, the undersecretary said that Washington is worried about accused terrorist Osama bin Laden’s “stated intention to use biological weapons against the United States…. We are concerned that he could have been trying to acquire a rudimentary biological weapons capability, possibly with support from a state.”

Beyond this threat, Bolton said that “the most serious concern” is Iraq. “The United States strongly suspects that Iraq has taken advantage of three years of no UN inspections to improve all phases of its offensive BW program. The existence of Iraq’s program is beyond dispute, in complete contravention of the BWC,” Bolton contended.

Washington also believes that North Korea “has a dedicated, national-level effort to achieve a BW [biological weapons] capability and that it has developed and produced, and may have weaponized, BW agents in violation of the convention,” Bolton asserted. “North Korea likely has the capability to produce sufficient quantities of biological agents for military purposes within weeks of a decision to do so.”

Bolton added that the Bush administration is “quite concerned about Iran, which the United States believes probably has produced and weaponized BW agents in violation of the convention.” Other countries of concern included Libya, Syria, and Sudan, the latter of which is is neither a party to nor a signatory of the BWC. Bolton also said that he could name other states that are pursuing offensive biological weapons programs but that Washington plans to contact them privately.

Bolton’s speech marked a change from past U.S. practice. At previous review conferences, the United States did not name specific countries it believed were violating the convention, except Iraq. Explaining the shift in U.S. tactics, Bolton said, “Prior to September 11, some would have avoided this approach. The world has changed, however, and so must our business-as-usual approach.”

Iran, Iraq, and Libya denied the U.S. charges. According to a source in Geneva, other delegations did not officially comment on the U.S. accusations, believing that “there are already enough substantive problems that we have to deal with here without trying to sidetrack it and begin another debate, arguing whether the United States was correct to do what it did.”

Russia Blocks Reform of Iraq Sanctions Regime

Alex Wagner

In a major setback for the Bush administration, a Russian veto threat in late June forced the UN Security Council to set aside a sweeping reform of the Iraq sanctions regime. Instead, on July 3, the council unanimously approved a five-month extension of the oil-for-food program, which allows Baghdad to sell, under UN supervision, unlimited amounts of oil to purchase humanitarian and infrastructure supplies.

Iraq resumed its participation in the program July 10 after terminating its involvement following a June Security Council decision to work to overhaul the sanctions regime.

The Bush team had hoped to use the program’s July 3 expiration as an opportunity to introduce a new sanctions policy that would alleviate international concerns over the humanitarian crisis in Iraq while increasing the effectiveness of efforts to prevent Baghdad from reacquiring the ability to produce weapons of mass destruction.

Since early June, the administration had worked to convince both the Security Council and Iraq’s neighbors to support a British draft resolution that would have lifted international sanctions on most trade with Iraq while strengthening controls on items that could be used for weapons development. (See ACT, June 2001 and July/August 2001.)

In the weeks preceding the July deadline, one of the most contentious issues among the permanent members of the Security Council involved the composition of a U.S.-proposed list of “dual-use” items, whose export to Iraq would have required UN authorization. On June 29, the U.S. representative to the UN, James Cunningham, announced that China and France had agreed to the U.S. list. But Russia could not be persuaded to support any elements of the British draft resolution.

Addressing the Security Council on July 3, Cunningham criticized Russia, saying that the council should have “done better” and that “we all know why that was not possible.”

Revitalizing the international sanctions against Iraq had been one of President George W. Bush’s foreign policy priorities. Explaining why the United States agreed to the five-month extension instead of substantial reform, Cunningham said that, if the resolution had been vetoed, it would have effectively prevented the issue from being raised again. “A veto would bring our work to a halt and thus would be a victory for Iraq,” he said.

The British ambassador to the UN, Jeremy Greenstock, implied that Russia was allowing its financial relationship with Iraq to interfere with overhauling the sanctions regime. Addressing the council June 26, Greenstock argued, “None of us, on this issue in particular, can allow national economic self-interest to hold up positive measures for the Iraqi people.”

At a July 11 joint press conference with his British counterpart, Jack Straw, Secretary of State Colin Powell vowed to remain vigilant in pursuit of sanctions reform. Washington will continue over the next five months to “work with the frontline states” and with Russia to find a way to accommodate both Moscow’s interests and those of the Iraqi people, Powell said.


U.K., Russia Issue Draft Proposals To Revamp Iraqi Sanctions Regime

Alex Wagner

Seeking to overhaul the decade-old Iraqi sanctions regime, the United Kingdom, in coordination with the United States, submitted a draft proposal to the UN Security Council on May 21 that would substantially alter the existing regime, easing some sanctions while tightening enforcement of others. In what is widely believed to be a stalling tactic, Russia submitted a competing resolution that offers Iraq significant concessions without attempting to improve the troubled UN sanctions system substantially.

The draft resolutions come as a six-month extension of the UN oil-for-food program, which Washington wants to replace as part of revamping the sanctions regime, is set to expire June 4. The program allows Iraq to sell unlimited amounts of oil and deposit revenues into a UN-controlled escrow account, which Baghdad can use to purchase construction and humanitarian supplies under UN supervision. To date, the program has been extended nine times.

The British draft resolution incorporates many of the ideas floated by Secretary of State Colin Powell over the past few months. (See ACT, April 2001.) Most significantly, the resolution lifts restrictions on the sale or supply of civilian goods to Iraq. The draft also creates a comprehensive new list of military and dual-use items that require the United Nations’ permission for import. This list replaces the full military arms embargo on Iraq and a list of restricted dual-use items. Furthermore, the draft preserves the requirement that all oil sales revenue be placed in a UN-administered escrow account.

The resolution also seeks to tighten controls on Iraq’s illegal oil exports and surcharges, which generate an estimated $2-3 billion per year. The draft would allow only trading organizations meeting specific criteria set out by the UN secretary-general to sell or supply Iraqi oil. But, realizing that compliance by Iraq’s neighbors would be critical to enforcing a tighter regime, under the proposed resolution the secretary-general would designate authorized checkpoints, monitored by UN personnel, from which Iraq could export oil to border states. Proceeds from oil sales would be deposited in separate national escrow accounts, from which Iraq could draw to pay for commercial transactions with those states. If Iraq stopped exporting oil to border states as retribution for their cooperation with the UN, the draft would protect those states’ economies by compensating them with revenue already in the UN escrow account.

The proposal would also create “new authorized border crossings with Iraq” to restrict other illegal imports or exports. It is presently unclear whether UN or national officials would staff these checkpoints. Furthermore, the resolution would allow countries to resume commercial air flights to and from Iraq, but it would require all flights to land at designated inspection points staffed by national authorities and monitored by UN observers.

On May 22, James Cunningham, acting U.S. representative to the UN, told reporters that Washington wants the British draft resolution adopted before the oil-for-food program expiration date and that it “ought to be negotiable” by that time. In addition to removing controls on Iraq’s civilian trade and focusing on security and disarmament, Cunningham said the draft addresses “a bunch of other issues that have been under discussion in the council for some time where other members have made it clear they wanted to see movement. We have met those concerns.”

On state-run Iraqi television May 23, Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz responded to the new British draft, calling it “very wicked and malicious.” He stressed that, even if the resolution is approved, neither Iraq nor its “sister states” would comply with it. And on May 7, Al-Thawrah, the newspaper of Saddam Hussein’s ruling Ba’ath party, warned Iraq’s neighbors that “compliance with this plan by any state or government would cause grievous harm to its interests.”

Apparently attempting to delay any significant overhaul of the sanctions regime, Russia’s draft incorporates the basic elements of the oil-for-food program, such as retaining the six-month renewal process, but makes several modifications. For instance, it would lower the “deduction rate” taken by the United Nations from oil revenues deposited in the escrow account from 25 percent to 20 percent. The UN uses the 25 percent deduction rate in the current phase of the oil-for-food program to finance Persian Gulf War reparations.

Most significantly, the resolution permits Iraq “unrestricted use of civil aircraft, sea and railway transport for carrying passengers and commercial and humanitarian cargo,” subject to notification of the Iraq Sanctions Committee. Unlike the British draft, no inspections would be required, effectively opening the door to unlimited, virtually unregulated imports.

By retaining the oil-for-food program’s structure, failing to offer new controls, and proposing changes favorable to Iraq, the Russian draft resolution appears politically unacceptable to the United States and United Kingdom. According to a UN source, Washington and London have ruled out consideration of the Russian resolution as a basis for negotiation.

Absent in both resolutions is any mention of a resumption of weapons inspections. During an interview on the May 20 edition of NBC’s Meet the Press, Vice President Dick Cheney refused to link easing sanctions to weapons inspections and said that, although the administration continues “to demand inspection…exactly what’s going to come out of the consultations that are now under way, I wouldn’t want to predict.”

It appears unlikely that the UN Security Council will have time to consider fully and approve any major overhaul of the sanctions regime before the June 4 expiration of the oil-for-food program. Although there would be political resistance from many members, UN sources say that the most likely result will involve a short-term continuation of the oil-for-food program in its present form.

UN Security Council Not Likely To Agree on Iraqi Sanctions

Alex Wagner

As a July 3 deadline approaches, Russian opposition appears likely to prevent the United Nations Security Council from passing a U.S.-endorsed, British draft resolution to revamp the 11-year-old sanctions regime against Iraq.

Since June 20, Security Council technical experts have been discussing a slightly revised version of a British draft resolution initially submitted in May, which would, among other things, allow most commercial transactions with Iraq to proceed and bring all illegal oil-export relationships under UN control.

Over the June 23 weekend, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov sent a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell, informing him that Russia “cannot allow” passage of the British approach to reshaping the current sanctions regime, which was imposed on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. During a Security Council meeting June 26, Moscow’s ambassador to the UN, Sergey Lavrov, criticized the British draft for burying hopes for ongoing arms monitoring and for damaging the legitimate economic interests of many countries, including Russia.

In response to the British proposal, Lavrov announced submission of a new Russian draft resolution, which purported to present a “comprehensive approach” to resolving the humanitarian crisis in Iraq. Lavrov said that the Russian draft contained “clear criteria for suspending and then lifting sanctions, tied with the deployment” of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), which was created by Security Council Resolution 1284 in December 1999.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher responded harshly to Russia’s criticisms of the British draft and questioned the motives of “other members of the Security Council, including some with extensive commercial relationships with Iraq.” Boucher called it “ironic that now that the United States has proposed a radical shift in how we deal with Iraq.…some on the Security Council oppose this change despite the fact that they had long advocated it.” Addressing Russia’s rejection of the revised British draft, Boucher shot back, “Our goal is not to allow Iraq what it wants. We have seen where that leads.”

Outside the Security Council on June 26, James Cunningham, acting U.S. representative to the UN, dismissed the Russian draft resolution as having “very little substance” and said that it would “not be a useful basis for discussion.”

Among the other permanent members of the Security Council, the primary point of contention had been the contents of a comprehensive “goods review list,” a catalog of weapons-related and “dual-use” items that would require UN authorization before being imported by Iraq. The list would be composed of three elements: proscribed items identified by UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency as related to weapons of mass destruction and their delivery vehicles; conventional and dual-use technology items governed by the Wassenaar Arrangement, a multilateral export control regime; and items detailed in a document proposed by the United States.

However, on June 29, Cunningham announced that Britain, China, France, and the United States had come to an agreement on what items would be included on the goods review list.

Discussions have intensified in the last month, as a general consensus emerged among council members that the current sanctions regime needs to be refocused. The United States had hoped to obtain agreement on altering the sanctions regime by the beginning of June, when the latest six-month phase of the oil-for-food program expired. (See ACT, June 2001.) Unable to come to a decision, the Security Council unanimously approved a resolution June 1 that extended the oil-for-food program for one month in order to provide members more time to consider the available proposals. The resolution declared the council’s desire to work on proposals that would re-energize the sanctions regime and to “consider new arrangements” that would improve both the flow of civilian goods to Iraq and controls on prohibited items.

In response to the short-term rollover of the oil-for-food program, Iraq stopped all of its UN-authorized oil exports, though it continued to export oil to neighboring states illicitly. Unsurprisingly, as the council’s experts met throughout June, Iraq remained highly critical of any approach to alter the existing regime.

France submitted a draft proposal of its own to the Security Council on June 19. Operating from the same basic principles as the British draft, the French resolution differs most notably in that it would allow Jordan and Iraq to maintain an oil-export relationship whose revenues would not be controlled by the UN, permit foreign investment in upgrading Iraq’s oil industry, and allow inspection of cargo flights within Iraq’s borders by UN personnel.

The British draft consents to foreign investment in civilian sectors but not in the oil industry. According to a UN official, France is not likely to oppose adoption of the British draft resolution if the United States and the United Kingdom accept some of the modifications outlined in the French proposal.

China has also expressed concerns regarding Washington’s and London’s attempt to reach a quick decision on such a complex issue, and at the June 26 Security Council session it supported elements of the French draft resolution that allow investment in the Iraqi oil industry and limit interference in oil relationships with Iraq’s neighbors.

A UN official indicated that Beijing has taken a much more constructive approach to the British draft than the Russians, tabling amendments and participating actively in technical experts meetings. It is believed that China does not oppose a resolution to overhaul the regime in principle, and Beijing has yet to indicate that it would veto the British draft should it be brought to a vote.

Were the United States and the United Kingdom able to secure French and Chinese support for the British draft, a UN official suggested it is possible they might push for a vote in order to challenge Russia’s willingness to veto the resolution. No Security Council resolution on the Iraqi situation has been vetoed by a permanent Security Council member. However, abstention by China, France, and Russia on Resolution 1284 has been cited as one of the reasons why Iraq has felt little pressure to comply with its terms.

Cunningham said June 29 that, facing a stalemate, the council will pass another temporary extension of the oil-for-food program, giving the diplomats additional time to work out the details of a comprehensive new arrangement. When asked June 25 about the prospects of another short-term extension, Powell expressed his desire to instead “see a new resolution” and hear what others have to say about the revised British draft before “prejudging what the council might do.”


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