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– Alicia Sanders-Zakre
Intern, Fall 2016
December 16, 2016

Security Council Unable to Reach Consensus On Iraq for Genereal Assembly Meeting

DESPITE CONCERTED DIPLOMATIC efforts surrounding the September 22 opening of the 54th session of the UN General Assembly, the permanent five members of the Security Council (P-5) could not reach a consensus on resuming weapons inspections in Iraq or lifting economic sanctions. Senior officials from Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States met in London September 15 and in New York September 20. A September 23 meeting between the P-5 foreign ministers and the UN secretary-general resulted only in a bland statement calling for "the full implementation of the relevant Council resolutions."

UN weapons inspections and verification efforts ceased in December 1998 when Iraq broke off cooperation with the UN after four days of punitive air and missile strikes by the United States and Britain. Prompted by frustration with Baghdad's "cheat-and-retreat" strategy to prevent the elimination of its proscribed weapons of mass destruction capabilities, the U.S.-British strikes fractured the Security Council's 1991 consensus to compel Baghdad to disarm in compliance with Resolution 687 before it would lift the economic sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Since the strikes, Baghdad has maintained that it will not consider further UN weapons inspections or verification activities until economic sanctions are eased. UN officials in Iraq have reported an ongoing humanitarian crisis, which they have attributed to the sanctions. A September 13 report by the State Department, however, asserts that under the UN's oil-for-food program Iraq is importing more food than before the Persian Gulf War, and that Baghdad's politically inspired misallocation of food and medicine is responsible for the population's suffering. (To compensate for previous revenue shortfalls due to low oil prices, the Security Council decided October 4 to lift the current half-year ceiling on Iraqi oil sales from $5.256 billion to $8.296 billion.)

Since the December raids, Iraq's case for sanctions relief has been made with increasing vigor by France, Russia and China. Resolutions offered by Paris, Moscow and Beijing have proposed quick relief from most import and all export sanctions for Iraq, together with the creation of a monitoring system to prevent large-scale re-establishment of Baghdad's weapons programs.

The United States continues to insist that demonstrable cooperation from Iraq on revived weapons inspections must precede any sanctions relief; that Iraq must meet the Security Council's existing standards for disarmament; that relief from sanctions should be temporary, requiring regular council re-approval; and that sanctions relief should be limited to exports and investments in Iraq's oil-producing capabilities. Washington backs a proposal sponsored by Britain and the Netherlands, which has reportedly won the support of all Security Council members except France, Russia, China and Malaysia. A resolution of the situation is not expected in the near future.

The Lessons and Legacy of UNSCOM: An Interview With Ambassador Richard Butler

June 1999

Interviewed by J. Peter Scoblic

After two years as the United Nations' chief arms inspector in Iraq, Ambassador Richard Butler resigned June 30 as the executive chairman of the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM). Butler's departure from UNSCOM, whose operations in Iraq have been suspended since the U.S.-British air and missile attacks in December 1998, coincides with the apparent demise of UNSCOM due to Baghdad's continuing refusal to fulfill its disarmament obligations and the widening rift within the UN Security Council as to how to deal with the government of Saddam Hussein.

During Butler's tenure, UNSCOM faced a number of crises that moved the spotlight away from Iraq's non-compliance and onto the commission and its executive chairman. Among them were the highly publicized resignation of American Scott Ritter, the former UNSCOM inspector who criticized U.S. policymakers for contributing to Iraq's ongoing defiance, and charges that U.S. intelligence services conducted their own operations against Iraq under the guise of providing intelligence support to UNSCOM. Butler's tenure also saw an increasingly divided Security Council, which has so far been unable to decide the fate of the UN-mandated disarmament regime in Iraq.

Butler is currently diplomat-in-residence at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, where he is writing a book about his experiences with UNSCOM and the disarming of Iraq. A native Australian and a career diplomat with extensive arms control experience, Butler spent five years as Australia's permanent representative to the United Nations immediately prior to joining UNSCOM. In 1983, he was appointed Australia's first ambassador for disarmament, and subsequently served as ambassador to Thailand and Cambodia. He holds degrees from the Australian National University and the University of Sydney.

On July 19, Arms Control Today managing editor J. Peter Scoblic met with Ambassador Butler in New York City to discuss the implications of UNSCOM's withdrawal from Iraq, the current proposals before the Security Council and the future of arms control. The following is an edited version of their conversation.

Arms Control Today: What are the broader ramifications of UNSCOM's removal from Iraq for arms control?

Richard Butler: The Security Council-mandated effort to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction is the major test case for the world's attempt to prevent the spread of those weapons. Since the current crisis started last year on August 3 when Iraq decided to stop all of our disarmament work, I have said many times—to the Security Council, in public lectures, in private conversations and to the media—that the issue of Saddam Hussein is far bigger and larger than his own attachment to weapons of mass destruction.

In the last month or so, that view has strengthened. When I was dealing directly with Iraq, I felt strongly about the deceit we were faced with and about the attacks that were made upon us by Iraq and its supporters, many of which rested on falsehoods that were very damaging. That made me feel strongly about getting the job done with Iraq, but I also felt very definitely that Iraq was a paradigm case for something the world has been trying to do since the mid-'60s when the modern attempt to restrain the spread of weapons of mass destruction began—the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT], the Biological Weapons Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention and so on.

ACT: What made Iraq the paradigm case for arms control?

Butler: The Iraq case had three elements. First, above all else, there was cheating from within the arms control regimes. The biggest nightmare of parties to these treaties is that a treaty partner will sign up but cheat. Iraq is a party to NPT and a party to the Biological Weapons Convention. It hasn't ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention, but after the 1925 [Geneva] Protocol no state was supposed to use chemical weapons.

Secondly, it was given the highest form of command in international law—namely Security Council resolutions, which are binding on all states under Article 25 of the UN Charter—to get rid of its weapons of mass destruction.

And finally, Iraq constituted one of the most conspicuous cases in modern times of rejection of the world's assertion that no one should have weapons of mass destruction—something of indisputable importance.

ACT: Did the UN understand in 1991 that Iraq would be seen as a test case for enforcement of the arms control regime?

Butler: Well, let me put it this way. The Security Council didn't attach sanctions to Iraq's promise never to invade anyone again or to the promise of being peaceful in the future. It very specifically attached future relief of oil and financial sanctions to Iraq completing its disarmament tasks. If you look at Resolution 687, that's what you see. So my answer is yes.

Now, people may have had other motives as well. Some people have an intense dislike of Saddam Hussein and his regime. Some people felt very deeply that the regime behaved with dreadful brutality in Kuwait and elsewhere. Some Middle East politics were involved. I will not comment on those things. But the Council attached relief of the main sanctions to completion of disarmament tasks. That's unique.

That's why I argued for the last year that it was essential to win the case against Iraq and its weapons because of what was at stake in the larger sense: the authority of the Council, the willingness of the Council to enforce the regimes of non-proliferation, the viability of those regimes, the moral standard that they represented. Those things are truly important. If Iraq succeeds in facing down the Security Council, what will be at issue is not that one rogue state will have gotten away with its wicked ways, but something far larger than that.

Put that alongside the other developments in the world and I see a confluence of events that suddenly relegates arms control to a secondary or even tertiary position in the thinking of those who run this world.

ACT: Describe the confluence of events that illustrates the diminished importance being given to arms control.

Butler: The nuclear non-proliferation regime is under threat from what both India and Pakistan have done, from what North Korea is doing, and from what it is suspected Iran is doing. There is good reason to think that absent UNSCOM Saddam Hussein is thinking again about re-creating nuclear weapons capability—he was only six months away in 1991. And a few weeks ago defense ministers from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates visited Pakistan to look at its missile and nuclear weapons programs.

There is also the nuclear weapons states' intransigence in the face of justified criticism that they have slowed down their action on nuclear disarmament, something they promised to pursue in 1995 in the NPT review and extension conference.

Then there's the Missile Technology Control Regime. Notwithstanding that regime, states such as India, Pakistan, Iran and North Korea are developing missile capability. As I left UNSCOM it was clear that Iraq was continuing to try to develop an illegal long-range missile capability.

Then there are all the problems of potential leakage from the former Soviet Union. Then there's what has emerged from the kind of military action that was taken against Yugoslavia, a deep attachment to high-tech weapons because only people on the other side get killed. And finally, there have been recent reports of the Russian military leadership admitting in public almost gaily that they just conducted war games that relied heavily on nuclear weapons. Why? Because their conventional forces are in such a pathetic state.

Putting all this together, I'm now alarmed—and I'm saying this publicly for the first time to your journal—that something which only a few years ago was axiomatic has been lost, that a train has been derailed, and that train is called arms control. Up to a few years ago there was a widespread and growing conviction in the international community that arms control was a good thing, that it was an integral part of a good security policy, that the smaller the weapons package you had to deal with in maintaining your own national security, the better, and that this required sacrifices by you as well as by others. Arms control was a going concern.

The alarm bell I want to ring is that arms control might be stopped dead in the water right now, that a confluence of events—and I haven't mentioned all of them—has had the result that arms control has hit the wall. If this is how we're going to answer the problems of the 21st century, then this planet has taken a wrong orbit.

And the Saddam Hussein case is central to this confluence. The Security Council is walking away from dealing with him and his weapons. They have decided it's too hard.

ACT: Are all members of the Security Council walking away from the problem, or are the United States and Britain trying to hold the line?

Butler: I would put the membership of the Security Council into three categories. One is those who have clearly and avowedly decided for whatever reason to bring about an end to the Iraq crisis. Either they're very friendly to Iraq, or they're of the view that enough's enough and we can't go any further with this. Russia, China, France and, in the present Security Council, Malaysia fall into that category.

The second category is made up of the United Kingdom, supported by the Netherlands and the United States, saying there remain disarmament obligations to be fulfilled, that we need ongoing monitoring in Iraq and that Iraq must accept these facts before any suspension or relief of sanctions. They're the harder-line states, and they're in the minority.

Then there are those who are attracted to finding some diplomatic solution to a problem that has gone on too long. If you scratch the surface, some of these states will actually admit that there remain serious ambiguities about Iraq's weapons status, but nevertheless they say this can't go on, we've got to find a solution. They are gravitating toward the second option.

ACT: What are your impressions of the specific draft proposals that are now being considered by the Security Council?

Butler: All of the proposals on the table involve some kind of diminution of the vigor with which the Council will pursue the disarmament of Iraq. The Russian-backed proposal would basically say that it's over, Iraq is disarmed, which is simply to call black white and they know it. Were they to say, "We've got other fish to fry, this continual pursuit of Saddam's arms is not as important to us as those other fish," they would be telling the truth. But when they argue it's over, there's nothing more to pursue in terms of disarmament in Iraq, they're not dealing with reality, and they know it.

The British proposal is far closer to the truth, far more robust, but it does involve some political concessions to Iraq's resistance to the Security Council. I don't think it involves capitulation on the arms control side, but it tries to find some other form of political concession to get Iraq to come back into cooperation with the Council. While I think their attempt is brave and I understand it, they've got to be very careful that it doesn't result in a lot of countries in the world thinking, "This is interesting, all you've really got to do with the Security Council is be prepared to wait, to tough it out for a long time, to take a few bombings, but to still say, 'No, we won't do what you say,' and in the end they'll cave in."

ACT: What are the members of the Security Council subordinating arms control to? What is their primary interest?

Butler: It depends on what country you're talking about. One could go through the motivations of each of the permanent members that is supportive of Iraq—Russia, France, China—and it wouldn't be an edifying spectacle. But I think the primary motivation is a political anxiety about the consequences of there being only one superpower in the world. That's something that those three in particular are uncomfortable with. Iraq policy is an area where they have doubts about the American position, and those doubts are, of course, supported by their own economic interests in the region. But I think at root there's an anxiety in the Security Council about the full range and consequences of a unipolar world.

ACT: Is that anxiety also the cause of the events that make up the confluence you mentioned? Was it behind India's testing, Pakistan's testing, North Korea's launches?

Butler: I'm not sure exactly why India decided to do it at that time. Pakistan's response to it was very hastily put together and was very much a response to India. So regional politics had the major part to play there. I think, too, that the pressures on India to sign the nuclear test ban treaty were becoming effective and that, together with a change in Indian domestic politics, led to the cockamamie idea that if they were going to sign this treaty they'd better test first to prove they could.

But yes, the confluence of events that I'm talking about is shaped, not exclusively but importantly, by this underlying anxiety about a unipolar world led by a state that is highly and capably armed. I think what Russia and China witnessed in Kosovo was very worrying to them, the idea that the United States and its friends could fight a distant, high-tech war and do it in the way that they did. B-2 bombers flying from the continental United States to Europe and back, for example. That had to worry them. That anxiety could be seen in the recent Russian military exercise, which included flying antiquated nuclear bombers to Norway, and in China's reaction to the bombing of their embassy in Belgrade—that had much deeper roots than the fact that the embassy was bombed.

And if what I'm saying is true, that a factor in this confluence of events is their anxiety about a unipolar world led by a country that is brilliantly and capably armed, then a key consequence for arms control is that the United States needs to step up to the plate.

ACT: What specific measures could the United States take?

Butler: One thing would be if the United States indicated that it was itself prepared to enter into significant arms reductions on a proper basis. At the time that the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency became a part of the Department of State about two months ago, I was asked to speak. And in my remarks I made several points to them.

First, insist that what you do is an integral part of national security policy. Secondly, do not allow the professional diplomats at State to use the "G.R." argument against arms control—that is, "good relations." "Our good relations with India demand that we go softly on complaining to them about their weapons control," for example. I heard the "G.R." argument many times in my career. The regional director or assistant secretary of state for Asia or whatever would always say, "Get those arms controllers out of my hair, I've got relationships to run here with India and Pakistan."

Finally, I said, remember this: the classic mistake that arms controllers make is that they characterize arms control as being about the other guy's weapons. I said it's actually also about yours. People say the world would be a whole lot better if those other people didn't have those weapons, but they don't say much about their own.

The only way that leadership by America will work is if it says, "The first contribution we will make to this whole deal is that we'll put certain weapons of ours on the table." Now that's really hard to do with Senator [Jesse] Helms and those types. But I ask you a question, do you know any other way of doing it? Look at NPT. The only thing that will save NPT is if nuclear arms reductions resume. And the key to that is the United States and Russia. They have to do that together with determination.

ACT: Would ratification of START II accomplish that?

Butler: It is essential, but if that's a problem, then the obvious thing to do would be to leap over it and go to START III, to go to new limits for the 21st century as was proposed by the Canberra Commission.

More immediately, the United States and Russia could de-alert significant quantities of their missiles—decouple the warheads from the launch vehicles, store them separately, and come down off this hair-trigger situation that the Russians put themselves back on in early July.

ACT: Do you feel that UNSCOM has, at this point, lost its viability as a tool for disarming Iraq?

Butler: UNSCOM has always remained the best instrument for disarming Iraq. Its track record has been terrific. What it has lost is the political support of the Security Council. And so according to the Russians, who are supported by the Chinese, UNSCOM is dead, and the job of monitoring Iraq's progress has to be done by someone else—UNSCOM II or another organization. It's pathetic—I want that on the record—pathetic. It flies in the face of the practical reality of what UNSCOM achieved. It focuses on the mechanism, not the problem.

The problem is what it always has been, which is the refusal of Saddam Hussein to stop making or secretly acquiring illegal weapons of mass destruction. It's absolutely simple. If the central government of Iraq were to decide, "We're out of this business, we're not going to do this anymore," it would be over. But because it's refused to do that and because UNSCOM has continued to battle with that refusal in ways that have brought about recurrent crises, Russia and some others have decided that the way to solve this problem is to remove the thorn from Iraq's side, namely UNSCOM, rather than insist that Iraq comply.

ACT: When UNSCOM was created, it was expected that Iraq would comply with Resolution 687. When it was realized that Iraq was not going to cooperate, should UNSCOM have been altered, should the inspection mechanism have been strengthened?

Butler: Theoretically, yes. But what happened was that UNSCOM did that to itself. It strengthened itself by trying different solutions to the same problem. Once it became clear that Iraq was determined not to comply, but to conceal and deceive, then it was clear that the fundamental operational assumption was wrong and UNSCOM had to deal with that.

ACT: What challenges did you face in balancing the work of UNSCOM with the delicate, complex politics of the Security Council?

Butler: "Complex" is an accurate way to describe the Council, but "delicate" certainly isn't. The word "delicate" doesn't sit well other than as an oxymoron for the somewhat thuggish behavior that is often seen inside the Council. The Council is a place where power is deployed rather unsentimentally, particularly by states that have the veto and that are prepared to throw their weight around—very often without getting to the meat of things in other than perfunctory terms. For example, if someone says to China, "Why do you want x?" the answer "Because I say so" is hardly an answer. It says, "Because I'm powerful." That's not a rational answer, and one hears answers like that. You hear a little bit more than that very often, a sort of papering over by saying that it would be bad for international peace and security if China or Russia, for example, didn't get its way.

But the real answer to your question is that, yes, it was difficult, and in doing my research and writing about it, I'm sure I'll find places where I would quite readily say, "Well, I made a mistake there." And I suspect that those mistakes will relate to telling the Council sometimes too plainly or too truthfully what the circumstances were. Very often there's a place in the Council for circumlocution rather than for plain speech, and I think one of the hallmarks of my reports to the Council is that they were very plain. They just said, "UNSCOM did x, Iraq did y. Figure it out for yourself," instead of dressing it up in more elaborate diplomatic language that gave people ways out.

So I think the largest challenge in the Council is truth telling. The basic function of the Council lies between the exercise of great power, which is typically exercised in terms of separate national interests, and the justification for it, which is supposed to be presented through the Council's reports in a way that demonstrates what was done was in fact good and right. And if those reports are not readily capable of ambiguous or elliptical interpretation, then the naked exercise of power, in terms of national interests, gets uncomfortably exposed. And I think that became characteristic of the last few years of UNSCOM.

ACT: What were your impressions when Operation Desert Fox began last December? Was the use of military force necessary at that point?

Butler: I was surprised when military action started. I genuinely didn't know what the decision would be. I was in the Council when it started happening—as we all were—and I remember thinking to myself, "Oh my God, they've really done it." And they had.

ACT: Was force needed at that point?

Butler: Not my call.

ACT: What did UNSCOM need if not a show of force to reinforce its position and its viability?

Butler: Unity in the Council would have helped.

ACT: But even with political unity in the Council, you would have been facing the same problems on the ground in Iraq. What else could have been done to bring the Iraqis into compliance?

Butler: Unity in the Council and a lot of political pressure from their friends the Russians. Who knows? Maybe military attack will have helped. Maybe, when the story is told, it will show that Desert Fox actually did have an impact on the Iraqis. There were reports that it had shaken them a lot. But that wasn't my call or my calculation.

There is no substitute for Iraq being in compliance with the law. That required a simple central government decision by them to get out of the business of making weapons of mass destruction. If they won't make that decision voluntarily, the theory is that they will be coerced into it through sanctions or threat of force. If that doesn't seem to work, then there's political pressure, waiting, maintaining a close watch on them.

ACT: Do you think that removing the sanctions would be enough to restore unity in the Security Council?

Butler: I don't know. I would be giving a merely speculative answer. It's a very theoretical question. One would have to think that Saddam Hussein would simply pocket that change and continue to make his weapons. It depends on how important we think sanctions are to them. I think sanctions are important, but I think in the future the Council needs to find a better way of getting states to comply with the law. Sanctions seem to hurt the wrong people and don't necessarily bring about compliance. But I can't fathom what the reaction would be.

ACT: Do you think that sanctions will remain the principal tool of the Security Council to compel Iraq to comply with its disarmament obligations?

Butler: Yes. And therefore an a priori weakening of sanctions will make it less likely Iraq will comply with those obligations.

ACT: As UNSCOM's involvement with national intelligence agencies increased, did you become concerned for UNSCOM's independence and integrity?

Butler: This intelligence issue has been played with such dramatic success by Iraq and its friends, including in the Secretary General's office, that it's a travesty.

First of all, the fundamental legal requirement was for Iraq to tell the truth and to comply with the law. It never did. Never. You look at [former UNSCOM Chairman Rolf] Ekeus' reports and mine over the last nine years. It never did. What is more, through a major defection of Hussein Kamel in 1995 and some others, it became clear that Iraq had been playing an elaborate shell game with UNSCOM, a game to conceal weapons, the full extent of which is probably still not known.

There are U2 pictures that show things like 100 heavy trucks with Republican Guard markings gathered in the Iraqi desert, 100 kilometers from absolutely nowhere. They had been flushed out by UNSCOM inspectors and zipped off into the desert. And we happened to have our bird overhead and took photographs of this and said to Iraq, "What were those 100 trucks doing in the desert having disappeared from a place where we thought weapons materials were kept?" And Iraq looked us in the eye and said, "What trucks? There were no trucks." In the name of God, we had photographs of them. Iraq said it buried missiles in certain places. We took photographs of those places, no burial pits. But they were elsewhere, where we did find them. I could bore you to death going on like this. I could go on and on about the degree of deception, the elaborateness of Iraq's program to maintain its weapons capabilities. I have no doubt that it is Iraq's second-largest industry, after oil. It's what I call the anti-UNSCOM industry.

Second, the laws passed by the Security Council require all member states to give all possible assistance to UNSCOM, including the voluntary provision of all relevant information. We received legitimate assistance from some 40 states, including those who are now very supportive of Iraq. We received assistance from Russia and France, and when I was head, I invited the Chinese to come out with us.

My third point is that I have no doubt that when officials of states that later complained about UNSCOM worked with UNSCOM, they fully briefed their own governments on what they learned. The point I'm making is that when Russia, for example, says it's wicked that the Americans have done intelligence work through UNSCOM, it's shedding some crocodile tears.

Now, finally, as the wall of deceit got thicker, we did ask for more assistance, and my position on that is this: I did approve of some kinds of technical assistance from intelligence bodies to penetrate the wall of deceit that was put up to prevent us from doing our work. I also refused to authorize some suggestions that were made because they could have been misrepresented or compromised our integrity.

ACT: So that was something that was on your mind?

Butler: Absolutely. And toward the end of my time in the job, I would actually argue that your fundamental premise is wrong. Under me, I think there was less utilization of member states' intelligence assistance than there had been before. When I inherited the previous situation at the beginning of my term, I looked at it and decided to go ahead, to continue most of it. Intelligence assistance therefore in 1996 and '97 was at a higher level than it was in 1998, when I began to disapprove of possible operations. So your premise is wrong. It got smaller, not larger.

Now, UNSCOM was particularly hurt by Scott Ritter's carrying on. We can argue about what influenced the decisionmakers—there are different versions. But when you claim to be in the room when you weren't, when you claim to be part of the conversation when you weren't, when you claim that conversations took place that never did—the false assertion that I met [Secretary of State Madeleine] Albright in Bahrain in March 1998, for example—when you make those kinds of claims that are factually so wrong, that's very different from having a more honest argument about what went into certain decisions.

I don't know why he's behaved that way. Some say he's not just dishonest, but he's actually delusionary, that he actually thinks he was there. You know there was one inspection that he implied he was on, and it was canned by the Iraqis, and there was a big fuss. He wasn't ever on that inspection. He wasn't in country then. It's just wrong, but Ritter got to a point where he thought he was UNSCOM, that everything that happened there was him. And if you look at his interviews, you hear that coming through. He actually said on public television, thumping his fist on the table, "I was UNSCOM! I was it!" So, his claim late in 1998 that I somehow sold the store to the CIA is dramatically untrue. And on the contrary, as I said, I actually scaled down the extent to which we were using member states' intelligence input to do our work because I was concerned about what it could do to our reputation. I was concerned about protecting the independence of multilateral disarmament activities.

ACT: Are you aware of instances where member states took advantage of legitimate intelligence assistance for their own purposes?

Butler: Do I know of instances of malfeasance? Yes. Will I name them? No.

ACT: What sorts of malfeasance, specifically?

Butler: I am perfectly aware that people on my staff were reporting to their home governments, separate and apart from their responsibility to me. Now that's a low level of malfeasance. Ritter's stuff is more dramatic, that somehow the National Security Agency or some electronic agency piggybacked on us and listened to Saddam Hussein's private traffic. Am I aware of that? No. Had that happened, would I have approved of it? No. Because that would compromise our integrity as an arms control agency. But you gave me a terrific opportunity when you asked am I aware of any instances of malfeasance. Yes, I am. I am aware that members of UNSCOM's staff were leaking assessments and reports and information to their sending governments. And I'm not talking about Americans. I'm talking about other nations. I'm trying to get away from this single focus that somehow we got done over by the United States.

ACT: That you were co-opted by the United States.

Butler: What a belly laugh. How would I have been? I mean, I've never particularly felt the need to robustly address some of these charges because I find them quintessentially ludicrous. I'm also aware that if I go orbital about them in public, it will actually draw attention to them.

As recently as today I read an Iraqi report saying that the UN is a nest of spies and put special germs in Iraq to infect the Iraqi people and stuff like that. In the name of God, what do you want me to do with propaganda like that? Call up CNN and say I'm prepared to make a statement about how we didn't put germs in Iraq? So I have not felt the need to respond to things that are so ludicrous, and I would put in that same category the notion that I have been co-opted by the United States government.

I'm sure the Americans have some wonderful stuff in their files on me. It was an act of great generosity that the U.S. agreed to my appointment because years ago we were at real loggerheads over its opposition to a nuclear test ban treaty. Ken Adelman, who used to be head of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, used to call me "Red Richard." The very idea that I'd be co-opted by the United States government is a joke.

ACT: Have any illegitimate uses of your access between minor incidents and what is absurd come to your attention?

Butler: It's been credibly argued that there was an attempt to piggyback on us, that in giving us some technical assistance an extra circuit might have been added to monitor some extra traffic. But I've already said many times in public, I know what I approved of, I cannot know what I didn't know. I know what I disapproved of. Was there something done behind my back? I don't know. All I can say, as Rolf Ekeus has said and in his own way [UN Secretary General] Kofi Annan has said, is that were it to be the case, it would have serious implications for the independence of multilateral arms control work. And I would lament that. But to pursue this further, you would have to ask U.S. authorities.

ACT: What lessons does UNSCOM's experience with national intelligence agencies hold for multilateral inspections teams in the future?

Butler: Great care will have to be taken to be sure that any intelligence given is given for the service of the mandate involved, the disarmament mandate, and not for the service of any other purpose.

ACT: UNSCOM has had great successes, and yet Iraq is not fully disarmed and we no longer have a presence there. Do you think the experience of UNSCOM, on balance, did more to advance or to degrade the idea of multilateral inspections as a tool of arms control?

Butler: I think there's no clear answer, the jury is out on that one, but I think it's a valid question. This kind of work is needed and it should be expanded. You think of what there is now: there's the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectorate, there's the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons inspectorate, there should be one—I hope in the not-too-distant future—on biological weapons. This is work that needs to be done. It's a necessary part of giving treaty partners assurance that there isn't cheating from within and that people are keeping their obligations.

UNSCOM was the most ambitious of such inspectorates ever created, but the anti-UNSCOM period over the last year or so and the associated propaganda has been very successful. Harm has been done to this kind of effort by that propaganda, including, quite frankly, by some of the things that Ritter has said and done, which is really tragic because as he left he actually told me that his basic purpose was to defend the kind of effort that UNSCOM had made.

So I think if the Council were asked to devise something similar to UNSCOM today—and in a sense it has been—their wiggle room would be smaller because those memories of this period are fresher. The earlier period with all the success is less fresh. But a few years from now, there will be a more balanced view. I hope the book that I write will land on that view and point to how we can do this better in the future because, sure as hell, we will have to do it. UNSCOM was a fantastic experiment, did a lot of good, and there are a lot of good things that can be learned from it.

ACT: What are the most important lessons that can be drawn from UNSCOM's experience?

Butler: One of the lessons here is that the lawmaker shouldn't make laws that it won't be willing or able to enforce in the future.

Secondly, in the future the lawmaker might want to take more care about the impositions it puts upon a sovereign state in the position Iraq found itself—UNSCOM was given quite extreme, almost draconian powers.

I also think there is a need for the Security Council to reach an agreement on the uses to which the veto can be legitimately put. Specifically, I say a permanent member should not use it to defend a state because it's a friend when that state is seen to be violating its arms control obligations. It shouldn't be valid for a state to step in on a national interest basis to defend a state that is objectively in violation of the very agreements of which the Council is supposed to be the protector.

ACT: In terms of Iraq's proscribed weapons activities, what do you believe the Iraqi government has been able to achieve during the seven months since UN inspectors have been in the country?

Butler: I believe they have worked hard on increasing their missile capability, the range of those missiles and probably the number of them. I'm sure they've asked their nuclear team to start meeting again, and I feel certain, too, that they have commenced work again on making chemical and biological warfare agents.

ACT: How close could they be to a nuclear, biological or chemical capability?

Butler: Not sure. Nuclear relies very much on access to weapons-grade fissile material, in which they're very poor. In chemical and biological, they're really quite skilled, and I don't think there's any particular barrier to progress there. It's a question of what they choose to do. The missile field is an area where they lack certain machines and equipment, but there's reason to think they've been out in the world trying to procure those covertly. Now, how long all that will take, I'd only be guessing because we're not there and we can't see what they're doing.

ACT: Is Iraq transferring materiel, personnel and technology to other states in efforts to protect its weapons programs?

Butler: I don't know. There were reports in the past of some such transfers, but to be truthful, I don't know what the situation is today.

ACT: In the course of UNSCOM's inspections, what did you learn to that effect?

Butler: We saw critical information that there had been such transfers.

ACT: Can you say to which states?

Butler: No, I won't.

ACT: Is it better to have some sort of inspection mechanism in Iraq, even if it is not as strong as UNSCOM? Is something better than nothing?

Butler: That's a highly theoretical question. I don't honestly know the answer. There's a great temptation to say yes, something is better than nothing, but I have a deep-seated feeling that this could create illusory inspections—inspections that give the appearance of being sound when they aren't. It could be that, in this sort of arms control work, something could be worse than nothing because it could provide a false sense of security.

ACT: Even given ideal circumstances, is it possible for an inspection team to disarm a non-compliant state with 100 percent certainty?

Butler: The answer lies in finding the point of intersection between the highest possible degree of objective verification and agreement on the desirability of no one being armed with weapons of mass destruction. What I'm saying is that objective verification, by scientific and technical means, can always be cheated on. What fills that gap, whether it's a 5 percent gap or whatever, is the political commitment of states not to acquire weapons and of the enforcers to enforce the law. This is somewhat theoretical, but it adds up to the functional equivalent of something like 100 percent.

Iraq is a good case in point there. The means of verification and the work of UNSCOM has been very successful, but it won't hit 100 percent. For a while the Security Council was committed and that made the job broadly successful. But what was absent from the Iraq case from the beginning was a decision by the central government of Iraq not to comply with the resolutions. Absent that, there's always going to be a shortfall. The critical question then and now is, what is that shortfall? How many hidden missiles does it represent with what agents to be carried in the warhead and when will one of those warheads actually contain a nuclear explosive device? Those are the critical questions left by this breakdown when UNSCOM was halfway down the straight on the last lap of this race. That's what we don't know.

Interviewed by J. Peter Scoblic

Security Council Struggles on Iraq; France Offers New Compromise

Howard Diamond

THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL remained deadlocked in June over competing strategies for restoring UN weapons inspections and monitoring activities in Iraq. In closed-door debates, Security Council members considered three resolutions, including a new French proposal, that seek to balance incentives for Iraq, in the form of sanctions relief, with continued insistence that Baghdad eliminate all of its proscribed weapons capabilities. Much of the Security Council has indicated its support for a proposal offered by Britain and the Netherlands that, despite several revisions, remains unacceptable to France, Russia and China.

The five permanent members of the council have long been divided about how to deal with Iraq, but have made little progress since the United States and Britain conducted a 70-hour bombing campaign against Iraq in mid-December 1998. Since the air and missile strikes, there have been no chemical, biological or missile inspections by the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) and no nuclear inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inside Iraq. Iraqi officials reiterated in June that Baghdad will not consider allowing international inspectors back into Iraq without prior relief from sanctions.

The differences between the current competing drafts focus on four aspects of sanctions relief: the timing for suspending sanctions; the degree to which sanctions would be lifted; the mechanism for restoring sanctions in the event of Iraqi non-compliance; and the control of the money from renewed Iraqi exports.

The latest British-Dutch plan would replace UNSCOM with a nearly identical successor called the UN Commission on Inspection and Monitoring (UNCIM), and would lift the ban on Iraqi exports—but not imports—120 days after UNCIM and IAEA reported they were receiving full cooperation from Iraq. Under this proposal, money from Iraqi exports would continue to be placed in a UN escrow account to be used for humanitarian purposes. Restrictions on exports by Iraq would be lifted for four months at a time and would require the Security Council to approve continued suspension. The British-Dutch draft would also specifically authorize Iraqi oil sales to Turkey, which have been a major source of illicit revenue for Iraq.

The United States has said it would support the British-Dutch resolution, which has been co-sponsored by Argentina and Slovenia and has also gathered support from other non-permanent members of the Security Council. Winning France's support appears to be the key challenge facing the British-Dutch plan because its vote would give the proposal a majority in the Security Council, allowing it to pass provided that Russia and China withheld their vetoes.

A competing Russian-Chinese-French draft proceeds on the basis that Iraq's disarmament obligations have been substantially fulfilled and would suspend the ban on both imports and exports to Iraq once UN inspectors returned to Iraq and established a reinforced ongoing monitoring and verification (OMV) system. Under the Russian-Chinese-French plan, Baghdad would control the revenues produced by trade. The draft would restore sanctions if the UN secretary-general reported a breakdown in the OMV system, but would otherwise require affirmative action by the Security Council to restore sanctions.

Introduced in late June, the French draft takes pieces from both the British-Dutch and the Russian-Chinese-French proposals in an attempt to bridge the strongly held differences among the five permanent members of the Security Council. Like the British-Dutch plan, the French plan calls for replacing UNSCOM with a virtually identical "Control Commission" that would have the same rights, assets and responsibilities that UNSCOM had. Like the trilateral plan, the French draft would suspend sanctions on Iraq following the establishment of an OMV system, restore them if the OMV system broke down, and require a vote by the Security Council to reimpose the sanctions otherwise. Absent a shift by one of the permanent five members, the Security Council is likely to remain deadlocked.

Security Council Remains Divided Over Iraqi Arms Regime, Sanctions

Howard Diamond

AFTER NEARLY SIX months without UN weapons inspections in Iraq, the UN Security Council remains divided on how to implement Resolution 687, which requires Iraq to eliminate its proscribed weapons before economic sanctions can be lifted. Russia, China and France have sought to induce Iraqi compliance with its disarmament obligations through concessions on sanctions and inspections, while the United States and Britain have insisted that Baghdad comply with the Security Council's mandates before sanctions are lifted. Since the U.S.-British air strikes in December 1998, Baghdad has maintained that international inspectors will not be allowed back into the country without prior relief from sanctions.

In April and May, diplomatic activity in the council centered around two competing draft resolutions seeking to build on the March report of Brazilian Ambassador Celso Amorim. (See ACT, March 1999.) Three Amorim-led panels reviewed the status of Iraq's disarmament, the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Iraq, and missing Kuwaiti POWs and property. The disarmament panel's report confirmed that Baghdad had not met the Security Council's requirements for lifting sanctions, but concluded that outstanding issues in Iraq's disarmament, previously addressed by weapons inspections, could be included in a "reinforced ongoing monitoring and verification regime." Such a regime, the panel noted, would have to be, "if anything, more intrusive than the [monitoring regime] so far practiced."

The two proposals currently under review—one offered by Britain and The Netherlands, the other by Russia—take considerably different approaches in reorienting the Security Council's dealings with Iraq. The British-Dutch proposal calls for the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM), which has had responsibility for the chemical, biological and ballistic missile elements of Iraq's disarmament, to be replaced by a new UN Commission on Investigation, Inspection and Monitoring (UNCIIM). The plan would also allow unlimited Iraqi petroleum exports through a UN escrow account and permit foreign investment in Iraq's oil sector in order to increase the amount of money available for humanitarian needs.

As described in the draft resolution, UNCIIM would "take over all assets, liabilities, staff and archives" of UNSCOM, and would be run by an independent executive director appointed by the UN secretary-general. The current executive chairman of UNSCOM, Australian Ambassador Richard Butler, announced in February that he would not request reappointment when his term of office expires at the end of June.

Like UNSCOM, UNCIIM would be entitled to "immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access to any and all areas, facilities, equipment, records and means of transportation which they wish to inspect." As is the case with UNSCOM, UNCIIM's work would be overseen by a body of international commissioners and its executive director would report to the Security Council every six months.

Long the subject of Iraqi accusations, UNSCOM's credibility with some members of the Security Council suffered greatly following March reports that U.S. intelligence had not only benefited from cooperation with UN inspectors, but had used UNSCOM to "piggyback" independent intelligence gathering operations in Iraq. In light of explicit calls for UNSCOM's demise from France, Russia and China, the British-Dutch proposal provides for the elimination of UNSCOM while continuing its existence under a different name. Replacing UNSCOM with UNCIIM, however, would provide opportunities for Security Council members to haggle over the membership of the commission, UNCIIM's organization and reporting lines, the extent of its administrative, procedural and technical inheritance from UNSCOM and the specifics of its mandate.

The Russian Initiative

Though discredited in Russian eyes, UNSCOM would apparently continue operating under Russia's draft proposal, which does not mention UNSCOM by name. It states that Iraq's disarmament obligations "have been completed in such a way" that further investigation of its past weapons activities can be conducted through a "reinforced" ongoing monitoring and verification (OMV) system, which UNSCOM has already established. Under the Russian proposal, UN sanctions on Iraq would be lifted once the OMV system is back in place, and Iraqi assets would remain frozen until the secretary-general reported to the Security Council that Iraq's disarmament obligations had been fulfilled. UNSCOM and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is responsible for the nuclear portion of Iraq's disarmament, would jointly implement the OMV system.

While China has indicated its support for the Russian proposal, France's position remains unclear. Paris has supported lifting sanctions on Iraq, but French diplomats may be looking for a "third way" between the Russian and British-Dutch proposals. Informal consultations among Security Council members are expected to continue through June.

U.S. Pursues Regime Change

While the Security Council attempts to reach a new consensus, the Clinton administration is moving ahead with its policy of "containment plus regime change." On May 24, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met with leaders of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), the political umbrella for Iraqi opposition groups. The same day, State Department spokesman James Rubin announced that the administration was preparing to release non-lethal forms of aid to INC groups to help them create a headquarters, begin training in "civil affairs" for a post-Saddam Iraq, and initiate public advocacy activities. When asked about providing the U.S. military assistance contemplated by the October 1998 Iraq Liberation Act, Rubin said, "We're not prepared to take action that is premature or that puts people's lives needlessly at risk. There are a number of steps that have to be taken before we're in a position to provide lethal assistance." The United States, together with Britian, continues to patrol the two "no-fly" zones over northern and southern Iraq and has conducted periodic air strikes in response to Iraqi attacks on the patrols.

Mindful of international concerns about the effect of sanctions on Iraqi civilians, Washington has indicated its interest in the British-Dutch proposal, which would improve the output from Iraq's oil sector and remove the cap on allowable Iraqi oil sales, while retaining UN control of the proceeds. On May 21, the Security Council reauthorized the oil-for-food program, which allows Iraq to sell $5.2 billion worth of oil every six months. Recognizing improvements in Iraq's export capacity and the rise in the price of oil, the Security Council's resolution provides for a review of the export cap if Iraq reaches the sales limit by November 20.

UN Panel on Iraq Recommends 'Reinforced' Monitoring Regime

John Springer

IN A MARCH 27 report to the UN Security Council, a UN panel formed to review the status of Iraqi disarmament concluded that inspections and monitoring remain necessary to prevent the reconstitution of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs. The panel, 14 of whose 20 members came from the two bodies overseeing Iraq's UN-imposed disarmament—the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)—recommended a "reinforced ongoing monitoring and verification" system that would be, "if anything, more intrusive than the one so far practiced."

Chaired by Brazilian Ambassador Celso Amorim, the panel is one of three called for by the Security Council on January 30 to review UN policy toward Iraq. (The other panels are examining humanitarian issues in Iraq and missing Kuwaiti property and POWs.) Iraq's refusal to cooperate has effectively killed the UN inspection and monitoring program, and Russia has called for UNSCOM's elimination.

The disarmament panel's conclusions, however, are generally supportive of the beleaguered commission.

The report noted that "the bulk of Iraq's proscribed weapons programs has been eliminated," but stated that continued inspections remain necessary because of outstanding issues in most major weapons categories, especially biological weapons, where "critical gaps need to be filled." With Iraq continuing to block all international inspections, the panel urged that "in one way or another, Iraq will have to be engaged by the Security Council, sooner rather than later." Yet it left to the Security Council the task of devising new means of eliciting Iraqi cooperation.

The panel did recommend that UNSCOM use UN employees as inspectors wherever possible, rather than relying on experts loaned by various governments; it also stressed that monitoring and verification activities should be used only to fulfill Security Council resolutions. Such statements reflect recent reports that the United States used UNSCOM to spy on Iraqi security and military services.

On March 2 The Washington Post published an extensive report that U.S. intelligence services secretly rigged UNSCOM equipment and offices to eavesdrop on Iraqi military communications. The equipment was installed in 1996 to enable images from UNSCOM cameras in Iraqi installations to be transmitted to UNSCOM's Baghdad headquarters. Yet according to The Washington Post report, which cited "knowledgeable U.S. officials," the U.S. technicians who installed and operated the equipment also hid antennas in it to intercept microwave transmissions between Iraqi commanders and their units.

The Clinton administration had confirmed previous reports that it had installed equipment in Iraq to intercept coded radio transmissions by Iraqi security services. (See ACT, January/February 1999.) The eavesdropping operation described in The Washington Post, however, differed from that separate operation in two critical respects: It was conducted without UNSCOM's knowledge and was designed to gather information unrelated to UNSCOM's mandate of uncovering Baghdad's proscribed weapons capabilities.

Spokesmen at the White House and the State Department, citing intelligence considerations, refused to comment directly on the March 2 report. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, UNSCOM Executive Chairman Richard Butler and former UNSCOM head Rolf Ekeus all denied knowledge of a such an operation.

Annan, Butler and Ekeus expressed concern that charges of U.S. exploitation of UN monitoring and inspection efforts could hamper efforts at verifying future arms control agreements.

More immediately, the charges could also shape future Security Council debates over Iraq, bolstering calls for UNSCOM's elimination. Butler has already announced that he will not request reappointment when his current term of office ends in June.

Airstrikes Continue

Meanwhile, U.S. and British aircraft continued to strike air-defense-related targets in Iraq while enforcing the no-fly zones in the northern and southern parts of the country. At a March 11 press conference in Cairo, Defense Secretary William Cohen said that "we would not be striking anything if Iraq was not trying to shoot down our pilots." According to Cohen, Iraq has committed approximately 100 violations of the no-fly zone and fired more than 20 surface-to-air missiles at U.S. and British warplanes.

UN Creates New Panel to Review Iraqi Disarmament

 Howard Diamond

WITH UN DISARMAMENT activities in Iraq suspended and the credibility of the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) under attack, the Security Council on January 30 approved the creation of a new panel to review the status of Iraq's disarmament and recommend how to "re-establish an effective disarmament/ongoing monitoring and verification regime." First proposed by Canada earlier in January, the disarmament panel held its initial meeting February 23–27 and is scheduled to submit its recommendations to the Security Council by April 15.

The Security Council simultaneously ordered the creation of two other panels to study humanitarian issues in Iraq and missing Kuwaiti property and POWs. Together, the three UN panels effectively constitute the "comprehensive review" of Iraq's compliance with its UN obligations that the Security Council promised in September 1998, though Baghdad has failed to meet the Security Council's demand that it first resume cooperation with UN weapons inspectors. (See ACT, November/December 1998.)

Despite the presence on the 20-member panel of 11 representatives from UNSCOM and three others from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the formation of the new body may also signal the end of the UN's active investigation of Iraq's past weapons programs to verify the complete destruction of its weapons of mass destruction capabilities. The United States and Britain continue to insist that Iraq be fully disarmed of its proscribed weapons before sanctions are lifted. Russia, France and China, however, have called for sanctions to be lifted and Iraqi rearmament prevented by monitoring.

Iraq banned UNSCOM and IAEA weapons inspections on August 5 and banned monitoring activities October 31. UNSCOM and IAEA personnel were withdrawn from Baghdad immediately before the December air strikes by the United States and Britain. Iraq said following the strikes that any discussion of allowing international monitors back into Iraq could only begin once sanctions had been lifted.

The disarmament panel, which along with the other two panels is chaired by Brazilian Ambassador Celso Amorim, began its work with reports and briefings by UNSCOM on Iraq's chemical, biological and ballistic missile programs and by the IAEA on Iraq's nuclear weapons potential. Both UNSCOM and the IAEA emphasized the significant gaps in information about Iraq's past weapons programs, as well as the critical importance to any monitoring or verification regime of unfettered access to Iraqi information and sites of concern. Iraq initially refused to cooperate with the disarmament panel but later offered a series of reports to counter the UNSCOM and IAEA presentations.

Still unclear is whether the panel's report to the Security Council will present a consensus of the panel or Ambassador Amorim's personal views. Amorim is considering an invitation by Baghdad to visit Iraq, but according to a UN official, he would not be empowered on such a visit to negotiate on behalf of the Security Council.

UNSCOM Said to Aid U.S. Spying

UNSCOM's credibility, already the subject of accusations of U.S. interference (see ACT, August/September 1998), may have been fatally undermined by a series of reports in January and February concerning U.S. intelligence agencies' involvement in UNSCOM activities. Based on sources in the office of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, The Washington Post and The Boston Globe reported on January 6 that the United States used UNSCOM efforts to uncover Iraq's methods of concealing its proscribed weapons capabilities to obtain information on Saddam Hussein's special security services. According to the reports, this information helped Washington target the Iraqi regime during its December attacks.

The Clinton administration, confirming that—at UNSCOM's request—it had provided photo reconnaissance and had installed equipment in Iraq to intercept coded radio transmissions by Iraq's security services, noted that assisting UNSCOM with intelligence information was explicitly called for by UN resolutions. According to the January 8 Washington Post, the United States gave UNSCOM Executive Chairman Richard Butler and his U.S. deputy, Charles Duelfer, the portion of the intercepted communications relevant to their disarmament work while retaining other material. The United States obtained this latter material in the course of aiding UNSCOM, said administration officials, who argued that Iraq is to blame for the fact that the same institutions guarding Iraq's illicit weapons were also guarding the regime.

Compounding the January reports were fresh allegations in February from former UNSCOM inspector Scott Ritter that the CIA had worked closely with UNSCOM as early as 1992. UNSCOM's awareness of the extent and types of U.S. involvement in its activities, however, was not immediately clear.

On February 4 UNSCOM Chairman Butler, under fire within the Security Council even before the spying allegations surfaced, announced that he will not request reappointment when his current term of office ends in June. UNSCOM's future is likely to be taken up by the Security Council in April, together with the recommendations from the three Amorim-led panels.

While the Security Council waits for the disarmament panel's report, U.S. and British forces continue to strike air-defense-related targets in Iraq as part of their maintenance of the northern and southern no-fly zones.

Baghdad, which has never recognized the no-fly zones, vowed repeatedly in December to continue violating the zones and to fire on coalition aircraft enforcing them. According to the Defense Department, the low-level assault has destroyed 20 percent of Iraq's integrated air defense.

In response, Baghdad has threatened strikes on Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Turkey, which host the coalition aircraft, and is alleged to be dealing with Russia to rebuild its surface-to-air missile capability and stocks of fighter aircraft. The London Sunday Telegraph reported on February 14 that Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov had approved arms sales negotiations with Iraq during a meeting with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz last December. A completed deal was reportedly signed in January. Moscow, however, has denied the report, calling it a provocation and Cold War-style misinformation.

UNSCOM Future Unceartain After Strikes on Iraq

CULMINATING EIGHT years of frustration with Iraq's obstruction of UN disarmament efforts, on December 16 the United States and Britain unleashed 70 hours of air and missile strikes against weapons- and security-related sites in Iraq. Despite frequent warnings, the strikes surprised many nations and fractured the long-standing but fragile unity of the UN Security Council in dealing with Baghdad. Washington and London have publicly called for the replacement of Saddam Hussein's regime and insist that UN sanctions remain in place until Iraq proves it has disarmed. Conversely, Russia, France and China are urging the Security Council to adopt a new, more conciliatory approach that would lift the sanctions and change the mandate of UN inspectors from investigating Iraq's past weapons activities to a more limited monitoring role.

At the center of UN debate is UN Security Council Resolution 1194, adopted on September 9 in response to Iraq's August 5 suspension of UN weapons inspections. The compromise resolution promised a "comprehensive review" of Iraq's compliance with UN disarmament and other mandates once Baghdad resumed full cooperation with inspectors. (See ACT, August/September 1998.) The determination of whether Iraq was fully cooperating was left to the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM), responsible for the chemical, biological and ballistic missile components of Iraq's UN-mandated disarmament, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which handles nuclear issues, once they were able to resume their work inside Iraq.

When the Security Council's plan for the comprehensive review did not call for an immediate or automatic lifting of sanctions, Baghdad escalated its confrontation with the United Nations on October 31 by blocking UNSCOM (and, in effect, the IAEA) from conducting monitoring activities. The United States and Britain, which since the showdown with Iraq in February had left the task of gaining Iraq's cooperation up to the Security Council, began preparations for strikes on Iraq.

On November 14, Baghdad's last-minute capitulation and pledge of complete cooperation with UN inspectors staved off a U.S.-British strike. The inspectors returned to work in Iraq four days later. Still charged by the Security Council with assessing whether Iraq was indeed providing the full cooperation required for the comprehensive review to begin, UNSCOM and the IAEA reported back to the Security Council on December 15.

While the IAEA reported that it had received sufficient cooperation to do its work, UNSCOM offered a sharply different assessment. Detailing Iraq's refusal to provide long-requested documents, its unwillingness to offer new information on its biological weapons or VX nerve gas programs, new forms of obstruction and interference and outright blockages of some attempted inspections, UNSCOM Executive Chairman Richard Butler reported that "Iraq did not provide the full cooperation it promised on 14 November."


Operation Desert Fox

Anticipating a negative report, on December 13 Washington and London ordered their forces to execute an attack, dubbed "Operation Desert Fox," on Iraq beginning December 16. Utilizing some 415 air- and sea-launched cruise missiles in addition to 650 aircraft sorties, U.S. and British forces struck over 100 targets, inflicting damage on 85 percent of them.

Publicly, the purpose of the attack was to "degrade" Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities and "diminish" Baghdad's ability to threaten its neighbors. Defense Secretary William Cohen insisted on December 18 that "We are not trying to destabilize [Saddam Hussein's] regime." Yet in his televised address announcing the strikes, President Clinton reiterated the U.S. position that the best way to end the Iraqi threat to the region "once and for all is with a new Iraqi government."

Because the same institutions that protect Iraq's weapons of mass destruction also protect Saddam Hussein's regime, the line between the two was easily blurred. All attacks other than 34 strikes on Iraqi air defenses focused on targets at the nexus of the regime and its proscribed weapons capabilities. As listed by the Defense Department, these targets included: security forces; presidential palaces, TV and radio, command and control; air bases; the Republican Guard; and the Basrah oil refinery.

According to Defense officials, for example, the six targeted air bases hosted not only L-29 pilotless drones, suspected of having been modified to release chemical or biological agents, but also attack helicopters that played a critical role in the suppression of revolts in 1991. Similarly, the estimated $500 million that Baghdad obtains each year from oil smuggling supports the cadres of regime supporters as well as scientists involved in ongoing weapons activities.

Notably absent from the Pentagon's target list were suspected chemical and biological production facilities. Secretary Cohen explained on December 17 that a number of facilities that have "civilian activities on certain floors and inappropriate activities on others" had been avoided to prevent civilian casualties. The Washington Post on December 19 cited Red Cross spokesmen who estimated 30 to 40 people had been killed and about 80 injured in metropolitan Baghdad. During his post-operation review on December 21, General Anthony Zinni, who commanded the strikes, said he was unaware of any civilian targets having been hit by accident.


Reaction to the Air Strikes

News of the first strikes on Iraq came in the middle of the Security Council's meeting to consider the December 15 UNSCOM and IAEA reports. Caught off guard by the U.S.-British attack, Russia and China declared the strikes "illegal." In addition, Moscow recalled its ambassador to Washington for consultations on December 17.

France, while accepting the U.S. and British claim that Baghdad's non-cooperation with UN inspectors was responsible for the strikes, proposed ending the international embargo on Iraq and transforming UNSCOM into a long-term monitoring group—essentially acquiescing in Iraq's retention of some of its proscribed weapons capabilities. French President Jacques Chirac called on December 20 for "fresh organization, fresh methods" to monitor Iraq's weapons development. French Foreign Minister Herbert Vedrine added, "We think its time to move on to a mechanism more geared to the risk of future danger, rather than the systematic examination of what has happened in the past."

Russia and China have long advocated lifting the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq following its 1990 invasion of Kuwait as a means of rewarding Baghdad for past cooperation with UN disarmament efforts, aiding Iraqi civilians, and eliciting further compliance. Moscow and Beijing also called for the ouster of Butler. Soon after the initial U.S.-British attack, news reports citing Russian, Chinese and UN officials appeared alleging that Butler had collaborated in U.S. plans by minimizing problems cited in the December 15 report during meetings with the UN secretary-general and during trips to Moscow and Paris.

Butler denied conspiring with the United States and insisted on December 17 that his report was "based on the experts of UNSCOM. It danced to nobody's tune." Rejecting calls for his removal, Butler said he has no plans to quit.

The United States responded forcefully to calls to remove economic sanctions and reconfigure UNSCOM. Speaking to reporters on December 22, Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering reiterated the U.S. position that Iraq would face "sanctions in perpetuity" until it allowed UN weapons inspectors to verify the destruction of its proscribed weapons and production capabilities. Pickering also stated, "we believe Mr. Butler has done an outstanding job and we will continue to support him." If Iraq were to "credibly demonstrate its readiness to cooperate" by readmitting the weapons inspectors and providing them with "full cooperation," said Pickering, the Security Council could then proceed with the "comprehensive review."

Washington also appears to be pursuing a second, non-diplomatic track designed to tighten the pressure on the government in Baghdad. At the end of Operation Desert Fox, President Clinton emphasized U.S. readiness to conduct further strikes on Iraq's proscribed weapons capabilities based on information obtained by national technical means.


Regime Toppling

The administration has also stepped up its support for dissident groups hoping to topple Saddam Hussein and is preparing to name a special envoy to help coordinate their efforts. The final element of the two-track strategy is vigorous maintenance by U.S. and British forces of the "no-fly" and "no-drive" zones covering northern and southern Iraq.

Iraqi officials maintain that UNSCOM's mission ended with the air strikes and that UN weapons inspectors will never be allowed to return to Iraq. Baghdad has also rejected France's proposal to change the inspectors' mandate to one exclusively of monitoring. Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz stated on December 21 that any consideration of monitoring could only proceed once sanctions on Iraq had been lifted.

In the wake of the strikes, attention in the Security Council remains fixed on the subject of regaining Iraq's cooperation in order to proceed with what is now being labeled by the Russians as an "overall assessment" of UN policy toward Iraq. Still at issue, though, is whether such a review would not only address the question of Iraq's compliance and the future of sanctions, but would also consider whether to maintain UNSCOM as a mechanism for verifying Iraq's disarmament.

UNSCOM Future Unceartain After Strikes on Iraq

Iraq's Reconstitution of Its Nuclear Weapons Program

October 1998

By David Albright and Khidhir Hamza

Iraq has provided few credible indications that its nearly three-decade quest for nuclear weapons has ended. Since its invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, however, Iraq has had an extremely difficult time making any progress in building nuclear weapons. The economic sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council after the invasion disrupted many vital imports, particularly for Iraq's uranium enrichment program. The allied bombing campaign destroyed many of its key nuclear facilities.

The subsequent, highly intrusive inspections mandated by the Security Council and carried out by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Action Team in cooperation with the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) exposed and destroyed vast amounts of nuclear equipment and materials. In the process, the inspections uncovered a long-standing and determined clandestine nuclear weapons program, despite Iraqi denials until 1995 that such a program existed. Currently, essentially all of Iraq's pre-Gulf War nuclear facilities and equipment have been eliminated or converted to non-proscribed purposes under periodic Action Team inspections. But Iraq retains its nuclear cadres and its extensive knowledge and experience built up before the Gulf War. Moreover, some key unanswered questions remain about Iraq's effort to build the nuclear weapon itself—called "weaponization" here—and to build a gas centrifuge enrichment program to enrich uranium for weapons purposes.

Since the war, Iraq is suspected of having made progress on a number of bottlenecks in its weapons program, at least those which could be done with little chance of detection by inspectors. These activities include design work, laboratory efforts, subcomponent production, and the operation of test machines. If the inspection system becomes ineffective, Iraq could reconstitute major aspects of its nuclear weapons program that would likely be discovered under the current inspection regime, a combination of historical investigations and an on-going monitoring and verification (OMV) system. Even under the OMV regime, Iraq's illicit acquisition of plutonium or highly enriched uranium (HEU) from the former Soviet Union would be very difficult to detect. Because of this and other weaknesses, the OMV system needs improvement to be effective in deterring and detecting Iraq's banned activities.

There are few alternatives. A nuclear-armed Iraq would be extremely dangerous. Nuclear weapons would aid Saddam Hussein in ensuring his own survival and increasing his regional power. If he detonated a nuclear explosive underground, the international community, and in particular the United States, may not risk intervention, particularly if definitive information about the size of Iraq's nuclear arsenal is lacking.

Essential to any discussion about about Iraq or the OMV system are estimates of the time needed for Iraq to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program. Such an assessment requires a thorough understanding of Iraq's pre-war program and reasonable inferences about its activities after the war. This article attempts to summarize this discussion and outline some of the most important scenarios of how Iraq may reconstitute its nuclear weapons program. In addition, this article looks at a neglected part of the entire inspection process, namely improving methods to reduce the risk posed by the Iraqi nuclear scientists. There is wide agreement about their central importance to any Iraqi attempt to reconstitute its nuclear program. Yet, little has been done to reduce the threat they pose.


Acquiring a Safeguarded Fuel Cycle

Since its inception in the early 1970s, Iraq's nuclear weapons program has depended on deception and determination. Originally, the plan, which one of us (Hamza) authored, was to acquire a complete nuclear fuel cycle able to produce and separate plutonium. The plan focused on the foreign acquisition of complete nuclear facilities with training in their use conducted in the supplier country.

During the 1970s, Iraq concentrated on acquiring nuclear facilities overseas that would have been under IAEA safeguards, since Iraq had signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968. Nonetheless, Iraq reckoned it could defeat the safeguards at these facilities or secretly build undeclared duplicate facilities.

In 1976, Iraq succeeded in buying from France a 40-megawatt materials test reactor called the Tammuz-1 reactor, or Osiraq reactor, that ran on weapons-grade uranium fuel. In 1979, Iraq established a radiochemical laboratory, equipped through a contract with the Italian company SNIA-Techint, suitable for laboratory research on reprocessing. It also acquired a fuel fabrication plant from Italy that was suitable for making natural uranium targets for secret irradiation in the Osiraq reactor.

Iraqi teams calculated that the Osiraq reactor could conservatively produce about 5 kilograms to 7 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium per year. This value could be higher or lower depending on how the targets were arranged in the reactor; it also depended on the frequency of visits by IAEA inspectors and French personnel. The Iraqis believed that the safeguards on the reactor, which would have included periodic inspections and surveillance cameras, could have been defeated. Prior to visits by IAEA inspectors and French personnel, Iraq planned to pull out the unsafeguarded targets. Iraq had also developed plans to defeat the cameras.

Before Iraq could illicitly produce any plutonium and put the IAEA's safeguards to the test, however, Israel bombed the reactor in June 1981, shortly before the reactor was scheduled to go into operation. The radiochemical laboratory and fuel fabrication plant were not bombed. Later, the fabrication facility was used to produce unsafeguarded targets which were irradiated in a Russian-supplied research reactor to produce plutonium. The reactor also irradiated bismuth targets to make polonium-210, a material used in beryllium-polonium neutron initiators which trigger the nuclear explosion. Material from the targets was extracted in the Italian radiochemical laboratory, which was expanded in the early 1980s.


Iraq Goes Underground

Following the bombing of the Osiraq reactor, Iraq decided to: (1) replace the Osiraq reactor or to develop a heavy water or enriched uranium reactor and associated plutonium separation capability; and (2) develop a uranium enrichment production capacity.

Iraq tried to replace the Osiraq reactor, but by 1985, it realized that it could not buy a replacement. Before the bombing, Iraq had developed plans and purchased some minor items for a 20- to 40-megawatt heavy water natural uranium reactor. After delays in buying a replacement reactor, Iraq decided to pursue this reactor project again. In the late 1980s, however, it put its plans on hold, facing resource limitations. But Iraq continued its efforts to learn how to separate plutonium from irradiated fuel and to make heavy water. Depending on the success of the enrichment programs, Iraq may have reconstituted the nuclear reactor project.

Even before the Israeli bombing of the Osiraq reactor, Iraqi scientists had been evaluating the development of uranium enrichment technologies. However, Iraq has declared that a decision by the Iraqi leadership to pursue these options came after the June 1981 bombing. An Iraqi evaluation finished in 1981 concluded that electromagnetic isotope separation (EMIS) was the most appropriate technology for Iraq and that gaseous diffusion was the next most appropriate option. Gaseous diffusion was planned to produce low-enriched uranium (LEU) which could be used as a feedstock for EMIS, dramatically increasing overall HEU production in EMIS separators. If EMIS was unsuccessful, the plan called for expanding the gaseous diffusion facility to produce HEU directly. At the time, gas centrifuge technology was viewed as too difficult to accomplish. (See below.)



The goal of the EMIS program was to build two production units, each able to achieve 15 kilograms per year of weapons-grade uranium using natural uranium feed. Iraqi estimates of the HEU output using LEU feed (enriched to 2.5 percent uranium-235) vary between roughly 25 kilograms and 50 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium per year. The variation reflects different plant designs and performance uncertainties.

After several years of research and development work of mixed success, Iraq nonetheless started in 1987 to build its first EMIS production facility at Tarmiya, north of Baghdad. Also in late 1987, Iraq decided to build a replica of Tarmiya at Al Sharqat, about 200 kilometers northwest of Baghdad. This facility, which was built by Iraqis only, was originally viewed as a second production site that would come into operation roughly at the same time as Tarmiya. In the late 1980s, this plan was modified to one where Al Sharqat would operate after Tarmiya was finished. Iraq also sought unsafeguarded LEU on the international market during the late 1980s. However, it has declared that its search was half-hearted and unsuccessful. Whether this declaration is complete is unclear. As of 1997, the Action Team had not pursued this issue further.

The EMIS program faced repeated delays and technical problems, and by the time of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, Tarmiya was at least a year behind schedule. At that time, Tarmiya was not expected to produce its first goal quantity of weapons-grade uranium, or 15 kilograms, until at least 1992, assuming that the plant would function well and that a stock of LEU would be used. If natural uranium was used, the date for the production of the first goal quantity would have been 1993 or later.

Because of the large size of EMIS facilities, few expect Iraq to try to secretly rebuild its EMIS production facilities. In addition, it still has to overcome several technical problems, including problems in vacuum technology and ion sources, before its separators would work properly. Armed with a stock of LEU, however, Iraq could produce 15 kilograms per year of weapons-grade uranium with a facility about one-third the size of Tarmiya.


Enrichment Options

By 1987 or 1988, when it became apparent to the Iraqi leadership that the gaseous diffusion program was not progressing well, Iraq decided to de-emphasize this effort. It instead concentrated on chemical enrichment as a source of LEU feedstock for the EMIS program. By 1990, Iraq had made little progress in building a chemical enrichment plant. However, both programs could be reconstituted, although substantial technical challenges would need to be overcome before Iraq could operate production-scale facilities.

After the cancellation of the gaseous diffusion program, the team started to work on gas centrifuges. The team had already been transferred from the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center to a new site on the northern edge of Baghdad near Rashdiya, later named the Engineering Design Center (EDC). This change reflected a change of authority from the Atomic Energy Establishment to the Ministry of Industry and Military Industrialization.

This group managed to acquire extensive overseas cooperation in designing and building gas centrifuges, so much so that inspectors have characterized the assistance as key to progress in the centrifuge program.

Despite such help, at the time of the Gulf War, Iraq was still a few years from an operating plant able to produce goal quantities of weapons-grade uranium, declared by the centrifuge program as 1,000 centrifuges producing 10 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium per year. Because of the relatively small size of a gas centrifuge program and the extensive progress made before the war, Iraq is viewed as likely to reconstitute its gas centrifuge program.



Iraq's effort to produce a nuclear explosive started in the mid-1980s. Under a 1988 plan, Iraq intended to have its first weapon by the summer of 1991, based on an implosion design. Iraq had worked on developing the capability to make fissile material for many years prior to this date, and Iraq has explained that the decision at that particular time reflected the expectation that domestically produced HEU would become available within a few years. Iraq intended that its nuclear weapons would be put on ballistic missiles. Iraq faced many problems in trying to reduce and ruggedize its design to fit on top of a ballistic missile.

Questions remain about the status of Iraq's weaponization program at the time of the allied bombing campaign in January 1991, when most activities were halted. Nevertheless, the Action Team inspectors have concluded that with the accelerated effort under the crash program, Iraq could have finished a nuclear explosive design by the end of 1991, if certain technical problems were overcome. However, it would have needed longer to prove a design for the Al Hussein missile. This missile, for example, would have required a warhead with a diameter of 70 centimeters to 80 centimeters, much smaller than the diameter of the design nearing completion that had a diameter of about 120 centimeters.

Iraq was also planning to build a nuclear test site, called the Al Sahara Project. At the time of the allied bombing campaign, Iraq had picked candidate sites in southwest Iraq but it had not performed a site investigation. In addition, according to a senior Iraqi nuclear official, Iraq did not plan to conduct a test before it had accumulated a few nuclear weapons. Iraq has stated that it planned to develop confidence in its weapon designs through an extensive experimental testing program that stopped short of a full-scale nuclear test.


Crash Program

By the time Iraq invaded Kuwait, Iraq still lacked an indigenous source of fissile material; its enrichment plants were still far away from producing HEU. In mid-August 1990, the Iraqi leadership ordered the diversion of its stock of safeguarded HEU fuel. Iraq's initial plan was to extract the HEU from the fuel, further enrich a portion of it, and build a nuclear weapon. The goal was to execute this plan within six months, although by the time of the allied bombing campaign in mid-January 1991 which stopped the effort, Iraq had fallen several months behind. A nuclear warhead for a ballistic missile would have taken significantly longer.


Iraq has denied trying to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program after the Gulf War, although Iraqi documents suggest otherwise, at least for the period right after the war. Documents dated early June 1991 but finished several weeks earlier, called for salvaged equipment for processing safeguarded HEU fuel to be moved from the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center to Tarmiya. Only in late May did the first inspection team show up at Tarmiya, unknowingly halting any Iraqi effort to reconstitute these projects there.

Determining whether Iraq has conducted any proscribed nuclear activities since the Gulf War remains a thorny problem for the Action Team and UNSCOM. Little evidence has surfaced since the defection in August 1995 of General Hussein Kamel, then head of the Ministry of Industry and Military Industrialization (and Saddam Hussein's son-in-law), suggesting that Iraq has been conducting secret nuclear weapons work. Given the nature of the Iraqi regime, however, few accept that it has given up its nuclear weapons ambitions. Iraq's persistence in weakening inspections and hiding equipment, information and materials over the past seven years at great cost in lost oil revenue has only intensified suspicions about its intentions.

There is no simple answer to how much Iraq has accomplished in its nuclear weapons program since 1991 or how quickly Iraq could obtain nuclear weapons in the future. Below, we consider several important scenarios by which Iraq could build nuclear weapons. These estimates assume that the activities are carried to fruition without being discovered by the inspectors.


What Iraq Still Has

Iraq has demonstrated many times in the past seven years that it will make great sacrifices to preserve its basic resources for its weapons program. Nonetheless, vast amounts of equipment, materials and facilities have been destroyed by the inspectors. There are no known facilities working on nuclear weapons. The IAEA routinely says it has no evidence that banned activities are happening. However, an IAEA statement that it found "no evidence of any activity" does not mean that it has "evidence for no activity." This distinction is important.

Iraq is known to have kept its nuclear weapon teams together following the Gulf War. These teams are kept together by force and intimidation. They appear not to be significantly reduced in size or number from before the Gulf War. Many of these scientists are now in "unreal career paths," according to one Action Team inspector, and could be quickly redirected to nuclear weapons activities, if a decision were made to do so. Iraq has a relatively complete set of documents, despite its frequent protestations to the contrary. It has undoubtedly continued since the war collecting relevant data, reports and information throughout the world. Travel by Iraqis and Internet access have continued.

Following the Gulf War, Iraq established a program at its universities to train a new generation of nuclear scientists and provide more advanced instruction to members of the program. The new scientists are viewed as more loyal to the regime and may apply their expertise only in Iraq, further inhibiting defections. Many key nuclear scientists also gained experience and confidence after the war by rebuilding Iraq's civil industries. Nuclear scientists were instrumental in putting oil refineries, telephone exchanges and power stations back into operation under adverse conditions.

We believe that Iraqi scientists have been conducting theoretical design work and small-scale research and development in a wide range of proscribed areas since inspections began. Iraq may have also modified non-banned items that would be useful for small-scale research and development (R&D) and manufacturing work. Small numbers of such items may have been smuggled from abroad. Nonetheless, extensive progress by Iraqi scientists has been likely hampered by poor working conditions and the IAEA's and UNSCOM's intense scrutiny of the Iraqi program and facilities (and the difficulty in smuggling in key items, or items in sufficient quantity, from abroad).

However, these hardships should not disguise an important cultural shift in the nuclear program. In a new era of international sanctions, intense scrutiny and a lack of funds, new and more ruthless management teams are likely to emerge. The lack of accomplishments prior to the Gulf War, frequently exposed by the inspectors, will drive the new program to correct old mistakes and be more self-reliant and productive. Iraq's core asset is its seasoned and well-experienced cadre. These scientists can be expected to create more focused and productive programs at a reduced cost, size and visibility.


Post-War Weaponization

Prior to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, Iraq was unable to achieve its goal of making a nuclear explosive or weapon. This weakness inhibited its ability to take advantage of the safeguarded HEU fuel before the start of the allied bombing campaign. Iraq probably has focused on making sure it would not be so limited again, if it were presented with a new supply of plutonium or HEU. It is difficult to detect small-scale weaponization work, such as high explosive lenses, uranium metallurgy and neutron initiators—even under the most intrusive inspection regimes. Based on our own assessment conducted in mid-1997, we concluded that in early January 1991 Iraq was within a few months to a year of building a nuclear explosive. Building a weapon able to be mounted to a ballistic missile would have required more time.

After the war, scientists in the weaponization program worked six days a week, eight hours per day. They had time to resolve several theoretical design issues they could not properly evaluate during the crash program. They conducted a range of theoretical activities, such as computer simulations of the atomic explosion. They also worked on more advanced explosives for the device. These activities led to a much better understanding of nuclear explosives and their behavior.

Iraq worked on small-scale experiments to improve its knowledge of particular components. It may have smuggled in subcomponents, machine tools and other items. Technicians could have continued to improve their skills in making uranium components by using surrogate materials. Iraq has worked on improving the design of high-explosive lenses and its ability to make them.

A special problem for Iraq is the neutron initiator. Its pre-war design was based on beryllium and polonium-210, a highly radioactive material with a half-life of about one year. Any polonium-210 Iraq may have successfully hidden from inspectors would have decayed away by now. Because Iraq obtained its polonium by irradiating bismuth targets in its research reactor, which is now defunct, it cannot produce more. Thus, Iraq needs a new type of neutron generator, and one likely candidate is a pulsed neutron generator based on tritium and deuterium. Iraq obtained several pulsed tritium-deuterium generators that are used in the oil exploration industry. One of the "oil well logging" devices could be suitable to trigger a nuclear explosive. Iraq also had established a program before the war to build its own pulsed neutron generator, but this program did not progress very far.

One of us (Hamza) was involved in an attempt in 1991 to create an off-shore company in Jordan to produce tritium-deuterium generators. The company would have produced these generators for the oil industry, but in secret; it would also have produced miniaturized neutron generators for use in Iraqi nuclear weapons. The company would have depended on the involvement of an East European expert with long experience in building such devices. This expert was not told the true purpose of the company, but he said that a civilian endeavor could no longer be done in Iraq because of the UN sanctions. Hamza pulled out of the project when Iraq stated that he could not take his family with him to Jordan. He believes that the company was never built in Jordan.

Assuming that Iraq has done nothing on weaponization since the Gulf War, we estimate that Iraq may need more than a year to reconstitute its program and finish a device, absent the fissile material. However, this scenario appears unlikely. The more likely scenario is that Iraq has made progress since the war, although the extent of progress is difficult to judge. Our conclusion is that Iraq could make a nuclear device within two to 12 months after deciding to do so, assuming it acquired sufficient fissile material. We also believe that the more probable time is closer to two months if HEU is obtained. The lower bound of two months includes the time needed to make components out of HEU and conduct any final testing of the device. The design would probably be an implosion system. However, Iraq was working on a gun-type device before the war, but it did not emphasize this design because of an anticipated scarcity of HEU. After the war, this design could have been perfected. If plutonium were obtained, Iraq would likely need more time, but still less than 12 months, to build a modified implosion device. Because the estimated time to complete a device is less than a year, likely considerably less than a year, the emphasis must remain on preventing Iraq from acquiring fissile material.

Our assessment appeared to be confirmed by Scott Ritter, an UNSCOM inspector who resigned in August 1998. He said that UNSCOM had intelligence information which indicates that Iraq has components necessary for three nuclear weapons, lacking only the fissile material. However, Ritter's statement has been challenged as unsubstantiated by UNSCOM, IAEA and U.S. officials. At least three of the four sources Ritter cited as the basis for his information have disputed Ritter's account, according to IAEA and U.S. officials.


Procurement of Fissile Material

Iraq denies ever making any attempt to procure fissile material abroad after the war. It also denies any serious attempt to do so before the war. Iraq has readily admitted, at least after Kamel's defection, that it received many offers for fissile material from abroad. One senior official said in 1996 that in the last 10 years, Iraq had received over 200 offers of everything from red mercury to fissile material to complete nuclear weapons. He insisted that Iraq had turned down every offer.

One offer, however, is being investigated by the Action Team. This offer, described in summary in a one-page document found at Kamel's farm after his defection, was purported to be by A.Q. Khan, the father of Pakistan's gas centrifuge program. An intermediary approached Iraqi intelligence in October 1990 with the following offer: Khan was prepared to give Iraq project designs for a nuclear bomb and to provide assistance in enriching uranium and building a nuclear weapon. He would also ensure any requirements of materials from Western European countries through a company Khan owns in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. He requested a preliminary technical meeting to discuss the documents that he was willing to sell.

However, a meeting with Khan directly was not possible at that time, given the situation. An alternative of setting up a meeting with an intermediary, who had good relations with the Iraqi intelligence agents, was mentioned as a possibility. Iraqi intelligence officials believed the motive was money. Both the Pakistani government and Khan vehemently deny any such offer. Whether or nor Khan was involved, the Iraqis took this offer as genuine. Iraq's statement that it rejected this offer appears credible.

One of us (Hamza) knew of this offer at the time, and believes Iraq would not have pursued it. This type of offer would have given those involved too much knowledge and control over highly secret nuclear programs. What if they talked? Pakistan has had close relations with the United States. If the offer was a scam, large amounts of money could be at risk.

Despite these cases, we know of no evidence that Iraq has procured plutonium or HEU overseas since the war. But concern remains that Iraq may have already attempted to do so in the former Soviet Union. We cannot exclude the possibility that it has already obtained fissile material there. Nonetheless, preventing Iraq from acquiring nuclear explosive material abroad, particularly in Russia and former Soviet republics, remains a difficult but absolutely essential goal.


Gas Centrifuge Program

The gas centrifuge enrichment process is the most critical of the technologies Iraq pursued to make fissile material domestically. This type of activity is difficult to detect under the current OMV system. Before the war, Iraq made substantial progress in mastering the operation and construction of a variety of gas centrifuge designs. It also acquired illegally a large number of highly classified gas centrifuge design, operation and manufacturing documents from German centrifuge experts.

Suspicions remain that gas centrifuge activity resumed after the war at Rashdiya. Little verified information exists for activities at Rashdiya after the war. It was not bombed at all during the war, and it was not inspected until the summer of 1991, and then only in a cursory manner. Iraq has declared that in March 1991, it started bringing evacuated equipment and materials back to Rashdiya, but had not finished reconstituting its program by the time it accepted the UN Security Council Resolution 687 (the Gulf War cease-fire resolution) in April. Iraq says that it did not resume any centrifuge work at Rashdiya or elsewhere after the war.

Nevertheless, questions remain about why Iraq decided to hide Rashdiya's existence. Although Iraq chose to tell the inspectors about many of the centrifuge program's accomplishments and the existence of other unknown centrifuge sites, it decided not to reveal Rashdiya or the extent of foreign assistance. Iraq continued to deny the importance of Rashdiya even after defectors had identified the site in 1991. Iraq came clean about Rashdiya and the extent of foreign assistance only after Kamel's defection in 1995, when exposure was certain.

Iraq also continues to maintain that all centrifuge program reports and progress reports were destroyed during the bombing or after the war. This statement is viewed by the Action Team as non-credible because documents from the rest of the Iraqi nuclear programs continue to surface. The collection of papers from Kamel's farm also included several tons of maraging steel and large quantities of carbon fiber, both key materials in making gas centrifuges. The inspectors did not know that Iraq still had this material. Whether some was used in small-scale R&D activities is unknown. In addition, Iraq may have acquired more such materials. An Iraqi official has bragged to inspectors that overseas procurement of maraging steel is no problem.

Iraq could have made progress in the following areas. It could have improved its ability to make centrifuge components to high tolerances, an absolute must for the successful operation of centrifuges and a difficult problem for Iraqi industry. Centrifuge experts could have expanded their theoretical and "hands-on" knowledge of single machines or a few hooked together by pipes into a cascade. Iraq may have also procured illicitly more machine tools to make centrifuge components. Despite this progress, Iraq would still face formidable challenges in making significant progress toward building a facility able to make kilograms of weapons-grade uranium annually. It would also need to acquire a stock of uranium hexafluoride, a demanding task.

We consider two cases, which both assume that Iraq has not started to build a centrifuge facility, whose goal capacity is taken as 10 kilograms per year of weapons-grade uranium. These cases also assume that Iraq may opt for a simpler centrifuge design that is easier to build and requires materials and equipment that are less controlled internationally.

The first case posits that Iraq needs to procure manufacturing equipment, build a manufacturing plant, conduct additional testing of the centrifuge design, produce uranium hexafluoride and manufacture 1,000 to 2,000 centrifuges. We estimate that Iraq would need about three to seven years to accomplish this set of tasks and produce its first 10 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium. The second case assumes that Iraq just needs to manufacture the centrifuges in sufficient number, having finished all necessary testing and procurement of materials and equipment. In this case, Iraq would need an estimated two to three years to bring the plant into operation and produce its first 10 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium. In brief, Iraq would need at least a few years to construct and operate a clandestine gas centrifuge enrichment plant. Because Iraq would need to procure several key items abroad, the inspection system needs to have a strong export-import focus in order to have a better chance of detecting Iraq's procurement efforts.


Focus on Iraqi Scientists

The Action Team realized soon after inspections started the importance of identifying and interviewing key Iraqi nuclear scientists. Most key scientists have been identified. Over a hundred are periodically interviewed by the Action Team. However, this process is inadequate in obtaining necessary information or ensuring early warning if these scientists are engaged in prohibited activities.

Most of the scientists are virtual prisoners. They live in fear of their government's punishments if they do or say anything outside the limits imposed by it. Even if they manage to leave, their families are held hostage with the possibility of terrible reprisals against them if they reveal any significant information. Currently, Iraqi scientists are interviewed in the presence of government security officials. This arrangement gives the Iraqi regime control over what the scientists can say and provides an easy way to control the information flowing to the inspectors. One of us (Hamza) was told that in case the inspectors found out his former role as head of the weaponization program, he was not to make himself available to inspectors. If he was forced to talk to them, he was instructed to claim not to remember anything about what he did.

On one inspection, the other author (Albright) was able to interview Iraqi scientists only in groups or in the presence of a "minder." One-to-one contacts usually involved pleasantries or being pulled aside to be "fed a line." In one case, the head of the gas centrifuge program tried to convince him that the first gas centrifuge facility would have taken years to finish.

Typically, the interviews are video-taped by the Iraqis. These tapes provide the Iraqis with a means to analyze in detail the information that is revealed in those sessions, any mistakes that are made, and the underlying knowledge and strategy of the inspectors. The genesis of this interviewing process dates to the beginning of inspections. One inspector said that it did not occur to the inspectors to do it any other way. "We just did not think about it," he added.

At least, the inspectors need to have the right to interview the scientists without their "minders," particularly under the OMV program. Ideally, such interviews should be conducted in another country. An alternative is to conduct the interviews in a secure room, which for example exists at the Baghdad Verification and Monitoring Center.


Getting the Scientists Out

A better solution is to create a method to allow Saddam's cadre of knowledgeable nuclear weapon scientists and their families to leave Iraq safely. With years of valuable experience before the war, Iraq's nuclear weapon experts are both a valuable and necessary asset to implement a decision to seek nuclear weapons. If the key scientists leave, Iraq may be unable to reconstitute a nuclear weapons program.

A practical method to implement this proposal is for the United States to link its support for lifting sanctions to Iraq agreeing to allow certain scientists and their families to leave Iraq. Such a method would avoid the need for Security Council agreement and permit the United States to name the scientists it wants out.

Would any scientists leave Iraq voluntarily? There is a growing recognition that many of the nuclear experts are not committed to remaining in this highly repressive police state. Most of the experts were arbitrarily assigned to the nuclear weapons program after returning from overseas education. After suffering years of hardships created by sanctions, many scientists and their families could be expected to leave. As mentioned earlier, the vast majority of the former nuclear weapon scientists have been identified through captured Iraqi documents and Action Team inspections. The resettlement of just a few dozen key scientists would devastate Saddam's ability to rebuild his nuclear weapons program.

Key to the success of this initiative is protecting the scientists and their families from retaliation. The United States would be a possible resettlement country, because it can provide adequate protection against Saddam's agents if he decides to violate Security Council resolutions. The Security Council would also need to assign the Action Team and UNSCOM the task of investigating any suspected retaliation against family members in Iraq. In the event of retaliation, the Security Council must be ready to punish Iraq decisively.

The scientists would need to be provided economic support until they could find adequate employment. Any costs during this resettlement process could be collected from Iraq, just as the costs of UNSCOM and Action Team inspections are taken from proceeds of Iraqi oil sales. For their part, these experts would commit not to work in any weapons of mass destruction program and agree to host government or Action Team monitoring to ensure that they are not violating their commitment or secretly helping Saddam to rebuild his military programs.

Time is running out to deprive Saddam of his most valuable remaining nuclear weapons asset. If successful, this initiative could nip an Iraqi nuclear weapons program in the bud. The alternative is letting the nuclear cadre, intimidated by Saddam, remain in Iraq, awaiting the inevitable orders to reconstitute the nuclear weapons program or train the next generation of nuclear weapons experts.



Ensuring that Iraq does not build nuclear weapons will require vigilance. The chance of Iraq building nuclear weapons in secret depends critically on the effectiveness of the OMV system. If inspections become ineffective, even if sanctions remain, Iraq's chance of success will be unacceptably high. Iraq has developed a deep understanding of the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of the entire inspection system. It appears to have a strategy to weaken inspections at will. Although a robust and constantly improving inspection system is necessary to detect and thwart Iraq's proscribed nuclear activities, Security Council enforcement of the inspections, backed up by U.S. and British willingness to use military force, will remain vital to the future effectiveness of inspections.

The OMV needs improvement, including a more system-wide approach to its design and deployment. More environmental monitoring in Iraq is needed. Improved cooperation on detecting illicit imports into Iraq is also increasingly vital, as the sanctions become less effective. International efforts to improve controls over fissile material in the former Soviet Union must receive a higher priority. With a strengthened, enforced OMV program, Iraq is far less likely to build nuclear weapons in secret. If key Iraqi scientists are brought to the West, Saddam Hussein may find it difficult to succeed in building nuclear weapons for many years.

Ultimately, the goal of the inspections in Iraq is to buy time, in hopes that the regime will either change or give up its ambitions for nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction. A highly confrontational inspection system has little chance of lasting for decades in any country. It is a tribute to the Security Council, and in particular the United States, that the inspections have lasted this long. But the system of stringent inspections must remain effective at least as long as the current regime persists on its noncooperative path. The stakes are high. A nuclear-armed Iraq could haunt the world for decades, and make the accomplishment of Middle East peace a dream of the past.

Iraq's Reconstitution of Its Nuclear Weapons Program

Iraq Blocks UNSCOM Monitoring; Security Council Calls for Review

ESCALATING ITS standoff with the UN Security Council, Iraq announced on October 31 that it would no longer allow inspectors from the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) to monitor sites in Iraq for prohibited weapons activities. On August 5, Baghdad suspended inspections by UNSCOM, which oversees chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missile programs, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which handles nuclear issues, into Iraq's past weapons activities. Iraq's announcement specified only UNSCOM's monitoring activities, but will likely affect IAEA's monitoring work as well, since the IAEA depends heavily on UNSCOM for logistical support. Iraq's action may have been prompted by the Security Council's approval on October 30 of a plan for a "comprehensive review" of Iraq's compliance with its disarmament obligations that was not to Baghdad's liking. The review, provided for in Security Council Resolution 1194 (approved September 9), can only proceed after Baghdad revokes its August 5 decision to suspend UNSCOM and IAEA investigations. Initially supported by states sympathetic to Iraq as means of narrowing the remaining disarmament issues and thus hastening the end of sanctions, the final review plan does not appear to provide Baghdad much leeway.

The Security Council issued a statement on October 31 condemning Iraq's action and demanding that Baghdad "rescind immediately and unconditionally" the bans on both monitoring and inspections. While the United States has taken a decidedly low-key approach to Iraq's August blockage of UNSCOM inspections, the latest interference with monitoring activities is likely to provoke a more robust response. (See ACT, August/September, 1998.) President Clinton termed the Iraqi decision "a clear violation of the UN Security Council Resolutions" and stated, "From my point of view we should keep all our options open."


UNSCOM & IAEA Reports Presented

Amid the Security Council's deliberations on the nature of the comprehensive review, UNSCOM and the IAEA presented their latest biannual reports on Iraq on October 6 and 7, respectively. The IAEA report stated—as did the previous IAEA report—that "no indication of prohibited materials, equipment or activities" had been found in the last six months, but cautioned that without inspections, the agency is unable "to ensure that prohibited activities are not being carried out in Iraq." The report also reiterated past concerns about missing information on Iraq's nuclear weaponization and centrifuge development efforts, offers of foreign assistance, and documents showing Baghdad has officially ended its nuclear weapons program.

Similarly, UNSCOM's report recalled previous submissions to the Security Council documenting significant gaps and discrepancies in Baghdad's declarations of its ballistic missile, biological and chemical weapons holdings and production capabilities. Highlighting the relatively small number of outstanding issues in the missile and chemical areas, UNSCOM concluded that its disarmament work in those areas "is possibly near its end" if Iraq chooses to cooperate.


BW Concerns Remain

Efforts to verify the destruction of Iraq's biological weapons program have been much less successful, and the UNSCOM report listed gaps in Iraq's declarations on biological weapons munitions, stocks of biological agents, and growth media. The report noted that a panel of international experts asked in July to verify Iraq's latest declarations recommended that no further "expert level" verification efforts be made "until Iraq commits itself to provide substantive, new information."

Another international group of experts assembled by UNSCOM reported to the Security Council on October 26 that Iraq had, contrary to its claims, weaponized the nerve agent VX for delivery by ballistic missiles. The VX panel confirmed the validity of tests (performed by a U.S. laboratory on missile warhead fragments unearthed in May at a warhead destruction site) that found degraded VX and a VX stabilizing agent. Other samples later analyzed by French, Swiss and American labs did not show VX, but revealed the presence of a chemical compound and a decontamination agent that should not have been present had Iraqi claims of the warheads' contents been accurate.


Review in Limbo

With the three reports in hand, and with Iraq continuing to refuse access for inspections, the Security Council adopted on October 30 a plan for the comprehensive review that is slightly at odds with Secretary-General Kofi Annan's original October 5 proposal. Instead of asking UNSCOM and the IAEA to provide evidence to demonstrate that Iraq has not complied with its disarmament obligations, the review plan calls on the two agencies to report on Iraqi compliance with the UN disarmament resolutions and to identify "any tasks which still need to be undertaken."

Pointing out that it cannot "prejudge the outcome of the review," the Security Council nevertheless suggested the process would conclude with the creation of a list of "remaining steps" to be taken by Iraq and a "likely time-frame for this purpose, assuming full Iraqi cooperation." The council also agreed that the review could only take place once the secretary-general has received reports from UNSCOM and the IAEA confirming that they are receiving "full cooperation from Iraq."


UN Fixes Sanctions on Iraq, Seeks Renewed Cooperation

IN RESPONSE to Iraq's August 5 decision to cease cooperation with UN weapons inspections, the UN Security Council voted unanimously on September 9 to end its bimonthly reviews of international economic sanctions on Iraq until cooperation resumes. A review of sanctions is expected in mid-October following the biannual reports of the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) on Iraq's proscribed chemical, biological and ballistic missile programs, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on nuclear weapons-related issues. The Security Council's resolution, number 1194, also provides for a "comprehensive review" of Iraq's compliance with its disarmament and other obligations once Baghdad resumes cooperation.

Unlike previous confrontations with Iraq, the Clinton administration—though claiming that force remains an option—has backed away from the threats to compel Iraq's compliance that had stood as U.S. policy since 1991. The United States is seeking to shift responsibility for dealing with Iraq's defiant behavior back to the Security Council, and onto those states—chiefly France, Russia and China—that have argued Iraq's case in the past. As deputy national security advisor James Steinberg said on September 4, Washington's goal is "to be in a posture where it is clear that what Saddam is doing is challenging not just the United States, but the entire international community."


Weapons Inspector Resigns

Drawing additional international attention to the situation in Iraq was the public resignation of William S. "Scott" Ritter, Jr., previously chief of UNSCOM's investigations into Iraq's proscribed weapons concealment activities, on August 26. In an angry letter to Richard Butler, executive chairman of UNSCOM, Ritter denounced the Security Council's refusal to enforce its resolutions against Iraq and condemned Secretary-General Kofi Annan for allowing his "grand office" to be used "as a sounding board for Iraqi grievances, real or imagined."

The day after Ritter's resignation, The Washington Post cited "American and diplomatic sources" who claimed that on at least six occasions beginning in November 1997, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright or other top U.S. officials contacted Butler to prevent scheduled inspections from going forward. The Washington Post also claimed that in March 1998, after Butler rejected Albright's suggestion to remove Ritter from upcoming inspections, Washington and London "withdrew crucial elements of the intelligence support that allowed the special commission to observe Iraqi concealment efforts as they happened during surprise inspections." According to Ritter, Albright called Butler twice to avert inspections Ritter was leading to uncover "illegally retained ballistic missiles" and "management of Iraq's concealment program by a member of Saddam Hussein's personal staff."

While acknowledging discussions on "timing and tactics," Albright and other U.S. officials have strongly rejected claims that they tried to tell Butler "how to do his job" and insist that Washington remains UNSCOM's strongest backer. Butler has also maintained that while he consults regularly with all members of the Security Council, none has "crossed the line" from making policy into running operations, which he claims is his exclusive domain. On September 9, Butler told The New York Times that "Scott Ritter's chronology of events is not accurate," but declined to give further details. (The FBI is reportedly investigating charges that Ritter improperly exchanged intelligence with other nations while at UNSCOM, a claim Ritter denies.)

Following his resignation, Ritter publicly warned that Iraq could reconstruct its chemical, biological and ballistic missile programs in six months or less and charged that Iraq already possesses three complete nuclear devices that lack only their fissile material cores. Ritter also claimed that Baghdad has used the UN-supervised oil-for-food program to smuggle proscribed and dual-use materials. In his last report to the Security Council on July 27, IAEA Director General Mohammed ElBaradei noted that, while the agency is confident Iraq had no "physical capability for the indigenous production" of fissile materials, "direct acquisition of weapon-usable nuclear material would present a severe technical challenge" to the IAEA's ongoing monitoring and verification efforts.

On September 3, Butler briefed the Security Council on Iraqi interference with UNSCOM's continuing monitoring activities, which are carried out at some 300 sites within Iraq. According to Butler, since August 5 Baghdad has refused to provide access to equipment and information related to its potentially illegal Al Samoud missile program and has blocked access to previously visited areas by claiming they are either "military sites" or not "declared sites" for monitoring.

In the face of Baghdad's continuing defiance, the Security Council's attention has turned to the issue of the comprehensive review allowed for in the September 9 resolution. Member-states are now waiting to hear Annan's views regarding the purpose and scope of the review, which is favored by Iraq's supporters as a means of drawing attention to the extent to which Iraq has already been disarmed.


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