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"I find hope in the work of long-established groups such as the Arms Control Association...[and] I find hope in younger anti-nuclear activists and the movement around the world to formally ban the bomb."

– Vincent Intondi
Professor of History, Montgomery College
July 1, 2020
Iraq

Interview with Ambassador Richard Butler, executive chairman of the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM)

Since taking over as executive chairman of the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) in July 1997, Ambassador Richard Butler has stood at the center of the stormy relationship between Iraq and the United Nations. UNSCOM, established by the UN Security Council in 1991, is charged with eliminating Baghdad's biological and chemical weapons programs and proscribed ballistic missile activities, as well as monitoring to ensure that Iraq does not reacquire any such capabilities in the future.

On September 24, as Butler was preparing the most recent six-month report on UNSCOM activities in Iraq—a report dominated by Iraq's refusal since August 5 to permit UNSCOM inspections—Arms Control Association Senior Analyst Howard Diamond asked him about this latest crisis and its implications for UNSCOM.

Butler's diplomatic career includes a number of positions in the Australian foreign service. Appointed Australia's ambassador for disarmament in 1983, Butler was named ambassador to Thailand in 1989 and ambassador to the Supreme National Council of Cambodia two years later. In 1995 he was appointed convenor of the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. Immediately prior to joining UNSCOM, Butler served from 1992 to 1997 as Australian ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations. The following is an edited version of his comments.

 


Arms Control Today: What are the current scope and status of UNSCOM's ongoing monitoring and verification processes? To what extent has Iraq's most recent suspension of cooperation affected the integrity of monitoring efforts?

Richard Butler: Iraq's decisions of 5 August sliced off all of our disarmament work. Iraq stated that we could, for a period of time, continue our monitoring work, and claimed that that would be in accordance with the provisions of the monitoring agreement settled years ago between Iraq and UNSCOM. That agreement is actually a piece of Security Council legislation, known as Resolution 715. The fact is that in the intervening seven weeks or so, we have found that Iraq's claim is not true. We are not able to do all of the monitoring we would want to do and would normally do pursuant to 715. Specifically, we are only being permitted to monitor at sites Iraq allows us to visit. We're not able to designate our own sites, and I've reported this to the Security Council. This significantly reduces the scope of our monitoring. There have been some instances where, even within a site designated by them, in other words a site to which they will allow us to make a monitoring visit, they are seeking to restrict our access to particular buildings or particular rooms, not to the whole of the site. So, on all of these grounds I've reported to the Council that we are not able to give the Council the kind of assurance with respect to monitoring that it requires under the law.

ACT: It's been about seven weeks since the last weapons inspections in Iraq. What are your primary concerns regarding Iraqi activities since the end of inspections?

Butler: Our inspections fall into two categories. One has to do with bringing into final account Iraq's proscribed weapons. Here remain outstanding issues in all three fields—missile, chemical and biological. Now that Iraq has sliced off our disarmament work, we're doing none of that—none—and that's a matter of concern.

As far as monitoring is concerned, it's not so easy to answer that question, because you can't know what you can't see. We don't know what Iraq may or may not be doing in the places we're not permitted to visit, and it would be foolish of me to make some kind of guess.

ACT: UNSCOM has provided the Security Council with an intensive and detailed review of the outstanding disarmament questions that stand in the way of the Commission completing its work. Is the "roadmap" that was provided earlier still the best evaluation of the remaining issues regarding disarmament? What are some of the specific remaining problems, and what does Iraq need to do to satisfy those concerns?

Butler: The "roadmap" is still the best available such list. I want to make clear what it is. It is a list of the priority tasks that need to be completed before we could give something like a final account of Iraq's proscribed weapons programs and capabilities. In setting forth that roadmap, I made clear that it was the priority issues—not that it was all issues. To put it another way, these are certainly the necessary conditions for the closure of, say, the missile and chemical files. They may not be the sufficient conditions. There are some other, lesser issues that would still have to be brought to account in some way.

Iraq knows that and was given an opportunity to work with us in bringing them to account, but it declined to take that opportunity in all cases. In the missile area, we still need an account of their indigenous production capability. We need a final account of special missile warheads that they've unilaterally destroyed—those that they had filled with biological or chemical warfare agents. There is an outstanding account with respect to Scud-specific fuel and there is the special issue now of VX. We did detect degradation products of the VX nerve agent in some of those destroyed missile warhead remnants and Iraq has refused to give us an account of that, simply stating that it never weaponized VX, which is not what our lab findings show. In the chemical area, in addition to VX, the quantities Iraq made, there are some extant munitions. There is an account that's required of extant production equipment.

Just to complete the picture, the biological area as a whole is deeply deficient. Iraq's overall declaration on its biology program has been found on four occasions in the last year—by groups of international experts, not just our own—to be simply not credible. We've made it clear to Iraq that they'll have to start again and do better than the declaration they've given us, which doesn't approximate, in almost any respect, something like reality.

ACT: In reports to the Council, you've mentioned that you have asked for additional documentation on the biological weapons issue. Do you believe that there are still pertinent documents in Iraq that you haven't seen? Why wouldn't Iraq already have destroyed them?

Butler: We certainly do believe that. In concluding the recent discussions I held with Mr. Tariq Aziz, I summed it up by saying three things: one, the materials that we need do exist; two, they are in the possession of the government of Iraq; and three, it's their call as to whether or not they give them to us. If they do, I've said our promise is that we will verify those materials quickly and honestly, so that we can bring these things to account without any further delay. He did not argue with those three points.

There have been times where Iraq has said it has lost or no longer knows where relevant documents are. But I have to tell you, the overwhelming experience we have had is that Iraq does know very well what the true story is. They are excellent document and record keepers, and there's no credible basis for us to believe that they are not able to give us the information required if they choose to do so. That's why I put those three points in that way, and I repeat, he didn't actually dispute those points but instead argued that what we sought either wasn't relevant or would intrude on other aspects of Iraqi life and basically declined to surrender those materials. Actually it was interesting that there was no direct argument against those three propositions.

ACT: If the Iraqi government is seeking to maintain strategic capabilities in all the proscribed weapons programs, and if Baghdad follows through on its threat to completely cut off cooperation with UNSCOM, what do you think Iraq is capable of achieving in each of these weapons programs, and in what kind of a time frame?

Butler: I'm sorry, I'm not either in a position or indeed, perhaps, expert enough to answer that question. I'll put it to you a different way. Iraq's current tactic is to say, first, "We are disarmed." Now we can't agree with that because the evidence that would support that claim has not been made available to us by them. We're not in the business of doing disarmament by declaration. We need evidence.

Secondly, they have also said, "We don't threaten anybody. If you think we do, say so. Tell us what you think we've got." Quite frankly, this is a political, if not a propaganda stance. The law that we work under doesn't have any word in it about the threat that Iraq might pose to its neighbors or elsewhere. Our job, under the law, is to deal with the hard evidence and the materials themselves—the weapons and the ability to make them. We can't declare that Iraq has fulfilled its obligations to be disarmed of those weapons and production capabilities until they put us in a position to do so, by giving us the relevant materials and evidence. That's what we focus on, not some other more extraneous political notion of whether or not they threaten anybody.

ACT: How would you judge Iraq's concealment activities compared, say, to a year ago, and how has concealment affected UNSCOM's ability to do its job? Are concealment activities the key factor preventing UNSCOM from closing its files?

Butler: Iraq has had a practice of concealment from the beginning in 1991. When it was obliged under the law to declare all of its weapons to us, it actually took the step of declaring only a portion of them and concealing a residual portion. That activity has always hampered our work because it withholds from us the basic database we need, which is the quantity and quality of weapons—illegal weapons—that they held. Iraq's stance today is that there is no concealment. Again that's a political statement, not verifiable by evidence, the kind that we require. In 1996, in a formal document signed with the previous executive chairman, Iraq actually admitted that there had been concealment.

Now, to the last part of your question, concealment has slowed us down in doing this job because it denies us a basic database. The other two factors that have also slowed us down have been: one, that Iraq has never made the full, final and complete declaration on its holdings that it was obliged under the law to make available to us, and two, that Iraq has unilaterally destroyed some of its weapons in order to obscure from us what the basic size and quality of those weapons were. That unilateral destruction, which itself was illegal, compels us to go into a kind of forensic activity trying to put together the pieces of the past in a way that is inevitably difficult. It has had the effect of slowing down—I think unacceptably—the job of disarmament that we should have been able to complete years ago.

ACT: From your perspective, if Security Council members are no longer willing to support a policy of threatening to use, or using, military force to insure unconditional and unrestricted Iraqi cooperation, how will UNSCOM's operations and mandate be affected? Are you concerned that the individual national interests of Security Council members will overtake their commitment to the principle of collective action?

Butler: I'm not sure that I would concede the first premise of your question. When you said that if the Council is no longer prepared to enforce the law—I think that's a question to which the answer is still open. By saying that, I'm not in any way implying that I want to see force used. But I do remind you that all of the decisions on these matters taken by the Council have been taken under Chapter VII of the Charter, which includes the possibility that if necessary, the law would be enforced.

ACT: Are you concerned that the individual national interests of Security Council members will overtake their commitment to the principle of collective action?

Butler: No, I'm not, because I draw a distinction—and I think that many, many others do, and the members of the Council themselves do—between the fundamental objective and the ways in which it might be best achieved. I see no argument in the Council about the fundamental objective, namely that Iraq should obey the law and be disarmed. Even those who appear to be a bit more sympathetic to Iraq's concerns than some others don't have any difficulty with that basic proposition. There is no daylight amongst any members of the Council on that basic objective—that Iraq must obey the law, in particular the disarmament law. There is a difference of view amongst Council members on how best to achieve that goal, and that's the region where discussion, and perhaps some argument, takes place, but not about the basic task. Until that changes, and I don't expect it will, I believe the Council will hang in and see that this job gets done.

ACT: As the executive chairman, how do you balance the imperatives of your mission to identify and eliminate proscribed weapons with the political concerns that members of the Council may have regarding opportune times for conducting weapons inspections?

Butler: That's a very good question, and it certainly is one that's come into focus recently, following Scott Ritter's resignation. There is a certain balancing required there, but what I try to do is to insure that to the highest extent possible, our work has as its hallmark a technical and scientific approach. Now, obviously our technical and scientific work does take place within a political context, and I have to listen to that. Indeed I seek the views of members of the Council on policy matters, on how and when we should be proceeding at certain times. But in being the recipient of the views of members of the Council on political issues and, indeed, in seeking them, I have never had an experience where a member of the Council has crossed the line between their unique responsibility for policy and my unique responsibility for the technical and operational decisions. The receipt of their point of view doesn't mean that it has to be followed into the operational things for which I'm responsible, and they recognize that. So I don't see any of them having transgressed that line between policy on the one hand and operational responsibility on the other.

ACT: One of the more recent events that has come up regarding UNSCOM's work is the resignation of Scott Ritter. Could you clarify the July and August events surrounding UNSCOM's inspections, which he says led him to resign? You've been quoted as saying that his account of events in July and August was inaccurate. What exactly was inaccurate and why do you think so?

Butler: I'm not going to go into that, as I've already said publicly in other places. If I were to do so, I'd be putting UNSCOM on a pretty slippery slope. It would lead to a circumstance where I would be obliged to discuss in public the views of individual members of the Council, the operational imperatives that I think I have to follow. I think it would be a very bad precedent if I were to discuss those things in public because then the question would arise, "Well, you discussed your decision making process in instance A, why don't you now do it in B, C, D and so on?" And I won't do that. I think it would be harmful to our effort, and it would abuse the confidence of members of the Council who do come and talk to me about their concerns.

But as far as Scott is concerned, I'm deeply aware of what motivated him; I deeply respect him. I was a bit saddened that his account of some of the events in the last few months was at variance—at least in some respects—with what I know to be the facts. I don't want to go beyond that. I certainly respect him enough to not want to have some kind of public dispute with him.

ACT: On the subject of intelligence sharing, are you receiving sufficient intelligence cooperation from UN member-states to do your job? Are there any changes to current arrangements that you'd like to have made?

Butler: Again, a very interesting question. We've been given a lot of support from a considerable number of member-states of the UN, whether material or in terms of information, and what we might loosely call intelligence. On the whole, it's been very strong and good. There have been some cases where we have sought further information from member-states and they've not been able or prepared to give it to us, but on the whole I'm satisfied with the level of support we've been given.

ACT: It's been reported that there are some discrepancies between results from the laboratories in the United States and in France and Switzerland regarding the presence of VX on the warhead fragments that were found. What could these discrepancies mean? How do you intend to deal with any conflicting results?

Butler: It's interesting that you asked this question today. There is, as we speak, a technical meeting taking place here in our office involving scientists from the various labs concerned and some other external scientists as well.

Going back to what I said a moment ago about our attempts to insure that our work has as its hallmark, scientific and technical accuracy, obviously I will place great importance on whatever report I receive from today's meeting on the findings from the various labs. I don't know what they are. I'm leaving them to do their work independently, as I should.

In the theoretical circumstance that the labs have different findings, all that means is that different samples gave different results. It doesn't obliterate the results that were obtained from the Maryland lab. They've been examined by international experts and found to be valid; even Iraq doesn't question the internal scientific validity of those findings. And speaking of Iraq, whatever is found elsewhere, they still owe us an answer to how VX degradation products got into those warheads, as found by the Maryland lab. Those results were impeccable. The answer still needs to be provided, especially since Iraq continues to claim that it never weaponized VX.

More important than these results, however, is that Iraq has never told us how much VX it made, having first denied that it made any. We know it made at least 4 tons. We need to have a fully verified total of production.

ACT: On the subject of VX, does UNSCOM have any knowledge of Iraq moving any of its proscribed weapons activities outside of the country or assisting foreign entities in such efforts? The allusion I'm making is to Sudan.

Butler: I hope you'll allow me not to answer that question because it would involve violating a principle that I mentioned earlier, namely that it wouldn't be right for me to discuss in public internal information, or intelligence information available to us, so I'm afraid I won't go into that.

ACT: Is that specific to the question of Sudan, or is that broadly, with regard to foreign cooperation?

Butler: No, I was answering your question with respect to foreign cooperation and the other part of your question, which was Iraq seeking to conduct some of its activities outside Iraq.

ACT: Another story that has popped up in news reports is that Iraq possesses one or more assembled nuclear devices that lack only their fissile material cores. Do you have any information about that?

Butler: That was something Scott Ritter claimed in public, correct?

ACT: Yes.

Butler: Sorry, it's the same situation there, but with a slight variation. The main responsibility for Iraq's nuclear program lies not so much with my organization, but with the IAEA. We do obviously have an interest in the nuclear field, but the IAEA has prime carriage on it. Secondly, I would prefer, for reasons of keeping security over our internal information, not to go into that one in any detail at this stage. I will say, however, if UNSCOM had hard evidence to that effect we would have taken it to IAEA or the Security Council or both.

ACT: If such a report were true, what would that say about the future of monitoring and verification efforts?

Butler: I'm very concerned about that. In this current phase, where Iraq is actually confronting the Security Council and its laws, there have been some suggestions that Iraq has a view of future monitoring that is far less than effective monitoring would require, or is already laid down in Resolution 715.

Part of my concern about the current situation is to discover just exactly what Iraq has in mind when it says, "We don't have a problem with monitoring. Our problem is with UNSCOM's insistence that we're not yet disarmed."

I'm not sure that we know the truth of the claim that they don't have a problem with monitoring. I've already raised this in the Security Council; we need to know exactly what Iraq means when it talks about monitoring, as against what we know should be meant. And I think we're going to have to explore that in the months ahead. The monitoring in the future will be a crucial activity, and we need to know very clearly what Iraq thinks it's about, as against what we know it must be about.

ACT: In your view, has the Security Council changed its approach to eliminating Iraq's weapons? Has it moved from insisting on active identification and elimination to a policy of containment?

Butler: No, I don't believe so. In an answer to an earlier question I said I saw no dispute amongst members of the Council with respect to Iraq's compliance with the law, in particular the disarmament law, and I don't see any shift of the kind that you've just described.

ACT: Given the current state of affairs, what is the next step for UNSCOM? Will you be forced to wait until the Security Council decides it's ready to support weapons inspections by the threat of force or the use of force? Or are there alternatives that you can foresee that would allow UNSCOM to get back to work?

Butler: The current state of confrontation is between Iraq and the Security Council and that obviously has operational implications for UNSCOM. In the meantime our job is to continue to keep the Security Council informed of the scientific and technical facts so that it is in a position to make the best policy decisions it can. We're here; we're doing that job. When and how we'll get back to doing our full job is something that needs to be resolved between Iraq and the Security Council.

ACT: In the end, do you believe that the determination as to whether Iraq has met its disarmament obligations will be based on "sufficient compliance" or on "total compliance"? In your opinion, what would be the most important factors in distinguishing between those two judgments?

Butler: I've seen no one suggesting that the yardstick of compliance should be trimmed. We've made clear to the Council in recent months that there may be some weapons areas where we won't ever have a complete account of what Iraq held in the past or of the present status of those weapons or capabilities, principally because Iraq has unilaterally destroyed relevant materials. We're compelled to put the jigsaw back together, and we may not quite find all the pieces. If that proves to be the case somewhere along the line, and we say, "Look, this is all we're ever going to get from this story," then the Council may have to accept that. But that's different from foreseeing a situation where the Council itself acts to change the yardstick, to change the standard, and I don't hear anyone talking about that. The goal remains to destroy—these are the words, "destroy, remove, or render harmless"—all of Iraq's proscribed weapons systems. And I don't hear anyone saying that that standard should be reduced.

ACT: Do you have any reason to be optimistic that the current impasse can be resolved in the short term, or do you think this is going to become a longer term problem?

Butler: I think it's a serious problem now, and I think the steps that the Council and others are taking to getting it solved are being taken carefully and with deliberation, and I believe, with resolve. I cannot predict how long it will take, but I don't foresee a situation where the task will be abandoned. I just don't foresee that.

Iraqi Nuclear File Kept Open, New VX Concerns

Howard Diamond

ON JULY 29, the UN Security Council rejected a Russian proposal to conclude investigations into Iraq's past nuclear weapons program following a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) citing unresolved concerns about Baghdad's residual capabilities. Previously, on June 24, the Security Council extended sanctions on Iraq for an additional 60 days following UN weapons inspectors' discovery of new evidence of weaponized VX and Baghdad's continued non-cooperation with the UN Special commission (UNSCOM). Iraq responded to the July extension of nuclear investigations by claiming "Iraq has met all the basic and practical requirements for disarmament" and demanding the Security Council lift the "unjust embargo."

In mid-May, the Security Council announced that it would direct the IAEA to reorient its work in Iraq from investigation to monitoring and verification activities, if the agency could address the outstanding issues detailed in its last two reports to the council. But on July 25, IAEA Director General Mohammed ElBaradei reported that questions still remain about Iraq's past nuclear activities.

In his report ElBaradei said, "While no indications of the current existence of proscribed equipment or materials in Iraq have been found…[the IAEA cannot] provide absolute assurance of the absence of readily concealable items, such as components of centrifuge machines or copies of weapon-related documentation." He recommended that the IAEA continue its investigations in the context of its ongoing monitoring and verification plan. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson told reporters July 29 that the IAEA report "makes it absolutely clear that Iraq has made no progress; that it has failed to provide information on weapons design, on uranium enrichment, on nuclear experts. Accordingly, there is no reason to close the nuclear file."

In early June, Richard Butler, the executive chairman of UNSCOM, briefed the Security Council on a "road map" of the outstanding issues blocking the commission's effort to eliminate Iraq's chemical and biological weapons and proscribed ballistic missile programs. Utilizing photos from American U-2 reconnaissance aircraft, Butler and his aides provided the council with new intelligence-based information outlining how Baghdad has attempted to obstruct and mislead UNSCOM's investigations, and has tried to conceal the remnants of its proscribed weapons and production capabilities. The briefings were requested by Security Council members—chiefly France and Russia—which have accused UNSCOM of dragging out the disarmament process in Iraq and failing to provide adequate information to the council to justify its work.

Butler traveled to Baghdad June 11 to 15 to work with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz on developing a "schedule of work" designed to close the gaps in Iraq's disarmament spelled out in UNSCOM's "road map." Although a plan for inspections was agreed upon, Aziz informed Butler that Baghdad would not cooperate with UNSCOM's investigations into Iraq's production and weaponization of the chemical agent VX, illicit holdings of missile propellants, and proscribed weapons-related concealment activities by Iraq's security services. Aziz also repeated Baghdad's position that all available information on Iraq's biological weapons program had been made available to UNSCOM, and that no further cooperation on retrieving documents would be given.

The day before the Security Council's June 24 sanctions vote, The Washington Post reported that UNSCOM had discovered VX (along with a stabilizing agent needed for weapons purposes) on missile warhead fragments unearthed in May at a warhead destruction site. Iraq continues to insist that it never successfully stabilized VX for use in weapons. According to UNSCOM officials, in addition to disproving Iraq's claims about the limited success of its VX program, the discovery also calls into question the veracity of Baghdad's declarations on the number and contents of its "special" (chemical or biological) missile warheads.

During his June visit to Baghdad, Butler advised Iraq of the VX discovery and agreed, at Iraq's request, to have additional samples analyzed in French and Swiss labs. The original samples were analyzed at the U.S. Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. Butler insists that the first set of results will stand regardless of the outcome of the new tests. According to one UNSCOM official, the discovery proves that the so-called "first class documents" on special warheads Iraq gave to UNSCOM are either fakes or proof that Baghdad is unaware of its own holdings of special weapons, the official said.

Adding further to UNSCOM's case against Iraq was the July 18 discovery of a document at Iraqi air force headquarters listing expended weapons that included four types of special munitions. Although a copy of the list was made for UNSCOM, the senior Iraqi official present prevented its removal by the inspection team. In a July 22 letter to the Security Council, Butler said the document was placed in a safe in Iraq's National Monitoring Directorate in Baghdad, under both UN and Iraqi seal. Butler is scheduled to return to Baghdad in early August in an effort to resolve the latest round in the confrontation between UN inspectors and Iraq and will review the disputed document during the trip.

Iraqi Nuclear File Kept Open, New VX Concerns

UN Security Council Sets Terms For 'Closing' Nuclear File on Iraq

UN Security Council Sets Terms For 'Closing' Nuclear File on Iraq

Howard Diamond

EFFORTS TO LIFT the international economic sanctions on Iraq picked up momentum in May, with the UN Security Council adopting two decisions based on Baghdad's recent cooperation with UN-mandated efforts to eliminate its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missiles. On May 7, a never-implemented travel ban on Iraqi officials imposed in November 1997 was lifted, and a week later, the Security Council issued a statement setting the terms for closing investigations into Iraq's clandestine nuclear weapons program by the end of July.

The future of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) inquiry into Iraq's covert nuclear weapons program has been in question since the agency made its last biannual report to the Security Council in April. Stating that inspectors had found "no indication of prohibited equipment, materials or activities" in the last six months, the agency recommended shifting its efforts to a long-term intrusive monitoring program. Russian, French and Chinese diplomats have used the April report to justify their efforts to close the "nuclear file." The United States and Britain have resisted these attempts, however, citing unanswered questions about Iraq's success in weapons design, uranium enrichment options, and post-Gulf War nuclear procurement and concealment activities.

U.S. and Russian diplomats reportedly agreed to a compromise on the nuclear issue on May 12. Subsequently, the president of the Security Council issued a statement May 14 that would allow the IAEA to switch over to long-term monitoring if it can provide answers to the remaining nuclear questions in a special July status report, or in its next biannual report due in October. Washington's hard-line approach to Iraq's UN-mandated disarmament has been increasingly under attack from other Security Council members eager to reintegrate Iraq into the international community.

As part of the deal on the nuclear issue, The New York Times reported on May 14, that UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) Executive Director Richard Butler will be asked to give the Security Council a "technical briefing" on June 3. Security Council members sympathetic to Iraq expect him to explain what steps must be taken by Baghdad in order to wrap up UNSCOM's investigations in the chemical, biological and ballistic missile areas. Speaking to reporters in Australia on May 26, Butler said he would provide Iraq with a "road map" for compliance, and reiterated that if Baghdad cooperated fully, UNSCOM's work could be completed by October. Butler also promised to show the Security Council photographs taken by U.S. U-2 reconnaissance aircraft showing that Iraq has not fully divested itself of proscribed weapons, contrary to Baghdad's assertions.

As an additional part of the deal, UNSCOM will also be adding in July a former Russian Foreign Ministry official, Nikita Zhukov, as a political advisor. UNSCOM added a French political advisor in February. Russia's UN representative, Ambassador Sergei Lavrov, reportedly tried to have a Russian named as a deputy director equal to current Deputy Charles Duelfer of the United States. Faced with unshakable U.S. refusal, Lavrov settled for the advisory position.

Previously, in a May 7 letter to the Security Council, Butler reported that Baghdad had met the Security Council's requirement to provide "immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access to any and all areas, facilities, equipment, records and means of transportation" required for inspections. Consequently, the travel ban, instituted after Baghdad ejected American UNSCOM inspectors in November 1997, was voided without ever having taken effect. The ban applied to Iraqi officials who had obstructed inspections.

UN Security Council Sets Terms For 'Closing' Nuclear File on Iraq

May 1998

By Howard Diamond

Efforts to lift the international economic sanctions on Iraq picked up momentum in May, with the UN Security Council adopting two decisions based on Baghdad's recent cooperation with UN-mandated efforts to eliminate its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missiles. On May 7, a never-implemented travel ban on Iraqi officials imposed in November 1997 was lifted, and a week later, the Security Council issued a statement setting the terms for closing investigations into Iraq's clandestine nuclear weapons program by the end of July.

The future of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) inquiry into Iraq's covert nuclear weapons program has been in question since the agency made its last biannual report to the Security Council in April. Stating that inspectors had found "no indication of prohibited equipment, materials or activities" in the last six months, the agency recommended shifting its efforts to a long-term intrusive monitoring program. Russian, French and Chinese diplomats have used the April report to justify their efforts to close the "nuclear file." The United States and Britain have resisted these attempts, however, citing unanswered questions about Iraq's success in weapons design, uranium enrichment options, and post-Gulf War nuclear procurement and concealment activities.

U.S. and Russian diplomats reportedly agreed to a compromise on the nuclear issue on May 12. Subsequently, the president of the Security Council issued a statement May 14 that would allow the IAEA to switch over to long-term monitoring if it can provide answers to the remaining nuclear questions in a special July status report, or in its next biannual report due in October. Washington's hard-line approach to Iraq's UN-mandated disarmament has been increasingly under attack from other Security Council members eager to reintegrate Iraq into the international community.

As part of the deal on the nuclear issue, The New York Times reported on May 14, that UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) Executive Director Richard Butler will be asked to give the Security Council a "technical briefing" on June 3. Security Council members sympathetic to Iraq expect him to explain what steps must be taken by Baghdad in order to wrap up UNSCOM's investigations in the chemical, biological and ballistic missile areas. Speaking to reporters in Australia on May 26, Butler said he would provide Iraq with a "road map" for compliance, and reiterated that if Baghdad cooperated fully, UNSCOM's work could be completed by October. Butler also promised to show the Security Council photographs taken by U.S. U-2 reconnaissance aircraft showing that Iraq has not fully divested itself of proscribed weapons, contrary to Baghdad's assertions.

As an additional part of the deal, UNSCOM will also be adding in July a former Russian Foreign Ministry official, Nikita Zhukov, as a political advisor. UNSCOM added a French political advisor in February. Russia's UN representative, Ambassador Sergei Lavrov, reportedly tried to have a Russian named as a deputy director equal to current Deputy Charles Duelfer of the United States. Faced with unshakable U.S. refusal, Lavrov settled for the advisory position.

Previously, in a May 7 letter to the Security Council, Butler reported that Baghdad had met the Security Council's requirement to provide "immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access to any and all areas, facilities, equipment, records and means of transportation" required for inspections. Consequently, the travel ban, instituted after Baghdad ejected American UNSCOM inspectors in November 1997, was voided without ever having taken effect. The ban applied to Iraqi officials who had obstructed inspections.

UN Security Council Sets Terms For 'Closing' Nuclear File on Iraq

UN Maintains Sanctions on Iraq As Security Council Split Grows

April 1998

By Howard Diamond

Having received conflicting progress reports from the two organizations monitoring Iraq's UN-imposed disarmament, the UN Security Council on April 28 voted to maintain sanctions on Baghdad for an additional six months because of its failure to fully comply with its obligations.

Authored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM), the reports paint contradictory pictures of Iraq's cooperation in eliminating its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missile capabilities proscribed by the UN Security Council under the cease-fire resolution that ended the 1991 Gulf War.

Following the release of the biannual reports in mid-April and briefings by weapons inspectors, Russia, France and China have urged the Security Council to recognize the completion of Iraq's nuclear disarmament and to change the IAEA's mandate from active investigation to long-term monitoring, a move opposed by the United States.

"[T]here appears to be some progress in the nuclear file, but we believe that it is premature to totally close that file without further steps being taken specifically regarding nuclear enrichment, design and nuclear exports," said Bill Richardson, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

The IAEA's report describes a pattern of reluctant but adequate cooperation that has allowed the agency's inspectors to conclude that all of Iraq's nuclear materials and relevant technology have been accounted for satisfactorily. Pointing to the completion in March of inspections at Iraq's presidential sites, the existence of an ongoing monitoring and verification system to prevent misuse of remaining equipment and materials, and a "technically coherent" declaration by Iraq of its previous clandestine nuclear weapons program, the IAEA concluded that further investigation into Baghdad's nuclear past has reached the point of diminishing returns. While mentioning some lingering concerns about Iraq's post-war efforts to conceal its nuclear weapons program and procurement efforts to support it, the agency indicated that intrusive long-term monitoring should be the focus of its future efforts.

In contrast, the April 16 UNSCOM report claims that in light of the four-month inspections crisis beginning in November 1997 and Baghdad's continued policy of obstruction and delay, UN inspectors can claim almost no progress in the missile, biological or chemical areas. UNSCOM's efforts have focused on uncovering the extent of Iraq's production of special (chemical and biological) missile warheads, holdings of missile propellants, chemical weapons precursors, biological agent growth media, and other proscribed weapons production equipment and materials. Determining Iraq's indigenous production capability for missile components also remains on UNSCOM's agenda.

Iraq claims to have completely divested itself of prohibited items, either by turning them over to UNSCOM or by unilaterally destroying them. But UNSCOM insists that Baghdad provide evidence to support its claims, and maintains that without proof UN inspectors cannot inform the Security Council that Iraq has fulfilled its obligations. In the report, UNSCOM Executive Chairman Richard Butler wrote, "In contrast with the prior [six-month] reporting period, virtually no progress in verifying disarmament has been able to be reported."

During an April 26 briefing to the Security Council, Butler introduced new evidence calling into question Baghdad's disarmament claim. In March, over Iraqi opposition, UNSCOM tested four 155-millimeter artillery shells recovered in Iraq in 1996. The shells contained viscous mustard agent that UNSCOM determined to be 94 to 97 percent pure. Iraq, which has failed to account for 500 to 700 similar shells, had previously argued that even if these weapons still existed, the shells would have degraded or the chemical agent would have hardened to the point of uselessness.

In response to UNSCOM's negative assessment, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz wrote a letter April 22 to the president of the Security Council protesting the report's "large volume of tremendous and flagrant fallacies and lies" and UNSCOM's "unjust" methodology. UNSCOM, Aziz wrote, should be required to provide evidence showing Iraq has not fulfilled its obligations instead of Baghdad having to prove that it has fully complied. Reiterating Iraq's claim that it has already eliminated all of its proscribed weapons, Aziz demanded the Security Council immediately lift the sanctions "without any restrictions or conditions."

Iraq has protested that the UN sanctions have devastated its population despite the UN-approved exception that allows Baghdad to sell billions of dollars worth of oil to purchase food and medicine for civilians. Iraq refused to participate in the "oil-for-food" program until December 1996.

On February 20, in the midst of the "presidential sites" crisis, the Security Council increased the annual oil sales limit from $4 billion to $10 billion to address the plight of Iraqi civilians. Iraq has said its annual production capability is currently limited to $8 billion. On April 15, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan asked the Security Council to allow Iraq to spend $300 million to restore parts of its oil production capability.

UN Maintains Sanctions on Iraq As Security Council Split Grows

Iraq Strikes New Deal On Inspections at Special Sites

By Howard Diamond and Erik J. Leklem

With a U.S.-led strike on Iraq possibly only days off, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan brokered an 11th hour deal with Saddam Hussein, averting what could have been the most significant conflict in the region since the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The new agreement ended a three month standoff between Iraq and the international community by providing UN weapons inspectors access to eight so-called presidential sites Baghdad had previously declared off limits. A seven point memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by Annan and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz on February 23 provides special procedures for inspections of presidential sites where UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors will have to be accompanied by diplomats.

Since last December, UNSCOM has been seeking access to the presidential compounds to search for documents and computer data it believes Iraq has hidden in an attempt to deny the information to inspectors. Although UNSCOM and IAEA inspectors are supposed to have complete access to all sites in Iraq in order to verify the elimination of Baghdad's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and their ballistic missile delivery systems, Iraq has refused to provide access to the so called "presidential and sovereign" sites. The new agreement, while reaffirming the inspectors' right to "immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access" to presidential and all other sites, recognizes Baghdad's concerns about the composition and conduct of UNSCOM's teams and the sensitivity of the presidential sites.

According to the MOU, inspections of presidential sites will be conducted by a Special Group composed of senior diplomats appointed by Annan, and experts drawn from UNSCOM and IAEA. Annan announced on February 26 that Sri Lankan Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala, the new UN undersecretary general for disarmament, would be leading the Special Group as commissioner. Dhanapala achieved acclaim in 1995 for shepherding the indefinite extension of the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty through the treaty review conference.

UNSCOM Executive Chairman Richard Butler of Australia said Dhanapala would be reporting to him and that he was "delighted" with the secretary general's selection. As of the end of February, procedures for the Special Group were still being worked out at the UN, and regular UNSCOM inspections into Iraq's past weapons programs and concealment activities were expected to resume in early March.

Clinton Cautious

The Clinton administration has offered cautious approval of the Annan Aziz deal, but insists that with seveal details of the presidential inspections agreement to be worked out, final judgment should wait until the new procedures are tested. President Bill Clinton has said the new arrangements could enable UNSCOM to fulfill its mandate, "but the proof is in the testing." Clinton said he intends to keep the U.S. strike force deployed in the Persian Gulf until the new inspection arrangements are in effect and Iraqi compliance is confirmed.

Republican reaction to the secretary general's diplomacy was mixed. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) complained "it is always possible to get a deal if you give enough away," while two top leaders of the House of Representatives, Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) and Majority leader Dick Armey (R-TX) took a wait and see approach. Other Republicans objecting to the secretary general's deal included the chairmen of the foreign affairs committees, Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) and House International Affairs Committee Chairman Benjamin Gilman (R-NY), as well as House National Security Committee Chairman Floyd Spence (R-SC).

Annan's trip to Baghdad came after three months of escalating tension over UNSCOM's ability to inspect all sites within Iraq. Last November, only days after accepting a Russian diplomatic initiative to resolve the October 29 to November 22 stand-off over UNSCOM's right to use American inspectors, Baghdad began warning that special sites reflective of Iraq's sovereignty and security would be off-limits to UN inspectors.

At the urging of the Security Council, Butler traveled to Baghdad for meetings with Aziz on December 14 and 15 to discuss ways to accelerate progress on verifying the elimination of proscribed weapons and to seek clarification of Iraq's position on access. In the meetings, Baghdad made clear that "presidential and sovereign sites" were off limits to UNSCOM. Aziz also declared that Iraq had completely divested itself of all of its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and would no longer offer new data to UNSCOM. After declining Butler's request to develop a joint program for accelerating UNSCOM's work, Aziz proposed holding technical evaluation meetings (TEMs) where outside experts and UNSCOM staff would meet with Iraqi officials and assess Baghdad's disarmament achievements. 

Assessing Iraqi Compliance

Butler accepted the Iraqi proposal for TEMs and agreed to schedule meetings on the chemical agent VX, missile warheads and the entire biological weapons file. In response to Iraq's declaration that no access would be given to presidential sites, on December 22 the UN Security Council issued a statement rejecting the Iraqi position and again insisted that weapons inspectors were entitled to complete access to all parts of Iraq.

On January 13, six days before Butler's scheduled trip to Baghdad to arrange the TEMs, Iraq blocked a team of UNSCOM inspectors led by American Scott Ritter. Unwilling to accept Baghdad's limits on the nationalities of inspectors, Butler pulled Ritter and his team out of Iraq on January 16 but kept UNSCOM's monitoring and verification staff in their Baghdad headquarters. Backed by another Security Council statement demanding Iraqi compliance with UN resolutions, Butler returned to Baghdad for meetings January 19 to 21 with Tariq Aziz.

Iraq, Aziz said, had already fulfilled its disarmament obligations and would not allow inspections of its eight presidential compounds. Baghdad was ready for war if it came as a result, he said.

Amid Butler's December and January trips to Baghdad, U.S. and British officials reiterated their readiness to use force against Iraq and began pressing allies and members of the Security Council to support military action against Iraq. Following a meeting with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on January 29, French Foreign Minister Herbert Vedrine announced France would not oppose military action, but still believed in finding a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Iraq.

U.S. officials were unable to obtain even passive support from Russia and China. Days before strikes were expected in late February, Moscow and Beijing were still outspoken opponents of using force against Iraq. Arab states in the Gulf were more forthcoming, offering varying levels of cooperation and support for U.S. airstrikes. Bahrain and Kuwait offered Washington bases for strike aircraft, while Saudi Arabia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates gave permission for cargo, refueling and airborne warning jets to operate from their soil.

Unresolved Issues

Washington initially emphasized using force to coerce Baghdad into giving full access to UNSCOM inspectors by attacking the key supports of Saddam Hussein's power. As criticism of this approach mounted in late January, however, the administration changed its objective to punishing Baghdad by degrading Iraq's production facilities for proscribed weapons and its ability to threaten its neighbors. The administration also continued to build up the largest assembly of warships and attack aircraft in the Persian Gulf since the 1991 war. By mid February the United States and allies had sent over 30,000 military personnel, 20 warships and 400 combat aircraft to the Gulf area to prepare for strikes on Iraq.

Washington and London also began providing assessments of the outstanding issues remaining in Baghdad's compliance with Security Council resolutions, in attempts to justify military action against Iraq. On February 4, British Foreign Minister Robin Cook released a White Paper arguing that Iraq retained or had not accounted for: chemical precursors that could be used to produce over 200 tons of VX; 17 metric tons of biological growth media that could be used to produce "up to 350 liters of weapons grade anthrax per week;" and continuing efforts by Baghdad "to acquire banned WMD technology," including "advanced missile guidance parts."

The British paper was followed on February 15 by a more detailed report released by the U.S. National Security Council (NSC). Starting with the extensive record of Iraqi interference with inspections and refusal to provide necessary documentation, the NSC report detailed continuing concerns in the nuclear, chemical, biological and missile areas.

According to the NSC paper, Iraq continues to hide or cannot verify the elimination of 25 missile warheads filled with anthrax, botulinum toxin or aflatoxin; 45 to 70 missile warheads for use with chemical agents, 134 aerial bombs and a small number of aerosol spraers for delivering biological agents; and a stockpile of as much as 600 metric tons of VX, sarin, mustard agents and associated munitions and production equipment. Baghdad may also have a small force of SCUD type missiles and the capability to make more. In the nuclear file, Iraq continues "to withhold significant information about enrichment techniques, foreign procurement, weapons design andpostwar concealment," suggesting continued interest in nuclear weapons.

The U.S. and British assessments were supported by reports from the VX and missile warhead TEMs that met in early February. Both panels, after meetings with Iraqi officials, confirmed UNSCOM's judgment that Iraq had not provided sufficient information to confirm the destruction of the proscribed weapons and production facilities associated with them. An UNSCOM source said the missile warhead meeting produced no new information and described it as a political maneuver by Iraq to try to undercut UNSCOM. The biological weapons TEM was delayed due to the political crisis of February and has been rescheduled for mid March in New York, according to UNSCOM officials.

With UN officials working out the details of the Annan Aziz deal, analysts are attempting to assess its likelihood of success as well as the long term effect the new arrangements will have on UNSCOM. Critics of the new arrangement, including previous UNSCOM inspectors, cite the new deal as evidence of success in Baghdad's campaign to discredit the UN inspection regime and challenge the integrity of its inspectors.

Others are more sanguine. Chief weapons inspector Butler quickly voiced his approval of the new arrangement, which he had himself proposed during his January meetings in Baghdad. Some U.S. officials, while remaining skeptical of Saddam's willingness to cooperate, have suggested that if Iraq fails to comply with the new arrangements, Washington will be well situated to demand international support for military action.

Iraq Strikes New Deal On Inspections at Special Sites

Iraqi BW Program May Be Key to Standoff with UN

IRAQ'S BIOLOGICAL weapons (BW) program has emerged as a key factor in Baghdad's latest confrontation with the United Nations, and the United States in particular, with the chief UN weapons monitor suggesting UN inspectors may be getting closer to uncovering Iraq's BW potential.

The standoff continued through the first week of November after a high level UN delegation failed to convince Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to drop his October 29 demand that American UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) inspectors leave the country and UNSCOM cease overflights of U.S. operated U 2 aircraft used for verification activities. The UN Security Council immediately rejected Baghdad's demands, and Iraq threatened to shoot down the aircraft and turned away UN inspection teams due to the presence of American inspectors.

In a November 5 letter to the Security Council's president, Qin Huasan of China, UNSCOM Executive Chairman Richard Butler complained of Iraq's blockage of inspections and its moving of dual use items away from the view of UNSCOM monitoring cameras during the standoff. Butler warned the council that, in the absence of inspections, it would take Iraq "only a matter of hours to adapt fermenters to produce seed stocks of biological warfare agent."

During a November 5 interview on the "Lehrer Newshour," Butler said he questioned the timing of Iraq's October 29 ultimatum, given recent progress between Baghdad and UNSCOM. "I think one of the possible reasons why they did that was maybe because we were getting closer to putting the finger on their very serious biological capability," Butler said.

On October 16, Butler told the Security Council that Iraq's BW program remains "the area of deepest and ongoing concern" to UNSCOM. Ten days earlier UNSCOM had released a biannual report on Iraqi compliance with UN resolutions mandating the destruction and future monitoring of prohibited weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems. Although the report noted "significant progress" in the missile area, resolving concerns that Iraq was possibly retaining a small force of prohibited missiles, and "important progress" in the chemical weapons program, the report was critical of Iraq's failure to fully disclose information on its proscribed BW program and Baghdad's continuing interference with inspections and the monitoring regime.

In response, the Security Council on October 23 approved Resolution 1134, which "condemned" Iraq's actions but fell short of language favored by the United States and Britain that would have imposed a travel ban on Iraqi officials associated with non compliance. Five council members—Russia, China, France, Egypt and Kenya—abstained from the vote, and some observers cited the apparent rift in the Security Council as one of the reasons Hussein issued his October 29 ultimatum.

An incomplete picture of Iraq's BW program has existed since UNSCOM was established in 1991, the same year Iraq acceded to the Biological Weapons Convention, which bans the use and production of BW weapons. Baghdad denied having an offensive program until 1995, when UNSCOM acquired evidence to the contrary and the defection of a high ranking Iraqi military officer compelled Iraq to admit to an extensive BW program that continued after the Gulf War. Although Iraq has submitted a number of full, final and complete disclosure (FFCD) reports on its BW programs, UNSCOM has not accepted any of the six official versions or four drafts intended to reveal the full scope of Iraq's BW research, weaponization and testing.

Following the submission of Iraq's latest FFCD on September 11, UNSCOM convened a panel of 15 BW experts in New York from September 29 to October 3 to review the declaration against past submissions and evidence gathered by UN inspectors. The panel called the problems arising from Iraqi non compliance "numerous and grave," and listed 11 areas of concern, ranging from weapons accounting to the defensive tone of the FFCD on the question of military involvement in the program.

One panel member, speaking on the condition of anonymity, noted that out of over 600 pages in the FFCD, only four to five pages addressed military involvement. "We will not gain a good insight into the BW program until the doctrine is revealed and the reasons for deception are presented in a credible fashion," the participant said. According to the panel, quantitative assessments of the program's "scale and scope" are not possible without such information.

UNSCOM's October 6 report termed Iraq's latest FFCD submission unsatisfactory and said it contained "no significant changes" from the previously rejected version that was submitted in June 1996. Specifically, the report said that unaccounted for anthrax growth media was sufficient "for the production of over three times more" than amounts stated previously. However, the panel member said actual anthrax production figures are significantly higher than three times the 8,500 liters declared by Iraq in October 1995.

In contrast to the BW program, UNSCOM reported a greater degree of success in the missile area in its October 6 report, saying it had accounted for 817 of 819 "imported combat missiles." In addition, all "declared operational missile launchers, both imported and indigenously produced," have been identified.

The report also cited progress in the chemical weapons area, including destruction by UNSCOM of large amounts of agent, precursor chemicals, munitions and production facilities. However, some 550 mustard agent filled artillery munitions declared by Iraq remain unaccounted for, and there are continuing questions regarding Iraqi research and production of the third generation nerve agent VX. UNSCOM believes that Baghdad may have produced much more of the agent than previously reported and continues "significant efforts" to conceal the program. To date, 614 tons of declared VX precursor chemicals remain unaccounted for by UNSCOM.

In addition, full verification of proscribed missile warheads, especially chemical and biological weapon warheads, remains unresolved. While its declarations have varied over the years, Iraq now declares that it produced 80 such warheads (50 with chemical weapons, 25 for BW and five that UNSCOM has confirmed were consumed in trials). According to the biannual report, UNSCOM was able to confirm the destruction of 30 additional chemical warheads, but notes that "it is impossible to confirm the destruction of all of the [remaining] 45 special warheads because of the absence of data from Iraq." UNSCOM also suspects that "a number of additional special warheads" may exist.

Iraqi compliance in the nuclear weapons area is covered by the International Atomic Energy Agency in a separate report to the Security Council. In a November 9 interview on "Face the Nation," Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said, "The nuclear file is the closest to being closed. But we are concerned there are still some components there."

Security Council Responds to Iraqi Intransigence

On June 21, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution (S/1115) condemning Iraq's interference with UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) efforts to rid it of its weapons of mass destruction and proscribed missile programs. Demanding Iraq's full cooperation, the Security Council threatened to apply further punishment and postponed a review of sanctions (imposed on Iraq following its 1990 invasion of Kuwait) until October, when it will receive UNSCOM's latest progress report. The unanimous vote was also seen as a triumph for U.S. diplomacy, which overcame a Chinese veto threat and Russian and French intentions to abstain.

The council's latest action on Iraq followed a series of incidents in early June in which Iraq prevented UNSCOM from gaining access to requested inspection sites and Iraqi officials endangered the lives of UNSCOM personnel by attempting to wrest control of UNSCOM helicopters or flying their own helicopters on near-collision courses.

During his visit to Baghdad on July 21, Richard Butler of Australia, who took over for Rolf Ekeus as UNSCOM's executive chairman on July 1, said Iraq should see Ekeus' departure as an opportunity to make a fresh start with UNSCOM and comply with the UN mandate to eliminate its prohibited weapons programs. Butler warned that the unanimous Security Council vote in June shows that Iraq can expect no relief from sanctions until it cooperates fully with UNSCOM.

Leaving Behind the UNSCOM Legacy in Iraq

After more than six years as the executive chairman of the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM), Ambassador Rolf Ekeus is stepping down to become Sweden's ambassador to the United States. As the United Nations' chief weapons inspector in Iraq, Ekeus has led the international effort to eliminate Baghdad's nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs and proscribed ballistic missile activities since UNSCOM was established by the UN Security Council in April 1991. Ekeus has also directed UNSCOM's program to implement a monitoring system to prevent Iraq from reacquiring any such capabilities in the future. As Ekeus was preparing to turn over the reins of UNSCOM to his successor, Ambassador Richard Butler of Australia, on July 1, Arms Control Today caught up with the Swedish diplomat to ask him about his tenure at UNSCOM and the agency's accomplishments.

During his distinguished diplomatic career, Ekeus has played a major role in a number of disarmament negotiations. Among his assignments, from 1978 to 1983 Ekeus was Sweden's permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. In 1984 and 1987, he chaired the UN Committee on Chemical Weapons, and in 1985 he chaired the Drafting Committee at the nuclear NonProliferation Treaty Review Conference. In 1996, Ekeus was a member of the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. He is expected to take up his new post in Washington on September 12. The following is an edited version of his comments.

Arms Control Today: In assessing UNSCOM's activities over the past six years, how completely do you believe it has now fulfilled its mandate? How confident are you that Iraq's nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and prohibited ballistic missile programs are not continuing clandestinely?

Rolf Ekeus: The UNSCOM mandate has two major components: the identification and elimination of proscribed weapons and the means for their delivery; and, designing and implementing a system for ongoing monitoring and verification of Iraq to prevent it from acquiring the prohibited items again.

The latter part of the mandate has been fulfilled as UNSCOM now has in place a fully functioning regime of monitoring supported by a mechanism for export-import control. The monitoring regime was developed by UNSCOM during the summer and early fall of 1991 and approved by the UN Security Council through Resolution S/715 (1991). After years of tense and bitter resistance from Iraq, the regime was declared fully operational in late 1994. Today, more than 100 personnel are working from inside the Baghdad Monitoring and Verification Center (BMVC). The core element—around 20 scientists and specialists in nuclear physics, chemistry, biology and missile technology—carry out daily no-notice inspections of relevant facilities. They are supported by the use of cutting-edge technology, such as sensors, detectors and field laboratories, as well as some 150 cameras that monitor major dual-use equipment (for example, machines, production lines and missile test stands) beaming real-time imagery to the operations center at the BMVC. A key component of the monitoring system is the aerial surveillance of Iraq provided by U.S. U2 high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft and by UNSCOM's own helicopters, five of which are stationed in Baghdad. The helicopters are also used for the transport of inspection teams and for direct operational support of inspections.

The export-import mechanism, adopted by the UN Security Council in the spring of 1996 under Resolution S/1051 (1996), obligates all UN member-states to notify UNSCOM and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of all exports to Iraq of dual-use items listed under the monitoring regime established by S/715.

The accomplishment of the first part of UNSCOM's mandate was complicated because of systematic efforts by Iraqi authorities to prevent UNSCOM from discovering the full extent of the country's weapons capabilities. Examples of these efforts include the secrecy surrounding and Iraq's denial of an offensive biological weapons program; of Program 1728, for producing missiles based on Scud technology; and, of research, development and production of the nerve agent VX. The identification of these ultra-secret programs has been one of the major successes achieved by our scientists and experts, and constitutes a vindication of our methods for inspection and analysis. These results have to be counted on top of the massive destruction of both declared and detected chemical warfare agents (sarin and mustard gas); production equipment and thousands of chemical munitions; most of the Scud missiles supplied by the Soviet Union during the 1980s; missile production equipment and facilities; and components of the ambitious nuclear weapons program.

ACT: What remains to be carried out to assure the complete elimination of these weapons programs? What critical equipment and material do you believe may remain hidden in Iraq?

Ekeus: If the Iraqi leadership had decided once and for all to forgo the option of acquiring weapons of mass destruction, the task of eliminating the remnants of proscribed weapons programs would have been a straight-forward and technical one, which could have been accomplished within a time-span of some six months. A continuation of a policy of hiding and misleading will obviously delay for a long time attaining a full accounting of its programs.

However, the successes over the last few years, in spite of Iraq's obstruction, demonstrate that UNSCOM's investigation methods are effective and that, in turn, gives hope that in due time we shall see the end of the proscribed programs. It appears from documentation and other information that the Iraqi leadership has been trying to retain strategic capabilities relative to all the proscribed weapons categories. This means that the government is striving to retain quantities of high-quality biological warfare agents, some chemical warfare agents like VX, as well as munitions and production capabilities. Furthermore, the Iraqi government is trying to preserve as many components as possible of the disclosed 1728 program and similar activities for the future production of longer-range missiles.

ACT: Given what is known about Iraq's nuclear weapons program, in your opinion, how close was Baghdad to building such a weapon? Is this estimate based on the diversion of safeguarded nuclear material or Iraq's indigenous production of fissile material?

Ekeus: The so-called crash-program initiated by Iraq in August 1990 was aimed at building a complete weapon, not only an explosive nuclear device. The nuclear warhead had to be designed to be small enough in dimension and weight to fit on a missile that would be capable of delivering the weapon to its target at a range of over 600 kilometers. This was a tall order and we know now that the two leading missile project managers were at loggerheads whether this was achievable within the narrow time frame of the program.

The nuclear fuel for the one warhead would, according to the crash program, be made up of the safeguarded fissile material existing in Iraq at the time. The present assessment is that by late 1990, Iraq had a good grasp both of warhead design and of what was needed for the successful enrichment of uranium through centrifuge technology. In 1990, the momentum of Iraq's nuclear weapons program was strong in spite of international export controls of enrichment technology. It can therefore be estimated that Iraq would have had a capability to acquire a couple of usable nuclear weapons well before 1995, had the Security Council not intervened with Resolution 687. The present nuclear threat from Iraq is, in my judgment, linked to the possible import by Baghdad of highly enriched uranium (HEU). You may recall that in late 1993 and early 1994, Iraq's remaining source of HEU—irradiated reactor fuel—was shipped to Russia. The lack of HEU, together with the effective brake that has been applied to the country's missile programs, constitute the real bottleneck for Iraq for the acquisition of a nuclear weapon.

ACT: While UNSCOM has made tremendous progress in eliminating Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs and their means of production, the Iraqi government has retained the experience and know-how of its weapons designers and producers. How has UNSCOM responded to this remaining component of Iraq's weapons program? What, if anything, could be done to address weapons potential provided by this pool of trained personnel?

Key UN Security Council Resolutions

Resolution 687, April 3, 1991

This Gulf War cease-fire resolution formed UNSCOM, called for the elimination of Iraqi nuclear, chemical and biological programs and missiles with ranges over 150 kilometers and authorized inspections to ensure compliance.

Resolution 715, October 11, 1991

Approved a plan for the ongoing monitoring and verification of Iraq's obligations not to acquire proscribed weapons in the future.

Resolution 986, April 14, 1995

Authorized states to import petroleum and petroleum products originating in Iraq as a measure to provide for humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people.

Resolution 1051, March 27, 1996

Approved the mechanism for monitoring relevant Iraqi imports and exports, pursuant to Resolution 715.

Resolution 1115, June 21, 1997

Demanded full cooperation with UNSCOM and postponed review of sanctions in response to June incidents of Iraqi noncooperation.

 

Ekeus: It is true that UNSCOM can do nothing about the intellectual insight and institutional memory Iraq has developed in the weapons area, but knowledge alone does not constitute a production line. Therefore, UNSCOM will use its detailed insight of Iraq's production and acquisition methods when applying measures to effectively block weapons developments. UNSCOM has a detailed database of dual-use equipment in Iraq. These items have been tagged by UNSCOM inspectors and are monitored continuously from the BMVC. We have a team of specialists who closely watch ongoing procurement efforts, including payment and transport routes, major suppliers and supplier countries. The export-import control mechanism is improving. UNSCOM is keeping track of those senior scientists and specialists who are known for their involvement in the development of the proscribed weapons programs. All these efforts support UNSCOM's objective of obtaining a complete and detailed understanding of all aspects of Iraq's proscribed weapons.

ACT: How would you assess the effectiveness so far of the export-import mechanism established under UN Security Council Resolution 1051? Are you satisfied with the information UNSCOM has received from UN member-states, which are obliged to report the transfer to Iraq of items that could be used to produce proscribed weapons programs? What improvements would you like to see made to this monitoring system?

Ekeus: The experiences so far are good. Because of the continuing UN sanctions, the mechanism has not been overwhelmed by data, and it has therefore been possible gradually to test different methods and adjust them accordingly, and to familiarize UNSCOM personnel with the potentials of the mechanism. Following the oil-for-food decision by the Security Council, the flow of goods to Iraq is increasing and the mechanism is showing its worth. So far, no major omission in Iraq's notification obligations has been observed. It is still too early to asses to what degree all UN member states will effectively cooperate with the mechanism. It looks promising but it is already clear that one major problem will be the matter of notification of trans-shipments through neighboring countries. Also, some adjustments to the lists of notifiable items will probably be necessary as a result of our early experiences, including the deletion of certain items, which with modifications, acquire the character of general-purpose items.

ACT: Was the extensive nature of Iraq's weapons programs simply a reflection of Saddam Hussein's determination to pursue such programs, or do you believe there are political and institutional factors present in Iraq that might induce a future government to seek similar capabilities?

Ekeus: The systematic pursuit of the proscribed weapons and the huge funds thrown into their development point to a singular mind and extraordinary insistence. The present leader of Iraq has demonstrated that he has ambitions for his country reaching far outside the borders of Iraq. These grand designs of extended influence presuppose access to weapons of mass destruction and the means for their delivery. Even if there appears to be a commonly held view in the country's military and political circles that Iraq, because of its geopolitical situation, needs a special military capability to balance the presumed extension of Iran's sphere of influence, it is highly doubtful that any alternative Iraqi leadership would continue to pursue a weapons of mass destruction program, considering that the consequences of such a policy would be sanctions, political isolation and loss of huge financial revenues from blocked oil exports.

ACT: You have described UNSCOM as a victim of its own success, in that some members of the Security Council have become complacent because they believe everything is under control in Iraq. Is there a danger that such complacency could lead to a weakening support for UNSCOM's mission? If so, what can be done to counter that trend?

Ekeus: Obviously, some immediate, national financial and political interests may inspire member-states of the UN Security Council to consider a loosening of the controls on Iraq before the weapons provisions of the cease-fire resolution have been implemented. In June, however, when the Security Council had to respond to Iraq's efforts to break out of the control mechanism, all members stood up to be counted in defense of the cease-fire arrangements. The adoption of Resolution S/1115 on June 21 demonstrated that all members, when tested, chose to put their responsibility under the UN Charter and the credibility of the Security Council above perceived national interests.

Admittedly, this splendid result was obtained after a show of strong leadership by the United States. Continued attention from the United States is necessary to maintain international support of UNSCOM. Given the devastating consequences for the world's energy security and for international economic and financial stability were the Gulf region to be brought into turmoil, it is not likely that the United States would lose interest. Awareness of UNSCOM's crucial role for peace and security in the region must be kept high.

ACT: To what degree has the financial and material support provided to UNSCOM affected its ability to fulfill its mission?

Ekeus: Since December 1996, the cash needs of UNSCOM have been covered by a small portion of the revenues generated by the oil-for-food arrangement laid down in Security Council Resolution S/986. UNSCOM does not receive any funds whatsoever from the UN budget; it is completely dependant upon voluntary contributions from UN member-states, based on the presumption that the costs for disarming Iraq should be paid for by funds from Iraq itself. During the more than six years of its existence, UNSCOM, which also has to pay for all the activities of IAEA personnel, has financed its operations through voluntary contributions. It has had to convince member-states to provide personnel, technology and cash on a voluntary basis. As chairman of UNSCOM, I have had to spend an inordinate amount of time on fundraising and recruitment of salaried personnel in order to finance the complex and diversified activities of UNSCOM and the IAEA. However, as long as Resolution S/986 is implemented, my successor will fortunately not be burdened by that task.

ACT: UNSCOM has faced some criticism for the degree of secrecy regarding its findings on the involvement of Western companies involved in Iraq's weapons programs. What has been UNSCOM's rationale for balancing the need to expose publicly those who helped Iraq build its weapons of mass destruction and the need to secure the cooperation of national governments and private businesses in understanding the nature and extent of those programs? Was this decision made by UNSCOM? Was it influenced by supplier states? How concerned are you that the withholding of this information might encourage these or similar companies to engage in trading with other potential Iraqs?

Ekeus: As soon as we understood that Iraq had no intention of cooperating with UNSCOM, we had to design a policy for information gathering from sources other than the Iraqi government. That meant that when we approached the governments of the countries from which suppliers to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs had operated, we had to build a lasting relationship. Some of these governments feared that legislative action by the U.S. Congress would punish those companies that were dependant upon exporting to the United States.

When our inspectors found machines, equipment and weapons components that had been imported by Iraq, it became necessary for UNSCOM to approach the relevant supplier companies to investigate the complete extent of their dealings with Iraq. Most of the companies were reluctant to talk to our investigators, and only insistent requests to respective governments for support could give us direct, or sometimes indirect, access to the company. For that reason, assurances of protection from public exposure had to be given in order to encourage the companies and their governments to accept our investigation of their dealings with Iraqi authorities.

Most of the more mature governments have been helpful to UNSCOM in its investigation of the supplier issue. Thus, UNSCOM has been working under circumstances somewhat like a journalist who has to protect his sources, otherwise they would quickly dry up. Over the years, I have had some quite vigorous discussions on this problem with leading members of the U.S. Congress as well as with representatives of the U.S. administration. My interlocutors never managed to convince me that our policy with regard to supplier data was wrong.

Having said that, I admit that our policy has little deterrent value for potential supplier companies contemplating exports of prohibited items to Iraq. However, my experience is that most Western governments have taken a number of important steps at the national level to punish suppliers for violations of existing rules and to effectively prevent the resumption of prohibited export activities.

ACT: The role of intelligence sharing has become one of the central concerns of international nonproliferation efforts. Are you satisfied with the extent to which national intelligence communities have supported the work of UNSCOM? Are there areas where there can be improvements?

Ekeus: One of our greatest sources of satisfaction has been the success of UNSCOM in obtaining high-quality intelligence data. The early formation within UNSCOM of an "Information Assessment Unit," with the capability to receive, protect, process, store and analyze sensitive data, was a unique feature for any UN organization. This capability of UNSCOM changed the character of the sharing of intelligence data with us from a mere trickle to a broad stream of data, supported by professional and multilayered cooperative efforts. The confidence in UNSCOM's competence in this area has grown quickly over the years so that now several governments allow the sharing of information on a large scale involving high-quality intelligence.

As a consequence, UNSCOM is now much better informed about most aspects of Iraq's activities related to its weapons of mass destruction programs than is any individual government. Critical to this success has been the operation, with the help of the United States, of the high-altitude U2 reconnaissance flights and UNSCOM's full access to imagery obtained from that operation. However, a severe bottleneck in the system remains UNSCOM's limited capability for photo interpretation.

Another key area for UNSCOM is the acquisition of supplier data, both past and ongoing. Although the intelligence sharing in this respect has become a major success, there is ample room for improvement. Governments should understand that the Information Assessment Unit, due to its overview of all aspects of Iraq's proscribed activities, is equipped to deal not only with fully developed intelligence but also partially developed intelligence.

ACT: As a result of the systematic analysis UNSCOM has undertaken of Iraq's so-called "concealment policy," what lessons have been learned that would benefit other non-proliferation efforts?

Ekeus: While searching for concealed prohibited items, UNSCOM is following the institutions and individuals involved in the concealment effort as much as it is following the items. Concealment is a highly sensitive activity and only the government's most trusted and elite organizations and individuals are involved. Furthermore, concealment requires methods and a structured mobility that result in certain patterns. For UNSCOM, it is important to identify and read these patterns; to do that UNSCOM has to make full use of all the technical and analytical resources at its disposal.

CT: Based on UNSCOM's experience in Iraq, what are the lessons learned that can be applied to the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the strengthening of the Biological Weapons Convention?

Ekeus: UNSCOM managed to break through the secrecy surrounding Iraq's offensive biological weapons program through a combination of inspections and analytical work. Thus, an examination of the pattern of Iraqi imports of equipment and material, as well as of the quantities imported, in light of the country's declarations with regard to its civilian, non-prohibited programs, showed large discrepancies. For example, the number of fermenters and the quantities of complex growth media imported by Iraq many times surpassed reasonable civilian requirements. In a similar fashion, close analysis of the quantities of dual-use chemical compounds and equipment imported by Iraq provided UNSCOM analysts with enough data to sound the alarm. These are only some examples of detection possibilities. It would require a separate essay to describe fully the lessons that have been learned.

ACT: In your opinion, given the realities on the ground in Iraq, how long do you see a need for UNSCOM's continued monitoring of Iraq's weapons potential?

Ekeus: Even if UNSCOM and the IAEA at a given moment in the future could report that all proscribed items had been identified and eliminated, the monitoring of Iraq's dual-use capabilities would be necessary for many years thereafter. A major reason for that is the know-how available in Iraq through all the personnel involved in weapons development and production. In this context it is interesting to recall Paragraph 14 of the cease-fire resolution, which provides that the arms control arrangements in relation to Iraq could be seen as steps toward the establishment in the region of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction. This provision is a reflection of the so-called Mubarak plan.

ACT: Despite the remarkable precedent established by the Security Council with regard to the creation of UNSCOM and the goal of preventing Iraq from reacquiring its weapons programs, do you believe the Security Council is capable of sustaining the political will to support UNSCOM in what could prove to be its very long stay in Iraq? What role can the United States play in this process?

Ekeus: As mentioned earlier, the adoption of Resolution 1115 restated forcefully the Security Council's resolve to see the cease-fire arrangements fully implemented. The unanimity in support of this resolution, however, should not overshadow the fact that some permanent members of the Security Council consider themselves as having important national interests in bringing to an end the economic and political isolation of Iraq. At times I have had a concern that these interests could overtake the international principle of collective action in accordance with the UN Charter. The notable success of the adoption of Resolution S/1115 could not have been achieved without U.S. leadership and a strong personal commitment by President Clinton and Secretary of State Albright.

ACT: In retrospect, or perhaps as a road map for your successor, is there something you would have done differently during your tenure as head of UNSCOM that you believe might have changed the view from where you are sitting right now? Would a less diplomatic approach in dealing with Iraq have been supported by the Security Council?

Ekeus: Obviously, I underestimated from the beginning, both in quantity and quality, Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program and, even more, the degree of resistance with which our efforts would be met. I believe that we adjusted quickly to the unfriendly environment. It is my feeling that, in spite of some missteps, we, in light of what was politically possible, have found a reasonable and balanced approach in our work. It has been possible to keep the Security Council in its shifting political configurations united in loyally defending the cease-fire provisions, which must be considered a success.

In leading UNSCOM, it has been necessary sometimes for me to finesse certain crisis situations by developing political solutions to a problem. But in the final analysis, it is clear to me that only a firm and consistent response to the practically daily challenges from the Iraqi authorities can defend the integrity of this historic mission and lead to the ultimate goal of justice, peace and stability in the region.

Iraqi Missile Parts Arrive in U.S. for Tests

Parts from about 130 destroyed Iraqi missiles were shipped to the United States on March 9 for analysis to determine if Iraqi missile destruction complies with the UN mandate that ended the Persian Gulf War.

The missiles, which Iraq said it destroyed in April 1991 without UN supervision, may have included operational Soviet rocket motors as required by UN Security Council Resolution 687. But the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) charged with implementing the mandate, suspects that Iraq may have substituted worthless replicas. To verify Iraqi compliance, Ambassador Rolf Ekeus, head of UNSCOM, insisted on exhuming the missile parts for analysis by an international team of experts. The parts were sent via Bahrain on March 8 to a U.S. Department of Defense laboratory in Huntsville, Alabama, after an agreement for their removal was reached in Baghdad between Ekeus and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minsiter Tariq Aziz. UNSCOM expects metallurgical tests to show whether the missile parts came from functional Soviet produced systems, and whether critical components that Iraq cannot produce domestically were removed before the missiles were destroyed.

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