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

Final Iraq Report Downplays Brain Drain

Paul Kerr

The CIA released its final account April 25 of the U.S.-led investigation of Iraq’s suspected weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs. Although the new material continues to support previous findings that Iraq did not possess prohibited weapons or active weapons programs, it highlights several “residual proliferation risks,” including missing Iraqi scientists and weapons-related equipment.

The recently released material supplements a September 2004 report from Charles Duelfer, the special adviser to the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), which was charged with coordinating the weapons search after the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. Duelfer’s report stated that Iraq had destroyed its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and had not restarted any related programs at the time the war began. (See ACT, November 2004.)

Shortly after that report, the ISG, “due to security concerns,” stopped visiting sites formerly associated with Iraq’s illicit weapons programs, Duelfer wrote in a note accompanying the supplement’s release.

Duelfer said that the ISG is still conducting a “substantial effort” to evaluate documents related to Iraq’s weapons programs, but added that “it is not likely that significant surprises remain.”

Missing Personnel, Materials
The risk that Iraqi personnel with WMD expertise could go to work for insurgents, terrorists, or other governments is “an important concern,” according to Duelfer’s report. The ISG, however, apparently judges this risk to be low.

The supplement states that there is “only very limited reporting” that governments are attempting to recruit Iraqi WMD personnel and “no reports” that any have succeeded.

Additionally, the ISG is “aware of only one scientist” previously associated with Iraq’s weapons programs who has assisted terrorists or insurgents, the report says, adding that there are “multiple reports” of other Iraqis with “general chemical or biological expertise helping insurgents to build chemical or biological agents.”

However, insurgent efforts to obtain such weapons “have been limited and contained by coalition actions,” Duelfer’s note adds.

The magnitude of the potential threat from Iraqi weapons personnel is apparently difficult to discern. The report states that the total number of past participants in Iraq’s WMD programs is “impossible to quantify,” but describes the current “subset” of worrisome personnel as “numerically small” and “shrinking,” as their weapons skills continue to deteriorate.

Nevertheless, the report acknowledges that “one or two individuals with the right skills could make a significant impact in a WMD effort.”

According to an August 2004 Department of State report, U.S. programs to redirect Iraqi weapons personnel had identified “approximately 400-500” relevant individuals. A State Department official told Arms Control Today last October that these programs have the “overwhelming majority” of these personnel “identified and engaged.” (See ACT, November 2004.)

Duelfer’s report also states that the ISG found that weapons-related equipment and materials have gone missing from former Iraqi weapons sites. According to the report, such equipment “could contribute to insurgent or terrorist production of chemical or biological agents.”

As for Iraq’s former nuclear weapons program, Duelfer’s report states that at least some missing items could provide relevant information to a country attempting to acquire nuclear weapons. The report also warns that the new Iraqi government may have difficulty maintaining control over its dual-use nuclear equipment and materials.

UN inspectors have previously raised concerns about weapons-related materials escaping Iraq. (See ACT, April 2005.) Most recently, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei notified the UN Security Council in April that the agency has observed “significant dismantling and removal activities” at 37 relevant sites. The IAEA has identified 175 such sites and reviewed data on 141.

The IAEA was charged with enforcing Security Council resolutions requiring Iraq to dismantle its nuclear weapons program after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The agency also conducted inspections in Iraq during the months prior to the 2003 invasion. However, the United States has refused to grant the IAEA broad access to sites formerly on its watch list.

Duelfer stated April 27 on PBS’s “Newshour with Jim Lehrer” that the proliferation risk from the missing weapons material and equipment is “fairly small,” adding that the equipment was removed for “economic reasons” rather than for export to another country.

The report also assesses that Iraqi and U.S.-led forces will likely continue to discover chemical weapons left over from Iraq’s pre-1991 stocks, but adds that such weapons “do not pose a militarily significant threat” because the chemical agents and munitions have degraded. Insurgents have attacked coalition forces with two chemical weapons since 2003, the report says. (See ACT, July/August 2004.)

Duelfer’s supplement also addresses speculation that prohibited Iraqi weapons or related materials may have been moved to Syria. (See ACT, November 2003.) Duelfer stated April 27 that the ISG had found no evidence to substantiate intelligence reports suggesting that “suspicious materials” had been transferred to that country. Although he acknowledged that the ISG had been unable to investigate “a few leads,” Duelfer argued that “someone would have told something to us” if such a transfer had taken place.



The Robb-Silberman Report, Intelligence, and Nonproliferation

Ellen Laipson


On March 31, a bipartisan commission led by former Senator Charles Robb (D-Va.) and federal appellate court Judge Laurence Silberman, a Republican, reported to President George W. Bush on what went wrong in the intelligence community when it failed to accurately assess that Iraq did not possess stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The White House-appointed commission also offered recommendations on improving overall U.S. intelligence performance.

For some, the report’s conclusions were bound to be of questionable value because the commission’s mandate ignored policymakers’ actions on the intelligence and the interaction between policymakers and intelligence. True solutions to intelligence performance, in this view, must be considered in a more strategic and holistic way, considering both the supply and the demand side of the ledger. In normal circumstances, intelligence is a supporting function, contributing analysis and occasionally unique and secret data to a policy deliberation that includes many other information inputs. It is quite rare that intelligence shoulders the burden of making a war or peace judgment, particularly when there is no evidence of an intention to launch a direct attack on the United States or its forces.

Still, it is sad but true that there is room for blame at more than one address; we need to study and come to terms both with an intelligence failure and a policy failure. Although the Robb-Silberman report deals only with the first topic, it does it well. Of all the reports breathlessly assessing intelligence failures and proposing to fix the problem, this one is the best in terms of understanding the intelligence profession and in terms of setting a tone of realism and even humility regarding what can be credibly promoted as solutions to a very complex set of problems. The report provides some unusual insight into the art and science of intelligence analysis, and its recommendations, although often not original or dramatic, make common sense. If implemented fully, it would make for a better intelligence process and product.

Equally compelling is the report’s understanding of how much of the failures and underperformance are caused at least in part by the way large bureaucracies behave. The commission benefited from having two university presidents as members, who reportedly were deeply interested in issues of organizational behavior. The report is more satisfying than some for acknowledging that very large, complex organizations inevitably create rules and checks and balances that over time impede the organization’s ability to achieve its core mission and objectives. This is surely true of the intelligence community, which seems to thrive on making processes and procedures more complex.

That is why it is troubling that this commission as well as the ones that preceded it say almost nothing about the size and complexity of the big intelligence machine the U.S. government has constructed over the decades. Each report pays homage to concepts such as “streamlining,” eliminating “stovepipes,” creating greater efficiencies, etc., but none says that a smaller community would almost certainly be a more successful one. Each time we add a new office or agency, do we dis-establish an old one? Of course not, say the “iron laws of bureaucratic behavior.”[1] If the report had followed its own advice to “integrate and innovate,” it would have considered dis-establishing the CIA, since many of its original roles and missions will be transferred to the new director of national intelligence, and calling for a downsizing of the overall community, in the interest of achieving more of a real “community” of common interests and goals.

Intelligence and the Iraq Target
The core purpose of the commission was to look back at the Iraq case and figure out what went wrong and then to look forward at intelligence solutions. The Iraq case spans 200 pages of the 600-page report and is compared briefly to Libya, al Qaeda in Afghanistan, terrorism, and a section on Iran and North Korea, the judgments on which did not make it through the security screen to appear in the unclassified report.

The judgment on Iraq is stark and sobering: “We conclude that the Intelligence Community was dead wrong in almost all of its pre-war judgments about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. This was a major intelligence failure.”[2] After this show-stopper, the report goes on to say with some insight and even empathy that the pre-war hypothesis that Saddam Hussein had such weapons was reasonable given his past behavior, but should not have been turned into a presumption. It says that it would not have expected the community to get it all right but, rather, less wrong. This is a subtle but important understanding of the limits of intelligence that many in the U.S. media and therefore the American public do not fully grasp.

In a recent public presentation, Silberman said it was a “grave, grave mistake” to go from a judgment of past behavior to a “90 percent certainty that he had weapons of mass destruction.” The report faults the community for not remembering or implementing its own tradecraft on the question of weapons of mass destruction. It failed to be sufficiently aggressive in questioning the bona fides of human sources; it became lax in questioning assumptions, red-teaming (the use of a parallel, independent analytic group to use different assumptions and presumably come to different conclusions), and considering alternative hypotheses; and it conducted a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) process that appeared to treat some dissenting views as trivial and failed to vet some technical disputes thoroughly through available auxiliary analytic processes.

Techniques to invite first-rate scientists in universities and private laboratories to critique government analysis exist and are often used on issues less vital than the war and peace context in which analysis on Iraq was conducted, so it is particularly disturbing that the community seemed to ignore or neglect some of its own internal checks. Examples of the weak tradecraft apply to each of the WMD subcategories: the aluminum tubes were allegedly linked to the nuclear program, the mobile laboratory trucks to biological weapons, and the water trucks to chemical weapons. Several of these issues were in dispute at the time of Secretary of State Colin Powell’s testimony to the UN Security Council in February 2003.

The commission also acknowledges that, in terms of broad political analysis, assuming the worst from Hussein’s regime was a reasonable position to take but faults the analysts for taking that hypothesis and making it a premise that was no longer subject to scrutiny—again, a sign of poor tradecraft. At all levels of the analytic cadres, there was a comfortable consensus among analysts that Hussein’s regime was not capable of reform and was relentlessly ambitious to accumulate additional attributes of national power. This was based on more than a decade of experience watching a closed and cruel regime, with proven aggressive behavior toward Iran, Kuwait, and its own citizenry.

Long before the Bush administration came into office, analysts were on a kind of automatic pilot with respect to the fundamental behavior and attitudes of the regime in Baghdad. Workshops and exercises tried to anticipate new and different actions by the regime, but very few posited that Iraq was largely passive and hunkered down. It would have been startlingly counterintuitive for analysts to argue that the regime had been pacified; there was too much data on Iraqi noncompliance and defiance of international efforts to make such an alternative hypothesis credible. Surely, independent minded analysts occasionally voiced such opinions, but it would have taken some definitive new evidence to allow the subtle and collective group think to shift to a new bottom-line judgment. The commission report makes some straightforward, common sense recommendations on how to reinvigorate some of the checks and balances in the analytic process but sensibly judges that such alternative analysis mechanisms are an incomplete solution.

The commission’s treatment of the Iraq case has two shortcomings. First, the role of the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) as a source of vital insight into Iraqi activities is understated and underacknowledged in the report. In the early 1990s, UNSCOM relied heavily on leads provided by UN member states, the United States almost certainly the most active among them, in helping UNSCOM launch its work and identify the suspected weapons sites in Iraq. Over time, UNSCOM became a mature and competent organization, with accumulated knowledge of Iraq that surpassed that of any member state, including states that provided professional cadres as inspectors. The U.S. intelligence community has difficulty admitting how dependent it was on UNSCOM reporting and on the experience brought back by inspectors. In the mid- to late 1990s, UNSCOM began to articulate its doubts about the likelihood of remaining stockpiles of proscribed weapons; despite its own acquired distrust of Iraqi declarations, its own methodology was leading it to certain conclusions. Yet, within the intelligence community there was subtle instinct to be more skeptical than UNSCOM, to assume that a UN organization could not be as tough-minded as the United States. The absence of new collection meant the analysts had little basis on which to challenge UNSCOM or draw a different conclusion than UNSCOM’s experts.

This is a fascinating tale of the evolution of a UN body that actually became more competent than the capabilities of the United States. The power of knowledge shifted from the United States to UNSCOM, but it was difficult for the U.S. side of the equation to admit it. The commission report skims lightly over the changing dynamic between UNSCOM and U.S. intelligence and therefore understates the value that future UN inspections and perhaps a permanent inspectorate could have on the ability of the United States and the international community to stay smart in a changing proliferation environment. It is a topic worthy of more attention, a book perhaps that only Charles Duelfer can write.[3]

Second, on the question of whether analysts were subjected to political pressure, the report insists that it left no stone unturned to get to the bottom of the allegations. It provided hotlines and means by which analysts could report anonymously, and it concluded quite forcefully that it found “no evidence of politicization of the…assessments concerning Iraq’s reported WMD programs…and no evidence of politicization even under the broader definition used by the CIA’s Ombudsman for Politicization,” which includes any “unprofessional manipulation of information and judgments…to please what those officers perceive to be policymakers’ preferences.”[4]

The commission concedes that “there is no doubt that analysts operated in an environment shaped by intense policymaker interest,” but this formulation seems to understate the problem. Analysts are rewarded for working well with customers and for focusing on policy-relevant work. The administration was highly confident in its own analysis, and government analysts were frequently challenged to demonstrate that they could hold their own or make useful contributions to the strong personalities in the president’s team, personalities who did not hesitate to express their disagreement if not disdain for views that did not conform to their own. So, it would seem a serious shortcoming on the commission’s part not to think beyond the narrow question, “Did you ever change any language because of pressure,” to imagine the highly charged and stressful environment in which the community’s Iraq experts were working. This is not to absolve analysts from responsibility, but to question whether the commission’s own fine work will be marked by this perceived politically correct conclusion. The commission could have been bolder and more strategic in its understanding of this critical issue, even within the constraints set by its mandate.

The WMD Proliferation Challenge
The commission was also tasked with thinking beyond the Iraq case, and it attempted to derive lessons from the Iraq experience for continuing intelligence coverage of proliferation. It usefully points out that the proliferation problem is getting more difficult, given changes in technology, information networks, and the emergence of black-market nuclear networks such as those led by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.[5] At the same time, the threshold for intelligence performance is also rising.[6] That is to say, if you thought Iraq was hard, just wait and see how much more difficult Iran and the next cases will be. The report judges that the intelligence community’s efforts have not kept pace with proliferation and will need to be more aggressive and innovative in the future. Many of the recommendations, however, are ideas that have long been accepted and at least partly implemented by the community, including very active outreach to nongovernmental experts in academia and in industry. The commission may have somewhat unrealistic expectations of what nongovernmental experts bring to the table in such exchanges. At best, a creative synergy occurs, and new insight is gained, but the selection of outside experts for such exchanges can be fraught with political correctness and can lead to different but also erroneous judgments.

Fixing Intelligence
The commission considered systematically all aspects of the intelligence business, from collection to analysis to information sharing and the special problems of integrating new parts of the federal system since the September 11 attacks. It faced the awkward situation of having to adapt its analysis midstream to the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which, when the commission was founded, faced poor prospects for becoming law. For political more than merit reasons, the bill passed and the president signed it into law, creating the new director of national intelligence position that will now be held responsible for the increasingly large and complex intelligence system. One infers from the report that many of its recommendations could have been implemented by the leaders of the old system, that the authorities of the director of central intelligence could have been strengthened, and that adding a new system on top of the old was not necessary or desirable.

Still, the commission took the new legislation into account. It noted that, under the law, the director of national intelligence has the authority to create a national nonproliferation center comparable to the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). The NCTC combines analysis and operational planning and is mandated by last year’s law. Interestingly, the commission recommended a different model for the proliferation problem. It believes the National Counter Proliferation Center should provide all-source intelligence to a policy-based “Counterproliferation Joint Interagency Task Force,” which would conduct interdiction activities and coordinate interagency and partner nations’ counterproliferation activities. The task force would therefore be broader than an intelligence organization, drawing on military and law enforcement capabilities and playing a supporting role to the U.S. Strategic Command, which in January 2005 was designated the lead military command for WMD issues.

This focus on interdiction and on the military role in a robust counterproliferation strategy lends itself well to nuclear delivery systems and some components for developing reprocessing and enrichment capabilities, but seems not a perfect match for the biological weapons challenge, which the commission determines is the hardest challenge of all. The report recommends more coordination with the biological sciences community. It is a worthy thought, but given new post-September 11, post-anthrax restrictions on biological research, it will take wise leadership and courage both in the private biological science community and in government to manage all the security and professional disincentives to such coordination.

The commission was also wise to take on one of the most dysfunctional parts of the way the intelligence agencies create barriers to sharing of key information, which often makes a mockery of the concept of “community.” The report challenges the concept of ORCON, or originator controlled, which permits an agency that has generated raw data or intelligence to determine its distribution. The commission stated clearly that a change in mindset is called for; the information is “owned” by the U.S. government, not a single intelligence agency. A more standardized and streamlined classification system, a more integrated process for providing clearances to intelligence community personnel, and a shift away from information “sharing” to information “integration” would be important improvements in culture and procedures.[7]

Less persuasive was the commission’s recommendation to create a new cadre of open-source information experts, even an “Open Source Directorate.” Again seeming to neglect their own mantra of innovation and integration, a better solution would be to train everyone in the analytic structures in better utilization of all-source information. To create a compartmented approach to the information that most concede probably constitutes well more than 90 percent of the total information needed for finished intelligence production seems to undermine their own beliefs.[8]

Other enduring myths and practices in the intelligence community cannot easily be overcome. It is difficult to fix a culture that was created to warn the president and prevent future Pearl Harbors. Given the self-conscious promotion by intelligence community leaders of an ethos that distinguishes intelligence from other national security disciplines, many analysts begin to default to a warning function in their analysis. They are rarely discouraged from speculating on worst-case scenarios because they see their core mission as helping policymakers prepare for dangers and threats. It is counterintuitive to most trained analysts to speculate that things might be better than they appear. In the Iraq case, for example, it is easy to imagine that analysts, sensing that war was the likely choice of the president, gave their best shot at describing the risk environment in which U.S. forces would be sent, firm in the belief that warning was part of their unique role.

The NIE process, which has now been so fully scrutinized by the press and every commission, is never perfect but is also difficult to replace with something reliably better. Estimates vary in their utility to policymakers, not only because of how they are crafted, but because of different ways policy customers use them—back again to the structural limits of the commission’s mandate. Estimates that take into account all of the alternative analytic processes and that benefit from all possible collection initiatives will risk not being timely for decisions on fast-changing issues or being too complex in offering multiple outcomes to be easily absorbed by policymakers.

Fixing the Debate About Intelligence
Beyond the daunting task of reforming an excessively complex bureaucratic system, fixing intelligence also means fixing the debate about intelligence, i.e., getting public expectations into more realistic boundaries. In our increasingly information-saturated open society, everyone is entitled to an opinion or two about what’s wrong with government and why the fools in Washington keep doing such dumb things. Over the past few years, the sequence of intelligence failures well documented in the press and increasingly in academic literature creates the impression of a well-informed debate over intelligence issues. This is desirable, and surely many thoughtful citizens are better informed and can take responsible positions on intelligence reform and can convey such preferences to their elected officials.

Yet, there is also a cost to the frenzy of public attention, often in the form of ridicule, toward intelligence issues. The public debate has benefited from former officials becoming more comfortable talking about their careers in intelligence, and memoirs and even works of fiction by former intelligence officers appear more and more frequently. The ease with which matters once considered sensitive and secret can be discussed openly with no fear of penalty, however, means that policymakers should be less confident that intelligence matters will be kept in that special channel.

This can have—indeed may already have had—a chilling effect on whether policymakers request intelligence reports such as NIEs on the most sensitive topics or avoid them for fear of leaks. The erosion of public confidence in intelligence performance has also almost certainly made it more difficult for intelligence leaders to present information about new emerging threats to policymakers without careful scrutiny and questioning of the information. That in and of itself may be a healthy thing and gets us to the place where policymakers and intelligence share responsibility for making judgments that lead to policy decisions, but it could also lead to delays or reluctance to act for fear of unintended consequences.

The commission worked hard to untangle many of the complexities of modern intelligence but could not resolve the most difficult part of all, which is how publicly accountable policymakers use intelligence, particularly in circumstances where war is a choice but not the only option.

Ellen Laipson is president and chief executive officer of the Henry L. Stimson Center. She held various foreign policy and national security positions in a 25-year U.S. government career, including serving as vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council from 1997-2002.


1. Report of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, March 31, 2005, p. 6, available at http://www.wmd.gov/report/wmd_report.pdf (hereinafter commission report).

2. Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, report transmittal letter to the president.

3. Charles Duelfer served as deputy executive chairman of UNSCOM for seven years and was the last leader of the U.S. Iraq Survey Group. He knows both sides of the story.

4. Commission report, pp. 188-192.

5. Commission report, p. 519.

6. Greg Treverton points out that, given the limits of intelligence, a doctrine of pre-emption to eliminate an adversary’s weapons of mass destruction essentially means eliminating the adversary. Gregory F. Treverton, “Intelligence: The Achilles Heel of the Bush Doctrine,” Arms Control Today, July/August 2003, pp. 9-11.

7. Commission report, pp. 429-444.

8. See commission report, pp. 395-398.



Commission Slams WMD Intelligence

Paul Kerr

A White House-appointed commission March 31 offered a scathing account of U.S. intelligence failures prior to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Additionally, it acknowledged that U.S. intelligence is not much better on other weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs, such as those of North Korea and Iran. The report also contains a series of recommendations for improvement.

In a letter and accompanying report to President George W. Bush, the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction stated that the intelligence community was “dead wrong in almost all of its pre-war judgments” concerning Iraq’s suspected chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs. Former Sen. Charles Robb (D-Va.) and U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Laurence Silberman chaired the commission, which was established by Bush in February 2004.

In addition to Iraq, the report includes case studies of the intelligence community’s assessments of Libya’s and al Qaeda’s WMD activities. The commission also evaluated U.S. intelligence capabilities with regard to several other countries.

For example, the report notes that the United States lacks sufficient intelligence regarding Russia’s and China’s “nuclear arsenals and emerging capabilities,” which “pose a challenge” to Washington.

The more than 600-page unclassified version of the report also indicates that the intelligence community lacks “critical information” about Iran’s and North Korea’s WMD programs, but the relevant sections are classified.

Case Studies


The report adds little new information to previous reports from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), the task force charged with coordinating the U.S.-led post-war search for Iraqi prohibited weapons.

An October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) stated that Baghdad possessed chemical and biological weapons and was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. An NIE is supposed to be the intelligence community’s most authoritative assessment of a given subject.

These assessments were inaccurate. The ISG reported in September 2004 that Iraq neither possessed chemical or biological weapons, nor had it restarted its nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons programs before the invasion. (See ACT, November 2004.) An April 25 addendum to the report did not change these conclusions.

International weapons inspectors reported prior to the invasion that they had not found any evidence that Iraq either had WMD stockpiles or had reconstituted its related programs. They had not been able to account, however, for the disposition of some of Iraq’s previous chemical and biological weapons, as well as some related materials.

The commission attributes the inaccurate U.S. pre-war assessments to deficiencies in intelligence gathering, such as a lack of useful human intelligence and reliance on unreliable Iraqi defectors. The Senate Intelligence Committee articulated similar conclusions in a report issued this past summer. (See ACT, September 2004.)

The commission’s report also echoes the committee’s finding that the intelligence assessments were skewed by a presumption within the community that Iraq was concealing prohibited weapons. This presumption, reinforced by Iraq’s past efforts to conceal its WMD programs from UN inspectors, led analysts to dismiss evidence that Iraq did not possess illicit weapons.

The report’s evaluation of the evidence underlying the assessments largely recapitulates the committee’s work, but there are some new details, such as an extensive discussion regarding the intelligence community’s reliance on an unreliable defector for much of its information regarding Iraq’s biological weapons program.

The commission did not examine policymakers’ use of the intelligence. This issue has been particularly controversial because administration officials, including the president, made definitive public statements regarding Iraq’s suspected weapons that appeared to be unsupported by the NIE, which contained numerous qualifiers and caveats.

The report does provide a glimpse of some policymakers’ thoughts regarding the Iraq weapons issue. Carl Ford, former assistant secretary of state for Intelligence and Research (INR), told the commission that, prior to the invasion, he discussed with “senior administration officials” the possibility that Baghdad had not reconstituted its nuclear weapons program. Ford raised the issue because INR analysts doubted that Iraq had done so. INR had dissented from the assessment in the NIE.

The commission also addressed whether policymakers put pressure on intelligence analysts to influence their judgments. The commission “found no evidence” of such pressure, the report says, but adds that “intelligence analysts worked in an environment that did not encourage skepticism about the conventional wisdom.”

Perhaps providing an illustrative example of this environment, a Department of Energy intelligence analyst told the commission that the department supported the NIE’s judgment regarding Iraq’s nuclear weapons program because it “didn’t want to come out before the war and say [Iraq] wasn’t reconstituting.”

Additionally, three Democratic senators had previously claimed in a supplement to the Senate committee’s 2004 report that administration officials pressured analysts, for example, by “repetitively tasking” them to “revise their analytical judgments.”

The Senate committee is conducting another investigation into intelligence activities conducted by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). Senior policymakers in the department are suspected of using intelligence gathered and analyzed outside conventional channels.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told NBC’s Meet the Press April 10 that Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith bypassed the CIA and gave flawed intelligence supplied by Iraqi exiles “directly to the White House.”

Feith has acknowledged that OSD staff members tasked with reviewing intelligence concerning Iraq briefed staff from the National Security Council and the Office of the Vice President on their findings regarding Iraq’s suspected links to terrorists. A former senior Department of State official told Arms Control Today April 27 that OSD aides’ conclusions were more alarmist than the intelligence community’s, but said he was unsure how much policymakers were influenced by these views.

The Senate committee is also investigating whether policymakers’ public statements concerning the Iraqi threat were supported by intelligence. (See ACT, April 2005.)


By contrast, the commission terms the intelligence community’s performance regarding Libya a “success story.” Tripoli announced in December 2003 that it would dismantle its nuclear and chemical weapons programs as well as its longer-range missiles. Libya also agreed to allow U.S. and British officials, as well as relevant international organizations, to verify its pledge.

According to the commission, assessments of these programs were largely accurate but still contained some errors. For example, the intelligence community judged correctly that Libya was pursuing a uranium-enrichment program, but it somewhat overestimated the country’s ability to produce nuclear weapons. The CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency had estimated that Libya could develop enough fissile material for a nuclear warhead as soon as 2007, the report says, noting that the CIA qualified this assessment.

The report adds that Libya’s declarations revealed “some surprises that are discussed in the classified report,” but it does not elaborate.

The assessment that Libya had an ongoing biological weapons program appears to have been incorrect, but some doubt remains. According to the report, the United States judged since the early 1990s that Libya “maintained the desire for an offensive biological weapons program, and most [analysts] assessed that Libya was pursuing at least a small-scale research and development effort.” Beginning in the late 1990s, the intelligence community had additional evidence that Libya was revitalizing the program.

The commission did not offer any evidence that Libya had a biological weapons program. Indeed, the report concedes that Libya may not have had such a program, but it also asserts that Tripoli’s declarations “have failed to shed light on Tripoli’s plans and intentions for its biological program.”

Commission spokesperson Carl Kropf told Arms Control Today April 27 that there is a “discrepancy” between the information Libya has provided concerning its biological weapons efforts and previous U.S. intelligence judgments. “Specific information on this point remains classified,” he added.

The commission also notes that accurate U.S. intelligence, as well as the intelligence community’s penetration of a procurement network run by former Pakistani nuclear official Abdul Qadeer Khan, aided considerably the efforts to persuade Libya to disarm.

Al Qaeda
Prior to the U.S.-led October 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, the intelligence community correctly assessed that al Qaeda had “limited ability” to use WMD “to inflict mass casualties,” the report says. However, information collected after the invasion revealed that the group’s biological weapons research and development efforts were more advanced than analysts had realized.

Saying al Qaeda’s biological weapons program “was further along…than pre-war intelligence indicated,” the report points to the group’s research concerning an unidentified biological agent. Al Qaeda also had an “extensive, well-organized” research program that operated for two years prior to the invasion, the report adds.

The intelligence community also judged prior to the war that al Qaeda was unlikely to possess either a nuclear weapon or the necessary fissile material to build one. The intelligence community did assess that a radiological weapon was “well within” al Qaeda’s capabilities but could not conclude whether the group had the nuclear material for such a weapon.

A radiological weapon uses conventional explosives to disperse radioactive material but lacks the destructive power of a nuclear weapon.

The intelligence community has since judged that there is “no credible information” that al Qaeda had obtained either fissile material or acquired a nuclear weapon, the report says.

Captured documents indicate, however, that al Qaeda has been interested in producing such a weapon. According to the report, al Qaeda “established contact with Pakistani scientists who discussed development of [explosive] nuclear devices.”

The commission also found that the intelligence community was correct in its pre-war assessments that al Qaeda had only rudimentary chemical weapons efforts underway, although “questions persist” regarding al Qaeda’s chemical and biological weapons programs.

The report contains an array of recommendations for improving the intelligence community’s performance. These proposals, most of which concern the newly established director of national intelligence (DNI), focus on organizational changes, as well as improving information sharing and intelligence gathering.

The report contains specific recommendations for combating WMD proliferation. For example, the commission recommends the creation of a National Counter-Proliferation Center (NCPC) to oversee intelligence on WMD across the intelligence community.

There are also several recommendations directed at combating biological weapons proliferation. The proposals focus on enhancing cooperation between biological sciences and intelligence communities, centralizing the analysis of relevant intelligence, and augmenting intelligence collection capabilities.

For example, the commission suggests creating a new office within the NCPC to coordinate and process intelligence regarding biological weapons. Additionally, the report contains several recommendations for strengthening the relationship between the intelligence community and entities such as the National Institutes of Health that have only recently become intelligence consumers.

To improve current intelligence-collection capabilities, the report calls for the establishment of an international regime to inspect relevant biological facilities. Presently, the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) lacks a meaningful inspection provision, and the report notes that there is “little prospect in the near future” for such a regime. The United States played a significant role in ending negotiations on a BWC verification protocol in 2001 (see page 43).

The report endorses the use of U.S. regulations to collect intelligence on foreign entities with U.S. commercial ties, as well as to require such entities to adhere to strict U.S. biosafety standards to prevent proliferation.

The report also contains recommendations for improving the United State’s ability to interdict shipments of WMD-related materials. For example, the commission recommends forming a Counterproliferation Joint Interagency Task Force to plan, coordinate, and execute interdictions.

Such interdictions are the hallmark of the administration’s Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), an effort to increase coordination and intelligence sharing in order to restrict trade in WMD, along with related materials and delivery vehicles.

To bolster these efforts further, the commission also recommends that the State Department conclude additional bilateral ship-boarding agreements in order to improve the intelligence community’s ability to track and locate ships. The United States has already entered into three such agreements as part of the PSI. Countries concluding these agreements allow U.S. officials to inspect ships flying their flags if the vessels are suspected of transporting WMD material or missiles and if they do not respond to a U.S. boarding request within an allotted time.

Moreover, the report argues that Washington should take additional steps to ensure that the agreements are structured to serve “intelligence purposes.” For example, the State Department could require ships and aircraft to declare their locations using various technologies, the report says, adding that ships’ failure to do so might “establish reasonable suspicion” to justify interdictions.

As for international weapons inspections, the report states that they will “remain an important counterproliferation tool,” adding that “designing effective inspection regimes will become all the more critical” because countries’ future WMD arsenals will likely be small and difficult to detect. Although the unclassified report only contains the discussion regarding biological weapons, Kropf indicated that the classified report contains a more extensive discussion. In addition, the report includes classified recommendations for improving export controls discussion about inspections.

New Reports Cite Looting at Iraqi Sites; UNMOVIC Future Discussed

Paul Kerr

Equipment and materials related to Iraq’s former prohibited weapons programs are missing from the country, according to new reports. The revelations come as UN Security Council members have been conducting informal discussions regarding the future of the UN organization previously charged with overseeing such materials.

Earlier this month, Iraqi Deputy Minister of Industry Sami al-Araji provided new details about “sophisticated looting” of Iraqi weapons-related sites that had been subject to pre-war UN monitoring. Araji told the New York Times March 12 that unknown individuals had conducted an organized operation specifically targeting dual-use items, which included equipment capable of making components for chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, as well as missiles.

Most of the looting took place between mid-April and mid-May 2003, Araji said.

A Feb. 28 report from the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) supported Araji’s claims. Although UNMOVIC inspectors have not been able to carry out on-the-ground inspections since leaving Iraq just before the March 2003 invasion, satellite imagery has revealed that approximately 90 of 353 inspected weapons sites containing “equipment and materials of relevance have been stripped and/or razed.” UNMOVIC inspectors inspected 411 sites between November 2002 and March 2003.

UN Security Council Resolution 687, which was adopted after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, tasked the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) and later UNMOVIC with inspecting and supervising the destruction of Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons, as well as missiles exceeding UN-permitted ranges. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had a comparable role for Iraq’s nuclear weapons programs. The United Nations withdrew all of its inspectors in December 1998, but Iraq allowed them to return in September 2002.

Both UNMOVIC and the IAEA have previously issued reports stating that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD) sites had been destroyed and that weapons-related equipment had disappeared.

Araji said he had no evidence concerning the equipment’s whereabouts, but UNMOVIC has previously reported that weapons materials such as Iraqi missile engines have turned up in Jordan and the Netherlands.

Whither UNMOVIC?
UNMOVIC’s future has been uncertain since its inspectors left Iraq.

A spokesperson for the U.S. mission to the United Nations told Arms Control Today March 22 that Washington has been discussing UNMOVIC’s future with Baghdad for “quite some time” and recently “expanded” the discussion to the rest of the council. The spokesperson would not provide details regarding the discussions.

Acting UNMOVIC Executive Chairman Demetrius Perricos met with Security Council officials March 8 to discuss issues germane to UNMOVIC’s future.

A UNMOVIC official told Arms Control Today March 21 that one of the questions being discussed is the establishment of criteria to determine whether Iraq has met its disarmament obligations under the appropriate Security Council resolutions. The disarmament standards are unclear because several relevant resolutions remain in force and the Security Council has taken no action on the matter.

Perricos told the council that he is operating under the assumption that Resolution 687, as well as a May 2003 letter from the United States and United Kingdom, comprise the standards for Iraq’s obligations. Washington and London pledged in that letter “to act together to ensure the complete disarmament of Iraq,” per the relevant UN resolutions.

Describing one possible alternative, the UNMOVIC official said the commission could write a report synthesizing documentation from UNMOVIC and the U.S.-led Iraq Survey Group, which took over the weapons hunt in May 2003 and essentially ended its search several months ago. (See ACT, March 2005.) The latter has so far shared only “bits and pieces” of information with the commission, the official said.

Additionally, according to the UNMOVIC official, some council members wish to devise a way of preserving the commission’s expertise, perhaps by maintaining it as a permanent organization. But no formal proposals have been offered, and the council remains divided on the question, the official said.

Iraq’s permanent representative to the UN Samir Sumaidaie told reporters Feb. 1 that Baghdad wants its inspections file closed. Baghdad, however, will accept “[w]hatever process is agreed upon to wind up this operation,” Samir said later that month.

Congress's Iraq Probes Winding Down

April 2005

By Paul Kerr

A U.S. Senate investigation of intelligence issues related to pre-war estimates of Iraq’s prohibited weapons programs appears to be winding down. A similar House investigation appears to have been concluded about a year ago.

Last summer, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence issued a report criticizing the intelligence community’s pre-war failures to describe Iraq’s weapons programs.

According to that report, the committee was to conduct a second phase of the investigation, including such issues as the nature of intelligence activities conducted by the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, and whether policymakers’ public statements concerning the Iraqi threat were supported by intelligence. Republican and Democratic committee staff members told Arms Control Today that the investigation is ongoing, but the two sides appear divided on some specifics.

For example, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) indicated March 10 that an evaluation of administration officials’ statements would not be productive because the committee could not know the intentions of those officials, who would anyway attribute any inaccurate statements to “bum intelligence.”

However, a Democratic staff member pointed out March 14 that the committee could compare administration officials’ statements with actual intelligence reports.

Roberts also stated that the investigation of the officials’ activities was on the “back burner” because they stopped cooperating after ranking member Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said their actions may have been “unlawful.” The officials obtained lawyers after Rockefeller’s statement.

The staffer said that the officials had “overreacted” to Rockefeller’s statement. Still, the Pentagon has turned over enough material to the committee for members to “comment intelligently” about their activities, the staffer added.

Although Roberts suggested that other committee priorities may impede the investigation, both staff members disagreed. The committee might issue a report, they said.

The House Intelligence Committee’s investigation, which was originally announced in June 2003 and has received much less public attention than its Senate equivalent, has apparently ended. The last official public mention of the investigation was an April 2004 letter from committee Democrats to President George W. Bush recommending intelligence procedure reforms. The committee’s chairpersons had sent a September 2003 letter to CIA director George Tenet criticizing the intelligence community’s handling of Iraq weapons issues.

A U.S. Senate investigation of intelligence issues related to pre-war estimates of Iraq’s prohibited weapons programs appears to be winding down.

Iraq Weapons Hunt Ends; Other Investigations Continue

Paul Kerr

The Bush administration has essentially wrapped up its investigation of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs and of the failure to find significant stockpiles of such weapons after the U.S.-led invasion of that country in March 2003. Several related investigations, however, are still ongoing.

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan told reporters Jan. 12 that a final report from Charles Duelfer, the head adviser to the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), is not expected to add any new information to an interim report Duelfer issued in September 2004, which said that Iraq had no WMD stockpiles. McClellan described the final report as an “addendum,” adding that the September report is “essentially the completion” of Duelfer’s work. (See ACT, November 2004.) Run by the Defense Intelligence Agency, the ISG is the task force charged with coordinating the U.S.-led WMD search.

Before the U.S.-led invasion, Bush administration officials claimed that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons and had an active nuclear weapons program. The threat posed by these weapons was a key administration justification for beginning the war. UN weapons inspectors reported prior to the invasion that they had not found any evidence that Iraq either had WMD stockpiles or had reconstituted its related programs. They had, however, not been able to account for the disposition of some of Iraq’s previous chemical and biological weapons stockpiles and related materials.

Despite the subsequent failure to find such stockpiles, administration officials have continued to argue that the invasion was necessary because deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein still had the capability and intent to develop such weapons. These officials frequently add that Hussein would have produced prohibited weapons if UN economic sanctions imposed after the 1991 Persian Gulf War were lifted. For example, Counselor to the President Dan Bartlett stated during a Jan. 16 television interview that Duelfer’s report showed that Hussein retained weapons production “capabilities that could be turned on a moment’s notice.”

Duelfer told the Senate Armed Services Committee in October 2004 that Iraq “was making progress in eroding sanctions” prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. But he indicated that international opinion had changed following the attacks, helping to shore up the sanctions regime. Lifting the sanctions was not seriously under discussion during the run-up to the invasion.

He told the committee that the sanctions placed “constraints” on Iraq’s ability to produce prohibited weapons, as well as “modified [Hussein’s] behavior because his prime objective was to get rid of those sanctions.”

Duelfer also testified that, in the long run, the sanctions would not have been sustainable. He did not address whether the long-term monitoring measures that the UN Security Council had mandated be left in place after the sanctions were to have ended would have prevented future rearming.

Duelfer’s testimony and report also showed that Iraq had not restarted its nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons programs before the invasion.

Furthermore, the evidence regarding Hussein’s intentions and latent capabilities is mixed. According to Duelfer, Hussein retained ambitions to develop nuclear and chemical weapons, but not biological weapons. As for capabilities, Iraq was expanding its dual-use chemical infrastructure that could have later produced chemical weapons agents, but Duelfer’s report showed that Iraq had not restored significant nuclear capabilities.

Duelfer concluded that Iraq did have limited programs to develop ballistic missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles that exceeded UN-permitted ranges, but Hussein had no plans to equip them to deliver weapons of mass destruction as long as sanctions were in place.

Investigations Continue
Although the ISG’s “physical search has essentially ended,” McClellan said the group will still conduct WMD-related work, such as examining captured Iraqi documents. Department of Defense officials say this work will take place but told Arms Control Today that the ISG has also been given higher-priority tasks, such as combating the anti-U.S. insurgency in Iraq. Duelfer’s predecessor, David Kay, cited the diversion of ISG personnel to these other missions as one reason he left the position. (See ACT, March 2004.)

With Duelfer’s investigation essentially complete, McClellan stated that Bush’s “focus” is on the recommendations of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, chaired by former Senator Charles Robb (D-Va.) and U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Laurence Silberman. According to the commission, which the president established in February 2004, Duelfer’s final report is to serve as a “point of reference in reviewing the quality of U.S. intelligence concerning Iraq’s WMD program.” The commission’s task also includes an evaluation of the “quality of U.S. intelligence on all WMD and related 21st Century threats.” The commission’s final report is due March 31.

The status of two ongoing congressional investigations is unclear. The Senate Intelligence Committee is conducting a second phase of its review of U.S. intelligence on Iraq. The committee has said that this phase includes an evaluation of administration policymakers’ public statements about the Iraqi threat, as well as intelligence activities conducted by the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy. (See ACT, March 2004.)

The committee issued a report this past July that criticized the intelligence community for failing before the war to describe Iraq’s weapons programs accurately. (See ACT, September 2004.)

The House Intelligence Committee is conducting its own investigation, but both the status and scope of that effort are unclear.


Duelfer Disproves U.S. WMD Claims

Paul Kerr

Charles Duelfer, the CIA’s special adviser to the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), told the Senate Armed Services Committee Oct. 6 that Iraq destroyed its stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, as well as eliminated its nuclear weapons program, after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Although his findings thus far largely confirm previous reports, they offer the most extensive analysis to date of the state of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) before last year’s U.S.-led invasion.

Duelfer’s testimony came shortly after the public release of a Sept. 30 report from the ISG, the task force charged with coordinating the U.S.-led search for Iraqi prohibited weapons. Duelfer’s predecessor, David Kay, testified in January that Iraq had destroyed its weapons. (See ACT, March 2004.) However, the report goes into even greater detail about Iraq’s weapons efforts.

Duelfer’s testimony and report show that deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, constrained by UN sanctions, had not restarted the country’s nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons programs. However, he was seeking to preserve and restore, to varying degrees, the intellectual and physical capacity to resume the nuclear and chemical weapons programs if sanctions put in place by the UN Security Council after the Gulf War were lifted.

Duelfer stated that escaping the sanctions was a “top priority” for Hussein, who manipulated the UN oil-for-food program by granting rights to low-priced Iraqi oil in exchange for recipient countries’ support for getting the sanctions lifted. Established in 1995, the program allowed Iraq to purchase food, medicine, health supplies, and other civilian goods with proceeds derived from oil sales, which were held in a UN escrow account.

Iraq had some success in circumventing the sanctions, the report said. Baghdad was able to obtain cash through illegal oil sales and the import of illicit goods, including some dual-use items useful in WMD programs.

Duelfer told the committee that the sanctions were in a “free fall” but indicated that international sentiment following the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States halted the move. Duelfer argued that support for the sanctions could not have been sustained indefinitely, but lifting sanctions was not seriously under discussion during the run-up to the invasion. At that time, Security Council members opposed to the invasion were focused on extending the UN-mandated weapons inspections and maintaining sanctions.

Duelfer did not address the fact that Security Council resolutions mandated continued UN monitoring of Iraqi facilities to prevent future attempts at rearming. Kay told Arms Control Today in March that such monitoring would have detected large-scale resumption of prohibited weapons activities, including a “restart” of the nuclear weapons program and “industrial production of missiles.” Monitoring would not have stopped “small-scale cheating” in the case of chemical and biological weapons programs and might not have detected importation of missiles, he added.

In any case, the sanctions were largely effective at restraining Iraq’s weapons programs. Duelfer told the committee that the sanctions both constrained Iraq’s weapons-related imports and induced Hussein not to pursue WMD because such efforts would jeopardize his goal of getting the sanctions lifted.

The Weapons

Duelfer testified that Iraqi WMD “stocks do not exist,” despite occasional finds of pre-1991 chemical munitions. (See ACT, July/August 2004.) He also said that the ISG has found no evidence that WMD were transferred to other countries, a theory some administration officials have advanced.

In his testimony, Duelfer also discussed Hussein’s motives for pursuing illicit WMD, stating that the Iraqi leader believed that Baghdad’s chemical weapons saved it from defeat during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. Hussein further believed that Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons capabilities deterred the United States from overthrowing his government after the Gulf War, Duelfer said, adding that the Iraqi leader also wanted to deter Iran in the future.

Despite the ISG’s findings, President George W. Bush has continued to defend the invasion. He stated Oct. 7 that Duelfer’s report proved that Hussein “retained the knowledge, the materials, the means and the intent to produce weapons of mass destruction.”

Bush administration officials, however, claimed numerous times before the invasion that Iraq actually possessed illicit weapons. Moreover, Duelfer’s testimony and report are more nuanced than Bush’s statement suggests. For example, Hussein appeared to have intentions to develop certain types of weapons but lacked the capabilities. In other cases, the Iraqi leader had some residual weapons capabilities but no evident intentions to make use of them.


According to the report, the ISG “found no evidence to suggest concerted efforts to restart the [nuclear] program” after 1991. Although Duelfer testified that “Saddam did not abandon his nuclear ambitions,” he said that Iraq’s ability to produce nuclear weapons and retain the relevant personnel were in “decay” as a result of the sanctions.

Duelfer also definitively refuted two elements of the Bush administration’s pre-war case that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program. First, the ISG found no evidence that Iraq tried to procure uranium from other countries, instead learning that Iraq refused a private offer to help it obtain uranium from the Congo. Second, Duelfer testified that 81mm aluminum tubes Iraq was trying to import were solely for conventional rockets. The administration had argued that the tubes were likely to be used in centrifuges for enriching uranium. A July Senate Intelligence Committee report found the intelligence underlying both the uranium and tubes claims to be weak. (See ACT, September 2004.)


Iraq destroyed its chemical weapons stockpiles in 1991, according to the report, but Hussein still intended “to resume a [chemical weapons] effort when sanctions were lifted.” Iraq was increasing its chemical production infrastructure, which provided “the inherent capability” to produce chemical weapons in the future, Duelfer said, adding that Iraq would have been able to produce mustard agent within “months” and nerve agent “in less than a year or two.” However, the ISG has not “come across explicit guidance from Saddam on this point,” Duelfer said, and there is no evidence that Iraq attempted to procure “precursor chemicals in bulk,” according to the report.

Duelfer also noted efforts by “anti-coalition forces” in Iraq to work with former regime chemical weapons experts, testifying that a “series of raids” uncovered efforts “to put chemical agent of various sorts into munitions.” He added that the ISG likely “contained [this] problem before it matured into a major threat.”


According to the report, Iraq “appears to have destroyed” its biological weapons and bulk weapons agent in 1991 and 1992. Although Baghdad maintained a research and development program until 1996, it then abandoned it. Since then, there appeared to be “a complete absence of discussion or even interest in [biological weapons] at the presidential level,” the report says.

The report asserts that “Iraq would have faced great difficulty in re-establishing an effective [biological weapons] agent production capability,” but it does say that Iraq possessed “significant dual-use capability” and scientific expertise. Baghdad also conducted research with potential weapons applications and could have “re-established an elementary” weapons program “within a few weeks to a few months.” However, there are “no indications” that it had plans to do so, the report says.

Duelfer told the committee that the ISG has found no evidence that Iraq possessed mobile biological agent production facilities—another claim the administration had advanced prior to the war. Expressing perhaps the most definitive judgment to date on two trailers discovered shortly after the invasion, Duelfer stated that “they have absolutely nothing to do with any biological weapons.” A May 2003 CIA report judged that the trailers were likely for weapons agent production.

Delivery Vehicles

Duelfer testified that Iraq was developing, with foreign assistance, missiles with ranges exceeding the UN-mandated 150-kilometer limit. However, the report states that Iraq only produced one type of prohibited missile, which Baghdad began destroying after UN inspectors ordered it to do so. Iraq was developing three other longer-range missile systems, the report says, but none were produced and “only one reportedly passed the design phase.” These systems were described in previous ISG reports. (See ACT, November 2003.)

Duelfer further stated that Iraq “drew the line” at developing WMD warheads for the missiles “so long as sanctions remained.” Duelfer noted that, prior to the Gulf War, Iraq built warheads containing biological and chemical agents within months. According to the report, Hussein distinguished between missiles and weapons of mass destruction, believing that the United Nations would allow greater ranges for the former if he eliminated the latter.

The ISG also resolved a long-standing question of whether Iraq retained Soviet-supplied Scud missiles after 1991. According to the report, there is “no evidence” Iraq did so.

Additionally, Duelfer told the committee that Iraq had tested unmanned aerial vehicles with ranges exceeding UN limits. He added, however, that these vehicles were not for delivering WMD—another administration pre-war claim. A September UN inspectors’ report found no evidence for the former claim but concurred with the latter. (See ACT, October 2004.)

The report’s findings are consistent with those of the UN inspectors, who returned to Iraq in November 2002 and remained until the invasion. The report does, however, describe WMD-related activities that the Iraqis failed to declare to the United Nations, such as several missile research programs and attempts to procure related materials.


The report also sheds some light on Iraq’s uneven cooperation with inspectors, who first worked in Iraq from 1991 until being withdrawn in 1998. According to the report, Hussein attempted “to cooperate with the [United Nations] and have sanctions lifted” while preserving “the ability to eventually reconstitute” the weapons.

For example, Baghdad turned over a large quantity of documents to the United Nations following top-WMD official Hussein Kamel’s 1995 defection and then ordered at least some Iraqi officials to cooperate with the inspectors. However, the documents proved that Iraq had previously deceived the inspectors, which “destroyed the international community’s confidence in the credibility of follow-on Iraqi declarations of cooperation,” the report says.

Indeed, the conflict between Iraq and the inspectors escalated as the latter continued to demand additional documents. “From this experience,” the report continues, “Iraq learned to equate cooperation with [the inspectors] with increased scrutiny, prolonged sanctions, and the threat of war.” Hussein eventually decided to undermine the sanctions because he believed that getting them lifted by complying with the UN resolutions was impossible, the report says.

Iraq, however, made a greater effort to comply with the inspections that resumed in 2002 than U.S. officials claimed at the time. For example, the report states that Baghdad instructed military leaders to “‘cooperate completely’ with the inspectors” because such cooperation was Iraq’s “best hope for sanctions relief.”

Additionally, Iraq did not attempt to intercept inspectors’ communications, as Washington claimed. Iraq did have minders accompanying the inspectors to prevent them from gathering intelligence, which Iraq believed they had done in the past, the report says. UN inspectors had cooperated closely with U.S. intelligence during the 1990s.

Secretary of State Colin Powell told the Security Council in early February 2003 that Iraq attempted tap the inspectors’ “communications.” A month later, he stated that “Hussein has issued new guidance to key officials saying everything possible must be done” to ensure inspectors did not find prohibited weapons.

The report may also explain some pre-war intelligence failures, revealing that Iraq often moved conventional military assets to hide them from potential attacks, but U.S. intelligence often assumed Iraq was actually moving illicit weapons.

Despite pre-war U.S. claims that inspections could not succeed because of Iraqi intransigence, the report states that, “contrary to expectations, [the] ISG’s ability to gather information was in most ways more limited” than the inspectors’ because of the destruction and looting of weapons sites, the increasingly dangerous insurgency, and the reluctance of WMD personnel to speak.

Did Iraqi Materials, Experts Escape?

Paul Kerr

The unstable security conditions that have reigned in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion may have allowed both unconventional weapons experts and weapons-related equipment to escape, according to U.S. and international officials.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei wrote in an Oct.1 letter to the UN Security Council that the agency is “concerned about the widespread and apparently systematic dismantlement that has taken place at sites previously relevant to Iraq’s nuclear program.” Manufacturing equipment and related materials that could assist another country’s nuclear weapons efforts have been removed, the letter said, adding that entire buildings containing such equipment have been dismantled.

A Western diplomat told Arms Control Today Oct.19 that the removal of the equipment and buildings took place “at least through the entirety of 2003,” a period during which the United States exercised formal control over Iraq prior to the establishment of an interim government this past June. At that time, the United States removed nuclear material that posed a potential proliferation threat from Iraq’s Tuwaitha nuclear complex. (See ACT, September 2004.)

ElBaradei’s letter also points out that Security Council resolutions oblige Iraq to report inventory changes at sites subject to agency monitoring, but neither Iraq nor the United States has submitted such reports.

ElBaradei wrote a similar letter to the Security Council in April (see ACT, May 2004), but an IAEA official indicated in an Oct. 19 interview that new evidence has emerged suggesting that the removal of equipment and related materials was “apparently widespread and systematic.”

Tuwaitha contained nuclear material subject to routine IAEA agency safeguards prior to the invasion. The agency has visited the site twice since the invasion, but no proliferation-sensitive material has been found missing.

In addition, Iraq notified the IAEA Oct. 10 of the disappearance after April 2003 of more than 340 metric tons of dual-use conventional high explosives that were subject to agency monitoring prior to the invasion. The explosives can be used in implosion-type nuclear weapons to compress a core of plutonium or uranium to start a nuclear chain reaction. The IAEA last inventoried the stockpiles in January 2003 and spot-checked a portion of them in March 2003.

Other reports from UN inspectors have described in detail the export of materials from Iraq, including missile engines that were associated with Baghdad’s past weapons programs. (See ACT, October 2004.)

Department of State spokesperson Richard Boucher acknowledged during an Oct. 12 press briefing that Washington is concerned that “some material might have gotten out into the market immediately after the war.” However, he added that IAEA visits and Iraq’s development of export controls should “prevent any further leakage.”

Iraq’s interim science and technology minister, Rashad Omar, told the Associated Press Oct.13 that Iraq now has control over its former weapons sites.


The ongoing insurgency in Iraq has also slowed U.S. efforts to redirect Iraqi scientists and other personnel previously associated with Iraq’s nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs. A State Department official told Arms Control Today Oct.18 that these efforts are “progressing more slowly than we would like them to” because of the adverse security conditions.

David Kay, former CIA special adviser to the U.S.-led weapons inspectors, told Arms Control Today in March that some scientists with whom Washington wanted to speak had left the country.

According to the State Department official, the programs have the “overwhelming majority” of relevant Iraqi personnel “identified and engaged.”

Several efforts are underway to redirect former Iraqi weapons personnel. The State Department is in the process of setting up an Iraqi International Center for Science and Industry. That center is tasked with identifying relevant Iraqi personnel and facilitating the development and funding of projects designed to aid Iraqi reconstruction efforts. The center was initially funded with a $2 million grant from the State Department’s Nonproliferation and Disarmament Fund and has access to an additional $2 million. (See ACT, January/February 2004.)

In addition, the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has a similar program to be implemented by an international group of scientists. The NNSA announced in June that the project has completed a survey of Iraq’s “science and technology priorities.” NNSA spokesperson Kim Krueger told Arms Control Today Oct. 25 that two pilot projects concerning water resources and public health are to be completed before the end of the year. (See ACT, April 2004.)

Another program, the Iraqi Nonproliferation Programs Foundation, was set up by the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in June. According to the CPA order establishing the program, the foundation was created to develop and finance projects to provide former Iraqi weapons of mass destruction personnel with “opportunities to redirect their expertise to transparent peaceful civilian activities.” The foundation’s mission has not yet been “entirely defined,” the State Department official said.

The foundation received $37.5 million from the Development Fund for Iraq, which the UN Security Council set up for Iraqi reconstruction.

Iraq and the Value of On-Site Inspections

Edward Ifft

In the dramatic speech Secretary of State Colin Powell made to the UN Security Council on Iraq and its alleged weapons of mass destruction on Feburary 5, 2003, a key piece of the evidence presented was images of decontamination trucks at a presumed chemical weapons facility. This was offered as proof that Iraq both possessed chemical weapons and was attempting to deceive inspectors from the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), the body charged by the Security Council with carrying out inspections in Iraq. It turned out that the vehicles were likely water trucks—not that unusual in a desert land—that inspectors had earlier seen up close at that facility.

Other pieces of evidence—a “truck caravan” near a facility thought to be related to biological weapons, drone aircraft, suspicious activity at a ballistic missile factory, and so on—were items about which inspectors already had, or could probably have relatively easily obtained convincing explanations.

Indeed, although Powell’s presentation was front-page news around the country and the world, less attention was paid to information that the UN’s chief weapons inspectors, Hans Blix, head of UNMOVIC, and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei provided a week later to the Security Council.

As the country strives to digest the recent Iraq Survey Group (ISG) report by Charles Duelfer and implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission with respect to the gathering and use of information related to weapons of mass destruction, part of this effort could usefully be given to gaining a better understanding of the possibilities, limitations, and proper use of on-site inspections (OSI). The public, the media, and government officials must avoid the twin perils of becoming disillusioned by expecting too much from OSI, on the one hand, and gaining false confidence from it, on the other.

Inspections are but one imperfect tool in the arms control and nonproliferation toolbox, but as the Iraq example shows, they can play a singularly useful role in assessing the credibility of intelligence gathered by other means, such as satellites. Policymakers need to pay greater heed to the potential benefits of OSI in promoting confidence that legal controls are working and in promoting global security. As Jacques Baute, the head of the IAEA effort in Iraq wrote recently, such inspection “benefits the international community, which receives the level of assurance it seeks, and also the inspected party, which is given the opportunity to demonstrate the reality of its compliance.”[1]

Over the years, these tools have been applied to a growing number of situations, from stabilizing the arms control competition between the United States and the Soviet Union (and later Russia) to multilateral organizations such as the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to specialized regimes such as the Container Security Initiative. Inspections are now so widespread and routine that teams of Russians and international inspectors visiting U.S. facilities do not merit even cursory notice in local media.

For most of the past half-century, at a time when it was being rejected by the Soviet Union, the United States argued that OSI was the sine qua non for arms control. Now, however, even as OSI is more widely accepted and its tools sharper, U.S. and some foreign officials appear conflicted about the value of such visits. Just before UNMOVIC began its work in Iraq, Vice President Dick Cheney called such inspections “at best useless.” One has the impression that in some countries little weight is given to the efforts and conclusions of inspection regimes if they do not support other political objectives. At the same time, any disruption of an inspection regime, as we have seen when the IAEA was forced out of North Korea, can quickly lead to an international crisis.

The Iraq Experience

The greatest attention has of course been focused on inspections in Iraq. This is a unique case in which inspectors had almost unlimited powers, including the right to immediately destroy illegal objects and facilities. Although not a model likely to be repeated often, it is nevertheless instructive.[2] The post-war ISG arrived at essentially the same result as the IAEA Iraq Action Team and UNMOVIC, even though the ISG had greater resources, greater access, and more time. Thus, it seems clear that the criticism directed at UNMOVIC and the IAEA for their work in Iraq was not justified.[3] Nevertheless, the credibility of the inspection regime appears to have taken a blow.

Even after public discussion gradually moved from statements about the failures of the inspection efforts to failures in intelligence, the media have consistently spoken of the failure of inspectors to find weapons of mass destruction. This unfortunate characterization seems to have created in the public mind the impression that the inspectors or the inspection mechanisms themselves were somehow incompetent or corrupt. To be accurate, however, if the inspectors did not find weapons of mass destruction because they were not there or were present only in very small quantities, there was no failure. Indeed, if an inspection can provide reasonable assurance that some suspected objects or activities are absent, it is a success and not a failure—this has long been seen as a major purpose of inspections.

Of course, it would also be incorrect to claim that the inspections proved the absence of these weapons. Here we encounter one of the dilemmas in evaluating OSI. History has shown that inspections can deliver complete confidence that some object has been eliminated or converted according to agreed procedures. Nevertheless, even though inspections can certainly prove that something existed or was disarmed, it can never prove the absence of something. Demanding that it do so will inevitably result in disappointment and confusion. Those who negotiated our numerous OSI regimes understood this quite well. A useful corollary, which Blix noted the United States failed to observe in Iraq, is that “you cannot say that, simply because something is unaccounted for, it exists.”[4]

Another obvious limitation of OSI is that an individual inspection only provides information about a specific location at a particular time. One must be very careful about extrapolations to an entire country. Regardless, an effective inspection can allow for some useful generalizations. For example, it allows one to say with confidence that an identifiable activity did not occur at a particular facility during a certain time period and could not occur for a specified time in the future. Confidence also can be built up using satellites and other national technical means (NTM), interviewing scientists, defectors, and current and former civilian and military officials of the inspected country, as well as conducting a statistically significant number of inspections.

A common problem illustrated by the Iraq situation is the occasional confusion between the effectiveness of inspections themselves and the effectiveness of the response to evidence of noncompliance uncovered by inspections. Undoubtedly, a major problem in arms control today is the reluctance of the UN Security Council, the implementing bodies of various agreements, and individual states-parties themselves, to take effective action when serious violations of legal commitments are discovered.

Of course, the challenge is choosing the action that will effectively solve the problem rather than worsen it. A vivid illustration of this dilemma is found in the differing approaches to dealing with Iran’s nuclear activities. It is certainly possible to point to shortcomings in specific verification systems, although these are generally systemic and not due to careless work by inspectors, but these should not be confused with shortcomings in enforcement mechanisms.

A re-evaluation is needed in cases in which OSI is considered by some to have failed, for example, in Iraq and North Korea. In retrospect, the decade-long work of the United Nations in Iraq (UNMOVIC and its predecessor, the UN Special Commission, or UNSCOM) and the IAEA has been successful. In the cases where inspectors were unable to determine exactly what was going on or there were attempts to deceive them, the inspectors correctly understood that their knowledge was incomplete and deception was being used and reported this to the authorities. If the authorities fail to take appropriate actions in response, it is not a failure of the inspectors or the regimes they are implementing, but of political will.

Apparently, Iraq did not proceed with certain illegal weapons programs because of the fear that they would be caught by inspectors. This is a dramatic illustration of the deterrent effect of inspections. It is widely believed that OSI has a deterrent effect on would-be cheaters, but how strong this is is impossible to quantify. Although the history of OSI is not replete with spectacular discoveries of violations, one reason for this may be that effective regimes can have a powerful deterrent effect.

Lessons Learned, Future Tasks

On-site inspection has become a key component of most arms control agreements and is likely here to stay. Many more examples of the use of inspections could be cited, but those discussed illustrate the variety and effectiveness of the tools available. Although certainly easier to implement in a bilateral context, verification is increasingly becoming a multilateral affair. These mechanisms are put under great stress when states-parties engage in illegal or ambiguous behavior and then allow only grudging cooperation with inspectors (Iraq, Iran, North Korea). Short of war, however, there is little alternative to continuing to use these mechanisms and make them more effective. To accomplish this, individual states need to do a better job of providing timely intelligence information to the inspection systems. It should be possible to assist inspectors in knowing where to look and for what to look while protecting sensitive sources and methods. We will need all of our experience, patience, and creativity to deal successfully with the problem of keeping nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons out of the hands of uncooperative states, as well as stateless terrorist groups.

One important step that will strengthen the role of inspections in the fight against proliferation will be widespread implementation of the 1997 Model Additional Protocol intended to improve the design of safeguards against the use of civilian nuclear technology for nuclear weapons programs.

This protocol, variants of which have been signed by 86 countries and ratified by 61 of them,[5] will give inspectors access to all parts of a state’s nuclear fuel cycle as well as any other location nuclear material may be present. It also allows access to all buildings on a nuclear site, as well as the collection of environmental samples at locations beyond declared locations.

One idea that has recently surfaced and is apparently favored by the New Agenda Coalition[6] and some other states is to establish and train an international team of versatile inspectors under UN auspices. Such a team, which could evolve from the UNMOVIC apparatus, which still exists, could be sent out on short notice to carry out urgent ad hoc inspections anywhere in the world. Under such a scheme, nuclear issues would presumably generally be left to the IAEA and chemical issues left to the OPCW. The United States would likely wish to retain the option of using its own personnel for certain special inspections when appropriate, but such a system might appeal to many smaller countries

A mixed system might be effective in dealing with Iran and North Korea. The IAEA has considerable experience and expertise in both and should certainly play a key role in any future verification regime. At the same time, some special or ad hoc inspections could be useful. In the case of North Korea, it is even possible that countries could draw upon the work that was done during the 1990s in preparation for implementing the unfulfilled 1992 Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

It is imperative that inspection organizations, especially multilateral ones, have the highest standards of integrity. Thus, these organizations must be kept free of any improper intelligence activities or any failure to properly protect proprietary information unrelated to compliance issues that they may acquire in the course of their duties. A major reason for the reluctance of biotechnology firms to accept an intrusive verification regime for the Biological Weapons Convention is concern that valuable proprietary information will be leaked to competitors. Likewise, some countries, especially those with little experience with inspections and major threats to their security, have been concerned that, as a result of inspections, critical national security or commercial information unrelated to their treaty compliance may find its way to other states. Blix showed that he understood this issue when he declared that, if he found that any members of his staff were working for “other agencies,” he would “throw them out, and I think they will understand why.”[7]

A final, interesting lesson from the Iraq experience concerns the search for records. Some of the information that inspectors received in Iraq came from examining Iraqi records. In some cases, these were actually seized and physically removed. Although such activities have long been an important part of law enforcement investigations, they had not previously played a role in arms control inspections.

Gaining access to paper files and computer records could be a powerful tool in verification, but it also places inspectors and inspected parties in a very difficult position. A widespread search and seizure of records creates a situation in which there may be a significant possibility of gaining access to sensitive information completely unrelated to the compliance issue under investigation. The situation is made even more awkward if the language of the material is unfamiliar to most of the inspectors. Attempts by the inspected party to deny access to records said to be unrelated to the question at hand would clearly raise suspicions to a high level.

On the other hand, if inspectors stumble upon sensitive but irrelevant information, for example, defense plans, financial information, personal leadership matters, etc., how should they deal with the situation, and how can the inspected party be assured that such information will be protected? Some of the more outrageous behavior of the Iraqis during the UNSCOM era might have resulted from just such situations. Although such situations may be rare in the future, giving some thought to the legal and practical issues involved would be useful.

The body of experience we now have shows the negative consequences of overreliance upon any single source of intelligence, be it OSI, NTM, defectors, or declarations by states or institutions. These are all potentially useful sources of information but are most likely to lead to reliable and accurate conclusions when used together in a symbiotic fashion

Still, effective inspection regimes, of which we now have many, can make a major contribution to international peace and security. Coupled with greater transparency and more effective responses to violations, they can help the world find its way to a proper balance between “trust” and “verify.”


1. Jacques Baute, “Timeline Iraq: Challenges and Lessons Learned From Nuclear Inspections,” IAEA Bulletin, June 2004.

2. For an account of inspections in Iraq from 1991 to 1998, see International Institute for Strategic Studies, “Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction: A Net Assessment,” 2002. See also “Iraq: A Chronology of UN Inspections and an Assessment of Their Accomplishments,” Arms Control Today, October 2002, pp. 13-23. For an account of inspections in Iraq in 2002-2003, see Hans Blix, Disarming Iraq (New York: Pantheon Books, 2004).

3. A summary of criticisms is given in Joseph Cirincione, Jessica T. Mathews, and George Perkovich, “WMD in Iraq: Evidence and Implications,” 2004, pp. 45-46. See Charles Duelfer, “The Inevitable Failure of Inspections in Iraq,” Arms Control Today, September 2002.

4. “Getting It Right the Next Time: An Interview With Hans Blix,” Arms Control Today, July/August 2004, pp. 14-17.

5. International Atomic Energy Agency, “Strengthened Safeguards System: Status of Additional Protocols,” October 13, 2004.

6. The New Agenda Coalition was launched in 1998 by the foreign ministers of eight non-nuclear nations—Ireland, Brazil, Egypt, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Slovenia, and Sweden—with the purpose of pressuring the nuclear weapons states to fulfill the obligation they undertook in Article VI of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to eliminate nuclear arsenals. The coalition officially consists of seven non-nuclear nations: Ireland, Brazil, Egypt, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and Sweden.

7. “Anticipating Inspections: UNMOVIC Readies Itself for Iraq,” Arms Control Today, July/August 2000, p. 5.



The Universe of On-Site Inspections

As on-site inspection (OSI) has gradually gained acceptance around the world, thousands of inspections have been successfully implemented in a wide variety of circumstances and under many different arms control regimes. Nonetheless, certain practices have emerged.

Formal OSI regimes generally contain important provisions on the status of inspectors, which generally draw upon the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. They also specify a host of details, such as certification of inspectors, entry and exit points, equipment to be allowed and procedures for its use, timelines, procedures for escort by nationals of the host country, communications, provisions for lodging and meals, financial matters, and resolution of disputes.

Formal regimes also generally establish bodies to deal with implementation issues related to OSI or other matters. For example, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) includes the Joint Compliance and Inspection Commission, which normally meets in Geneva twice a year. Other agreements led to the formation of similar bodies, which help remove pressure from inspectors in the field to settle all controversial issues on the spot.

National governments also generally institute or designate an agency responsible for conducting inspections and providing escorts for inspections on its own territory. In the United States, the On-Site Inspection Agency was created in 1988 to implement the OSI portions of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and gradually was assigned similar responsibilities for later agreements. It was incorporated into the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) in 1998, and today, the On-Site Inspection Directorate of DTRA has more than 600 employees. Other countries have similar organizations, but none approach the size of the DTRA effort.

Inspections can either be routine (conducted according to an agreed schedule or quota) or challenge (conducted to clarify some suspicious or ambiguous situation). Some inspections such as those that monitor conversion or elimination activities, are scheduled well in advance. Others are conducted on short notice, to minimize the possibility of hiding illegal activities.

If an inspection regime is to preserve and enhance confidence, it must be designed in such a way that it protects the legitimate rights of the inspecting and inspected parties. Specifically, the inspecting party needs to have sufficient access to provide confidence that the agreed obligations are being fulfilled. At the same time, the inspected party should be protected from unwarranted intelligence activities or unreasonable interference with its normal activities. Arms control regimes are generally successful when they find this balance.

Although inspections are now commonplace in the countries of NATO and the former Warsaw Pact, other parts of the world remain skeptical of the benefits. For example, some countries argue that they have “few secrets” and therefore must guard them vigorously and cannot become more transparent or allow intrusive inspections. Treaty compliance, however, can be demonstrated without leaving oneself “as naked as Adam,” to use Nikita Khrushchev’s colorful phrase.

OSI Regimes

Much of our current expertise about inspections derives from the arms control treaties painstakingly crafted by the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

The 1987 INF Treaty, with its meticulous set of rules and procedures for OSI, became the model for later agreements, both bilateral and multilateral.[1] That pact required the United States and the Soviet Union to eliminate and permanently forswear all of their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500-5,500 kilometers. It called for five types of intrusive inspections and permitted perimeter and portal continuous monitoring (PPCM) at one site in each country. At Russia’s Votkinsk site, U.S. inspectors routinely took X-ray images of missile canisters containing Russian ICBMs. The images allowed U.S. officials to determine if permitted missiles, rather than banned SS-20s, were leaving the factory. Russian officials were able to monitor a similar U.S. plant near Salt Lake City that had been involved in producing the banned Pershing II missile.[2]

Although all the INF systems were dismantled or converted by 1991 in accordance with the terms of the treaty, inspections continued until 2001 in what was probably a case of verification overkill. During the 13 years of INF inspections, a total of 851 inspections were carried out. Roughly 60 percent of these were carried out by U.S. inspectors at 130 sites in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. Roughly 40 percent were carried out by the other parties at 31 sites in the United States and the five western European basing countries (the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Italy).

The 1994 START I, in addition to reducing deployed strategic nuclear delivery vehicles (ICBM and submarine-launched ballistic missile launchers and heavy bombers), also succeeded in reducing the warheads on these delivery vehicles. Thus “accountable warheads” (multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles, single re-entry vehicles, heavy bomber armament) for the United States and four former Soviet republics (Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan) were reduced by more than 40 percent, to 6,000 for each side. Ballistic missile throw-weight (lifting power), in which the Soviet Union had a 3-to-1 advantage, also was reduced to 3,600 metric tons for each side.

START provides for 12 types of OSI, and its inspection protocol runs well over 100 pages. There is also a massive data exchange to aid both inspectors and national technical means. This Memorandum of Understanding on data is updated every six months. It is supplemented by a significant number of notifications regarding numbers, locations, movements, and other aspects of the sides’ strategic forces, which are exchanged on a day-to-day basis among the Nuclear Risk Reduction Centers of the parties. Inspections are continuing successfully under START at the rate of about two per month. These consist primarily of data update inspections at declared facilities to monitor the status of treaty-limited items and re-entry vehicle inspections to verify that the number of re-entry vehicles on deployed ballistic missiles does not exceed the number allowed for that type of missile, plus occasional inspections of other types.[3]

Inspections under the 1990 Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty have verified the successful elimination of more than 70,000 pieces of military equipment. An interesting feature of its inspection process has been the gradual evolution of procedures that allow an inspector from one country to head a team including inspectors from other countries. For example, all inspections led by the United States have the participation of inspectors from other NATO allies and even non-NATO countries. Under the CFE Treaty, DTRA had conducted 264 inspections and 168 reduction inspections and escorted 130 inspections of U.S. facilities as of January 2004.[4]

Multilateral Regimes

The pioneering multilateral arms control inspection regime was established by the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), under which the five nuclear-weapon states commit to pursue general and complete disarmament, while the non-nuclear-weapon states agree to forgo developing or acquiring nuclear weapons. The NPT incorporated, under Article III, a system of safeguards applied by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to prevent diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons. The IAEA continues to play a crucial role in this field, although until recently it has been handicapped by the fact that its monitoring activities were only applied to declared facilities.

The 1997 Model Additional Protocol, once it is widely accepted, should help to close this unfortunate loophole, which has been exploited by certain countries and thus weakened the nuclear nonproliferation regime in dangerous ways. This addition to a country’s safeguard agreement gives inspectors access to all parts of a state’s nuclear fuel cycle, as well as any other location where nuclear material may be present. It also allows access to all buildings on a nuclear site, as well as collection of environmental samples at locations beyond declared locations.

The 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention established the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which plays a key role in assuring that existing chemical weapons are being destroyed according to agreed procedures and that new chemical weapons are not being created. The OPCW has conducted more than 1,300 inspections in more than 50 countries. Like the IAEA, the OPCW has a professional staff of inspectors who are responsible to the organization and not their own governments. In both organizations, raw data obtained on inspections is carefully guarded to give confidence to the parties that sensitive national security and proprietary information will be protected. Still, the OPCW has undergone some controversy and turmoil in the past, including a budget crisis in 2001, and has not yet been tested by any requests for challenge inspections to clarify ambiguous situations.

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), while not yet in force, establishes a unique worldwide verification system of 337 facilities, many of which are already operating. (See ACT, October 2004.) Less well known is the fact that the CTBT also provides for an ambitious challenge inspection system. This is being worked out by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) in Vienna. The work is proceeding slowly in some cases because of the uncertainty regarding the CTBT’s entry into force, the caution of countries with little experience with OSI, and the fact that the United States no longer provides support for the organization’s OSI work.

Still, if the CTBT comes into force, inspectors would employ a variety of sophisticated types of equipment to detect the seismic, radiological, and other indications of a nuclear explosion. The CTBTO is procuring equipment, preparing operational manuals, and training prospective inspectors from many countries, although the treaty’s entry into force is uncertain. One complication is that, because all inspections will essentially be of the challenge variety, it is difficult to predict how frequent they would be and thus how many trained inspectors and how much equipment will be needed.

Other Regimes

As the acceptance of OSI has increased, there has been a proliferation of relatively short-notice, ad hoc inspections to deal with specific situations. These generally do not have the benefit of detailed legal arrangements, but many have been quite useful in providing information to clarify ambiguous events or to diffuse tense situations. The United Nations has organized a number of these, for example, in Asia to investigate “yellow rain,” in Iran to investigate the use of chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq War, and in the Caucasus to investigate charges of the use of chemical weapons in Nagorno-Karabakh. In the late 1980s, the United States and the Soviet Union successfully used ad hoc OSI visits to clarify ambiguous situations that had arisen in connection with arms control agreements in force or under negotiation. Each side visited certain radar installations of the other side, and a U.S. team visited suspected “submarine tunnels” in the USSR. In 1992 the United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia agreed to use OSI to resolve some uncertainties regarding compliance by Russia with the Biological Weapons Convention. U.S. teams have also gone to North Korea to see underground facilities that were suspected of being associated with illegal nuclear activities.[5]

The war on terrorism has recently led the United States to create what might be termed a specialized inspection regime: the Container Security Initiative, a series of measures designed to move the screening of shipping containers further back in the supply chain than traditional customs inspections. With more than 90 percent of the world’s international cargo transported in these ubiquitous containers, the danger that terrorists might use them to infiltrate nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons into the United States have become obvious. The new initiative has rapidly resulted in agreements with some 20 of the world’s largest ports and is leading to a layered defense of better documentation; passive detectors; active detectors; and, when necessary, the opening of the containers themselves.[6]

The line between OSI and peacekeeping can be rather blurred. When peacekeepers get involved in activities such as inspecting military activities, searching for and destroying weapons, and so on, what they are doing could fairly be described as OSI. One long-running operation that makes an interesting case study is the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), which was created to help implement the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. The MFO is a unique model for peacekeeping completely outside the UN system, reporting directly to the treaty parties and including the participation of 11 countries as varied as the United States, Colombia, and Fiji. Its tasks are to operate checkpoints, observation posts, and reconnaissance patrols in the Sinai peninsula; carry out periodic verification of the agreement, with additional verification within 48 hours after a request from either party; and to assure freedom of navigation through the Strait of Tiran. Although much of the Middle East has been in turmoil, the Sinai has remained peaceful.[7]


1. Edward Ifft, “Verifying Nuclear Arms Control and Disarmament,” in Verification Yearbook 2001, eds. Trevor Findlay and Oliver Meier (London: Corporate & Commercial Printing, Ltd., 2001), pp. 26-27.

2. Joseph P. Harahan, “On-Site Inspections Under the INF Treaty,” OSIA Treaty History Series, 1993.

3. David B. Thomson, A Guide to the Nuclear Arms Control Treaties (Los Alamos, NM: Los Alamos Historical Society, 2001), chap. 7.

4. Joseph P. Harahan and John C. Kuhn III, “On-Site Inspections Under the CFE Treaty,” OSIA Treaty History Series, 1996.

5. Edward Ifft, “The Use of On-Site Inspection in the Avoidance and Settlement of Arms Control Disputes,” in Avoidance and Settlement of Arms Control Disputes: Vol. II, Arms Control and Disarmament Law, ed. Julie Dahlitz (New York: United Nations, 1994), pp. 16-19. See George L. Rueckert, On-Site Inspection in Theory and Practice (Westport, CN: Praeger, 1998).

6. For a discussion of the Container Security Initiative and the concerns which led to it, see Stephen Flynn, America the Vulnerable (New York: HarperCollins, 2004), chap. 5.

7. The Multinational Force and Observers, Rome, 1999; “Annual Report of the Director General, Multinational Force and Observers,” January 2002, found at http://www.mfo.org/files/Annual%20Report%202002%20-%20web.pdf.




The Long Road to On-Site Inspections

The effort to achieve broad acceptance of on-site inspection (OSI) is a story of high diplomacy, creativity, and determination through several U.S. administrations. The ambitious but somewhat naïve Baruch Plan, put forward by the United States in 1946 as a result of the Acheson-Lilienthal Report, was the first great effort to control nuclear weapons.[1]

The Baruch Plan called for unlimited inspections of all atomic energy-related facilities by personnel from an international inspection organization, as well as complete international ownership and control over fissionable materials. It was rejected by Soviet leaders, whose progress in developing nuclear weapons was not fully understood at the time. Soviet leaders soon developed the rationale that OSI could be used to monitor disarmament, but not armament. In 1948, Jacob Malik, the Soviet Union’s permanent representative to the United Nations, stated a view that would guide Soviet policy for many years: “It would be folly for the USSR to disclose everything and then have others invent conditions as a pretext for dropping the whole question of armaments after they had found out everything they wanted to know.”[2]

The Soviet obsession with secrecy, combined with the fact that the United States was sometimes not above using proposals for OSI to embarrass the Soviets, made progress almost impossible for years.[3] W. Averell Harriman, a long-time U.S. interlocutor with Moscow, recalled that Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev met his arguments for OSI to verify a comprehensive test ban with one of his typical earthy analogies, saying, “You remind me of a cat saying that he would only eat mice and not the bacon lying in the room.” He added that he would not trust such a cat, “as it would undoubtedly snatch the bacon when no one was in the room...he knew what cats were like.”[4] It is interesting that Khrushchev himself later regretted Soviet intransigence on OSI during this period.[5]

During the 1960s, the development of satellites and other forms of national technical means (NTM) of verification gradually made OSI less essential for monitoring certain kinds of constraints. President Lyndon B. Johnson, trying to convince the Soviets that negotiating an end to the most dangerous forms of military competition would be in the interest of both sides, informed General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev that the United States would be prepared to place “maximum reliance” upon NTM, that is, the decades-long insistence upon OSI could be set aside, at least for certain kinds of constraints. This was probably a key factor in the Soviet agreement to begin the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT) negotiations in 1969, during the Nixon administration. For the next 10 years, difficult but productive SALT I and II negotiations proceeded without recourse to OSI.

In the area of multilateral negotiations, however, OSI gained fairly rapid acceptance. The Antarctic Treaty of 1959, the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty of 1968, the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, and the more ambitious Stockholm Accord of 1986 all permitted some form of inspections. In addition, the U.S.-USSR Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty of 1976 and its subsequent protocols provided for quite intrusive inspections under certain circumstances. Nevertheless, none of these agreements could be said to impinge upon vital interests or allow inspections of the most important weapons systems.

The Reagan administration from its early days placed much greater emphasis on verification, changing the stated U.S. goal from “adequate” to “effective” verification, although the distinction was never made clear.

Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in Moscow in the mid 1980s and he soon began to match Reagan’s rhetoric about effective verification. In January 1986, Gorbachev made his proposal for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons by 2000, accompanied by optimistic words about verification. He also addressed the old problem of verifying a ban on nuclear testing by declaring, “Any reference to verification as an obstacle to the establishment of a moratorium on nuclear explosions is totally groundless. We declare unequivocally that verification is no problem as far as we are concerned.”[6]

After showing some flexibility on OSI at the dramatic and contentious Reykjavik summit in October 1986,[7] Gorbachev moved the ball forward significantly again in his famous “European Common Home” speech. Speaking in Prague in April 1987, the Soviet leader said that “appropriate verification measures, including on-site inspections, must encompass the missiles and launchers remaining after the reductions, including those of combat duty and at other facilities—i.e., testing grounds, manufacturing plants, training centers, etc. Inspectors must be guaranteed access to the other side’s military bases on the territory of third countries. This is necessary to ensure absolute certainty that the agreement is really being fully observed.”[8] It was at last clear that OSI could be applied to operational systems and not used simply to verify the process of destruction. It was not long until the Soviet negotiators in Geneva were actually advocating forms of OSI the United States could not accept.

Events moved rapidly following this breakthrough. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty was signed in December 1987. It incorporated much of the verification regime proposed by the United States and became the model for later agreements. The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), signed in 1991, is even more intrusive and contains the most extensive OSI regime ever negotiated.

By 2000 it appeared inevitable that virtually all future arms control agreements would incorporate some form of OSI, until the United States pulled back in 2001 from efforts to incorporate a verification regime into the Biological Weapons Convention. The events of the last three years indicate that future efforts to use OSI will be examined and debated carefully on a case-by-case basis.


1. This discussion is adapted from a presentation the author prepared for the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies.

2. Timothy Pounds, “Proposals for On-Site Inspection Over the Years,” in Arms Control Verification and the New Role of On-Site Inspection, eds. Lewis A. Dunn and Amy E. Gordon (Lexington: Lexington Books, 1990), p.73.

3. For an account of this period, see Thomas Schmalberger, In Pursuit of a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty: A Guide to the Debate in the Conference on Disarmament (New York: United Nations, 1991), pp. 18-24. See also Anatoly Dobrynin, In Confidence: Moscow’s Ambassador to America’s Six Cold War Presidents (New York: Crown, 1995), p. 46.

4. W. Averell Harriman, America and Russia in a Changng World (New York: Doubleday, 1971), p. 94.

5. Strobe Talbott, Khrushchev Remembers (New York: Little, Brown & Co., 1974), pp. 537-538.

6. U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, “Documents on Disarmament,” 1986, p. 12.

7. Mikhail Gorbachev, “Statement at the Press Conference in Reykjavik,” in “Reykjavik Documents and Materials,” Novosti, 1987, pp. 6-9.

8. Mikhail Gorbachev, “For a Common European Home, for a New Way of Thinking” (speech, Prague, April 1987).


Edward Ifft is a retired State Department official who served as Deputy Director of the On-Site Inspection Agency and Senior Advisor to the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. The views expressed in this paper are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy of the U.S. Government. For more information on on-site inspections see the author's research paper on the subject.

New Iraq Weapons Report Undercuts Rationale for War, Administration's "Reconstitution" Claim Misleading



For Immediate Release: October 6, 2004

Press Contacts: Daryl Kimball, (202) 463-8270 x107; Paul Kerr, (202) 463-8270 x102

(Washington, D.C.): The new report by the second leader of the Iraq Survey Group, Charles Duelfer, confirms once again that the Bush administration vastly overstated the Iraqi weapons threat and that UN-mandated weapons inspections had effectively dismantled and contained Saddam’s capability to rebuild his weapons programs, according to leading arms control and intelligence experts.

“Duelfer’s report reinforces the major findings of his predecessor, David Kay, and the Senate Intelligence Committee, which make it clear that the White House ignored growing indications that key conclusions of the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate regarding Iraq’s alleged unconventional weapons programs were deeply flawed,” said Greg Thielmann. From 2000 to 2002, Thielmann headed the office in the Department of State’s intelligence bureau responsible for monitoring Iraqi weapons.

In the fall of 2002, analysts from the Departments of State and Energy strongly disputed the assertion that Iraq had acquired aluminum tubes to enrich uranium for weapons, while the CIA warned the president against the credibility of the claim that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa.

“Not only did the White House continue to use dubious intelligence assessments, but the president ignored the on-the-ground reports from the UN weapons inspectors, which cast further doubt on the administration’s claims,” said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

Prior to the U.S.-led invasion of March 2003, the UN-mandated weapons inspectors reported that they could not find evidence of either active nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons programs or stockpiles. They were also overseeing the dismantlement of prohibited missiles. Although the inspectors could not account for some discrepancies in Iraq’s declaration of its previous weapons programs and stockpiles, chief inspector Hans Blix warned against equating “unaccounted-for stockpiles with existing weapons.”

“Rather than ordering a new U.S. intelligence assessment, President Bush continued to mislead the American people by claiming two days before the invasion that ‘Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised,’” charged Thielmann.

Incredibly, during the Sept. 30 presidential debate, President Bush still misrepresented the situation in Iraq on the eve of the U.S.-British intervention. He asserted that without the invasion, “Saddam had the capability of making weapons, and he would have made weapons.”

“The bottom line is that Saddam’s capabilities were severely diminished by UN-mandated weapons inspections and international sanctions and they would have continued to contain him if Bush had not prematurely ended them,” said Kimball.

“Intelligence is meant to inform government decision-making, not to be invoked or discarded selectively to justify predetermined political decisions. It is time for the president to come clean with the American people and admit his errors,” concluded Thielmann.

# # #

The Arms Control Association is an independent, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to promoting public understanding of and support for effective arms control policies to address security threats posed by nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, as well as conventional arms. For ACA’s Iraq-related resources, visit <www.armscontrol.org/country/iraq/>


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