"No one can solve this problem alone, but together we can change things for the better." 

– Setsuko Thurlow
Hiroshima Survivor
June 6, 2016

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/>


Country Resources:

More U.S. Claims on Iraq WMD Rebutted

Paul Kerr

A recent report from the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) further undermines pre-war U.S. claims that Iraq was developing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) capable of delivering chemical and biological weapons. The report also notes that more material looted after the war from sites associated with Iraq’s past weapons programs has turned up in other countries.

The Aug. 27 report includes an analysis of information collected during the UN inspections that took place from late November 2002 until just before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. It concludes that there was “no technical evidence” that Iraq had been developing UAVs capable of delivering prohibited weapons or exceeding the 150-kilometer range permitted by UN Security Council resolutions.

The Security Council tasked UNMOVIC in 1999 with inspecting and supervising the destruction of Iraq’s prohibited weapons. UNMOVIC has not resumed inspections since the invasion began.

UNMOVIC assembled its UAV analysis in response to March testimony from Charles Duelfer, head adviser to the Iraq Survey Group (ISG). The ISG is the task force the U.S. government established after the 2003 invasion to search for Iraq’s suspected illicit weapons. Duelfer told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Iraq tested UAVs whose range “easily exceeded” 150 kilometers. (See ACT, May 2004.)

Before the war, U.S. officials had placed heavy emphasis on the UAV allegation as part of their contention that Iraq possessed prohibited weapons. The public version of an October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) stated that Iraq had “several development programs, including for a UAV that most analysts believe probably is intended to deliver biological warfare agents.” These vehicles “could threaten Iraq’s neighbors, U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf, and the United States if brought close to, or into, the U.S. Homeland,” the estimate added.

Additionally, Secretary of State Colin Powell told the UN Security Council in February 2003 that Iraq had several UAV programs intended to deliver chemical and biological weapons. These included converting MiG-21 and L-29 military aircraft into UAVs, as well as developing smaller UAVs. Powell also stated that Iraq failed to declare a UAV with a range of 500 kilometers to UNMOVIC. UN Security Council Resolution 1441, adopted in November 2002, required Iraq to disclose all of its prohibited weapons activities to the inspectors.

But a July Senate Intelligence Committee report found that the 2002 NIE’s assessment of Iraq’s UAV efforts did not accurately reflect either the available information regarding these vehicles or the judgments of “most analysts,” who believed the UAVs were for conventional missions.

The UNMOVIC report states that the L-29 project “appeared to have ceased in late 2001” and that inspectors found “no clear indication” that Iraq intended the aircraft to deliver chemical or biological agents. Similarly, the inspectors found no evidence that Iraq ever planned to modify any of its smaller UAVs to deliver biological weapons or achieve prohibited ranges.

As for Iraq’s MiG-21 program, a UNMOVIC official told Arms Control Today Sept. 22 that inspectors found no evidence contradicting Iraq’s claim that it ended the project, which began in 1990, after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. UNMOVIC inspectors were unable to verify information Iraq provided about the program in a March 2003 letter because it was received the day the invasion began, the report said.


The report outlined the commission’s ongoing investigation into the discovery of weapons-related materials in several locations outside Iraq. Both UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency have previously reported that sites associated with Iraq’s past weapons programs had been looted and destroyed.

The amount of material shipped out of Iraq appears substantial. According to the report, 130,000 tons of scrap metal passed though Jordan alone from June 2003 to June 2004, an amount comprising “only a small part of all scrap materials exported from Iraq” to other countries during that time. In addition, UNMOVIC experts were told that “a lot of high-quality industrial equipment” had been exported from Iraq, some of which “could include equipment subject to [UNMOVIC] monitoring,” the report said.

UNMOVIC experts are continuing to investigate sites in the Netherlands and Jordan where Iraqi missile engines subject to UN monitoring have been discovered. (See ACT, July/August 2004.)



IRAQ INTELLIGENCE FAILURES: Senate Panel Blasts Pre-War Intelligence

September 2004

By Paul Kerr

A Senate Intelligence Committee report released this summer critiquing the failure of the intelligence community to accurately portray Iraq’s pre-war weapons programs centered on a faulty October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE).

The NIE had stated that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons and, perhaps most worrying, was “reconstituting its nuclear weapons program.” In its more than 500-page July 9 report, the committee found that these judgments “either overstated, or were not supported by, the underlying intelligence reporting.” An NIE is supposed to be the entire intelligence community’s most authoritative assessment of a given subject.

Although the estimate contained numerous qualifiers and caveats, the panel report concluded that the intelligence community “did not accurately or adequately explain to policymakers the uncertainties behind the judgments.” The committee also faulted the CIA for sometimes failing to pay sufficient attention to other intelligence agencies’ dissenting views.

The report noted that the intelligence community was hampered by its lack of human intelligence sources in Iraq, arguing that the agency “relied too heavily on UN inspectors” who were in Iraq from 1991 until 1998. After the inspectors left, the United States had no human intelligence sources in the country familiar with Baghdad’s suspected weapons programs and, as a result, had to rely on unreliable defectors and foreign intelligence services, as well as other forms of intelligence.

According to the report, the intelligence collection problems were compounded by “a collective presumption” among intelligence officials that Iraq possessed prohibited weapons and related programs. This belief, reinforced by Iraq’s past weapons programs and efforts to conceal them, led these officials to “interpret ambiguous evidence” as conclusive proof of weapons efforts “as well as ignore or minimize” contrary evidence.

The committee’s review, which began in June 2003, is not yet complete. The second phase of the review will address such issues as the nature of intelligence activities conducted by the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, as well as whether policymakers’ public statements concerning the Iraqi threat were supported by intelligence reporting. (See ACT, March 2004.)

The extent to which administration officials’ judgments were influenced by the NIE remains unclear. For example, Vice President Dick Cheney stated prior to the NIE’s completion that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons and was developing nuclear weapons. Moreover, it was Congress, not the executive branch, that requested the NIE in September 2002.

According to the report, the committee found no evidence that administration officials attempted to “pressure analysts to change their judgments related to Iraq’s weapons…capabilities.” But three Democratic Senators noted in an “additional view” to the report that administration officials put “pressure” on intelligence analysts with their pre-NIE statements regarding Baghdad’s suspected illicit weapons and by “repetitively tasking” them to “revise their analytical judgments,” the committee said.

Acting Director of Central Intelligence John McLaughlin took issue with the notion that the NIE unduly influenced policymakers to support the invasion. He acknowledged in a July 14 appearance on CNN that the NIE’s “Key Judgments” were not adequately qualified, but also argued that “anyone who read this document from cover to cover would find in it ample material for serious debate.”

Nuclear Weapons

The NIE’s main judgments regarding Iraq’s nuclear weapons program had been debunked well before the invasion. In particular, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei reported to the UN Security Council approximately two weeks before the war that the inspectors had “found no evidence” that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program.

Uranium Imports

Bush administration officials claimed on several occasions that Iraq was attempting to acquire lightly processed uranium from African countries such as Niger. This was considered important because Baghdad’s lack of fissile material was viewed as one of the most serious obstacles to its ability to produce nuclear weapons.

The committee faulted the CIA for failing to obtain and examine the documents detailing the alleged uranium deal between Iraq and Niger until well after they became available. This delay led to continued agency assessments that Iraq was trying to procure uranium from Africa, despite the fact that analysts in the Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) believed as early as October 2002 that the documents were likely inauthentic. ElBaradei told the Security Council March 7, 2003, that the documents describing a suspected Iraq-Niger uranium deal were forged. The CIA issued a report four days later concurring with this assessment.

The committee concluded that the NIE “overstated what the intelligence community knew about Iraq’s possible procurement attempts.” The NIE stated that Iraq had been “vigorously trying to procure uranium ore and yellowcake” from African countries, including Niger. The NIE contained a dissenting opinion to this assessment from the INR, which termed reports of Iraq’s uranium procurement efforts “highly dubious.” The intelligence community also had evidence that other factors, such as an international consortium’s control of Niger’s uranium industry, made it unlikely that Niger would transfer uranium to Iraq. Several inquiries from U.S. officials also found scant evidence that such a deal was discussed.

Moreover, the INR dissent was dropped from some subsequent reports, including a CIA analysis of Iraq’s UN-mandated December 2002 declaration of its weapons programs. These omissions happened even though then-Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet previously told both Congress and the White House of doubts the CIA had about the reports’ accuracy.


In the run-up to war, administration officials also cited the NIE’s assessment that Iraq was attempting to obtain aluminum tubes and magnets for use in a gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program. They downplayed dissenting opinions from INR and the Department of Energy, which believed the tubes were for use in conventional rockets.

The committee concluded that “the information available to the Intelligence Community indicated that these tubes were intended to be used for an Iraqi conventional rocket program and not a nuclear program.” ElBaradei also reported in March 2003 that there was no evidence that Iraq was procuring the tubes for anything other than rockets.

The report is especially critical of the CIA’s analysis of this issue. For example, it states that the CIA erred when it assessed that “the dimensions of the aluminum tubes match those of a publicly available gas centrifuge design from the 1950s.” Additionally, the agency’s “initial reporting” of tests conducted on similar tubes to determine their suitability for centrifuges was “misleading and, in some cases, incorrect,” according to the report.

The committee also concluded that intelligence showed Iraq was trying to obtain magnets, but the intelligence “did not suggest that the materials were intended to be used in a nuclear program.” ElBaradei reported a similar conclusion to the Security Council.


The administration claimed that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was meeting with top nuclear weapons experts and that Iraq maintained the scientific know-how to produce nuclear weapons.

The committee report states that intelligence showed that Iraq had kept its nuclear personnel “trained and in positions that could keep their skills intact for eventual use in a reconstituted nuclear program” but adds that this intelligence did not show a “recent increase in activity,” suggesting that Iraq was reconstituting the program.

The report also says that the intelligence did not indicate the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission “was engaged in nuclear weapons-related work.”


Bush said in an October 2002 speech that Iraq was reconstructing buildings at sites where its nuclear weapons facilities had previously been located.

The NIE assessed that the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission was “expanding the infrastructure—research laboratories, production facilities, and procurement networks—to produce nuclear weapons,” but the committee concluded that this claim was “not supported by the intelligence.”

In March 2003, ElBaradei told the Security Council that “[t]here is no indication of resumed nuclear activities in those buildings that were identified…as being reconstructed or newly erected since 1998.”

Chemical and Biological Weapons
In addition, the report concluded that two important NIE assessments concerning Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons programs were inaccurate. These assessments were included in the report’s “Key Judgments” section.

The first is the assessment that “Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons.” The report says this conclusion “overstated both what was known and what intelligence analysts judged about Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons holdings.” Although the intelligence community had evidence, such as Iraq’s procurement of dual-use materials and its failures fully to account for its past weapons stockpiles, that could lead analysts reasonably to infer that Baghdad possessed chemical and biological weapons, it “did not have enough information to state with certainty that Iraq ‘has’ these weapons.”

The second is the judgment that “all key aspects—[research and development], production, and weaponization—of Iraq’s offensive [biological weapons] program are active and…more advanced than they were before the [Persian] Gulf War.” The report also concludes that this assessment “was not supported by the underlying intelligence.”

The committee report revealed that most of the intelligence underlying the NIE’s statement that “Baghdad has mobile transportable facilities for producing…biological weapons agents” came from unreliable Iraqi defectors. Intelligence analysts were concerned about these facilities because they could enable Iraq to conceal its biological weapons activities more easily.

In addition, the underlying intelligence reports regarding dry biological agents only indicated that Iraq either had or was attempting to acquire dual-use equipment that could be used for this purpose. Dry biological agents are more easily dispersed and handled than liquid biological agents.

Furthermore, the NIE’s judgment that Iraq had increased its stockpile of chemical weapons was based on flawed interpretations of the available data. For example, analysts judged that Iraq had increased its chemical stockpiles on the basis of reports that Iraq had been moving chemical munitions. However, these reports were based on the fact that tanker trucks were spotted at suspected chemical munitions sites. Although these trucks could be used as decontamination vehicles—a possible sign that chemical weapons are being moved—they could also be used for fire control.

UN inspectors also had told the Security Council prior to the invasion that there was no evidence that Baghdad had restarted its chemical and biological weapons programs.

Delivery Vehicles
The report concluded that the NIE’s assessments of Iraq’s development and possible retention of prohibited missiles were supported by the available intelligence. However, the report found that the NIE’s assessment that Iraq was developing an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) “probably intended to deliver biological warfare agents” did not accurately reflect either the available information regarding these vehicles or the judgments of “most analysts,” who believed the UAVs were for conventional missions.

Powell’s UN Speech
The report also discussed the intelligence behind Secretary of State Colin Powell’s February 2003 speech before the Security Council, which argued that Iraq continued to hide weapons from inspectors. (See ACT, March 2003.) Several pieces of intelligence in Powell’s presentation have proven inaccurate.

INR reviewed Powell’s presentation, although the CIA was the agency directly involved in composing it. Most but not all of the material to which INR objected was removed. For example, Powell told the council that Iraqi officials were moving “key files”…in cars “to avoid detection,” a claim INR analysts labelled “highly questionable.”


Senate Panel Blasts Pre-War Intelligence

IRAQ INTELLIGENCE FAILURES: "Serious Flaws" Found in British Dossier

September 2004

By Scott Stinson

The British intelligence on Iraq’s weapons capabilities used to justify the March 2003 invasion contained “serious flaws,” according to a committee charged with reviewing the assessments.

The committee, appointed by Prime Minister Tony Blair, released a July 14 report that details findings from its five-month investigation into the accuracy of British intelligence on prohibited Iraqi weapons programs prior to March 2003; any discrepancies between that intelligence and information gathered after the conflict; and, more generally, British intelligence coverage of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) trade in countries of concern.

Chaired by Lord Robin Butler, a former Blair cabinet member, the committee analyzed assessments made by the executive branch’s Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC). Those assessments formed the backbone of a September 2002 dossier that publicly underlined the British government’s case for “stronger action” against Iraq.

In its conclusions, the committee faulted “over-reliance” on questionable human intelligence sources, arguing that the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) failed to appropriately scrutinize and validate reports from human intelligence sources. The committee also criticized British officials for not clarifying the limitations and caveats of intelligence included in the dossier.

In one of the more politically charged conclusions, the committee criticized the claim included in the 2002 dossier that Iraq could deploy chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes of an order to do so. The committee commented that the 45-minute claim should not have been included without significant clarification. As it was written in the dossier, the claim “later led to suspicions that it had been included because of its eye-catching character,” the committee said. The 45-minute claim took center stage in the controversy surrounding the suicide of David Kelly, an arms expert drafting the dossier who reportedly told the BBC he had been ordered to include the 45-minute claim by an aide to Blair.

The committee found “no evidence of deliberate distortion” of JIC reports by government officials but did criticize the process by which the 2002 dossier was drafted. It questioned whether the JIC should have had responsibility for producing the document.

“More weight was placed on the intelligence than it could bear,” the committee stated.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Blair said that the Butler report was the fourth inquiry to show the government acted in “good faith” in gathering intelligence and making its case for war. But, he admitted, “the evidence of Saddam [Hussein’s] WMD was indeed less certain, less well-founded than was stated at the time.”

Blair’s opponents in Parliament argued the report demonstrates the prime minister’s government is no longer credible. Frustrated that no blame was assigned to an individual, they called the inquiry the “no blame” report.

"Serious Flaws" Found in British Dossier

IRAQ INTELLIGENCE FAILURES: Australian Intelligence Reviewed

September 2004

By Scott Stinson

A recent investigation into Australia’s intelligence agencies asserts that Australia’s intelligence organizations “failed to judge accurately the extent and nature” of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs before the 2003 war, but commends Australian analysts for exercising more skepticism than their British or American counterparts.

The Australian Inquiry, a committee charged with evaluating the effectiveness of the Australian Intelligence Community (AIC), released its final report July 20, marking the third review in less than a month to analyze pre-war intelligence gathering and assessment. The Inquiry followed similar reviews conducted by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee and the Butler Committee in the United Kingdom. According to the Australian report, the intelligence used to generate international support for the March 2003 invasion of Iraq “was thin, ambiguous, and incomplete.”

However, the Inquiry, which was requested by Prime Minister John Howard and headed by former intelligence official Phillip Flood, praised the AIC for having applied “healthy skepticism” to individual pieces of intelligence. On the whole, AIC issued assessments that were “more cautious and seem closer to the facts as we know them” than assessments made by U.S. and British intelligence agencies, according to the Inquiry’s final document, the Flood report.

Nonetheless, Kevin Rudd, a spokesperson for the opposition Labor Party, used the Flood report to criticize Howard for leading Australia to war in Iraq based on inadequate, second-hand intelligence from the United States and the United Kingdom.

“A core failing brought out by this report is that he [Howard] didn’t make sure the intelligence agencies were properly resourced to give an independent, Australian view of all this foreign product,” Rudd said in a July 23 radio interview.

Meanwhile, Howard defended his decision to go to war in a series of public interviews. On a televised news program, he said, “The balance of probabilities supported the argument that Saddam [Hussein] did have weapons of mass destruction.”

Howard also denied claims that Australian, U.S., and British officials lied about the pre-war intelligence. “At no stage did we mislead the Australian public. At no stage did we manufacture intelligence, at no stage did we heavy intelligence agencies,” he said in a radio address.

The Inquiry did not support accusations that government officials purposely or inappropriately influenced AIC conclusions before the war but did issue several recommendations to enhance Australia’s intelligence capabilities, including the creation of a committee to coordinate and monitor activities of the six AIC agencies. Howard moved quickly to adopt almost all of the recommendations.

Since 2001, the Australian government has increased total intelligence funding by 88 percent and authorized a 44 percent increase in the number of intelligence staff members. Still, according to the Inquiry, the total Australian intelligence budget represents roughly just one percent of the total funds available for U.S. intelligence agencies.

Australian Intelligence Reviewed

Iraqi Nuclear Materials Secured

Paul Kerr

Fifteen months after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the United States has removed nuclear material from the country that posed a potential proliferation threat, Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham announced July 6.

Department of Energy experts packaged 1.77 metric tons of low-enriched uranium (LEU), as well as approximately “1,000 highly radioactive sources,” according to a press release. The Department of Defense then airlifted the material, which had been stored at the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center, to the United States on June 23.

The material could “potentially [have been] used in a radiological dispersal device or diverted to support a nuclear weapons program,” according to an Energy Department press release. A radiological weapon uses conventional explosives to disperse radioactive material but is not nearly as powerful as a nuclear weapon. LEU can be used in civilian nuclear reactors but also can be further enriched for use as the explosive material in nuclear weapons.

The Tuwaitha facility has long been declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and subject to agency safeguards. The United States informed the IAEA June 30 that it had removed the material, IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei wrote in a July 6 letter to the UN Security Council.

National Nuclear Security Administration spokesperson Bryan Wilkes told Arms Control Today Aug. 19 that the United States consulted senior IAEA officials and received no objections to the transaction. The United States first notified the agency of its intention to remove the material in June 2003, ElBaradei’s letter said.

Meanwhile, the IAEA conducted its annual inventory of Iraq’s nuclear material at Tuwaitha, the agency announced Aug. 7. Such inspections are separate from those the IAEA conducted to enforce UN Security Council resolutions requiring Iraq to dismantle its suspected nuclear weapons program. The IAEA last visited Tuwaitha in June 2003, following reports that nuclear material had been looted from the facility after the U.S.-led invasion of the country in March 2003. (See ACT, July/August 2003.)

IAEA spokesperson Melissa Fleming stated that no nuclear material had been diverted from Tuwaitha since that inspection, Reuters reported Aug. 7. The remaining material, which mostly consists of natural uranium, depleted uranium, and LEU waste, “is not sensitive from a proliferation perspective,” according to an Aug. 7 IAEA press release.

ElBaradei said that this inspection was “a good first step” and expressed hope that the IAEA and the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) would be able to complete their UN-mandated missions. However, UN and U.S. officials told Arms Control Today that there is no indication that either UNMOVIC or the IAEA will resume their intrusive inspections work anytime soon, particularly in light of the unstable security situation in Iraq.

Senate Intelligence Committee Report Overlooks Handling of Iraq Intelligence and UN Inspectors' Findings


For Immediate Release: July 9, 2004

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

(Washington, D.C.): Intelligence and arms control experts said today that new findings detailing the past errors in assessing Iraq's weapons capabilities do not exonerate the Bush administration, which bears ultimate responsibility for exaggerating the Iraqi threat and for discarding the UN inspections that had effectively contained Saddam Hussein's unconventional weapons programs.

"The erroneous judgments delivered by the CIA and other intelligence agencies about Iraq's alleged nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs do not excuse the president and senior administration officials for misrepresenting U.S. intelligence and for ignoring contrary findings by UN weapons inspectors in order to justify toppling the Iraqi dictator," said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

"The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report released today does not adequately address senior Bush administration officials' handling of the intelligence information they received, reports that raw intelligence from unreliable sources was fed to the White House, or why the president and his advisors ignored evidence contradicting the worst-case assessments of Iraq's weapons capabilities," Kimball charged.

"According to the Senate Committee on Intelligence findings, the intelligence community knew as early as October 2002 that the document on which the claim that Iraq had tried to acquire uranium from Africa was based on a forgery," Kimball said. "The State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research and the Department of Energy registered their strong objection to the claim in the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate that Iraq had obtained aluminum tubes for the purpose of enriching uranium, but the president and his advisors failed to heed these clear warnings that the worst-case assessments were wrong."

"U.S. policymakers and intelligence agencies also failed to take into consideration on-the-ground intelligence gathered after UN inspectors returned to Iraq on November 27, 2002 after a nearly four-year absence. The inspectors' findings should have led to a reconsideration of U.S. intelligence assessments made in the fall of 2002, but they didn't," said Kimball.

"Within one month of the return of UN inspectors in November 2002, we were actually getting information which resolved a lot of the prudent concerns that the intelligence community had about activity at sites previously associated with chemical weapons or nuclear weapons production," Greg Thielmann noted in an ACA press briefing earlier this year. Thielmann retired in September 2002 as director of the Strategic, Proliferation, and Military Affairs Office in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research.

Thielmann added: "Almost without exception, those worst-case suspicions were found to be in error by taking a look at the equipment, by talking to people on the ground, by comparing things that the inspectors had seen before but had been blind to for a period of four years."

In the lead-up to the March 2003 invasion, UN weapons inspectors could not find evidence of either active weapons programs or stockpiles of prohibited chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons and were dismantling ballistic missiles that exceeded UN-mandated range limits. Although the inspectors could not account for discrepancies in Iraq's declaration of its previous programs and stockpiles, chief inspector Hans Blix warned in February 2003 against equating unaccounted-for stockpiles with existing weapons.

"By the end of January 2003, the International Atomic Energy Agency had already delivered an interim judgment that the aluminum tubes account of the administration was incorrect. In February, a full month before the U.S. invasion, they arrived at a definitive judgment the aluminum tubes were not going into the nuclear weapons program, and that documents alleging that Iraq attempted to purchase uranium from Niger 'were not authentic,'" Thielmann noted.

"In addition, by the beginning of February, just after Colin Powell's presentation to the UN, Blix contested other U.S. charges concerning chemical and biological weapons, but U.S. officials ignored the information," noted Kimball.

Though the major U.S. claims were clearly in doubt, President George W. Bush told the American people on March 17, 2003 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."

"Since the war, Bush administration officials have claimed that the invasion was necessary because Saddam Hussein could have quickly reconstituted his illegal weapons programs. This assertion ignores the fact that UN-mandated weapons inspections had already effectively contained Iraq's nuclear, chemical, biological, and missile capabilities and would have continued to do so if the president had not prematurely ended them," Kimball said.

As Hans Blix said in an interview published in the July issue of Arms Control Today, "If inspections had continued...[UN inspectors] would have been able to go to all sites suggested to us by intelligence...and since there weren't any weapons, we wouldn't have found any...and I think that ought to have shaken the intelligence agencies...to say 'Sorry, but...our sources were bad.'"

"The Bush administration did not provide an accurate picture to the American people of the military threat posed by Iraq. Some of the fault lies with the performance of the intelligence community, but most of it lies with the way senior officials misused the information they were provided," Thielmann said.

"Intelligence is meant to inform government decision-making, not to be invoked or discarded selectively to justify predetermined political decisions. The unjustified claims of the Bush administration on Iraq's illicit weapons capabilities have severely damaged the credibility of the U.S. government and the U.S. intelligence community," said Kimball.

# # #

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 the full transcript of the Hans Blix interview see <www.armscontrol.org/interviews/20040619_Blix.asp> and for other Iraq-related resources, visit <www.armscontrol.org/country/iraq/>.

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UN: Iraqi Weapons Sites Looted

Paul Kerr

Since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, sites associated with Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs have been destroyed, and Iraqi missile engines have turned up in Europe, according to a May 28 report from the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC). The report states that “recent satellite imagery” shows that a number of sites in Iraq containing equipment and materials that could be used to produce illicit weapons “have been either cleaned out or destroyed.”

The report does not rule out the possibility that Hussein’s government removed the material, stating that “[i]t is not known whether such equipment and materials were still present at the sites during the time of coalition action in March and April of 2003.” The report adds, however, that “it is possible that some of the materials may have been removed from Iraq by looters of sites and sold as scrap.”

UN Security Council resolutions adopted after the 1991 Persian Gulf War tasked the United Nations Special Commission—UNMOVIC’s predecessor—with inspecting and supervising the destruction of Iraq’s prohibited weapons. UN weapons inspectors have not been able to carry out on-the-ground inspections since leaving Iraq just before the invasion began in March 2003. That role has been taken over by the U.S.-led Iraq Survey Group (ISG), which has refused to share its results with UNMOVIC, despite repeated public appeals by UNMOVIC Executive Chairman Demetrius Perricos and other officials. Still, UNMOVIC has continued a limited investigation using other means and by sifting through its existing data.

The report echoes an April letter from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei to the UN Security Council. ElBaradei wrote that commercial satellite imagery revealed “extensive removal of equipment and, in some instances…entire buildings” from Iraqi nuclear facilities. The IAEA had a mandate similar to UNMOVIC’s, but limited to Iraq’s nuclear-related sites. (See ACT, May 2004.)

UNMOVIC, along with the IAEA, is continuing to investigate the fate of the missing material. The report reveals that, through IAEA investigators’ photographs taken at a scrap yard in Rotterdam, UNMOVIC has discovered missile engines that were used both in Iraq’s SA-2 surface-to-air missiles and its prohibited surface-to-surface al Samoud missiles. Iraq was in the process of destroying the al Samoud missiles when the invasion began.

The total number of missing engines is unknown. The report says that between five and 12 “similar engines…had been seen in the yard in January and February,” adding that “more engines could have…passed through the scrap yard unnoticed.” UNMOVIC experts compared one engine’s serial number against the commission’s database and found that the engine had been under UNMOVIC monitoring. UNMOVIC personnel visited the scrap yard in April.

The IAEA was investigating the discovery of a small amount of lightly refined uranium ore found in a shipment of scrap metal that was sent to the Rotterdam scrap yard. Agency investigators first visited the site in January and have made several additional visits since then.

UNMOVIC spokesperson Ewen Buchanan told Arms Control Today June 22 that commission experts found 20 more SA-2 engines at scrap yards in Jordan, along with other dual-use equipment that had been under UNMOVIC monitoring. Commission experts also found other items in the Rotterdam scrap yard made of “dual-use materials,” the May report explained.

UNMOVIC is also evaluating Iraq’s efforts to acquire prohibited weapons items and materials between December 1998 and November 2002, when UN inspectors were absent from Iraq. The Bush administration argued before the invasion that Iraq was reconstituting its WMD programs through illicit procurement. Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation John Wolf stated June 15 that “Iraq was procuring, and positioning itself to develop WMD capabilities on the bedrock of previously established programs.”

The report reveals that Iraq acquired some items and used them in its prohibited missile programs. (See ACT, November 2003.) Additionally, Iraq acquired “a variety of dual-use” items and materials for possible use in biological or chemical weapons programs, but there is “no evidence” that Iraq actually used the materials for weapons purposes. Although some of these items were acquired through illicit channels, Iraq eventually declared most of them to UNMOVIC. Some of these declarations, however, were “misleading,” the report says.

In June 22 remarks to a nonproliferation conference organized by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Perricos raised questions about the fate of the ISG after the scheduled June 30 handover of power in Iraq from U.S. occupation authorities to a transitional Iraqi government.

“There’s no idea of what will happen after June 30, under whose authority and under whose supervision,” he said.

Perricos observed that the most recent UN resolution concerning Iraq reaffirmed the Security Council’s decision to revisit UNMOVIC’s role in continuing to ensure Iraq’s disarmament and an accounting of its prewar programs.

New Weapons Discovery

Charles Duelfer, the CIA’s chief adviser to the ISG, told FOX News June 24 that the group has found “10 or 12” artillery shells containing either sarin nerve agent or mustard agent. Duelfer said the shells date back to the 1991 Gulf War, FOX News reported.

Iraq produced both mustard and sarin prior to the Gulf War but never provided UN arms inspectors with a complete accounting of these agents. The ISG found a single artillery round filled with sarin in May, but the shell was rigged as an improvised explosive device, which made it ineffective as a chemical weapon. (See ACT, June 2004.)






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