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– John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
January 19, 2011
Interviews

Shifting Priorities: UNMOVIC and the Future of Inspections in Iraq: An Interview With Ambassador Rolf Ekeus


Rolf Ekeus, Sweden's ambassador to the United States and former executive chairman of the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM), was in the headlines this January when UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan nominated him to head the newly created United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC). Despite strong support by the United States, his nomination did not receive the approval of the Security Council, whose members finally settled on Hans Blix, former director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, to lead the new organization. (See ACT, January/February 2000.)

Ekeus led UNSCOM from its inception at the end of the Persian Gulf War until mid-1997, when he stepped down to assume his current post. UN Security Council Resolution 687, adopted at the conclusion of the war, had created the inspection body and charged it with discovering and destroying Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs. The organization operated until December 1998, when all inspections were suspended following the U.S.-British airstrikes against Iraq. After a year of negotiations, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1284 on December 17, 1999, replacing UNSCOM with UNMOVIC and opening the door for new inspections and the possibility of sanctions relief. (For the full text of the resolution, see ACT, December 1999.)

On February 24, Arms Control Today Editor J. Peter Scoblic and Research Analyst Matthew Rice met with Ekeus in Washington to discuss Resolution 1284, Iraq's weapons programs, the humanitarian situation in Iraq, and the political climate in the Security Council. The following is an edited version of their conversation.


ACT: How would you characterize the differences between UNMOVIC and UNSCOM?

Rolf Ekeus: Resolution 687 outlined two principal tasks. One was for Iraq to declare, and for UNSCOM to verify and supervise the elimination of, its prohibited weapons. To make it more clear, it was a sort of search and destroy mission. Iraq's capabilities should be found and should be eliminated. That was task number one. Equally important was task number two—to establish some monitoring of Iraq's capabilities so that no new WMD [weapons of mass destruction] capabilities would be created.

The new resolution refers back to 687, so the elimination element is still there, but the emphasis is now on monitoring. Resolution 1284 gives the impression that the matter of past weapons, which was the focus of 687, is no longer as significant. The new resolution doesn't indicate that there are any existing weapons in Iraq. The emphasis is on monitoring, and by implication that gives the impression that the Security Council is no longer concerned with existing capabilities but more concerned about Iraq's intentions.

ACT: Do you think the Security Council is right to make the assumption that the existing programs are no longer a threat? Absent inspections, what do we know about the nature of Iraq's activities?

Ekeus: UNSCOM was highly successful in identifying and eliminating Iraq's prohibited weapons—but not to the degree that everything was destroyed. The loopholes in the presentation by Iraq and the contradictions in Iraq's declarations mean there is reason to be careful. Iraq did not make a coherent presentation in the biological field or in the chemical field. There was a slightly better one in the missile field, and there was a coherent presentation with regard to the nuclear program.

Without inspectors one cannot be sure. But there is recent information that gives one the impression that something is going on. First of all, the UNSCOM inspectors have solid knowledge of the structure of Iraq's programs and the personnel involved. They are also aware of what was not sorted out in the Iraqi presentations.

You then add information from at least two types of sources. First, new information about procurement efforts by Iraq. The procurement efforts at least indicate in which direction Iraq is looking: what type of items, what type of equipment, what type of machinery, and what type of commodities they are buying or asking for. You get a pattern of what the procurement efforts are.

Secondly, there have been a number of people leaving the country, individuals who in their earlier activity have been involved in Iraq's program. Useful information has been picked up from them. These are the two main sources.

To that there can be added more marginal sources—overhead imagery and so on. If we take all of these data together and put good analytical minds to work, then we have at least a pattern that could be interpreted by people with experience.

That doesn't mean that one knows enough. In the long run, it is unsatisfactory, and it is a problem that there are no inspectors inside Iraq. But important conclusions can be drawn from the continued systematic work that UNSCOM has been doing. UNMOVIC, which according to Resolution 1284 is supposed to take over the assets of UNSCOM, will have access to all of this. I hope that UNMOVIC is wise enough to take on these capabilities and assets for the new organization.

In my view, there are no large quantities of weapons. I don't think that Iraq is especially eager in the biological and chemical area to produce such weapons for storage. Iraq views those weapons as tactical assets instead of strategic assets, which would require long-term storage of those elements, which is difficult. Rather, Iraq has been aiming to keep the capability to start up production immediately should it need to.

ACT: Given that assessment of the program, should the new organization have a stronger mandate than simply monitoring?

Ekeus: As Resolution 1284 is written, it is possible to carry out both elimination and monitoring tasks. It is just that the resolution is written in a way that gives the perception that one of the tasks, elimination, is not that important. In doing so, the resolution sends signals from the council to the new chairman indicating he shouldn't worry that much about it. But it is definitely not prohibited for UNMOVIC to search actively for prohibited capabilities. It is just so that the resolution stresses a strengthened monitoring system. The chairman will probably draw his conclusions when the first inspectors have made their first rounds.

ACT: As UNMOVIC begins work, one of the biggest points of contention will be the determination of disarmament tasks for Iraq. What do you think they will be?

Ekeus: The members of the Security Council appear to have different views. Some will say the tasks should be written in very general terms, say Iraq shall declare fully its past and ongoing biological, chemical and missile activities. Others will say that is too general. One should be more precise. The Security Council has had the same quarrel before. Even during my time, there were efforts by some permanent members to demand tasks that were more limited, time-wise and quantity-wise. I resisted a specific definition, which was also what Iraq wanted because it would make the tasks easier to fulfill. The problem with being too specific is that during the inspection process you detect new facts—the landscape changes with your investigation—so you can't say when you start out on your inspection trip exactly where it will lead you. With Resolution 1284, the Security Council is trying to force the organization to be more precise.

ACT: Some analysts have argued that in trying to resolve the Iraq situation we should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, while others have said that watered-down inspections are worse than no inspections at all. Where do you fall in that argument?

Ekeus: It is important that high-quality, professional, competent inspectors carry out the work. In other words, one should not be sloppy. And the reason why is that we're talking about some of the most dangerous weapons—long-range missiles and warheads with biological and chemical agents. There is nothing humane in being generous to Iraq. You must have in mind the potential victims—there were victims of Iraqi chemical weapons before—the Iranians and the Kurds. So a humane position and sense of responsibility toward human suffering demands that you be strict and firm with regard to these capabilities. There is nothing won in being loose and incomplete in inspections.

ACT: Do you worry that if UNMOVIC adopts a monitoring posture instead of a search and destroy posture, it could generate a false sense of security that could actually be more dangerous than a stalemate in the Security Council?

Ekeus: Iraq has been stating that it has declared everything, that there is nothing of the prohibited capabilities left, that UNSCOM was 100 percent successful. UNSCOM people do not boast quite as much about what we did. We believe we did a good job, but I don't think that we were 100 percent successful. As I said, Resolution 1284 evokes that perception a little. However, I believe that one can do a full job of inspections within the parameters of the resolution, including search and supervised elimination. I don't think that it is correct to say 1284 is only about monitoring.

UNSCOM's monitoring operations, which were extensive, formed a highly effective system and did not really lead to any confrontations with Iraq. Monitoring had a routine character. You went to a facility you had been to many, many times before. The facility was known in detail. The production records were available, the inspectors had a detailed list of machines and machine tools, they knew the personnel, and they came and checked off that everything was normal. They looked upon the input and the output, they looked at the raw materials brought in as to how they had been disposed, and if they saw some new engineers or some engineers missing, for instance, they would inquire.

The confrontations were related to UNSCOM's search operations. Under these, UNSCOM inspected new facilities not declared by Iraq. When UNSCOM wanted to investigate the correctness of statements and investigate mobile capabilities and undeclared facilities, confrontations with Iraq occurred, as Iraq hindered the inspectors. The complaints and the difficulties with Iraq came out of the search and destroy task, while there were relatively few complaints about the daily monitoring.

So if you avoid those type of investigative inspections, you will probably have few problems, suggesting good cooperation, which will give the impression that the monitoring system is functioning well.

It is striking that 1284 says nothing about investigation and elimination. The words "elimination" and "destruction" don't appear at all. The reference to Resolution 687 in the beginning of 1284, however, means that everything is possible—by implication, all the rights and duties are the same—but 1284 is very polite. If it had mentioned elimination, it would have implied that there was something to be eliminated. The resolution is very careful not to upset and is phrased in a friendly fashion. It is not confrontational. Resolution 687 really implied that there was something wrong that had to be bettered. Resolution 1284 has no indication that there is anything missing.

ACT: Given the different tenor of Resolution 1284 as compared to Resolution 687 and given that the unity in the Security Council that existed at least early on in your tenure has disappeared, how is the role of the new executive chairman going to be different?

Ekeus: The chairman will have a very difficult task to start with because Iraq has not readmitted inspectors, so the key is to convince Iraq to allow inspectors to enter the country. And there I hope he will have the backing from the council—you have to recall that three permanent members abstained from voting on the new resolution. But I understand that they have declared that they intend to support the implementation of the resolution.

ACT: The secretary-general apparently considered some 25 or 30 names when he was trying to pick an executive chairman and either rejected them himself or was told by the Security Council that they would not be acceptable. Obviously your name was on that list. Why was it so difficult to find someone who would be acceptable?

Ekeus: This job, as it has turned out, is one of the most important in the international multilateral scene. It is of great significance to the UN's status and its role in the future. A failure would harm the organization. A wise decision with regard to the post of chairman is the first challenge.

But, secondly, the job is so difficult that no one wants it. With other high posts in the multilateral system—the heads of the World Health Organization, the UN Human Rights Commission or the World Bank—there is a tremendous line of candidates. Governments present their own best names, and they fight to get their choice into that job. With UNMOVIC, there were 25 names, say. Only one was proposed by his own government. Instead, governments pointed to people from other countries. The Swedish government didn't propose a Swede. The Dutch government didn't propose a Dutch. It showed how difficult this task is considered. It's so difficult that you don't want it. There was no candidate stepping up saying, "I would like the job," as you have on all other positions.

It's a special job because of its non-UN tradition, its non-UN culture. Namely, it has an element of enforcement. With the UN, almost everything—even 99 percent of Security Council work—is to serve the membership. For the International Labor Organization or the World Health Organization, your purpose is to help people. You help them with labor, you help them with food, you help them with medicine. What you're doing is positive. Even peacekeeping forces go in because both sides accept the peacekeepers. But UNSCOM was a counterculture operation. You implement and you enforce—that was Resolution 687. Of course, now the hard edges of 687 are taken away with 1284, but still the enforcement idea lingers.

The secretary-general's concern was also in light of the resolution, that he understands how important a successful dealing with the Iraq issue is. And how difficult it is politically, physically and in many other respects. But still it is important to the UN to demonstrate that it can handle this new task, that it can move into the new era that has such difficult jobs. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is a threat to international peace and security, and the UN should, in my opinion, have a major role in dealing with this threat.

The secretary-general's step in first proposing such an UNSCOM name was in a sense counter to the style of the resolution. He was trying to demonstrate that he didn't want the new organization to be less than UNSCOM was. Iraq is still a serious problem and must be dealt with in a serious manner. And I think he succeeded. I think people understood that he takes Iraq very seriously.

ACT: Why do you think that your nomination was not ultimately accepted?

Ekeus: Well, it is not for me to identify arguments against something containing my name. I can imagine some arguments that could be advanced. Some arguments were wrong, other arguments one can understand. There were many considerations. There was a new resolution and especially a new organization. Why then go back and take an UNSCOM hat? The nomination of Hans Blix, who was an excellent choice, brings someone very strongly associated with the old UNSCOM, but not totally an UNSCOM personality.

ACT: Would you have accepted the job?

Ekeus: I asked Kofi Annan not to put forward my name. But then he outlined what I just said. He said that it is so important that we succeed. In support of the secretary-general, I would have accepted it if the Security Council went along. But with the nomination of Hans Blix, who did an excellent job as director-general of the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] and who has also been in Iraq, UNMOVIC got someone who also has been around before and has some battle scars.

ACT: One of the reasons for making Resolution 1284 less confrontational was to create consensus within the Security Council. But France, China and Russia all abstained. Why did they do that, and do you think that abstention is the closest to consensus that the Security Council is going to get?

Ekeus: The abstention was a little odd because since the vote was taken, all of them have said that they support the resolution and that they will assist in its implementation. But I think the main problem for them was not the arms control aspect of the resolution but the link to the lifting of sanctions—it was not clear enough. They wanted to have language that was more distinct with regard to the lifting of sanctions. They had hardly any problem with the weapons part. My conviction is that these three major abstaining states all have serious concerns about Iraq's weapons. The Russian military is concerned—there is no Russian wish to have an Iraq with nuclear weapons. The French are concerned about weapons of mass destruction capabilities in Iraq. And the Chinese, too. The three of them all have a concern with Iraq's weapons. However, they also have a wish to get the sanctions lifted.

ACT: You said that Russia, China and France have said that they will help implement the resolution, but Russia has also said that it's not bound to help enforce the provisions of 1284 and the Chinese have said that, in the end, the Security Council is not going to be able to implement this resolution. Given those attitudes, what is the likelihood that there will be full implementation of Resolution 1284?

Ekeus: Even if you abstain on a Security Council vote, you are still bound by a Chapter 7 resolution. My sense is that their intention is to back it. Then it becomes a question of how strongly. And how much clout do they have in Baghdad—how much will their support matter? We don't know where Baghdad will end up, but it will probably begin bargaining over conditions for entering Iraq, and maybe the countries that abstained can help there.

ACT: So you think that Iraq will work with this resolution, that it will not just flatly refuse to accept 1284, which is what it has done publicly to date?

Ekeus: First of all, I believe that Iraq will accept 1284 after some friendly—or less friendly—persuasion from members of the Security Council. It depends a little bit on how Iraq interprets the idea of working with 1284. There is one distinct advantage in 1284. It takes away the ceiling on oil exports.

But Iraq is still not happy with the sanctions aspects of 1284, which do not speak of lifting sanctions but of suspending them. This will create problems for the Iraqi authorities' ability to plan ahead. The language of suspension injects an element of instability and insecurity. That is probably the major reason why Iraq has been withholding its approval of the resolution. In that respect, 1284 is not better than 687. From an Iraqi perspective, that part of the resolution is more negative than 687, which talked about lifting the sanctions. Now it discusses only suspension.

What is positive from Iraq's view is the softer language on the arms position. But, as I have said repeatedly, it is softened language, but that does not mean UNMOVIC is prevented from doing what is necessary because the references back to the old resolution and to the weapons issues give UNMOVIC considerable rights and capabilities to act.

Iraq is again confronted with a choice: does it get anything for cooperation, and is it worth cooperating if you don't get any positive fallout? If the suspension language is deemed okay by the leadership, Iraq will probably cooperate.

ACT: Hans Blix has said that UNMOVIC will be more of a "UN-style" organization. What does this mean?

Ekeus: I don't understand. UNSCOM was a creation of the UN Security Council after the Gulf War. It was a UN operation. Everything was operated under UN resolutions. The staff was, to a high degree, on loan from member governments. This had to do with not wanting to create a permanent bureaucracy. The Security Council wanted to have an efficient, cost-effective, high-quality operation. The people who came in were contracted by me as chairman and had exactly the same obligations under the contract as all other UN field operations staff. UNSCOM was financed in the beginning by frozen Iraqi assets and later by Iraqi money generated by oil sales. No resources were provided from the ordinary UN budget. And there are still not. UNMOVIC will not see one cent from the UN. Everything will come from Iraqi oil money. The new resolution states that the funding should come exclusively from Iraq—from oil money taken from the escrow account. UNMOVIC is identical to UNSCOM in this sense. So, we can say that it is a UN operation. But one should not say that it is more of a UN operation.

ACT: Earlier you said that the traditional UN culture was more cooperative than the culture of UNSCOM. Could Blix have been indicating that UNMOVIC was going to be more cooperative than confrontational?

Ekeus: Yes. Formally, there is no difference. But politically it can be a whole different thing. UNSCOM had the task to control, supervise and somewhat enforce the elimination of WMD capabilities. UNMOVIC is not directly asked to look for WMD. As I said, the language of Resolution 1284 is the language of no suspicion.

ACT: Do you think that it is important to include current UNSCOM inspectors in the new organization?

Ekeus: It is up to Hans Blix. There are those who are advising him not to take any UNSCOM inspectors, and there are those who are advising him to take all of UNSCOM. I can only say that I know the UNSCOM personnel, and they are of the highest quality imaginable. In talking about how staff is to be recruited, Resolution 1284 mentions experience, which suggests UNSCOM.

ACT: Since your tenure at UNSCOM, there has been an increasing attention to the humanitarian impact of the economic sanctions on the Iraqi population and in the last week, two top UN officials have resigned, saying the sanctions are hurting the Iraqi people. If Iraq does not cooperate with Resolution 1284, will the oil-for-food program and the other humanitarian programs in Iraq be sufficient?

Ekeus: There were a few reasons for the imposition of sanctions after the Gulf War. In 1991, we all felt that it was important that Iraqi oil go back on the market, but on the other side, it was felt that the Iraqis, with their gross violation, could not go on as if nothing had happened.

There was deep concern about the Iraqi weapons capability, and that concern only deepened because the problem turned out to be worse than we had expected. Sanctions were the way to convince Iraq to cooperate with inspectors. Why should Iraq have cooperated with inspectors if there was no carrot and no stick? And in this case it was a combined carrot-and-stick approach. Keeping the sanctions was the stick, and the carrot was that if Iraq cooperated with the elimination of its weapons of mass destruction, the Security Council would lift the sanctions. Sanctions were the backing for the inspections, and they were what sustained my operation almost for the whole time.

But there was care taken in humanitarian respects. Witness the resolutions opening up oil sales for food and medicine. The only problem was that Saddam and the Iraqi leadership didn't go along with it. It was offered, it was presented, it was asked, begged. I really have to salute [former UN Secretary-General Boutros] Boutros-Ghali. During his tenure, he spent several years trying to convince Saddam to accept the system of selling oil to buy food. He succeeded in the end, but the delay was exclusively Iraq's fault. I think it is important to remember that.

Under the sanctions as they function today, Iraq is allowed to sell unlimited amounts of oil, probably even if it has not accepted Resolution 1284. Theoretically, even under the earlier resolutions, it is $5.26 billion per six months, let's say $11 billion per year. But Iraq can get, just by saying yes, unlimited sales, as the market permits. But the thing is that payment for the oil sales goes into an escrow account, and from there Iraq can use money to import with some restrictions. The question is then if you lift the sanctions, and give the funds directly to the leadership of Iraq, does it mean that Iraq will use this for food and medicine for its people? I haven't met anyone who believes that the money will be used for the same purpose as dictated by the UN. And that is the message for those who are critical of the sanctions. They have to make the case that if you lift the sanctions system, the Iraqi people will be better off. That the $11 billion will be used to get food and medicine to the people. That is the problem.

It is a problem to get Iraq back to being a normal country. It is an enormous problem, but in the meantime, it is not humane to cancel the oil-for-food program.

ACT: For years, UNSCOM was held up as a model for what collective security and intrusive inspections could accomplish for arms control. But UNSCOM's use as a model seems to have been tarnished by Iraq's apparent ability to outlast the Security Council just in terms of sheer political will. What lessons can we draw from that and apply to UNMOVIC?

Ekeus: There is a simple reason why UNSCOM was a success. The success was due to the quality of the people and to the political element. So that is how it worked: the combination of high-quality practice methods, high technology, wonderful personnel and science. It was the brainpower, not muscles, plus the political backing that gave results. What in the end created problems was not the professional quality of UNSCOM, but problems on the political side. That is the single, dominant and only reason that it failed.

The unity of the Security Council was the political fact that sustained the UNSCOM operation and helped its success. The failure to maintain that unity undermined it. Now the Security Council members are trying to restore unity. The adoption of Resolution 1284 was a first step. The implementation of it will be the first test.

Interviewed by J. Peter Scoblic and Matthew Rice

Illuminating Global Interests: The UN and Arms Control

In January 1998, Jayantha Dhanapala was appointed United Nations undersecretary-general for disarmament affairs. A career diplomat with extensive arms control experience, Dhanapala is perhaps best known for his skillful handling of the 1995 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review and extension conference, at which he was able to secure unanimous support for indefinite extension of the treaty.

Dhanapala joined the Sri Lankan foreign service in 1965 after spending several years in the private sector. He held diplomatic posts in London, Beijing, Washington and New Delhi until 1984, when he was appointed ambassador and permanent representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations. In 1987 Javier Perez de Cuellar named him director of the Geneva-based United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR). Dhanapala returned to Sri Lanka in 1992, where he served as additional foreign secretary and then as ambassador to the United States.

When he retired from the foreign service in 1997, Dhanapala joined the Center for Non-Proliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies as diplomat-in-residence, a post he held until his current appointment. He attended the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka and received a master's degree in international studies from American University in Washington, D.C.

On September 28, Arms Control Today editor J. Peter Scoblic met with Dhanapala at UN headquarters in New York to discuss the United Nations' involvement in a wide range of arms control issues, including the future of the Conference on Disarmament, the prospects for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the disarming of Iraq and the regulation of the conventional arms trade. The following is an edited version of their conversation.

Readers should note that this interview was conducted before both the October 6–8 Vienna conference on the CTBT's entry into force and the U.S. Senate's October 13 rejection of the test ban. However, following the Senate vote, Dhanapala submitted a brief statement to Arms Control Today (see Statement).


ACT: How broad is the scope of current UN arms control activities?

Dhanapala: The United Nations has been involved in disarmament from its very inception. The first General Assembly resolution adopted by the UN was on disarmament, and since 1945 the UN has covered the entire gamut of disarmament issues—weapons of mass destruction, conventional arms, confidence-building measures, regional disarmament. In doing so, it has attempted to develop a consensus among its membership so that there could be commonly agreed goals and action toward the achievement of those goals.

The three special sessions of the General Assembly that have been convened have been able to achieve this consensus, and following the first special session on disarmament in 1978, we have developed a machinery for the UN to work on disarmament that is divided basically into two arms: the deliberative machinery, which consists of the First Committee of the General Assembly and the Disarmament Commission; and the negotiating machinery, which consists of the Conference on Disarmament [CD], which has recently been expanded to 66 members.

In addition, there is the Department of Disarmament Affairs, recently re-established as part of Kofi Annan's reforms; the Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters, a group of eminent persons in the field of disarmament that advises the secretary-general; and the UN Institute for Disarmament Research. All these elements in the UN system contribute toward not only advising the secretary-general himself on disarmament issues, but also providing assistance to member states on disarmament issues in terms of information and objective data.

We also work in the area of outreach activities with the general public through our regional centers in Katmandu, in Lima, and in Lome, as well as through our headquarters here in New York. We organize conferences; we have public lectures, seminars and symposia; and we produce and disseminate a large number of publications. All this is part of our advocacy of disarmament. We are a norm-based organization, and therefore the propagation of those norms to the general public and to member states is part of our mission.

ACT: The Conference on Disarmament is one of the UN's major arms control institutions, but for the past three years there have been no substantive negotiations, and for two of those years members have not even been able to agree on a working program. Do you think there is a future for the CD?

Dhanapala: I share the concern of the international community over the fact that for three years the Conference on Disarmament has not adopted a program of work nor made any meaningful progress in negotiating disarmament agreements after it negotiated the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty [CTBT]. But we must, at the same time, recall that during the Cold War, there were many years—many more than three years—when the CD was inactive and unable to make any progress. At that time, I did not hear the same clamor for the abolition of the CD or, as the Tokyo Forum Report calls for, the suspension of the CD. I think those are very extreme and drastic views.

I believe that when there is a forum that has been established for the discussion of multilateral issues and disarmament, we should preserve that forum as far as possible. And we should try to examine why the CD has been allowed to be inactive in these three years. I believe it is a symptom of the international situation, that the deep disagreements among the great powers, the permanent five members of the Security Council [P-5], intensified in 1999. It is no secret that the bilateral nuclear talks between Russia and the United States have made no progress since 1995—we have had agreements, but we have not had treaties signed. START II remains to be ratified, and the CTBT is still unratified by the U.S. There are clearly problems, and in such a situation, the fact that the CD has not been able to make any progress is not a surprise really. I believe that the key to the CD beginning to work successfully lies in the general improvement of the international situation.

ACT: On a more specific level, would it be desirable, or even possible, to amend the consensus rule and move to a different procedure for agreeing?

Dhanapala: That would be difficult to achieve at this point in time. Disarmament touches on the security of sovereign nation-states, and it would be extremely difficult to have disarmament treaties with a few countries being outvoted. It certainly does not augur well for international peace and security if you isolate a minority in a general majority vote in favor of specific treaties. I think the objective should be to try to be as inclusive as possible, and the original purpose of the consensus rule was that it would bring a convergence of views of all states-parties. Unfortunately, the actual operation of the consensus rule has worked differently.

The views on the question of consensus have been very subjective. If countries are in the majority, they would be in favor of abolishing the consensus rule. If you are in a minority, you would be very wary of making such a recommendation. So, I believe that we must still move toward consensus, and decisions that have been arrived at through consensus are more likely to ensure the universality of global treaties on disarmament, and they will also be more likely to ensure their durability—and that is an important factor.

I would therefore advocate caution in rushing to abolish the consensus rule because it might lead to a steamroller majority, which would be counterproductive and which could lead to polarization and a very fractious minority acting against the interests of international peace and security out of frustration that the system is iniquitous or not sufficiently cognizant of its security interests. What we have to do internationally—and the UN provides a forum for doing this—is to try to draw all these different national interests into a global common security interest.

ACT: What are the prospects for the CTBT's entry into force and what do you anticipate in the upcoming conference in Vienna?

Dhanapala: First we must recognize that the CTBT is unique in having an entry-into-force provision in Article XIV that is unprecedented. Article XIV requires 44 specified countries to sign and ratify the treaty before its entry into force. That requirement is not in any other disarmament treaty. So there is an built-in handicap against the entry into force of the CTBT. Having said that, I think it is most unfortunate that we have today only 154 signatories of the treaty and 45 that have ratified it [as of September 28]. And of those 45, many of the countries specified in Annex 2 of the CTBT are missing, including three of the nuclear-weapon states: the United States, Russia and China.

I will be present at the October 6-8 meeting of the states-parties to the CTBT to which the secretary-general as depositary has invited signatory states as well as non-signatory states at the request of the ratifying states. I can see that the meeting will, after three days, end with a declaration, which cannot do very much more than exhort the international community to enable the treaty to enter into force as soon as possible. [See Final Declaration.]

We have very important countries, including three nuclear-weapon states, who have not ratified the treaty, and I do not think that their non-ratification is a function of the international situation that we were talking about, which has led to the general pause in the whole progress of disarmament. I think in certain cases it is domestic issues. In the case of India and Pakistan, we have of course seen the tests in South Asia, but we also have promises of both countries to sign the treaty, and I'm confident that those promises will be fulfilled sooner rather than later.

I think, therefore, in the short term, the prospects for entry into force of the CTBT are not very rosy, but I remain optimistic that if the ratification of the CTBT takes place in the United States, this itself would be a catalyst for others to follow suit.

ACT: If the CTBT does not enter into force in the short term, what effect will that have on the five-year review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT] to be held next April?

Dhanapala: Well, clearly it will have a negative effect on the 2000 NPT review conference, but it is more than the non-entry into force of the CTBT that acts as a unfortunate preparation for this important conference, which will be the first review conference since the treaty was indefinitely extended. I believe the fact that there has been inadequate progress in the implementation of Article VI of the NPT, in which the P-5 agreed to work toward disarmament, will be cited by many non-nuclear-weapon states—as indeed they already have in the preparatory process—as being an indication that the promises of the 1995 conference have not been completely fulfilled. The Statement of Principles and Objectives is one aspect of it. The resolution on the Middle East is another aspect. And so there are a number of factors in addition to the non-ratification of the CTBT that will place a great strain on the NPT regime unless something dramatic happens between now and April.

ACT: What besides the entry into force of the CTBT would serve that purpose?

Dhanapala: I think a demonstration of the political will of the nuclear-weapon states toward making deep cuts in their nuclear arsenals—either through a statement or through actual negotiations—would greatly help to allay the concerns of the non-nuclear-weapon states. As you know, there is an ongoing review of NATO's nuclear doctrine as a result of the efforts of Germany and Canada. There is also the public opinion pressure built up through the New Agenda Coalition of seven countries who had a resolution in the UN General Assembly last year and who will repeat that resolution in the General Assembly this year. There is also the Tokyo Forum Report, a report of a group of international nuclear disarmament experts that has had a considerable international impact and that will, no doubt, also be the subject of discussion when the First Committee of the General Assembly meets. So all these developments could help to avert what I see as a very serious debate in April 2000 on the nuclear non-proliferation regime, of which the NPT is the crucial element.

ACT: What is the future of UNSCOM?

Dhanapala: UNSCOM in its present form is clearly not going to survive for very much longer, and I would think that the draft resolutions that are now being circulated in the Security Council, which alone is empowered to act on this matter, make it very clear that a successor organization to UNSCOM is already being contemplated. Precisely what form it will take and what the details of that organization will be are not clear, but at its center it will have the implementation of the Security Council resolutions, beginning with Resolution 687 to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction and missiles with a range over 150 kilometers.

The panels that were organized at the beginning of this year under the chairmanship of Ambassador [Celso] Amorim of Brazil, who was president of the Security Council earlier this year, did produce a great deal of very useful material. I was a member of the disarmament panel, but there were also two other panels on the humanitarian aspects and on the question of prisoners of war and Kuwaiti property. In the disarmament panel alone there were a number of recommendations that were agreed upon, but the political decision on what should be done had to be taken by the Security Council, and we know that for several months the Security Council has been locked in disagreement on this issue.

Last week, P-5 foreign ministers held discussions and decided that the permanent representatives here will continue with the negotiations on this issue. So clearly UNSCOM is no longer operational; it is unable to go back to Iraq to fulfill the Security Council resolutions. That is also the case with the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA], which helped UNSCOM in the implementation of the Security Council resolutions.

But at the same time, it must not be forgotten that both organizations destroyed more weapons of mass destruction in Iraq than were destroyed during the Gulf War. In the process, they also acquired a great deal of expertise on the subject of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program. The Amorim panel felt that a reinforced monitoring and verification work plan could take into account the remaining disarmament obligations of Iraq. The ongoing monitoring and verification plan already envisaged in Resolution 715 is a basis on which one could build a successor organization to UNSCOM that, together with IAEA, would be able to fulfill those obligations. So it is now a matter for the Security Council to take up this issue.

ACT: Given the recent developments in U.S. negotiations with North Korea, what are the prospects for resolving the North Korean nuclear and missile issue?

Dhanapala: Well, on the nuclear issue, I think, as the director-general of the IAEA said in Vienna yesterday, the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] must come into full compliance with its safeguards agreement with the IAEA and restore its good status in the NPT regime. I remain hopeful that the agreements that were worked out under the Agreed Framework will be fulfilled, and I think it's also a beneficial development that the United States has reached an agreement with the DPRK on the subject of its missile program and that, for the moment, the DPRK has agreed to desist from any missile tests. We are aware that in conducting missile tests, the DPRK was not violating any norms—unlike in the case of the nuclear issue—because there are in fact no internationally negotiated agreements on missile issues, which is perhaps a lacuna in disarmament agreements that should be addressed by the international community.

But the tests did create a great deal of tension, particularly in Northeast Asia, and the fact that the tests will be suspended is certainly something to be welcomed. It is difficult to predict what will happen hereafter, but I think the way in which diplomacy can be used to check proliferation has been demonstrated by these recent bilateral discussions between the United States and the DPRK. The UN can only applaud political solutions to problems instead of the use of force, and so we also welcome this bilateral agreement for that reason and hope very much that it will endure.

ACT: It has been over a year since India and Pakistan conducted their nuclear tests. What has been the damage to the non-proliferation regime?

Dhanapala: Again, as the secretary-general stated at the time of the South Asian nuclear tests in May 1998, neither India nor Pakistan violated a treaty or any convention when they tested because they did not belong either to the NPT or to the CTBT. But there is no question that both countries caused a very serious setback to the momentum that had been generated, particularly after the Cold War, toward nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation. With 187 countries today being members of the NPT, the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons is very much customary international law, so a norm has been practically established. In addition to that, when we—all of us, including India and Pakistan—are advocating nuclear disarmament, that cause is not advanced by two more countries crossing the threshold, whatever the security compulsions of those countries may be.

So, my conclusion, therefore, is that it has been a setback, but that that setback could be mitigated to some extent by both countries joining the CTBT, and with the statements made in the fall of 1998 here in New York by the prime ministers of both countries that they will do so, we remain optimistic. But beyond the signing of the CTBT by these two countries, restraint is absolutely necessary in terms of the weaponization programs, in terms of the development and deployment of delivery systems, in terms of command and control systems. That is why the secretary-general supports the continuation of the Lahore process between these two countries. It would be a way forward for two neighboring countries that have demonstrated their nuclear capability to solve the bilateral issues between them.

ACT: Is there any hope of rolling back the nuclear programs of those two countries?

Dhanapala: In the short term I see no prospect of that. The elections that are ongoing in India are likely to see the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party], the party that launched India on the nuclear road, return to power, and there is already a draft nuclear doctrine that has been published. [See ACT, July/August 1999.] It does not appear from this evidence that there is going to be rollback of India's nuclear weapons program. And it follows—because the Pakistani nuclear program was a reaction to the Indian program—that Pakistan's program will remain. My hope is that the solution of the political problems, together with general progress on the international nuclear disarmament front, will persuade these countries to rollback. But it has to be linked to progress in international nuclear disarmament.

ACT: So you see the draft doctrine that India issued as a serious document as opposed to a political document released to influence the elections?

Dhanapala: Well, the timing of the publication may have been related to the election campaign to indicate the incumbent government's seriousness in following through with its nuclear plans after the May 1998 tests. But I think that it also is consistent with the statements that were made in the Indian parliament, in the United Nations and in other international forums about India's plans. For example, the concept of "no first use" was always mentioned by India as being an essential element of its nuclear doctrine, and that has been reflected in the draft nuclear doctrine.

It has been stated that the doctrine as published is a discussion document, and the intention is to have as widespread a discussion as possible within India and for the new government, when it is firmly in the saddle, to then decide on making the draft a permanent document. So I think there are serious elements in it that have to be considered, but the timing of its publication was probably dictated by electoral considerations.

ACT: What is the UN doing in the field of conventional arms, including small arms and light weapons?

Dhanapala: We have an entire branch devoted to the subject of conventional arms. While we recognize that the greatest threat to humankind remains weapons of mass destruction, and in particular nuclear weapons, the wars that have been fought since 1945 have been fought with conventional weapons and have caused an enormous number of deaths and an enormous amount of destruction. Most recently, the use of small arms and light weapons during conflicts within countries has resulted in an appalling cost in terms of civilian lives.

Small arms and light weapons have thus emerged as a major item on the disarmament agenda. The UN took the lead in recognizing this issue in 1997 by commissioning a group of government experts, who issued a report with recommendations to arrest the proliferation and the accumulation of small arms and light weapons. That report was followed by another that was issued this year. There have also been several resolutions in the General Assembly—four last year—together with the consideration of the issue at the Security Council level. Last week, the secretary-general spoke at a special session of the Security Council, presided over by the minister of foreign affairs of the Netherlands, that was devoted entirely to the subject of small arms.

We also had the secretary-general designate the Department for Disarmament Affairs as the focal point in the UN system for action on small arms and light weapons, and we have established a mechanism called the Coordinating Action for Small Arms [CASA] to serve as a clearinghouse for information on the activities of the entire UN system in this area, together with forging new initiatives in a multifaceted way. The small arms issue embraces a wide variety of aspects—the security aspect, the humanitarian and human rights aspect, the developmental aspect, and the environmental aspect—all of which have to be addressed holistically when we look at this problem.

ACT: What is the UN doing to control exports and imports of conventional weapons?

Dhanapala: We have developed a number of initiatives that build on the initiatives of member states, such as those of ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States], which has established a moratorium on the import, export and manufacture of small arms and light weapons; the OAS [Organization of American States] convention on firearms; and the Joint Action of the European Union regarding arms exports. All these are building blocks toward a growing international consensus on what should be done. Right now, we are planning an international conference on the illicit trafficking of small arms in all these aspects, which is likely to be held in 2001 in Geneva.

We are also assisting member states in collecting and destroying weapons, particularly in post-conflict situations. The failure to destroy surplus weapons after a conflict can pose a grave risk in terms of recurrence of that conflict, but that risk can be eliminated by collecting the weapons and by finding employment for the demobilized combatants. In addition, we have to look into the protection of civilians in conflict, where easy availability of weapons tends to increase criminality.

Now this means, of course, that exporters have got to be very responsible. We recognize that small arms and light weapons are legitimately used by established governments of sovereign states in the normal defense of their security. But we are talking about surplus arms and the proliferation of small arms well beyond these legitimate security needs. The supply of such weapons has to be arrested if we are to make any impact on current conflicts and on terrorist groups, criminal gangs and drug cartels. So the conference in 2001 will be crucial.

ACT: What is the role of the UN Register of Conventional Arms?

Dhanapala: The Register of Conventional Arms, which was established in 1992, increases transparency in the export, import and national production of conventional arms, and as such serves as an important confidence-building measure. It embraces seven categories of conventional weapons—major weapons, not small arms—but, unfortunately, only 90 countries participate in this registry, approximately. I hope we can expand the number of countries in the registry and also widen its scope to include more categories.

We also have a standardized instrument for the reporting of military expenditure, which again is inadequately used by member states, and we need to also universalize that. Our regional centers in Katmandu, Lima and Lome also assist in our task with the Conventional Arms Register, in organizing seminars with regard to small arms and light weapons, and in developing regional registers.

ACT: What specifically can the UN do to get a handle on the illicit trafficking of weapons?

Dhanapala: A number of proposals are being made. First, I think governments need to agree on measures that will allow more accurate tracing of the journey between exporter and end user through more rigorous customs cooperation. Very often there is a gray market through which some of these exports enter, and their end user is very different from the original destination of these weapons. Therefore if customs, intelligence agencies, Interpol and the entire machinery of both national governments and international organizations work together, we would be able to trace these links much better and prevent the diversion of these exports to undesirable destinations.

Second, some have proposed international markings that would enable tracing of firearms or guns and other small arms. There are also suggestions regarding regional registers and subregional registers of small arms. We are also looking into a study on the feasibility of restricting trade of such weapons to authorized dealers so that it would be possible to locate responsibility more clearly. I think the extent to which governments can agree on these proposals will determine the success of the 2001 meeting I mentioned.

ACT: In recent months, a number of observers have noted that there has been a slowdown in arms control. Some have even referred to the "death of arms control." What is your comment on those observations and what can be done to reverse that perception?

Dhanapala: Well, I'm not ready to deliver an autopsy because I don't think that there has been a death of arms control and disarmament. I think it is not surprising, as I said earlier, that given the post-Cold War euphoria and the international consensus that existed then for disarmament, we had a number of disarmament agreements in quick succession, culminating in the CTBT of 1996. We have seen a change in the international situation since then, and the plateau that we are now on as far as disarmament is concerned is, in my opinion, a temporary lull. As soon as the international situation improves and the conditions are ripe for us to move forward, I believe there will once again be a progressive movement as far as disarmament is concerned.

Now, the elements that will go into this new situation will have to, of course, be generated by the international community, and we cannot allow the lull to last too long because that itself would be a failure and would be self-perpetuating. Therefore, I must urge the international community to look into this.

I am particularly concerned about the question of military expenditure. Global military expenditure fell very sharply after the Cold War. In 1998 it was $745 billion, according to one estimate. Projections for global military expenditure next year indicate a rise from that figure, and I fear that unless we reach disarmament agreements quickly, we are going to see once again a rise of this figure to Cold War levels. That would be a major setback to the global community because of the fundamental relationship between disarmament and development and the many other needs that have been unmet internationally—many people living below the poverty line, many people without safe water and many other global problems that have to be addressed with these resources.

ACT: You have mentioned the relationship between disarmament and the international situation several times. What aspect of the international situation needs to be changed so that disarmament may begin to move forward once again?

Dhanapala: Well, first, I think that with the end of the Cold War and the bipolar structure of international relations that it entailed, it is no longer a situation between the Russian Federation and the United States alone. There are clearly more actors today—more actors than the five permanent members of the Security Council. We have a number of important countries internationally. We are becoming increasingly a multipolar society, although we do have some countries that are clearly more powerful than others. Second, we face a great need today to strengthen the United Nations and the primacy of international law. We need to ensure that the rule of law prevails in the dealings that states have with each other and that the implementation of disarmament agreements and the forging of new disarmament norms is part and parcel of that body of international law.

Finally, I think that we need to work together more cooperatively with regard to the global interest. In today's globalized society there is a greater integration of the international economy and the political systems of countries. Therefore, in the pursuit of their national interests, states must recognize that there is a fundamental correlation between national interests and global interests, whether it is the political, military, economic or trade aspects. This global perspective has to be increasingly borne in mind.

ACT: Is part of the problem a sense of unease with the overwhelming relative power of the United States?

Dhanapala: I think inevitably after the end of the Cold War, which left the United States as the sole surviving superpower, a period of adjustment has become necessary between this overwhelmingly superior power and the rest of the world, including the United Nations. I believe there have been areas in which the United States has worked very well with the international community in achieving global norms and implementing global norms, but clearly there are areas where some elements within the United States have perceived the U.S. national interest to be at variance with the global interest. I think that the degree to which we can harmonize the U.S. national interest with the global interest will be the measure of success of U.S. leadership in the international community—leadership it is called upon to assume by virtue of its superior power.

ACT: What would be your vision of an expanded or refocused role for the UN in arms control and disarmament?

Dhanapala: I think our primary objective at this point is to reassess the global objectives in disarmament and reforge a global consensus on what the world community must set as its targets. This can be done, in my opinion, through a fourth special session of the General Assembly, which we call SSOD IV in the shorthand that we adopt here. My hope is that the member-states of the UN can agree on having that meeting in order to address the roles of multilateral disarmament in the immediate future and agree on a program of action to achieve those goals. Without that, I think we are groping and making piecemeal arrangements, whether in the area of weapons of mass destruction or the in the area of conventional arms.

It is useful to have these benchmarks, and the final document of the first special session SSOD I is already 21 years old. We have had several achievements, including the CTBT, and therefore we need to look at a fresh set of goals that should be achieved in the changed situation since the Cold War ended. And unless we do that, I think we do not have a compass for the future. SSOD IV will also help us to forge that vision, upon which the UN would very much like to see the international community agree. We must move toward an international society that places less emphasis on weaponry to solve issues that should be solved through nonviolent political means, through diplomacy.

Having a common security at lower levels of arms is the vision that the UN would have. A general and complete disarmament under international control has been the motto that has been adopted from the earliest times, but it translates really into possession of the minimum level of armaments—of conventional weaponry, that is, because I do think weapons of mass destruction should be abolished as we have abolished chemical and biological weapons—and that the minimum level required for national security would therefore pose no security threat to other countries. The realization of these goals would enable us to achieve a more peaceful and a more prosperous world.

 


Dhanapala Reacts to the U.S. Senate's Rejection of the CTBT

The decision to join a major international security treaty is, of course, a decision that is left exclusively to individual nation-states in the exercise of their sovereignty. The secretary-general has already expressed his regret over the U.S. Senate's recent vote against the ratification of the CTBT, reaffirming the importance of a universal and internationally and effectively verifiable comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty in maintaining the nuclear non-proliferation regime and progress towards nuclear disarmament. The vote was all the more regrettable given the efforts of U.S. leaders over several decades to achieve such a treaty and the strong public support this goal continues to enjoy.

The fate of the CTBT will shape significantly the future of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)—a treaty whose indefinite extension in 1995 was closely tied to the conclusion of a CTBT. In April of next year, the states-parties to the NPT will assemble in New York for the treaty's next five-year review conference. I fully expect that participants will assess closely the progress made in achieving this comprehensive ban on all nuclear tests, which had been promised in 1995.

The good news is that the fundamental norm against testing remains strong worldwide and that no nuclear-weapon state has indicated any intention of ending its current moratorium on conducting such tests. The challenge ahead is to persist in a collective international effort to make this norm binding under international law and to reinforce this basic obligation with a highly reliable system of verification that is being established in terms of the treaty's process. The sooner the CTBT enters into force, the sooner both of these goals will be achieved. —Jayantha Dhanapala

Interviewed by J. Peter Scoblic

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

June 1999

Interviewed by J. Peter Scoblic

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACT: What specific measures could the United States take?

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

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

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

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

ACT: Would ratification of START II accomplish that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACT: Was force needed at that point?

Butler: Not my call.

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

Butler: Unity in the Council would have helped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACT: What sorts of malfeasance, specifically?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACT: Can you say to which states?

Butler: No, I won't.

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

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

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

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

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

Interviewed by J. Peter Scoblic

The CWC at the Two-Year Mark: An Interview With Dr. John Gee

In the little more than two years since it entered into force on April 29, 1997, the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) has become one of the most widely adhered to arms control treaties in the world. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the body established to oversee implementation of the convention, has been working steadily to fulfill the CWC's extensive verification and inspection mandate and push for treaty universality.

In late May, Dr. John Gee, OPCW deputy director-general, was appointed acting director-general during a short leave of absence by José Bustani. Dr. Gee, a 54-year-old Australian career diplomat with extensive experience in arms control and degrees in chemistry, has played the principal role in the day-to-day administration of the treaty Secretariat and served as the chief policy advisor to Mr. Bustani.

Born in Launceston, Tasmania, Dr. Gee joined the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs in 1971 and served in various missions in Cairo, Moscow, New Delhi and Bangkok. He began his involvement in chemical weapons disarmament issues with the Foreign Service in 1982, and has continued amid other assignments. From May 1991 to April 1993, Dr. Gee was a member of the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM), serving in 1991 as UNSCOM's coordinator of the CBW Working Group. In April 1993, he was appointed director of the Verification Division of the OPCW's Provisional Technical Secretariat, and deputy director-general in May 1997.

On May 28, Arms Control Today editor Tom Pfeiffer spoke with Dr. Gee about the first two years of the convention's operation and the road ahead. The following is an edited version of their conversation.


Arms Control Today: What is the current status of the CWC and what are the accomplishments of the OPCW during its first two years of operation?

John Gee: The Chemical Weapons Convention is built on four main pillars: first, the destruction of existing stockpiles and chemical weapons production capacity and the verification of this process [Articles III, IV and V]; secondly, non-proliferation [Article VI]; thirdly, assistance and protection [Article X]; and fourthly, international cooperation in the peaceful uses of chemistry [Article XI]. All four are interrelated. Because of the very strict and demanding timelines in the convention in relation to the first two in particular, we have had to devote much more attention since entry into force to the disarmament and non-proliferation pillars. Our programs in the Article X and XI areas are, however, now also starting to be developed and to gather momentum.

As of today, Friday, May 28, which is 759 days after entry into force, we've completed 475 inspections at 278 sites in 29 states-parties, for a total of just over 30,000 inspector days since we commenced inspection operations almost exactly two years ago, on June 1, 1997. We have carried out all of the initial inspections of the chemical weapons-related facilities that were declared to us by three possessor states at entry into force, and in January 1998 by the Russian Federation, which ratified the convention in November 1997. We have carried out initial inspections at 33 chemical weapons storage sites and 63 chemical weapons production facilities or former chemical weapons production facilities, and we have undertaken routine re-inspections since then. We have a continuous monitoring presence at three operating chemical weapons destruction facilities in the United States. We have also monitored, as required, destruction operations at five non-continuously operating sites in the United States, and we have begun monitoring destruction operations in another state-party, which has just started destroying its chemical weapons. We have commenced industry inspections. We have carried out all the initial inspections of the declared Schedule 1 facilities, and we are well on the way to completing the initial inspections of declared Schedule 2 facilities. As you know, all initial inspections of Schedule 2 facilities have to be carried out, if possible, within the first three years after the entry into force of the convention. We currently have approximately 120 declared Schedule 2 facilities, and we have carried out the initial inspections at just over 100 of them. We have also begun the inspection of Schedule 3 facilities. So the verification regime is proceeding very satisfactorily at the moment.

ACT: What have been the priorities for the OPCW leading to the two-year mark in terms of establishing the inspection regime?

Gee: From the Secretariat's point of view, we have learned a number of things. The first of these is that multilateral verification carried out by a multinational agency like ours not only works but works well. We have an inspectorate of approximately 200 inspectors from over 50 different nationalities. They underwent a very thorough five-month training course before they joined the organization. I think that has paid off in terms of making them good inspectors and well equipped to carry out their task.

The second element that we've learned is that a cooperative approach yields considerable dividends. We see our mandate as being to assist the states-parties to demonstrate their compliance with the provisions of the convention. We do not try to adopt a hostile or confrontational approach to our inspections. Rather, our approach is simply to assist the state-party to ensure that all the facts that have to be laid out on the table are addressed. That's not to say that problems don't arise from time to time in the course of inspections—they do. But in the great majority of cases they are sorted out pretty quickly. So I think that's been a considerable achievement. Also, our inspectorate is an independent body. All of our inspectors are international civil servants on fixed-term contracts to the OPCW; they are not experts on loan from member-states.

From the point of view of the member-states, I think they too have learned something. There was a great deal of concern prior to entry into force, particularly from states-parties that had never had inspections before, about the intrusiveness of the on-site inspection process, particularly given the provisions of the convention, which are very stringent indeed. A lot of them have now concluded that the experience isn't as bad as they thought it might have been. So that in itself has also been a helpful development.

ACT: Have there been any surprises so far in the initial declarations that have been received by the OPCW?

Gee: There have been one or two small surprises. But what is significant is the fact that the declarations have been made and the key parts of each state-party's declaration are available to all other states-parties. That, I think, has been a considerable confidence-building measure because it has, within the strict confidentiality provisions of the convention, enabled states-parties to see what other states-parties have declared and, if necessary, to seek clarification. This process has answered a lot of questions that were out there prior to entry into force. Frankly, prior to entry into force, before states-parties made their declarations, all that other countries had to go on were press reports and intelligence estimates and so forth. The whole process of having declarations available to other states-parties has been a great success and a very substantial confidence-building measure.

ACT: What is your assessment of the current destruction timetable for the CWC? Do you have a sense now of how realistic the timetable really is?

Gee: There are four declared chemical weapons possessors, all of which are under a treaty obligation to destroy their stockpiles by April 29, 2007. Now, for the possessors of the two smaller stockpiles, which are India and another state-party, their stockpiles are modest in total size by comparison with those of the Russian Federation and the United States. In my view, there's no reason at all why they shouldn't be able to meet the timelines that are set out in the convention.

For the U.S., and more so for Russia, the question is a little more difficult to answer but for different reasons. It's more difficult to answer given the size and complexity of the problem in both cases, and because there are important differences between the two cases. In the U.S., the destruction program is by now very firmly established and destruction is proceeding on the basis of the baseline technology of high-temperature incineration. There are three destruction facilities already in operation and there are a number due to come on stream within the next few years. We are told that by the end of this year, 22 percent of the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile will be destroyed. And, of course, the studies on alternative technologies for destruction required by the Congress are also now well underway. As far as I can see there is no inherent reason why the United States shouldn't meet the destruction timelines. The big question here, of course, is whether there may be any new environmental or health and safety concerns that might arise. I'm not really in a position to comment any further about that. But provided there are no unexpected surprises, there's no reason at all why the U.S. shouldn't meet the timelines in the convention.

In the case of the Russian Federation the situation is much more complex. The Russians have identified and decided upon the technologies that they will use to destroy their chemical warfare agents. They now have plans well underway for the construction of facilities at three of their sites: at Gornyi, Shchuchie and Kambarka. However, these only represent about one-third of the total Russian stockpile, and plans for the destruction operations at the other four sites are much less advanced. The Russians have many problems to overcome, but the principal problem is a financial one. It's now very clear that if they are to meet destruction timelines, they're going to require substantial foreign assistance. I know some of this has already been forthcoming from countries in the European Union and the United States, but the Russians are going to require a lot more assistance than they have received so far or that appears to be currently in the pipeline.

Another problem that is perhaps not quite appreciated is the problem of the abandoned chemical weapons in China. Here the problem is that they are mostly buried, scattered in a wide number of different locations, and there are differences of view as to precisely how many there are. The estimates vary anywhere between 700,000 to 2 million individual rounds. All of these are five decades old, most of them are in pretty poor condition and they all have to be treated individually. So destroying all of that within the timelines of the convention is also likely to be a problem. The Chinese and Japanese have been in consultation on this issue for some time now, and I understand that they are close to agreeing on an approach to resolve it.

ACT: Have all the possessor states begun their required destruction programs at the two-year mark?

Gee: The convention requires that destruction of chemical weapons based on Schedule 1 chemicals should start not later than two years after the convention enters into force for the state-party. Destruction of unfilled chemical munitions must start not later than one year after the state-party joined the OPCW. For three states-parties, the two-year timeline is already passed; for the fourth—Russia—it has not. Two states have started destruction. The other two are close to starting. It depends on how you define "start." Does start constitute the start of the construction of the destruction facilities or does start actually constitute the start of destruction of munitions and agent? If the latter, then at least one hasn't made it. If the former, then I think all of them have made it. The important thing is that the convention requires that you have to get rid of 1 percent of the stockpile within three years after entry into force—April 29, 2000. I think they can all achieve that. Whether they will is another matter, but at the moment they're all well positioned to be able to do that.

ACT: What role has the OPCW played in addressing the problem of abandoned chemical weapons so far?

Gee: With regard to China and Japan, those consultations have been a bilateral effort. They have kept us informed in broad terms of progress, but essentially that's been a process that they have worked on themselves. Our involvement with the abandoned chemical weapons in China has been to verify the declarations that have been made by the Chinese and the Japanese. We have carried out nine abandoned chemical weapons inspections in China at nine sites since the end of 1997. The OPCW Executive Council has adopted a decision on the cost of verification of abandoned chemical weapons, which is now subject to adoption by the Conference of States-Parties. In addition, the Chinese and the Japanese have also reached agreement on how Japan will reimburse China for the costs of the Chinese national escorts teams accompanying OPCW inspectors. We assist them with the processing of such reimbursements. It would be fair to say that the OPCW is playing a facilitating role in this aspect.

ACT: Are there other states-parties that now face the problem of abandoned chemical weapons? Can the experience of China and Japan apply to these cases?

Gee: By the end of last year six states-parties—Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom—submitted declarations of old chemical weapons on their territories, while three states-parties—China, Panama and Italy—submitted declarations of abandoned chemical weapons on their territories. Japan notified the OPCW of its abandoned chemical weapons in China.

There are substantial numbers of old chemical weapons that were used during World War I, albeit in a very limited theater, basically northern France and Belgium. Germany has also declared the presence of old chemical weapons on its territory. During World War II, enormous numbers of chemical munitions were produced and stockpiled and transported around the world and in most cases never used. But quite often at the end of World War II they were disposed of in situ rather than taken back to the states that produced them. Sometimes they were dumped at sea, sometimes they were burned in open pits, but sometimes they were just simply forgotten about. Unfortunately, the latter pop up from time to time, as happened, for example, with some U.S. chemical munitions dating from World War II, which were discovered in the Solomon Islands in 1991.

ACT: The CWC destruction process won't include those munitions that have been dumped into international waters. Do you have any idea about the scope of that problem?

Gee: Only in very general terms. We have some idea of the dimensions of the problem but I would not say that we have an accurate idea, basically because there's no requirement for the OPCW to become involved in them. The decision was taken that once they were dumped at sea essentially that was it—they were disposed of. And provided they're not dumped after January 1985, they do not fall under the purview of the convention.

ACT: There are many countries that signed the CWC but have not yet ratified the convention. What do you believe are the reasons they have not yet ratified?

Gee: When you look at the number of states-parties that we have and the number of signatory states, I think our convention has been very successful indeed. We will soon have 125 states-parties; Estonia ratified just two days ago, bringing the total to 125. We have a further 45 signatory states. When you add those two figures together you have 170 members of the international community that have either signed or ratified the convention. It is important to remember that under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, signatories are bound not to undercut a treaty's provisions until they give formal notification that they don't intend to ratify. From that perspective then, our convention becomes the most widely adhered to arms control-disarmament convention after the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT]. I think only the Biological Weapons Convention [BWC] comes close in terms of the number of states that have signed and ratified. That's a pretty impressive achievement for an agreement that entered into force only two years ago. When you consider how long it took to get the membership of the NPT that we have today—over two decades—we've managed to achieve much the same result in two years. In my view, this is due to the universal character of the convention and also, of course, of the times in which we live and the desire of the international community to eliminate chemical weapons.

I want to assure you that we assign a very high priority to achieving universal adherence to the convention. In fact, the first official visit that the director-general and I made together, after the entry into force of the convention and the establishment of the OPCW was, in fact, in September 1997 to two non-states-parties—Russia and Ukraine. They were both signatory states at that stage but they hadn't ratified, and I'm pleased to say that both of them have since done so. As for the states that have signed but not yet ratified, we continue to take every opportunity within our resource constraints to talk to them to persuade them to ratify. Our resources are not unlimited, so we have to prioritize. We are also in contact with the other 23 states that have neither signed nor ratified.

We carry out our contacts with all non-states-parties through a number of channels. When the director-general goes to New York each fall for the meetings of the UN General Assembly's First Committee, he takes advantage of his presence there to talk to the representatives of the non-states-parties. We also follow up with energetic direct contact with representatives here in The Hague and also in capitals. This approach has also been successful, most recently in the case of Sudan. We spent a lot of time talking with the Sudanese here in The Hague. It was successful also in Nigeria's case. I visited Kazakhstan and Malaysia last year and they both assured me that they are committed to the principles of the convention and politically there is no problem. It's just a question of bureaucratic delay and assigning it the necessary priority. Our External Relations Division and our International Cooperation and Assistance Division run a number of seminars on an annual basis in various countries and regions of the world, and we invite both signatory states and non-signatory states.

One of the things that will assist universality is seeing the convention implemented successfully and realizing that there is something in it for them. Many countries say: "Yes, we're committed to the goal of the elimination of chemical weapons, but we don't have any and therefore membership in the OPCW is not as high a priority for us as some other things are." I think what we have to do and what we try to do is to persuade them of the benefits of joining the convention—which include the right to receive assistance if they are attacked or threatened with attack by chemical weapons and to participate in our international cooperation programs—and also outline to them the problems they may face by not joining. As you know, the convention has certain restrictions in relation to trade in chemicals that appear on the schedules.

On the second anniversary of the convention's entry into force [April 29, 1999], the director-general did two things. First, he published in the International Herald Tribune a list of states which had signed but not yet ratified the convention and a list of states which had yet to accede to the convention. That had not been done in a public forum before. So there it was in black and white for the international community to see who was a state-party and who wasn't. The second thing he did was to write a letter to each of the non-states-parties—that is, to the signatory states and the non-signatory states—indicating to them that one year from now states-parties would have to implement sanctions against them in relation to trade in chemicals that appear on Schedule 2 of the convention. So, in some cases, there will be an economic cost by not becoming a state-party. It's clear from the reporting by states-parties of their trade in chemicals that appear on Schedules 2 and 3 of the convention that a number of non-states-parties import chemicals on the Schedules from states-parties. In relation to the chemicals on Schedule 2, that trade is going to have to be cut off in the year 2000. This is a point that we emphasize to them as well.

Finally, when we visit states-parties, we do ask them, where possible, also to talk to the states that haven't yet ratified. We try to work with states-parties that may have particular influence with non-states parties. For example, we asked the Brazilians for their assistance in talking to the Portuguese-speaking states in Africa that have not yet either ratified or acceded to the convention, and France for assistance with the francophone non-states-parties. It's a joint effort involving both us and the states-parties, and it's actually been quite successful. As I noted a moment ago, when the convention entered into force, we had 87 states-parties; we now have 125. That's a 40 percent increase in membership in the last two years, which is indicative of the attractiveness of the convention and the efforts that we and the states-parties put into persuading non-states-parties to join the OPCW.

ACT: Sudan acceded to the convention only four days ago. What impact do you believe Khartoum's accession will have on other non-signatories, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa?

Gee: I hope it will have a very significant effect. In relation to North African states, there are only two that are now left out: Libya and Egypt. In the Middle East region more generally, we're missing Libya; Egypt; Israel, which has signed but not ratified; Syria; Lebanon; and of course Iraq. So Sudan's accession to the convention actually is a very significant step in that regard, and I hope it will persuade the others to do likewise. We've had some approaches from the Libyans in the last months, particularly since the arraignment of the Lockerbie bombing suspects, so we are hopeful that we may be able to persuade them to accede soon as well. We have also spent some time talking to the Israelis, but I think we all realize that the new government will require some more time yet before it's ready to start addressing these questions in detail.

ACT: After the CWC enters into force for Sudan [30 days after it deposits its instrument of ratification] will the OPCW have any role to play in helping resolve the current dispute between the United States and Sudan regarding the chemical facility that was destroyed by the U.S. last year?

Gee: It could if both states-parties agree that it should. Until now, of course, both have been addressing the fallout from this bilaterally or through other forums, such as the Sudanese attempts to involve the United Nations last year. But the mechanism is always there if they wish to use it. It's unfortunate that Sudan was not a state-party at the time of the incident, because the fact-finding and consultation provisions in the convention would have provided the United States with means other than the one it chose to address its concerns about Sudan's perceived chemical weapons capabilities.

ACT: Had Sudan been a state-party at the time, what would have been the process that would have allowed the U.S. to quickly address its concerns?

Gee: The convention provides a number of possibilities. The first one is to approach the country concerned directly. This is provided for in Article IX of the convention, which deals with challenge inspections. It's widely but inaccurately believed that Article IX deals only with challenge inspections, but, in fact, its first sections cover consultations, cooperation and fact-finding and set out procedures for requesting clarification. These can be done bilaterally or through the Executive Council. Only in Paragraph 8 does Article IX begin to address in detail challenge inspection. So while it is of course open to a state-party to request a challenge inspection without right of refusal, in order to resolve concerns about compliance, the convention provides for the possibility of a process of clarification, consultation and fact-finding before the challenge-inspection mechanism is invoked should a state-party wish to exercise those options before requesting a challenge inspection. In short, all options are there should any state-party wish to exercise them in relation to another state-party.

ACT: During the first two years of the convention's operation, has any state-party requested a challenge inspection under Article IX?

Gee: No, it has not.

ACT: Does that surprise you?

Gee: No, frankly, it doesn't. I think the fact that states-parties have access to the declarations of all other states-parties has helped to resolve a lot of questions that were out there previously. It hasn't resolved all of them. But a number of states-parties have approached other states-parties directly to ask questions about their declarations, and that's a very healthy process. I think what that means is that the convention is actually working by functioning as a confidence-building measure, and it's giving states-parties the opportunity to clarify uncertainties with other states-parties. So far it's not clear to me that any state-party has actually seen the need to invoke the challenge-inspection provisions of the convention. And, of course, any state-party that has not itself fully complied with all the declaration requirements under the convention is likely to think twice before it launches a challenge inspection on any other state-party.

ACT: What is the distinction between the clarification process we just discussed and the clarification mechanism through the OPCW's Executive Council? Has the latter mechanism been used so far by any state-party?

Gee: Paragraph 2 of Article IX provides for states-parties to approach other states-parties directly. Paragraphs 3, 4 and 5 take the process to the next step if the state-party wants to do so. If it feels that this process of bilateral discussions has not yielded all the answers, it can then formally request that the Executive Council assist in clarifying any matters. So far that process hasn't yet happened either. I think it would be fair to say that what we're seeing at the moment is a process that is confined to individual states-parties approaching other states-parties directly. Now, it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that some states in the future could approach the council and ask it to attain clarification, but so far it hasn't happened.

ACT: During the Third Session of the Conference of States-Parties [November 16-20, 1998], some delegations had expressed concern over the non-compliance of states-parties in submitting their initial declarations or submitting incomplete declarations. How many states now do you consider to be in non-compliance and what is the OPCW doing to correct that?

Gee: The current situation is that approximately 25 percent of our states-parties still have to make the initial declaration required under Article III, which covers holdings of chemical weapons, chemical weapons production facilities, old and abandoned chemical weapons, CW development facilities and riot control agents; and Article VI, which covers portions of the commercial chemical industry. There are a number of other declarations or notifications that are required as well. For example, states-parties are required to inform the OPCW of their national authority; of the designated point of entry; of a special diplomatic clearance number for non-scheduled flights and other things. Here the record is even worse, if that's the right term. Both the conference and the Executive Council have expressed their concern about this and have called upon all of the states that have not yet made declarations to do so as soon as possible. They have published, for themselves, a list of states-parties that have not yet made these declarations. We have been in touch with all of them to urge them to make the declarations as soon as possible. We have offered assistance to do so. We have established a network of "declaration experts"; that is, experts from the Secretariat and states-parties in various regions around the world who can be sent on request to assist states-parties with their declarations. A number of states-parties have already requested, and received, such assistance.

Clearly, from a political point of view it's undesirable to have a situation where approximately one-quarter of our states-parties have not made the declarations required of them. On the other hand, most of the countries would, on any objective yardstick, not have very much, if indeed anything, at all to declare anyway. In a functional sense, the consequences might not be all that serious. But in a political sense, of course, they are, and that's most unfortunate.

As to who's made an incomplete declaration, well, it's not always clear what an incomplete declaration is. But unfortunately the United States is the one country that has clearly not yet made a complete declaration because it hasn't yet provided us the required declaration for its chemical industry. Anyway, we're very hopeful that that process will be completed soon. The U.S. implementing legislation was passed last October, and we have been informed that the requisite executive order is likely to be signed by President Clinton sometime in the near future. That should pave the way for the U.S. to make its industry declarations in the very near future, which would be a significant boost to the convention.

ACT: From the OPCW's perspective, what exactly is the nature of the problem with the U.S. implementing legislation? What effect, if any, has it had on the implementation of the convention?

Gee: There are three problems, two I regard as substantial. The third is also important but perhaps not in quite the same category as the other two. The first one is Condition 18, under which the United States Senate decided that no chemical sample collected by the OPCW in the course of its inspections activities in the United States would be taken out of the country for analysis at our network of designated laboratories. The second one is what I understand to be, in effect, a right of presidential veto on a particular challenge inspection for national security grounds. Now the convention is quite clear on challenge inspection: there is no right of refusal. So that condition would appear to me, at least prima facie, to be contrary to the provisions of the convention.

The problem with the sample analysis issue is not so much one of strict incompatibility with the language of the convention because the convention talks about off-site analysis. But it was always understood during the work of the Preparatory Commission here that off-site meant, in effect, out of country, and all of our analytical procedures and the work that has gone into setting up our network of designated laboratories in a number of states-parties to carry out analysis of samples taken off-site was based on that premise. While no other country has followed the United States in enacting such provisions, a number of other states have indicated to us informally that if these things remain, then they may well themselves take similar action.

The third problem with the U.S. implementing legislation is in relation to the low concentration limit set for the declaration of Schedule 3 chemicals, which is 80 percent. While there is no consensus among member-states as to what the limit should be, most have opted for a much lower figure, in the vicinity of 20 to 30 percent. It is hard to see how the figure of 80 percent could be considered "low."

ACT: So no other state-party has placed unilateral conditions on its own implementation?

Gee: Not to my knowledge. Some states have hinted informally to us that they've contemplated doing so, but to my knowledge so far nobody has done that.

ACT: How would the OPCW deal with the issue of other states-parties declaring unilateral conditions in their implementation of the convention?

Gee: That's not clear at this stage. There has not been a great deal of discussion on the issue within the OPCW's policy-making organs. I think a number of people are frankly hoping that it will go away. But it's hard to say what the long-term implications would be. So far there haven't been any direct consequences in the practical sense. As I mentioned earlier, we've never had to carry out a challenge inspection anywhere, and we've never had to take a sample off-site or out of country for analysis. It was always envisaged that both of these things—taking a sample out of the country for off-site analysis and launching a challenge inspection—would be a pretty rare occurrence. After all, launching a challenge inspection is an extremely serious business because it risks accusing a state-party of cheating on its obligations or being seen to be doing so. To me, challenge inspection has always been the option of last resort. I have always felt that the likelihood of us taking a sample off-site or the likelihood of us conducting a challenge inspection was not high. But on the other hand, it was always important to have the two provisions there, because the combination of challenge inspection and the right to take a sample out of the country for analysis, in my view, posed a very powerful deterrent to a potential violator. To the extent that the U.S. action appears to be cutting across that, I think the convention has been weakened.

ACT: Although Iraq currently is not a state-party to the CWC, given the uncertain future of the UN Special Commission [UNSCOM], is there a role for the OPCW to play in helping to maintain the UN mandate to monitor and prevent Iraq's acquisition of chemical weapons?

Gee: We believe from a technical and operational point of view we could successfully carry out a mandate if given to us in the chemical area in Iraq. We have carried out nearly 500 inspections in 29 states-parties over the last two years or so. We have 200 very well-trained and experienced inspectors and a good solid headquarters staff to back them. But I think we have to be very clear about what it is that we would be doing if we were required to participate in some way in a future monitoring regime in Iraq.

Hence, our view is that while we have the necessary expertise and experience, we can only become involved in Iraq under very certain and well-specified conditions. The first of these is that Iraq would have to accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention. The second is that the terms and conditions of our participation in Iraq would have to be very clearly defined, understood and accepted by everybody involved, by which we mean the Security Council, our own member-states and, of course, Iraq itself. Finally, we could only accept a role in Iraq using our own methods and procedures in order to safeguard their independence and integrity, and reporting directly to the Security Council.

ACT: Do you have a sense as to the view of member-states for the OPCW to become involved in something other than strictly a treaty-implementation process?

Gee: Some of them have doubts about it. That's become very clear.

ACT: What do you see to be the major issues that will arise at the upcoming Fourth Session of the Conference of States-Parties?

Gee: A major issue will be the membership of the organization: which states have ratified the convention and which are still outside it, and the measures that should be taken to persuade those outside the organization to join it. Another item is likely to be the question of declarations and what more can we do to encourage those who have not yet made their declarations to do so. The conference also will be adopting a number of reports—the Executive Council's report and the annual report of the organization itself. There will be elections to the Executive Council because half the members of the council come up for re-election every year.

One of the most important issues to be considered by the conference will be the organization's program and budget for the year 2000. Here the key issue remaining to be resolved will be the level of resources to be allocated to industry inspections. There are two issues here. First, some states-parties, particularly those with large chemical industries, have been very unhappy with the fact that their chemical industries have had to make declarations and receive a substantial number of OPCW inspections while one of their major competitors, the U.S. chemical industry, has so far not made any declarations or had to receive any inspections at all. So they have imposed restrictions this year on the number of their facilities that we're allowed to inspect until such time as the United States makes its industry declarations and we can inspect U.S. facilities. That's why it's very important, as I mentioned earlier, that the U.S. provide us with its industry declaration as soon as possible so that this issue of non-compliance can be removed, because it's threatening to become a very divisive issue.

The second issue is whether or not inspections of other chemical production facilities, i.e. facilities that produce discreet organic chemicals [DOCs], will start in May 2000. The convention requires, in part IX of the Verification Annex, that the inspections of what have now become termed as DOC facilities will start at the beginning of the fourth year after entry into force unless the upcoming session of the conference of states-parties decides otherwise. We have four categories of chemical industry facilities mentioned in the convention: Schedule 1, Schedule 2, Schedule 3 and DOCs. The OPCW has been carrying out inspections on Schedule 1, 2 and 3 facilities, and now we have to get ready to carry out inspections at DOC facilities as well. These will be the main issues from the verification side.

The Secretariat is also hopeful that the member-states will decide on the staff regulations, including the tenure policy for the staff of the Secretariat. Failure to do so will put the director-general in a very difficult position in relation to the renewal to staff contracts: with the exception of the director-general himself, who has a four-year contract, all staff are on three-year contracts, and the first of these come up for renewal in May 2000. Finally, the other key issue to be discussed will be the types of programs and the level of resources to be allocated in relation to Article X of the convention, which as you will recall from my introductory remarks is the provision of assistance to states that are attacked or threatened with attack by chemical weapons, and to Article XI, which addresses international cooperation and the peaceful use of chemistry. We have, in fact, started to develop quite a well-put together program in this area. Not only is it important for its own sake, but it is one of the keys to bringing about universality as well, because when a number of the developing countries see that the convention actually offers some tangible benefits for them, then they might be that much more persuaded to join. So there's a very clear link between the implementation of the convention in all its respects—in other words, is the verification aspect working properly, is the international cooperation aspect working properly—and universality. If the convention is perceived to be a failure, of course, then there's no incentive for states to join. If, on the other hand, the convention is clearly seen to offer tangible benefits, either in terms of enhanced security or increased assistance and cooperation in the peaceful uses of chemistry or both, then, of course, non-states-parties are that much more likely to ratify or accede to the convention and join the OPCW. [Back to top]


CWC Membership (As of May 31, 1999)
States-Parties (122):

Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Guyana, Holy See, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Laos, Latvia, Lesotho, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, St. Lucia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikstan, Tanzania, Togo, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, Zimbabwe

Entry Into Force Pending (3):

Estonia, Nigeria, Sudan

Non-Ratifying Signatories (46):

Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bhutan, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Cyprus, Dijbouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Gabon, Greneda, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Honduras, Israel, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Lichtenstein, Madagascar, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Myanmar (Burma), Nauru, Nicaragua, Rwanda, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Vincent & Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sierra Leone, Thailand, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Zaire, Zambia

Non-States-Parties (22):

Andorra, Angola, Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Egypt, Eritrea, Iraq, Kiribati, Lebanon, Libya, Mozambique, North Korea, Palua, Sao Tome & Principe, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Syria, Tonga, Tuvala, Vanuata, Yugoslavia

Interviewed by Tom Pfeiffer

U.S. Interests and Priorities at the CD: Interview with Robert T. Grey, Jr.

Named U.S. permanent representative to the UN Conference on Disarmament (CD) in October 1997, Ambassador Robert T. Grey, Jr. completed his first year as head of the U.S. CD delegation on September 9, the close of the 1998 negotiating session. On November 20, Arms Control Association Research Analyst Wade Boese met with Ambassador Grey to discuss the CD's progress during 1998 and its prospects for the 1999 session, scheduled to begin January 18.

Ambassador Grey joined the Foreign Service in 1960 and held positions including executive assistant to the under secretary of state for political affairs and deputy office director in the Office of Military Sales and Assistance, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. He has also served as acting deputy director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (1981–1983) and counselor for political affairs to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations (1989–1994). Prior to his CD appointment, Grey led the State Department UN Reform Team.

The following is an edited version of the interview.

 


Arms Control Today: After a disappointing 1997 session of the conference, the CD took some positive steps this year, in particular, agreement to begin work on a fissile material cutoff treaty. What do you attribute as the cause for the CD's success this year as opposed to last year?

Robert Grey: I think basically there was a little bit of fatigue in 1997. The CTBT [Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, completed in 1996] negotiation was long and protracted. Then folks took a pause; they wanted to take a look at which way to proceed at the following year's session. The obvious thing to work on was the FMCT, the fissile material cutoff treaty, but there was resistance on the part of India and Pakistan. Then the [Indian and Pakistani nuclear] testing took place [in May] and there was renewed pressure from the rest of the international community. Ultimately, at the last week of this year's CD, we got a week's work in on the FMCT, and I hope we can pick up where we left off on that and a number of other subjects when we reconvene on January 18.

ACT: Do you feel there was a sense of urgency among the delegations of the CD this year—that they had to do something or risk losing the CD's credibility as a multilateral negotiating forum?

Grey: I think there's always a sense in the CD that we're not perceived to be working actively on what we've set out to do. There's a risk that people will begin to consider the conference irrelevant; so yes, that's a concern. It's always there; I don't think it's any more urgent or less urgent than at any other time.

ACT: The 1997 deadlock was widely attributed to a standoff over negotiating priorities within the conference—the nuclear-weapon states and West European states favored negotiations on a cutoff treaty, whereas the non-aligned movement linked such talks to a timebound framework for nuclear disarmament. What broke this particular impasse this year? How much did the nuclear tests of India and Pakistan contribute to this shift in the non-aligneds' position?

Grey: There has been an evolution, and there is an interest on the part of a number of delegations, as you can see by the recently passed resolution in the [UN General Assembly's] First Committee on nuclear disarmament, in which a number of countries, both Western and G-77 [the non-aligned group], want to discuss nuclear disarmament in the CD. Some want to negotiate it, some only want to discuss it, but there's pressure to do something. So it's not just a North-South issue, if you will, or a West-versus-the-others type of proposition. It's a more widely felt sentiment. Some of our own allies would be interested in having the CD look at nuclear disarmament in a way that didn't have a negative impact on the ongoing U.S.-Russian bilateral negotiations.

So there's been an evolution from a timebound framework to something less than a timebound framework on the part of the G-77, and a push from some Western delegations to at least discuss nuclear disarmament without impeding or impacting negatively on U.S.-Russian negotiations. But I do think the Indian-Pakistani tests were a wake-up call for the entire community that we had to get on with our work; 47 members of the CD formally expressed concern and dismay at the tests when they occurred. And that was across a broad spectrum of CD membership.

Our own view is very clear: we don't think it is helpful or useful to discuss nuclear disarmament or negotiate nuclear disarmament in a multilateral context. We are prepared to keep people abreast of where we are in the negotiations with the Russians. But we don't think it would be productive, given the track record we have by proceeding step by step, to take nuclear disarmament and throw it into a multilateral context. The clear multilateral job to do in the future is the FMCT, and we will continue to push for progress there.

ACT: What impact do you feel that the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests had on the conference in general?

Grey: As I said, I think they were a wake-up call to all of us that we have to get on with our work. The resolution in this year's First Committee, in which a strong majority deeply deplored the Indian and Pakistani tests, was a clear sign that the international community is very, very concerned and upset about them. There were a number of "killer" amendments attached to that resolution by Pakistan and India, and they all were voted down; this is an indication that the world is deeply concerned and entirely serious about trying to keep the NPT [nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] regime in place and to make progress toward disarmament. There's been a sort of sea change here, this being the biggest threat to the effectiveness of the NPT in many years. This is because the tests represent the most serious challenge to the non-proliferation regime as anchored by the NPT. We don't want the world to think that the NPT is hollow.

ACT: The United States will assume the rotating presidency of the conference for the first four working weeks of the 1999 session. What will be your goals as the president of the conference? What do you hope will be accomplished during that period?

Grey: What I would like to do is to get the conference up and running, as early and quickly as possible, on all the subjects that were being discussed and along the same general lines that prevailed when the session ended in September: two ad hoc committees, one on negative security assurances and one on FMCT, and special coordinators to deal with the other items that were being considered—membership expansion, the form of the agenda, outer space, APLs [anti-personnel landmines], transparency in armaments, and improving the functioning of the conference. In addition, the troika of the past, present and future CD presidents were responsible for working on ways in which the conference might usefully address nuclear disarmament.

In general, I would like to see us begin in January where we ended up in September. It's not an unreasonable ambition but one that, given the curious nature of the CD, would probably take at least month to accomplish.

ACT: Can you explain what you mean by the curious nature of the CD?

Grey: Everyone has a different agenda, and in any negotiation, people sometimes advance maximalist positions even though they have already compromised and reached a satisfactory outcome the year before. That's especially true when the Americans are in the chair.

ACT: In August the CD decided to start negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty, but this mandate will have to be renewed in 1999. Do you foresee any problems winning the necessary consensus next year to resume these negotiations?

Grey: I'm confident that we will resume work on an FMCT. I can't predict when. My own hope and expectation would be that we can do it very early—that we can agree to continue the work program on which we had agreed at the end of September, and continue it into the new year. But that is always subject to negotiation.

A vast majority of the non-aligned want to do nuclear disarmament in the CD. That is not our position and it's not the position of the French, the British, the Russians, the Chinese, and many others. So, the [non-aligned] G-21 will push for more on nuclear disarmament and we will have to respond in our own interest. We can't agree on nuclear disarmament but we can agree on the program we agreed on last year, and over time, it will fall into place. It took a lot of skilled work by my Swiss colleague last year to get this program of work established. If it hadn't been for his very, very skillful diplomatic tactics we could still be at loggerheads. I give Ambassador [Erwin] Hofer of Switzerland a great deal of credit for getting us as far as we are now.

ACT: Do you think the deadlock over negotiating priorities could reappear?

Grey: It's always a possibility, but my expectation would be that since we made such good progress last year, we should build on that and not get down into burdensome deals about package arrangements. We should look at each issue on its merits and decide whether or not to pursue it. That's the ideal world; I must say that sometimes in diplomacy you don't live in ideal worlds. But you've got to be prepared to work on that basis.

ACT: With regards to the FMCT ad hoc committee that was formed last year, there was some disagreement over naming a chair for the committee. Would you explain the reasons why? Will this issue be revisited to a more significant degree this year?

Grey: It's hard to say at this time. The Canadians have been staunch advocates of an FMCT for more than 40 years, in one form or another; they're closely identified with it. There's a concern on the part of some countries that having a Canadian in the chair might give too positive a push to the issue, given the well-known Canadian national position. In the course of discussions, it emerged that there would be a Western chair during the first year of the committee's deliberations. We didn't really have deliberations last session, so my anticipation would be that a Western chair would be reappointed, and my hope would be that it would be Ambassador [Mark] Moher of Canada, who is a very skilled and very able diplomat. There is a little fallout from the First Committee, where the Canadians and the Australians and the New Zealanders took the lead on a resolution that deeply deplored the testing of India and Pakistan, and one doesn't know whether there's any ill will after that or not. Our hope and expectation is that our Canadian colleague will be reappointed.

ACT: Many states, led by Pakistan and Egypt, are calling for a fissile material treaty that goes beyond merely a cutoff and extends to the issue of stockpiles or past production. Why does the United States oppose this move?

Grey: Our view is that it's impossible to get into existing stocks at this stage, and that is a view shared by many in the international community. We approach things a step at a time, and we feel that this is the logical way to get progress on an FMCT.

Everyone knows that some time in the future, the question of existing stocks will have to be addressed. But I can assure you we would not have a successful negotiation on FMCT at this time if we tried to address existing stocks. In practice, the five nuclear-weapon states will have to address existing stocks during the long-term process of arms reductions that currently involves bilateral negotiations between the U.S. and Russia. I think that most people, on reflection, would agree with that. In addition, inserting existing stocks into the FMCT negotiations would give the two states that recently tested a sort of nuclear status, because the proposed provisions on existing stocks would implicitly put them in the same box as the five nuclear states, given that no one but the five NPT-defined nuclear-weapon states are supposed to have such stocks. I don't think that is something the rest of the international community wants to do.

But it is a sensitive issue, and we are working hard, bilaterally and unilaterally with the other nuclear states, to reduce these stocks. We recently agreed with Russia to place 50 tons of plutonium under IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] safeguards. I went down to Savannah River the other day and they are indeed digging the hole and getting ready to build the facility in which some of this material will be stored and monitored. So we are already spending big bucks to get ready for this.

ACT: Does the issue of existing fissile material stockpiles have the same potential for blocking conference progress as the issue of nuclear disarmament has in the past?

Grey: It is a possibility. One can never predict with any degree of accuracy what is going to happen. But one could debate this endlessly, and if we start on the question of scope it could quickly degenerate into people making maximalist statements without looking for a way forward. My expectation and hope is that this isn't going to happen. This is a very complicated and very difficult treaty, and we would be best advised to get started on all the issues in which we can see ways forward, such as identifying the key choke points in the production cycle and developing appropriate methods for ensuring compliance. There cannot be an FMCT if we try to include existing stocks. The nuclear states and India will not play. And I am sure the Israelis will not play. It is a very sensitive and delicate issue.

ACT: What elements would the United States like to see in a fissile material cutoff treaty?

Grey: Well, I don't want to tip my hand completely. It's quite clear that we want to see a system in place—and there are many ways to do this—in which there is no production of fissile material for nuclear explosive devices, as well as a verification regime in which people can clearly see that production has ceased. We have several ways to do that, which we are now discussing. We are laying our propositions on the table and have been working very hard with a number of states to come up with positions that meet our common concerns. But it's a major challenge.

One of the elements that we have to consider is the cost factor. The more intrusive, the more rigid the verification regime, the more costly this whole thing becomes. It's going to be very, very expensive, even with the kinds of safeguards we'd be interested in. If you want perfect safeguards, it becomes untenable.

ACT: What kinds of cost estimates are we looking at?

Grey: Each person you ask will give you a different answer, so I'm not going to give you one. It varies from the ridiculous to the sublime, but it's going to be a substantial increase in the cost of the inspection process. And how you do it—some people have reservations about the role of the IAEA, for example—those are matters that have to be addressed in the conference.

ACT: Do you foresee safeguards being placed on maintenance and dismantlement facilities in addition to reprocessing and enrichment facilities?

Grey: Our preference would be for reprocessing and enrichment. There are obviously other elements that will have to be considered, but we think that with those two you capture most of the problem.

ACT: Will the verification regime include confirming that past production facilities are not operational?

Grey: That's part of it. We believe that can be done. As a matter of fact, everyone under the IAEA safeguards—every non-nuclear state—has agreed to set up a regime that's much more intrusive and covers the full fuel cycle, so it probably wouldn't be a concern. If previous production facilities have been stripped of key equipment or otherwise put into mothballs, it should be very easy to verify that. It's not a complicated thing. The reality is that when a reprocessing or enrichment plant has been shut down, especially in our country, you couldn't simply start it up again even if you wanted to; it'd take several years and billions of dollars.

ACT: The other negotiating priority of the United States has been a transfer ban on anti-personnel landmines. Many states consider that work on such a treaty would duplicate work already done through the Ottawa Convention, which will soon enter into force for those states that have ratified it. How do you respond to such criticism?

Grey: It seems to me sort of silly. Most of the countries that export landmines have ceased doing it, but the major producers of landmines, and the exporters in the past, are all in the CD. As a complement to the Ottawa process, a simple export ban, in which people take a collective pledge to do what they're already individually committed to do, would be a useful step forward and would reinforce Ottawa. Some countries, frankly, will not be in a position to sign the Ottawa Convention in the near term or indefinite future and they have made that very clear. Why not get them to sign on to something they can sign?

There are two kinds of opposition to an export ban on APLs in the CD. There are those who signed on to Ottawa and think it's perfection. They wouldn't vote on any attempt to buttress it or to encourage other people to do anything but sign on to it; it'd be a sort of heresy. The others are dependent on landmines for their own self-defense and are suspicious of signing anything. We think an export ban is a sensible way to go for the short term.

We've made very clear our commitment to sign on to Ottawa ultimately. We have made it very clear to the Canadians and others that we don't see any contradiction between what we are seeking in the CD and ultimately signing on to the Ottawa Convention. We're not prepared to do anything that would affect in any way the kinds of terms and conditions of the Ottawa Convention.

In our view, a transfer ban is a step to move other countries which have not signed the Ottawa Convention in the direction of getting rid of these kinds of weapons. The fact of the matter is that people who haven't signed on to Ottawa still have the right to export mines. We think a transfer ban is a good interim step.

ACT: Will the United States seek to go beyond the transfer ban in the context of the CD?

Grey: No. We've made that pretty clear.

ACT: The Chinese ambassador, Li Changhe, made a very strong call for establishing an ad hoc committee for the prevention of an arms race in outer space, but the United States opposes this move. Why?

Grey: In our view, it's not an issue that deserves a major share of the time and effort the CD has available for negotiating arms control agreements. Outer space work is certainly not one of our priorities in the CD. There is no arms race in outer space. We have an unprecedented degree of international cooperation in outer space. And we think that rather than concentrating on getting involved in an issue that's not a problem now, we should concentrate on the real problem, the real job that we've been trying to get done for the last several years in the CD, which is the FMCT. That's our priority. And our second priority is APLs, because we think that's something that can be solved quickly, is a positive step forward, and addresses a real issue.

As long as there is no threat of an arms race in outer space, it is far from clear what the CD would gain by addressing it. Work on outer space would divert the attention of the CD from other things. Speaking personally, I have the view that given the resource limitations—both in terms of personnel and in terms of time—a step-by-step approach in the CD is probably all that can be expected. It can take on one big issue at a time. I think the way the CTBT was negotiated illustrates that.

ACT: If there is no arms race in outer space, wouldn't it be in the U.S. interest to negotiate a treaty that would freeze the status quo so there would be no possibility of an arms race?

Grey: We've got an agreement that bans the emplacement of weapons of mass destruction in outer space. We think that's enough; we don't anticipate any other problems.

ACT: A lot of countries have raised the concern of militarization of outer space, rather than an arms race in outer space.

Grey: The commercial and other civilian uses of outer space have long outpaced military uses such as communications, early warning and self-defense. It is therefore strange to hear talk about militarization occurring in outer space, and the prospect seems quite unlikely in the near future or the far future, for that matter. Our time could be more usefully spent dealing with the real emerging problem, and that is the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the threat posed to the NPT regime by the Indian and Pakistani testing. You're not going to get significant arms control, in terms of nuclear arms reductions, in the future unless we have a lid on the production of fissile material, and that's in all our interest to do. When we get START III, and we're going to get it, the fact of an FMCT in force will make it significantly less difficult to negotiate even deeper reductions. At some point you have to capture the production of fissile material, and that's what we're trying to do.

ACT: The conference also started discussions regarding negative security assurances. However, the United States, among others, has opposed the negotiation of a treaty on negative security assurances. Why, and what does the United States advocate as an alternative?

Grey: We think the best way to do it is to continue to work on the creation of nuclear-weapon-free zones [NWFZs]. I think we've captured about 99 countries under those regimes now. If we can get the Southeast Asian zone and the Central Asian zone in satisfactory terms, we will capture well over a hundred. We think that's the way to go. It's a more productive way; it's a more effective way. That is a view shared by three of the other nuclear-weapon states as well.

ACT: Why does the United States reject the proposal put forth by China that negative security assurances for non-nuclear-weapon states should also include a "no-first-use" declaration by all nuclear-weapon states?

Grey: We don't think that's a good way to go. As long as you have a deterrent, you have to be prepared to exercise it. It's fundamental to our national security policy. When the happy day comes that we don't have to rely on nuclear deterrence, we're in a new world. But until then, it makes no sense. Arms control is basically an element of our national security policy, and we're not going to do things in the CD that call into question or alter in any fundamental way our own commitments to our allies and to our own people. We've made that abundantly clear, so many times and in so many places that it would bore your readers, who know the litany and probably wrote the instructions themselves.

ACT: Are there any other issues, besides an FMCT and a transfer ban on APLs, that the United States would like to see addressed by the conference?

Grey: The question of transparency in armaments and the issue of small arms are things that a number of people are concerned about. There is some reluctance on the part of others to address these right now, but these are issues, I think, that will keep coming back. We are sympathetic to that and will work constructively within the conference to see what we can do.

That having been said, if you look at the more urgent matters, we've been wrangling about FMCT for almost a decade. Now's the time to get working on it. That's where we're going to focus our efforts.

ACT: Will the United States continue to oppose moves within the conference to convene a body to discuss nuclear disarmament?

Grey: We're not totally negative. We have some ideas that could create a dialogue on nuclear disarmament within the conference without getting into negotiations. It's something that we've discussed at length with other people. We don't think the conference should set up an ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament, but we're prepared to examine methods and approaches in which we could have a dialogue, as we did during the START process, and in which we could perhaps tell people where we've been, what we've accomplished, and where we're going.

ACT: How does that relate to negative security assurances?

Grey: As I said, our preference is to negotiate negative security assurances in the NWFZ context. That said, I'll agree to setting up the ad hoc committee, but the reality is that a global treaty will be far more difficult to reach in view of our known preference for another way of solving this problem.

ACT: Do you think the troika construct of past, present and future CD presidents created earlier this year and tasked with pursuing consultations with delegations on nuclear disarmament has been successful in meeting some countries' demands for work on this issue?

Grey: It's a useful vehicle because it gives them the potential to have something develop out of this. I'm prepared to see what recommendations develop out of this, and also to hold open the possibility, the very real possibility, that you'll get some kind of dialogue going, but not a negotiation.

ACT: What do you believe are the most important steps the nuclear-weapon states can take to assure CD members that the nuclear powers are indeed moving in the right direction with regard to nuclear disarmament?

Grey: The first thing is to keep them informed of what we are doing. We gave them a very comprehensive briefing, both in the NPT context and in the CD, about what we are actually doing with the Russians, and the degree to which we are sawing up weapons, dismantling things, turning stuff over to the IAEA, the fact that we're spending a billion dollars or so to help the Russians dismantle a number of their weapons. This is real; we have a very good track record. A hundred nuclear weapons being sawed up and thrown away every month is not insubstantial.

ACT: An initiative to increase the 61-member CD by five members was blocked by Iran in September. Does the United States support the continued expansion of the conference? Given the rule of consensus, does expansion not make it increasingly difficult to make decisions and accomplish work?

Grey: The expansion to 61 made it increasingly difficult to get the conference to function effectively. I think an expansion of five wouldn't make any difference one way or the other. Beyond that, we're agnostic. Once we achieve an FMCT successfully, maybe we'd be prepared to take another look. Until then, wherever we are when that negotiation starts, that's where we should stay, whether 61 or 66.

ACT: Is there an alternative to the mandate for consensus? Are there any options that the United States would consider worthwhile exploring?

Grey: Not as long as I am there.

ACT: Despite its successes, the CD has found it increasingly difficult to begin formal negotiations on a broad spectrum of issues. What are the principal factors that work against the CD functioning as a multilateral forum?

Grey: The principal difficulty is the perverse practice of packaging things, so that if I don't get "A," you don't get "B." I think it's imperative that we all look at issues in terms of what we're prepared to do collectively to achieve something positive. Our views on certain subjects, like negative security assurances or outer space, are well known. The reservations of other people on progress in transparency in armaments or small arms are well known. Where we have a convergence of interests, however, is in FMCT. Where there's a consensus, where there's a real need for it in the international community, where it's an appropriate subject for the conference to address, I think we should address that issue. If we're successful on that, others will emerge.

ACT: Do you believe there is an alternative approach to multilateral arms control other than the current patchwork of agreements, in which states often pick and choose the treaties they will adhere to and their conditions for participation?

Grey: As Bismarck said, drafting legislation and sausage-making are things you don't want to watch when they're happening. Whether you do it in the CD context or some other context, whenever you have different view on things it's a messy procedure; this is sort of like legislating for the international community. I can see a lot of other ways to do it, but would they be any less messy, or less confusing, or less piecemeal? Probably not.

ACT: Is there anything that you would like to say in general terms about the conference's operation or what you'd like to achieve?

Grey: The conference was conceived and set up and functioned for 40 years in basically a Cold War environment. One of the things I would like to see changed is this whole question of an Eastern group, a Western group, and a non-aligned group. The Western group is not unanimous; we have differences of opinion on lots of things. In a political sense, there is no Eastern group: Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary will be joining the Western group shortly, and a number of other Eastern countries want to join NATO, the European Union, etc. The non-aligned are no longer a unified group, if they ever were. Indian and Pakistani testing clearly was not supported by the non-aligned; you can see it in the voting in the UN First Committee. And an Eastern group that consists of two or three countries doesn't make much sense to me.

My hope would be that we could evolve the conference to reflect today's realities and not the realities of the Cold War. Perhaps the way to do business is to create like-minded groups addressing particular subjects. We've had a like-minded group on APL exports, covering a broad spectrum from the West and the East and the non-aligned, with about 20 countries trying to get progress on it. I think that's the wave of the future. The idea that to get a committee working you have to have one chairman from the East and one from the West and one from the G-21 is ridiculous. We should try to get chairmen, and friends of the chair, and coordinators, on the basis of their interests and their merits and their capabilities, not on the basis of what group they're from, especially when the groups no longer function as groups. It's a real frustration. Arms control is pretty rarefied stuff to begin with, especially multilateral arms control, with all the ideological baggage and yearnings and things people bring to it. It's even more unreal when you're dealing as if there were three blocs in a world when there are no blocs.

ACT: Going back to an earlier point that you mentioned, that APLs are a priority of the United States. Is it possible to do work both on the FMCT and APLs?

Grey: A number of the non-aligned would say that means that they are being forced to accept the U.S. agenda. Therefore, they probably won't let us have both.

ACT: Do a lot of the delegations have the resources to work on two issues simultaneously?

Grey: Negotiations would be much easier to manage if there were 18 delegations doing this, as in the 1960s. But at the end of the day, when you're working these things, it's only about 15 or 20 delegations that make a major effort to stay actively involved. If delegations want to be active, they will find the resources to do so.

ACT: Do you think the non-aligned will be even less effective as a bloc now that India and Pakistan have conducted nuclear tests?

Grey: They've been quite effective in terms of beating up on a couple of their own. But it's one thing to beat up on one of your own, or a country that is perceived to be one of your own. Scolding the United States, however, comes naturally to them.

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

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

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

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

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACT: Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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