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The New York Times
THE NEW YORK TIMES OP-ED MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2002
By Gary Milhollin and Kelly Motz
WASHINGTON any voices are
now calling for renewed United Nations inspections Iraq.
Some belong to critics of the Bush administration who are opposed to war. Others belong to those who favor war but see inspections - which they fully ex
grams mobile. Laboratortes, components and materials are ready to hit the road at a moment's notice. Once, as an experiment, Unscom had pho tos taken from a U2 spy plane of a site that it was about to inspect. First the photos showed no activity, then large numbers of Iraqi vehicles leaving the site, then no activity, then the inspectors' vehicles arriv. ing.
Unmovic is also stuck with a deal the United Nations made in 1998 on "presidential sites." Irag is allowed to designate vast swaths of land (big enough to contain entire factories) that the inspectors can visit only after announcing the visit in advance, disclosing the composition of the inspection team (nuclear or biological experts, for example) and taking along a special group of diplomats. This loophole creates refuges for mobile items and could defeat virtually any inspection effort
New inspections will occur under the threat of imminent American military action. Any announcement that Iraq is not cooperating could be I casus bell Such a rak raight cacourage Unmovic to monitor what is already knows rather than aggressively try to find what is hidden. This could mean that the goal of inspections - the disarmament of Iraq - might never be achieved.
A lying regime makes verification an endless chase.
pect to fail - as the needed triggering event for wur. Stull other Iraq perts believe that Saddam Hus sen himself will invite the inspec. tors back as a means of forestalling invasion U troops begin to move in his direction.
Whatever ope's stance on how best to handle Saddam Hussein, it is crucial to understand one thing: United Nations inspections, us they are currently constituted, will never work
There are several reasons for this. Consider the record of the United Nations Special Commission, an agency that was charged with inspecting Iraq's weapons programs from 1901 to 1996. While Unscom did manage to destroy tons of missiles and chemical and biological weap ans, it could not complete the job. Iraqi obfuscations prevented it trom ever goatng 4 tall picture of the entire weapons production affort. The commission's replacement, the United Nations Monitoring. Verifica ton and Inspection Commission, which has not yet been allowed to enter Iraq, will have even less success given its structure and policies.
Unscom was scatted mainly by officials on loan from national gov. ernments who did not owe their jobs to the United Nations; Unmovic per sonnel, on the other hand, are United
Nations employees who are likely to be hobbled by the United Nations notoriously inefficient bureaucracy.
These inspectors are not set up to make effective use of intelligence information. In the 1990's, American Intelligence officials supplied secret intormation to selected Unscom in spectors, knowing that the information would be protected and be used to uncover hidden Iraqi weapons facilities. At Unmovic, however, no inspector will be allowed to receive intelligence information on a privt leged basis, . policy thac increases che risk of lenks to the Iraqis. UnmoVic has also declared that it will not allow any information gathered from its inspections to flow back to national intelligence agencies. This aliminates the main incentive for intelligence sources to provide Unmovie with useful informatioa to the first place.
Even if it is allowed into Iraq, Unmovic will run up against obstecles at least as formidable as those that stymied Unscom. After years of practice, Unscom became adept at launching surprise visits to weapons sites, yet Iraq's intelligence operatives defeated it core often than not. It was a rare inspeccion when the fraqis did not know what the inspectors were looking for before they arrived. Most Unmovic inspectors have little experience in Iraq and even less in handling Intelligenceinformation.
Compounding this handicap is the fact that frag has taken consider able pains to make its weapons pro
hich brings us to the heart of the matter. Inspections
can only do one thing well: vertly that a country's declaracions about a weapons program are honest and complete. It is feasible for Inspectors to look at sites and equipment to see whether the official story about their use is accurate. Inspectors can rely on scientific principles, Intelligence Infor. mation and surprise visits to known weapons production sites to test what they are cold. It is a different proposition altogether to wander about a country looking for what has been deliberately concealed. That is & task with no end.
For inspectors to do their job, they have to have the truth, which can only come from the Iraqis. As Prestdent Bush cold the United Nations last week, the world needs an Iraq government that will stop lying and surrender the weapons programs. That is not likely to happen as long as Saddam Hussein remains in pow.
Gary Mithollin is director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control. Kelly Motz is the editor of Iraq Watch.org.
Iraq: The Snare of Inspections
Gary Milhollin d Kelly Motz
* VERY TIME war clouds gather over Baghdad, that Washington is seriously contemplating
"regime change," he may well announce that inmay allow UN arms inspectors to return. Similarly, spectors are once again welcome. every time war clouds gather over Baghdad, voices If he does, he can count on Russia and France, in the United States and elsewhere, including some Iraq's allies on the Security Council, to rally the in or near the Bush administration, can be heard world in favor of giving peace a chance. Any delay urging a new and improved system of inspections. on Saddam's part in admitting or cooperating with Today, some of those voices belong to critics of ad inspectors will then still look better than war, and ministration policy who are opposed to war with it will become that much harder to argue that (raq. Others favor war but think a provocation, or Uncle Sam should use soldiers and bullets to do "triggering event," is lacking, and they see inspec what international civil servants could do with blue tions (which they fully expect to fail) as providing helmets and notebooks. If inspectors go back in, the necessary trigger.
said Jack Straw, Britain's Foreign Secretary, only The inspectors departed Iraq in 1998 after en last month, “plainly the case for military action reduring more than seven years of tricks and obfus cedes." cations, all aimed at protecting the country's pro Whatever one's stance on the question of how grams for building weapons of mass destruction. best to handle Saddam Hussein, it is vital to underSince then, Saddam's interest in renewed inspec stand one thing. Unless the Iraqi dictator should tions has been aroused in direct proportion to the suddenly and totally reverse course on arms inperceived risk that his country will be invaded.
spection and everything that goes with it, or be When things are quiet, he has refused even to con forced into early retirement—in other words, unsider letting the United Nations back-in egre less Saddam Hussein's Iraq ceases to be Saddam gious violation of his pledges under UN resolu Hussein's Iraq-inspections will never work. cions and therefore of international law. But now Gary MILHOLLIN is the director of the Wisconsin Project THERE ARE several reasons why this is so. Some in Nuclear Arms Control in Washington, D.C., and KELLY Motz edits the Project's Iraq Watch.org website. The pre
changes in the UN's own inspection apparatus. Othsent article is based in part on the conclusions of a panel of five
ers inhere in the nature of the man, and the regime, former UN inspectors and a former intelligence official who
we are dealing with met in June under the auspices of the Wisconsin Project to as Almost three years ago, a new UN Monitoring, sess the
prospects of a resumed inspections regime in Iraq. Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC)
IRAQ: THE SNARE OP INSPECTIONS
replaced the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM). The latter, which for seven years had run the inspection effort in Iraq, was a special-purpose enterprise operated by officials on loan from national governments. The former, which has yet to take the field, is modeled on the UN's notoriously inefficient bureaucracy.
This change has a number of serious and debilitating iinplications. Among other things, UN inspectors are no longer set up to make effective use of intelligence information—an essential tool for determining whether Iraq is telling the truth. In the 1990's, when U.S. intelligence officials agreed to supply secret information to the UN inspectors, they did so only after becoming confident that the inspectors were themselves willing and able to use the information thereby received to uncover forbidden Iraqi weapon efforts. The information went only to inspectors who were individually trusted to protect it; these inspectors obtained the information on a privileged basis, and could be counted on to use it aggressively.
At UNMOVIC, which is split into a number of separate divisions, no inspector will be allowed to receive intelligence information on a privileged basis, and any and all information is liable to be shared. Not only does this make it more difficult to prevent information from leaking, thus undermining the confidence of governments thinking of supplying it, but no one can be sure that particular pieces of information will be acted upon. Unless and until national governments become convinced otherwise, not much of significant value is likely to be provided-an especially grave problem today when solid intelligence on Iraq has become scarcer and therefore more valuable.
Other considerations are relevant here. The American, British, and Israeli officials who in the past provided information to UNSCOM benefited from the fact that their relationship with the commission was a "loop.” Evidence uncovered by UNSCOM inspectors flowed back to those nations' intelligence agencies for analysis, and this analysis produced new leads for UNSCOM in return. UNMOVIC, however, has announced that there will be no loop. Information will flow only in, not out.
This will be a crippling handicap. Even if, for example, an Iragi defector should turn up and tell UNMOVIC to look in a certain building, the agency will need a means of evaluating his reliability before it decides to act. Without a loop, it cannot ask the intelligence service of a national government to vet what it has learned. It will have to rely on its own resources, and if these are insufficient to
prompt action, an important opportunity may thereby be lost.
UNMOVIC's prohibition on dialogue apparently extends even to analysis. The agency recently refused an offer by a supporting Western government to help evaluate information UNMOVIC already had on hand. By thus depriving itself of access to friendly national governments, UNMOVIC has chosen ignorance over knowledge and removed one of the greatest incentives for providing intelligence in formation in the first place. And without a return flow of information, the governments concerned can hardly place confidence in UNMOVIC's inspection reports, especially if they reflect favorably on Iraq's behavior.
Nor is that all. Unlike their predecessors at UNSCOM, UNMOVIC's inspectors have been required to sever all links with their national governments and to become UN employees. Although UNMOVIC does train its inspectors in security precautions, it has no process for security clearance per se-without which there is no way to assess an inspector's personal reliability, to guarantee that he is not an intelligence agent, or to punish him if he reveals secret information. Even if UNMOVIC had not already moved to sever the loop of reciprocal relations, this lack of security would probably be enough by itself to inhibit most national governments from providing the agency with sensitive equipment or techniques of analysis.
MUCH for internal considerations. On the
ground, in Iraq itself, UNMOVIC would soon run up against obstacles at least as formidable as those with which UNSCOM had to cope, and which UNMOVIC is far less equipped to handle.
UNSCOM conducted some 260 inspections in Iraq over its seven years there. A fair number of these were surprise visits with no advance notice, an enterprise at which UNSCOM had become particularly adept. Even so, Iraq's intelligence operatives defeated it more often than not only about a halfdozen of the surprise inspections actually succeeded. Saddam Hussein's agents were active in hotel rooms in both New York and Baghdad as well as at the UN building in New York. It was a rare inspection when the Iraqis did not know what the inspectors were looking for before they arrived at the site to be searched.
Compounding the advantage held by Iraq in this regard is the success it has achieved, at considerable expense, in making its secret weapon efforts mobile. Laboratories, components, and materials are ready to hit the road at a moment's notice. During
COMMENTARY OCTOBER 2002
the days when UNSCOM was conducting inspeccions, this mobility was revealed graphically in U-2 photos of a suspect site. The pictures were taken in sequence as soon as an inspection team left its headquarters. The first photos show no activity at the site; a slightly later sequence reveals a large number of vehicles leaving the site; then there is again no activity; and then the vehicles of the inspectors arrive.
UNMOVIC has not yet indicated whether it will conduct surprise inspections, but it is hardly likely to do better at them than UNSCOM, and will almost certainly do worse. The same goes for regular, scheduled inspections. Most UNMOVIC inspectors have little or no experience in Iraq, and, worse, little or no experience in handling or evaluating intelligence in formation. In effect, this will be a team of rookies going to bat against a world-class intelligence organization highly practiced at foiling inspections.
UNMOVIC's recruitment procedures do not help. In assembling staff for an inspection team, UNSCOM looked for experts who had actually worked on the specific technology it was targeting---not just, say, a person familiar with missile or rocket design but one who knew Scuds specifically. 'To accomplish this, UNSCOM recruited from countries that had already built advanced missiles, or whose expertise was derived from military programs. UNMOVIC, by contrast, has chosen not to work this way. In order to achieve “geographic balance," UN-style, it hires staff from around the world, including from countries that do not themselves possess relevant weapon prograins or expertise.
The results are predictable, and are likely to reverberate down the line, not just in planning and carrying out no-notice inspections (or inspections of any kind) but in generating new “baseline” information on the numerous Iraqi sites and in setting up a proper monitoring regime. In one way or another, UNMOVIC's inexperience will make itself felt in the myriad small signals that will tip off the Iraqis to its intentions.
principle of immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted access that is essential to effective inspections, and render inspection of these sites virtually impossible.
İraq initially designated eight such presidential sites-each a swath of land large enough to conceal entire factories as well as mobile equipment or laboratories. It also retained the prerogative to designate new sites at any time, and to decide just how many sites there are, where they are, how big they are, and what they include. All such locations, in effect, create refuges for inobile items. If Iraq chooses to use them aggressively, they could be a loophole large enough to defeat any inspection effort.
Finally, one must consider that any new inspections in Iraq will be occurring under the threat of imminent American military action. President Bush has emphasized that the United States is determined to use “all the tools at our disposal” to remove Saddam Hussein from power; under such conditions, any announcement by UN arms inspectors that Iraq is not cooperating is likely to be viewed as a casus belli. But UN organizations do not normally like to trigger wars. How can this not inhibit the readiness of UNMOVIC to issue any such damning report, regardless of Iraq's actual behavior?
Besides, UNMOVIC's staff has spent more than two years in New York getting ready to return to Iraq, and will hardly be eager to admit that it has failed to secure Iraq's cooperation. Rather, there will be every incentive to define inspection tasks narrowly-thus making it easier for Iraq to comply, at least nominally-and to avoid any aggressive inspection activity. UNMOVIC's executive chairman, Hans Blix, is fully empowered to set policy in this regard; in his previous career as director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Blix usually avoided confrontation (except when dealing with North Korea) and also missed Iraq's vast clandestine effort to build nuclear weapons.
What Blix would do now in Iraq is unknown-although, if he were to choose nonconfrontation, he would admittedly have one or two arguments on his side. Even nonconfrontational inspections are disruptive to a degree, and even when UNSCOM was not surprising the Iraqis, it was forcing them to mount a large concealment effort and move key equipinent from one site to another, which made it harder to run illicit programs. Nonconfrontational inspections also yielded much essential information about Iraq's actual progress in making massdestruction weapons. (This was mainly so in the case of the country's missile program; in the case of its biological program, which was and is easier to
IRAQ: THE SNARE OF INSPECTIONS
conceal, the nonconfrontational model was of far complete. And that sort of verification is indeed a less benefit.)
feasible goal for an inspection team: to look at sites In the present instance, however, a policy of and equipment and see whether the official story avoiding confrontation will be dangerous in the ex about their use is accurate. To do this effectively, treme. Inspections will then be ained only at mon inspectors can rely both on scientific principles and itoring what is already known rather than at on information gained through intelligence-gathsearching aggressively for what is still hidden. ering. It is a different proposition altogether to go Moreover, the very failure to find anything new ranging about a country in search of things that will feed the demand that the embargo against Iraq have been deliberately concealed; that is a task with be lifted without the goal of inspections--namely, no beginning and no end. disarmament-ever being achieved. The price to In short, without a full and coherent description be paid will be all the higher in view of the ele of the entire Iraqi weapon program, inspectors can mentary fact that, since the day inspections began never verify that it has been eliminated. The truth in 1991, Iraq has consistently tried to defeat them. must come first, and it can come only from the
But that brings us to the heart of the matter. Iraqis themselves. What the world needs is an Iraqi What is it that inspections are designed to do? government that will stop lying and surrender They are designed to verify that a country's decla those programs. That is hardly likely to happen as rations about a weapon program are honest and long as Saddam Hussein remains in power.