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The New York Times
THE NEW YORK TIMES OP-ED MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2002
pect to fail as the needed triggering event for war. Still other Iraq experts believe that Saddam Hussein himself will invite the inspectors back as a means of forestalling invasion if troops begin to move in his direction.
Whatever one's stance on how best to handle Saddam Hussein, it is crucial to understand one thing: United Nations inspections, as 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 1991 to 1998. While Unscom did manage to destroy tons of missiles and chemical and biological weapans, it could not complete the job. Iraqi obfuscations prevented it from ever getting a full picture of the entire weapons production effort. The commission's replacement, the United Nations Monitoring, Verifica tion and inspection Commission, which has not yet been allowed to enter Iraq, will have even less success given its structure and policies.
Unscom was staffed mainly by officials on loan from national gov ernments who did not owe their jobs to the United Nations; Unmovic personnel, on the other hand, are United
Gary Milhollin is director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control. Kelly Motz is the editor of Iraqwatch.org.
Nations employees who are likely to
Even if it is allowed into Iraq,
Compounding this handicap is the fact that fraq has taken consider. able pains to make its weapons pro
grams mobile. Laboratories, 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 arriving
Unmovic is also stuck with a deal the United Nations made in 1998 on "presidential sites." Iraq 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 a casus belli. Such a risk might encourage Unmovic to monitor what is already known 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.
us to the heart of the matter. Inspections can only do
one thing well: verify that a country's declarations 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 told. It is a different proposition altogether to wander about a country looking for what has been deliberately concealed. That is a cask 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 told the United Nations Last week, the world needs an Iraqi government that will stop lying and surrender the weapons programs. That is not likely to happen as long as Saddam Hussein remains in pow
Iraq: The Snare of Inspections Gary Milhollin & Kelly Motz
VERY TIME war clouds gather over Baghdad,
may allow UN arms inspectors to return. Similarly, every time war clouds gather over Baghdad, voices in the United States and elsewhere, including some in or near the Bush administration, can be heard urging a new and improved system of inspections. Today, some of those voices belong to critics of administration policy who are opposed to war with Iraq. Others favor war but think a provocation, or "triggering event," is lacking, and they see inspections (which they fully expect to fail) as providing the necessary trigger.
The inspectors departed Iraq in 1998 after enduring more than seven years of tricks and obfuscations, all aimed at protecting the country's programs for building weapons of mass destruction. Since then, Saddam's interest in renewed inspections has been aroused in direct proportion to the perceived risk that his country will be invaded. When things are quiet, he has refused even to consider letting the United Nations back-in egregious violation of his pledges under UN resolutions and therefore of international law. But now
GARY MILHOLLIN is the director of the Wisconsin Project m Nuclear Arms Control in Washington, D.C., and KELLY MOTZ edits the Project's Iraq Watch.org website. The present article is based in part on the conclusions of a panel of free former UN inspectors and a former intelligence official who met in June under the auspices of the Wisconsin Project to asress the prospects of a resumed inspections regime in Iraq.
that Washington is seriously contemplating "regime change," he may well announce that inspectors are once again welcome.
If he does, he can count on Russia and France, Iraq's allies on the Security Council, to rally the world in favor of giving peace a chance. Any delay on Saddam's part in admitting or cooperating with inspectors will then still look better than war, and it will become that much harder to argue that Uncle Sam should use soldiers and bullets to do what international civil servants could do with blue helmets and notebooks. If inspectors go back in, said Jack Straw, Britain's Foreign Secretary, only last month, "plainly the case for military action recedes."
Whatever one's stance on the question of how best to handle Saddam Hussein, it is vital to understand one thing. Unless the Iraqi dictator should suddenly and totally reverse course on arms inspection and everything that goes with it, or be forced into early retirement-in other words, unless Saddam Hussein's Iraq ceases to be Saddam Hussein's Iraq-inspections will never work.
IRAQ: THE SNARE OF 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 implications. 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 Iraqi 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 information 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.
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