Hans Blix has expressed a determination to gain more time for his team to do its inspections. To what end? The mission of UNMOVIC is not to find biological- or chemical-loaded munitions, but rather to verify the accuracy and completeness of Iraq’s declaration on its WMD programs. Iraq’s declaration, submitted December 7, contained little, if any, new information from its previous report to UNSCOM (the inspections team that preceded UNMOVIC). In some cases, the December declaration contained less information than it had submitted to UNSCOM.
However, it appears that UNMOVIC believes its purpose is to find a “smoking gun.” Even more ominous, it also appears that UNMOVIC considers a smoking gun to consist of a loaded munition. Officials were quick to state that the discovery of twelve 122mm rocket warheads with some chemical traces was “not a smoking gun.” In reality, the December declaration fell far short of a complete and accurate declaration. That declaration was billed as Iraq’s last chance. Yet when it was submitted, the concept of finding a “smoking gun” began to emerge.
If the world diplomats and UNMOVIC would accept what is crystal clear, i.e., that U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 requires that Iraq submit a complete and accurate declaration — and in this context UNMOVIC should determine its accuracy and completeness — then they would understand that there is no need for a “smoking gun.” Since Iraq has submitted a declaration with essentially no new or additional information, what further proof does the world need?
Iraq submitted its first (after it had acknowledged it ever possessed such a program) “Full, Final and Complete Declaration” on its biological-weapons program in July 1996, with another iteration in September 1997 (mostly a reformatting of the July 1996 version). Those declarations were subject to two and a half years of intensive verification efforts by UNSCOM and other world experts.
The findings were then subject, at Iraq’s insistence, to additional in-depth reviews and discussions with as many Iraqi personnel as they desired plus an expanded group of international experts. These included leading experts from Russia, France, Sweden, Norway, the U.S., the U.K., Ukraine, Romania, Brazil, and Germany, as well as government experts from China, Australia, New Zealand, and Switzerland, for a total of 17 experts from 14 countries. The conclusion of the experts without exception was that Iraq had failed to declare its biological program accurately and completely. The experts also concluded that, contrary to Iraqi statements, there was considerable uncertainty that the program had ended in 1991.
Thus, one must ask, what is there left for UNMOVIC to do that would require additional months to accomplish? Is it to verify the completeness and accuracy of Iraq’s declaration? Since nothing new has been submitted, there is nothing to be done. UNSCOM has already provided evidence to the world’s biological experts sufficient for them to declare Iraq’s account inaccurate and deficient.
Is it to find a loaded weapon? If so, even years might not be sufficient time. Except for the first few months of 1991, how many filled weapons did UNSCOM find in the following seven years? Answer: none! Why, therefore, should anyone expect UNMOVIC to find a “smoking loaded gun” by giving them additional months to complete their attempts to find a loaded weapon?
Is it to prevent a war? Is preventing a war the mandate of UNMOVIC? If it is, then the way to do that is not by obfuscating the issue or by avoiding the obvious, but by getting Iraq to give up once and for all its WMD programs. This will require firmness, because it will involve convincing the Iraqi regime that it is the only way for the country to escape the present situation.
Anything that even suggests a prolongation of the cat-and-mouse game with Iraq will encourage the government to believe it can win the public-relations war and outlast the present tense situation. Thus Iraq will continue the illusion of cooperation to prolong the inspections while expecting to retain its WMD programs.
This will not prevent a war. At best it will only delay the inevitable. Iraq will not willingly give up its WMDs. Any perceived encouragement will convince Iraq that it can survive the present crisis without conceding anything. In the mind of the regime, survival is winning — and right now, Iraq is winning the survival game.
— Richard Spertzel was head of the biology section of UNSCOM (1994-1998) and is available through www.benadorassociates.com.