Listening to Hans Blix’s report to the Security Council, one gets the impression UNMOVIC’s task is not to ensure that Iraq gives up its weapons of mass destruction, but rather solely avoiding war. Dr. Blix spoke eloquently about “real disarmament” when referring to Iraq’s reluctant and belated agreement to begin destroying the al-Samoud missile, which exceeds the U.N.-mandated flight distance. This missile system was prohibited, but is of minor importance when compared to the al-Hussein (SCUD) missile. UNMOVIC, like UNSCOM, believes Iraq maintains several al-Hussein missiles as well as several “special chemical warheads” — Iraq’s designation for its chemical and biological warheads. Yet Blix barely mentioned that, while Iraq continues to deny the possession of such missiles and warheads, it has provided no supporting evidence for its denials.
UNSCOM left in its files well-documented evidence indicating that Iraq indeed produced at least 25 more special chemical warheads than it has acknowledged. Much of the evidence was based on Iraq’s own statements and documentation. Evidence also indicates that some of these were and probably are filled with anthrax spores; the remainder were filled with VX nerve agent.
Blix has also lauded Iraq for “becoming proactive” in some areas in meeting the requirements of SCR 1441, citing Iraq’s excavation of destroyed BW-filled R400 aerial bombs at al-Azzizziyia. But what is the significance of this excavation? Iraq claims it destroyed 157 aerial bombs there, and UNSCOM supervised the excavation of a minor destruction site in which remnants of about 25 bombs were found — three of which were relatively intact and contained a liquid that tested positive for botulinum toxin. Iraq’s support for the 157 figure was based on a diary of the officer alleged to be in charge of the destruction. It was also on this basis that Iraq claimed only 157 bombs had been filled with biological agents, the reasoning presumably being, “If only 157 were destroyed then only 157 could have been filled.”
UNSCOM never questioned the 157 bombs being destroyed, and so the current excavation efforts is just busy work — an illusion of cooperation. Unless many more bombs were destroyed there, it is likely that only an approximation (“157″) will be made and there will be no way of determining how many were filled with different agents. Recall, too, that in 1992, Iraq seeded the destruction site at Nebae with nose cones of conventional al-Hussein warheads to convince UNSCOM that the appropriate number of special chemical warheads had been destroyed. How can UNMOVIC be assured that similar deception has not taken place at Azzizziyia?
The real issue with the R400 aerial bombs is not how many were destroyed but rather how many were produced, how many were filled with biological and chemical agents, and how many bombs were filled with each agent. Of course, none of these issues have been addressed. Consider: The 157 bombs are alleged to have been destroyed at Azzizziyia in July 1991, but R400 bombs with all the markings indicating a biological agent (including horizontal black stripes and white circles with arabic A, B, or C designators) were present at an airbase in western Iraq in October 1991 — three months after “all” such bombs had been destroyed. Likewise, Iraqi-supplied documentation indicates that over 150 more R400 aerial bombs were produced and remain unaccounted for. Iraq maintains that these were melted down at a foundry; the only documentation Iraqi officials have supplied is a bill for a “melt.”
Blix also failed to mention in his report that Iraq has produced — and presumably is still producing — 7.54 meter drones capable of exceeding the allowable limit of 150 kilometers for unmanned aircraft (drones and missiles). Iraq had an active program for developing and procuring biological-agent disseminators for such unmanned aircraft. Indeed, UNSCOM had solid evidence of Iraq’s procurement activities for disseminators that were “vibration free, capable of withstanding high winds and capable of disseminating a liquid with consistency of water into a small particle released into the environment.”
Iraq has failed to account for these devices and for these procurement actions. In 1988, the regime successfully tested a prototype of these devices proving that these devices are “useful for spraying fluids containing microorganisms and their products (bacteria, fungi and their toxins)” into the environment. Where is the disarmament action for these devices and for the drones?
Blix all but demanded more time for inspections to continue, arguing that with Iraq’s cooperation, “disarmament will not take years or weeks but months.” But what evidence is there of Iraq’s cooperation? Only after a threat of force had been made did Iraq allow a few scientists to be interviewed “in private.” Only after a big hoopla was made about the al-Samoud 2 missile (and about the timing of an important U.N. Security Council vote) did Iraq agree reluctantly to destruction of these missiles.
I have already commented on the fallacy of the excavation at al-Azzizziyia. But none of the major issues have been addressed by Iraq: the discrepancies in production of chemical and biological agents, the discrepancies in destruction of these agents, the accountability of al-Hussein missile warheads, etc., etc.
Is this really a proactive stance? Or is it merely an effort by UNMOVIC to avoid war and the installation of a new, responsible regime that would (finally) disarm Iraq?
— Richard Spertzel is a former head of the biological inspections team of UNSCOM and can be reached through www.benadorassociates.com.