What Not to Do About Iraq: Send in Inspectors

David Kay Calls to Mind Why They Have not, and Cannot, Work

(Washington, D.C.): It is a safe bet what will come out of today’s discussions between an Iraqi delegation led by Foreign Minister Naji Sabri on the one side and United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and Hans Blix, the UN’s chief arms inspector, on the other: An agreement to continue talking. After all both Messrs. Annan and Blix are creatures of and devoted adherents to multilateralism and its institutions. (Notably, Hans Blix served for years as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which was, under his leadership, repeatedly fooled by Saddam into certifying that Iraq had no nuclear weapons program.) They are convinced that military action — particularly by the United States — must be avoided at all cost and, therefore, that is not only possible but always preferable to “do business” with the likes of Saddam Hussein.

Only one thing could be more disastrous for U.S. policy and security interests — and those of other freedom-loving people — (which require regime change in Iraq) than this transparent bid to buy Saddam Hussein more time to amass more weapons of mass destruction (WMD): An Iraqi agreement to readmit UN inspectors.

Reenter David Kay

The reasons why the United States cannot live with a resumption of even the kind of relatively intrusive inspection regime established after the 1991 Gulf War — let alone a far less rigorous one likely to emerge from any negotiation between Saddam’s own toadies and his cat’s paws at the UN — were lucidly described last week in testimony before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee by a man who knows whereof he speaks: David Kay, the first chief inspector dispatched to Iraq after Operation Desert Storm was concluded. The following were among the most relevant highlights of this important presentation:

  • “Saddam’s Iraq was — and is — a brutal, totalitarian dictatorship that can survive as long as it maintains coercive power over its citizens. Once Saddam’s survival became a fact [in 1991], then all hope of his voluntarily yielding up the very weapons that allow him to hope to dominate the region was lost….Simply put, Iraq is…very much like post-Versailles Germany in terms of its ability to maintain a weapons capability in the teeth of international inspections. As long as a government remains in Baghdad committed to acquiring WMD, then that capability can be expected to become quickly a reality when sanctions are eased, or ended.”
  • Iraq has not abandoned its efforts to acquire WMD. A recent defector has stated that an explicit order to reconstitute the nuclear teams was promulgated in August 1998 — at the time Iraq ceased cooperation with UN-led inspections. There should be no doubt that Iraq, under Saddam, continues to seek nuclear weapons capability and that given the time it will devote the resources and technical manpower necessary to reach that goal.
  • “What is [not] well understood is the impact that the discovery of the gigantic scope and indigenous nature of Saddam’s weapons program had on the prospects of being able to eliminate this program by inspection alone. We now know that the Iraqi efforts to build an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction: spanned more than a decade; cost more than $20 billion; involved more than 40,000 Iraqis; and succeed in mastering all the technical and most of the productions steps necessary to acquire a devil’s armory of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as well as the missiles necessary to deliver them over vast distances.
  • The capability to produce weapons of mass destruction that arises from a national program on this scale is [such] that, to eliminate by inspection, is, quite frankly, a fool’s errand. We…overestimated at the beginning what inspections could accomplish.
  • Even if inspections were to begin tomorrow it would be impossible to answer [whether Saddam has nuclear weapons] without a very long, sustained period of unfettered inspections. The baseline of Iraq’s nuclear program is broken and it will be impossible to quickly re-establish that baseline. There should be no doubt that Iraq, under Saddam, continues to seek nuclear weapons capability and that given the time it will devote the resources and technical manpower necessary to reach that goal.”
  • “The United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) is a product of a successful effort to remove UNSCOM from Iraq and replace it with an inspection regime more acceptable to Iraq….It took a year to negotiate, was to be more acceptable to Iraq, led by a commissioner that Iraq, and Iraq sympathizers on the Security Council, would find acceptable [i.e., Hans Blix].”

    “The Iraqi complaints concerning UNSCOM related to its insistence on unrestricted access to anything in Iraq it deemed relevant to determining the scope of Iraq’s WMD program and an equal insistence that they would not accept any time limit on how long it might take to accomplish this objective. If UNMOVIC were to compromise on either of these, we might end up with Iraq begin declared free of WMD, when if fact all that would be certain is that UNMOVIC could not find any evidence of WMD.”

  • “Unless we take immediate steps to address the issue of obtaining fundamental political change in Iraq, we will soon again face a rearmed and embolden Saddam.”

The Bottom Line

During a recent appearance on CBS News’ Sunday program “Face the Nation,” Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld caustically recalled the previous experience with inspectors in Iraq:

Go back to when we did have inspectors in there, which was years ago. When they were there, they had an enormously difficult time finding anything. Under the rules and restrictions that were imposed on them by Iraq, the only real information they got was not by snooping around on the ground, finding things and discovering things, because [the Iraqis] were able to move [such things], hide them underground, lie about them, not allow [the inspectors] to go in, wait long periods before they could go in. The only real information they found was from defectors [who] got away from Saddam Hussein, got out of the country, told the inspectors where to look, which they then did, and they then found some things.

With these and similar words, Secretary Rumsfeld has conveyed the strong impression that the Bush Administration — or at least most of it — is under no illusion that inspections will solve the problem we confront in Saddam Hussein’s misrule of Iraq. Mr. Rumsfeld and his more thoughtful colleagues understand that the mere fact that the inspection “process” has been resumed, let alone the actual presence of inspectors on the ground in Iraq, will greatly exacerbate the already considerable international opposition to American action required to end Saddam’s reign of terror.

For these reasons, in addition to the futility of inspections experienced by Mr. Kay and his successors, the U.S. government better be prepared to block the resuscitation — in whatever form it may take — of a UN inspection regime spawned by the machinations of Messrs. Hussein, Annan and Blix.

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