WITH THE RELEASE of the Duelfer report on Iraq's weapons programs, now is a good time to review what role the international inspections had in verifying Iraq's disarmament--a role Senator Kerry and others appear to have confusion about. The inspection regime established by the U.N. Security Council in the wake of the Gulf War was never about the number of inspections conducted or, for that matter, whether U.N. inspectors could independently determine the status of Iraq's weapons programs. It was about verifying that Saddam Hussein actively engaged in disarmament, and providing positive evidence of that disarmament to the U.N. team. Given Iraq's history of successfully hiding its illicit weapons activities in a country the size of California, there could be no certainty that Saddam Hussein had disarmed unless and until Iraq fully cooperated in documenting its disarmament. As Clinton administration Defense Secretary William Cohen put it in November of 1998:
[Inspectors] have to find documents, computer discs, production points, ammunition areas in an area that size. Hussein has said, "We have no program now." We're saying, "Prove it." He says he has destroyed all his nerve agent. [W]e're asking "where, when and how?" . . . The onus for this is firmly on Saddam Hussein.

President Clinton stated that "it is incontestable that on the day I left office [in January 2001], there were unaccounted for stocks of biological and chemical weapons [in Iraq]." In fact, Saddam never met his obligation to account for them.

On January 27, 2003, head U.N. weapons inspector, Hans Blix, stated the following to the UN Security Council:

Resolution 687 (1991), like the subsequent resolutions I shall refer to, required cooperation by Iraq but such was often withheld or given grudgingly. Unlike South Africa, which decided on its own to eliminate its nuclear weapons and welcomed inspection as a means of creating confidence in its disarmament, Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance--not even today--of the disarmament, which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and to live in peace.

As we know, the twin operation "declare and verify," which was prescribed in resolution 687 (1991), too often turned into a game of 'hide and seek'. Rather than just verifying declarations and supporting evidence, the two inspecting organizations found themselves engaged in efforts to map the weapons programmes and to search for evidence through inspections, interviews, seminars, inquiries with suppliers and intelligence organizations.

On February 14, 2003, Blix told the Security Council that:

If Iraq had provided the necessary cooperation in 1991, the phase of disarmament--under resolution 687 (1991)--could have been short and a decade of sanctions could have been avoided. Today, three months after the adoption of resolution 1441 (2002), the period of disarmament through inspection could still be short, if "immediate, active and unconditional cooperation" with UNMOVIC and the IAEA were to be forthcoming.

And again, in its February 28, 2003 report, UNMOVIC informed the Security Council that: "During the period of time covered by the present report, Iraq could have made greater efforts to find any remaining proscribed items or provide credible evidence showing the absence of such items."

On March 6, 2003, UNMOVIC--confronted with the same list of unaccounted for weapons and weapons-related material that President Clinton had cited in explaining the reason behind his 1998 bombing of Iraq--reported to the Security Council that: "The onus is clearly on Iraq to provide the requisite information or devise other ways in which UNMOVIC can gain confidence that Iraq's declarations are correct and comprehensive. . . ."

In April, 2003, Secretary Cohen flatly stated that he believed that Saddam had weapons:

"I am convinced that he has them. I saw evidence back in 1998 when we would see the inspectors being barred from gaining entry into a warehouse for three hours with trucks rolling up and then moving those trucks out. I am absolutely convinced that there are weapons. We will find them."

And in its first post-war (May 30, 2003) report to the Security Council, UNMOVIC acknowledged: "The long list of proscribed items unaccounted for and as such resulting in unresolved disarmament issues was not shortened either by the inspections or by Iraqi declarations and documentation." To the contrary, as UNMOVIC also reported in its May 30 report:

Iraq was required to declare the import of dual-use items and supply UNMOVIC with details as to their origin. However, Iraq's recent semi-annual monitoring declarations, starting with the "backlog" of declarations since 1998 supplied to UNMOVIC in October 2002, showed a trend of withholding pertinent information. . . . The biological imports were of a slightly more significant kind, and included the import of a dozen autoclaves, half a dozen centrifuges and a number of laminar flow cabinets.

Missile imports, however, were more substantial and could have contributed significantly to any missile development programme. One example was the importation of 380 Volga engines that Iraq planned to use in the production of the Al Samoud 2 missile, a missile system UNMOVIC later determined to be prohibited since its range exceeded 150 km. In its declaration of 7 December 2002, Iraq declared that it had imported 131 such engines but failed to supply any information about their origin (suppliers, exporting countries) until inspectors observed 231 such engines at an Al Samoud production facility.

A trend that was especially pronounced in the missile area (but to a lesser extent also present in the biological and chemical fields) was the use of the term "local market" to classify the import of some very sophisticated pieces of equipment. . . . UNMOVIC came to understand that Iraq used the term "local market" when an Iraqi import company imported a commodity and then sold or transferred it to a government facility, which suggested that Iraq was trying to conceal the extent of its import activities and to preserve its importing networks."

Daniel McKivergan is deputy director of The Project for the New American Century.

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