While blasting Iraq today for not “genuinely” accepting disarmament and hinting that undeclared chemical warheads recently found in a bunker southwest of Baghdad may be the “tip of the submerged iceberg,” the duo in charge of U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq asked for more time to do their work.
Reporting on the progress of the inspection process over the past 60 days, U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix told members of the U.N. Security Council today that he was encouraged by Iraq’s cooperation in providing access to inspectors.
But his praise was muted by a blistering summation of Iraq’s overall cooperation.
“Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance, not even today, of the disarmament that was demanded of it,” Blix declared.
He criticized the government of Saddam Hussein for its “disturbing harassment” of inspectors. The dictator has accused them of being spies and instigating demonstrations outside of the U.N. compound in Baghdad.
Blix also spoke of other “problems” with Iraq’s response to the inspection process, noting that Iraq has refused to guarantee the safety of the inspectors’ U-2 plane used for surveillance and continually flies helicopters into the “no-fly” zone created in the wake of the Persian Gulf War.
Blix added that the latter matter had been solved in recent negotiations with the Iraqis.
He then blasted Iraq for its failure to declare all weapons of
mass destruction programs and its refusal to either present plans for their elimination or evidence that nothing prohibited under Security Council Resolution 1441 remains.
Blix cited several discrepancies with Iraq’s 12,000-page declaration of its weapons programs submitted on Dec. 7, which he summed up as “mostly … a reprint of earlier documents” that doesn’t
contain any new evidence that address the questions raised by two earlier UNSCOM reports.
Among the disarmament issues he described as remaining open:
- Iraq claims the nerve agent VX was only produced on a pilot scale over a few months, was never weaponized and was unilaterally destroyed in 1991. But inspectors found that the purity of the
agent in laboratory production was higher than declared and there was evidence that it was weaponized.
- U.N. evidence indicates Iraq dropped 13,000 chemical bombs during the Iraq-Iran war between 1983 and 1998. Iraq claims it used 19,500. That means 6,500 chemical bombs remain unaccounted for.
The amount of chemical agent in these bombs is estimated to be on the order of 1,000 tons.
- Blix said the recent discovery of 12 chemical rocket warheads in a bunker southwest of Baghdad could be the “tip of the submerged iceberg … because it points to the issue of several thousand chemical rockets that are unaccounted for.” Iraq claims the warheads were simply overlooked.
- Iraq declared it produced 8,500 liters of its biological warfare agent, anthrax, and states it unilaterally destroyed it in the summer of 1991. Iraq has provided little evidence of its production and no evidence of its destruction. There are strong indications that Iraq produced more anthrax than it declared and that at
least some of this was detained after the destruction date.
- There remain significant questions as to whether Iraq retained Scud-type missiles after the Gulf War. Iraq declared the consumption of a number as targets in the development of an active ballistic-missile defense system during the 1980s. But no technical information has been produced on that program or data on the consumption of the missiles.
- The development of a liquid-fuel missile and a solid-propellant missile that have been tested in a range in excess of the permitted range of 150 kilometers. Some of both types of missiles have been
provided to the Iraqi armed forces even though Iraq claims they’re still undergoing development. (Blix said Iraq has been asked to cease test-flights of both missiles.)
- Iraq has refurbished its missile production infrastructure and has reconstituted a number of casting
chambers destroyed under UNSCOM supervision and used them in the production of solid-fuel missiles. The chambers can also be used for creating motors for missiles capable of a range
significantly greater than the permitted 150 kilometers.
- Iraq has imported 300 rocket engines that may be used for missiles.
- Despite Iraq’s assertion that it has turned over all documents pertaining to its weapons programs, a box containing 3,000 pages of documents relating to the enrichment of uranium using laser technology were found during an inspection of a scientist’s home.
“Inspections are not a game of catch-as-catch-can,” charged Blix, who later added that inspectors had been given information by member states about the concealment of “missiles and chemical
weapons and mobile units for biological weapons productions.”
“We shall certainly follow up any credible leads given to us and report what we might find, as well as any denial of access,” Blix said.
Mohamed Elbaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAA, was more blatant in asking for more time for inspections, telling the Security Council his inspectors need a “few more
months” to fully assess Iraq’s nuclear capability.
Calling inspections time consuming, Elbaradei noted that it took IAA two years to complete the disarmament process in South Africa.
“We have found no evidence that Iraq has revived its nuclear program since the elimination of the program in the 1990s. However, our work is steadily progressing and should be allowed to run its natural course,” Elbaradei said.
“The international community will not be satisfied when questions remain,” he added.
Reaction to the U.N. report
The White House was characteristically unfazed by the pleas for patience.
“When people say ‘give them more time,’ the more time they get the more time they get the run-around,” White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. “Iraq is giving the inspectors the run-around.”
U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte was equally nonplused by the U.N. inspections status report.
“Nothing we have heard today gives us hope that Iraq intends to fully comply with Resolution 1441 or any of the 16 resolutions that preceded it over the last 12 years,” Negroponte said.
“The purpose of 1441 was disarmament. It was never the task of the inspectors to look under every
rock to find Iraq’s hidden weapons. … When a country has determined that it will voluntarily disarm, inspections are a means to an end and they cannot be expected to achieve disarmament when a
country has an active program of denial and deception, which is the case with Iraq,” he continued.
Negroponte pointed to the discovery of the undeclared chemical warheads and the 3,000 pages of secret Iraqi government documents hidden at the scientist’s home as “physical evidence that Iraq’s declaration is inaccurate and incomplete.”
“There is an entire state apparatus in Iraq whose sole purpose is to obstruct the inspections. … It benefits no one to let Saddam think he can wear us down in a business-as-usual as he has practiced over the last 12 years,” he said.
Response from U.S. ally United Kingdom was equally resolute.
“What we’ve heard is a catalogue of unresolved questions. And it’s quite clear to all members of the Security Council that this is not going to be resolved peacefully through the U.N. process unless we have 100 percent cooperation from Iraq,” said Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the British ambassador to the U.N.
“It’s not a matter of time, it’s a matter of attitude. And the attitude we’re getting from the Iraqis at the moment is just not sufficient for the eradication of the programs that we know about,” he added.
Reaction from Iraq, which requested and was granted the opportunity to sit at the Security Council table during the delivery of the inspections status report, was defiant.
“In less than two months, more than 440 inspections were carried out to more than 297 sites, which included presidential sites. … The results prove that Iraq is clear of weapons of mass destruction,” declared Mohammed al-Douri, the Iraqi ambassador to the U.N.
Al-Douri claimed it has been fully cooperative with the international community’s monitoring system since the Persian Gulf War, but then seemingly contradicted himself in quoting former President Bill Clinton as declaring that he had “destroyed all the alleged weapons-of-mass-destruction sites” following U.S. air strikes on Iraq in 1998.
Al-Douri then insinuated President Bush, not Iraq, was in material breach of the Security Council resolution.
Earlier, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri similarly stated that Iraq had cooperated fully with weapons inspectors and charged that accusations made by U.S. officials were “all lies to hide America’s true intentions” which he said were to control Iraq’s oil reserves and protect its “interests in Israel.”
U.S. willing to go it alone
Sabri was apparently referencing Secretary of State Colin Powell in his remarks.
Yesterday, Powell delivered a powerful speech to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, answering to the mounting European opposition to military action against Iraq.
“We will continue to reserve our sovereign right to take military action against Iraq alone or in a coalition of the willing,” he said.
In a foreshadowing of today’s remarks by Blix and Elbaradei, Powell said, “Iraq attempted to conceal
with volume what it lacked in veracity. It has failed the test. … Not a single nation, not one, trusts Saddam and his regime.”
Addressing reporters this afternoon, Powell said Sabri’s accusation would “not cause me any distress or loss of sleep” after offering his reaction to the U.N. report.
“The inspectors’ findings came as no surprise,” Powell said. “For 11 years before [Resolution] 1441 Saddam Hussein’s regime refused to make the strategic decision, the political decision to disarm itself of weapons of mass destruction and comply with the world’s demands.”
“The Iraq regime has responded to [Resolution] 1441 with empty claims, empty declarations and empty gestures. It has not given the inspectors of the international community any concrete information in answer to a host of key questions: Where is the missing anthrax? … Where is the VX … Where are
the chemical and biological munitions? Where are the mobile biological laboratories. Why is Iraq violating restrictions on ballistic missiles? Why is it violating the ban on missiles with a range of more than 150 kilometers? Where are the credible, verifiable answers to all of the other disarmament questions compiled by the previous inspectors?”
When pressed on whether the U.S. considered the U.N. report sufficient for embarking on a military campaign against Iraq, Powell responded that both he and President Bush would be conducting
consultations with other heads of state, including British prime minister Tony Blair, and would then “let it be known what our next steps would be.”
“Even at this late date, the United States hopes for a peaceful solution,” Powell concluded, “but peaceful solution is possible only if Iraq disarms itself with the help of the inspectors. The issue is not how much more time the inspectors need to search in the dark. It is how much more time Iraq should be given to turn on the lights and to come clean. And the answer is ‘not much more time.'”
Should U.S. officials conclude, after their consultations with other heads of state, that military action is necessary to disarm Saddam, a recent poll shows more Americans would support the decision.
As WorldNetDaily reported, telephone surveys conducted by Scott Rasmussen Public Opinion Research found 46 percent of Americans in favor of taking action without U.N. backing. Only 36 percent said it would be better to cooperate with U.S. allies and leave Hussein in power.
Meanwhile, the Security Council will question inspectors in closed-door sessions today and Wednesday.
The London Times reports Blair may propose a new resolution that would move the council closer to a declaration of war.
The resolution would give Iraq a new deadline – a few weeks from now – to comply.
The diplomatic gesture is said to be an attempt to counter the perception that an American-led war is inevitable. It is also said to be a practical move, since most of the U.S. and British military forces heading to the Gulf will not be in position to fight until the end of February or the begining of March, reports the Times.
In a plea for Security Council support of military action Powell needled, “Iraq’s defiance continues to challenge the relevance and credibility of the Security Council.”
“The international community’s goal was, is and remains Iraq’s disarmament. The Security Council and the international community must stand behind Resolution 1441. … Let’s not forget the vital part of the resolution that comes toward the end, ‘There would be serious consequences for continued Iraqi violation of its obligation,'” he said.