U.S., Security Council Debate Iraq Weapons Inspections

Article excerpt


AS WEAPONS INSPECTORS waited to enter Iraq, the United States submitted a resolution to the UN Security Council on October 25 that firmly calls for Iraq to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction but does not directly threaten the use of force if Baghdad fails to comply. Supporting a tough stance against Iraq, Congress passed a joint resolution, which President George W. Bush signed October 16, authorizing the use of force to compel compliance with UN resolutions.

The new resolution, submitted with the United Kingdom, declares Iraq to be in "material breach" of its obligations under "relevant" Security Council resolutions, particularly Resolution 687, which mandated in 1991 that Iraq give up its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs and most missiles. It calls for Iraq to submit "a currently accurate, full and complete declaration of all aspects of its [prohibited weapons] programs."

The inspection teams would have a strong mandate under the resolution, which specifies that Iraq is to allow "immediate, unimpeded, unconditional and unrestricted access" to "facilities, buildings, equipment, records, and means of transport which they wish to inspect." To prevent Iraq from moving materials, the resolution grants UN inspectors the authority to prohibit the movement of vehicles and aircraft around sites to be inspected. Inspectors would also have the right to interview anyone they choose, without Iraqi officials present, in any location they wish.

The resolution also mandates access to "presidential sites," superceding a 1998 memorandum of understanding between Baghdad and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that had placed special conditions on inspectors to such sites. Although the memorandum, which was endorsed by a Security Council resolution, did not give Iraq the right to impede inspections, some former UN inspectors have argued that these conditions could enable Iraq to conceal prohibited weapons activities.

Significantly, the new resolution gives the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) the right to access "any information that any member state is willing to provide," an apparent reference to sharing of national intelligence data.

UNMOVIC Executive Chairman Hans Blix said during an October 28 briefing to the Security Council that access to intelligence about Iraqi weapons activities would be an important tool for UNMOVIC to perform effectively, but he emphasized that UNMOVIC would not give intelligence data to national governments. Allegations that UN weapons inspectors had been gathering intelligence in Iraq for their governments led to a controversy in 1999 that damaged UNSCOM, the previous inspection organization.

The resolution demands that Iraq "state its acceptance" of the resolution within seven days and submit declarations of its weapons programs within 30 days. UNMOVIC is to resume inspections no later than 45 days after the resolution is adopted and to update the council 60 days later.

Move Toward Compromise

The resolution differs in several respects from an earlier draft resolution that the United States circulated to permanent members of the Security Council in September, particularly in its provision for the use of force. The previous draft stated that failure "by Iraq at any time to comply and cooperate fully in accordance with" the resolution s demands would "constitute a further material breach of Iraq's obligations" and authorize "all member states to use all necessary means to restore international peace and security in the area."

The current resolution also says that Iraq's failure to comply would be a "material breach," but instead of directly threatening force, it merely "recalls" previous Security Council warnings that Iraq will face "serious consequences as a result of ...continued violations of its obligations. …