Unfinished Business in Iraq

By Boese, Wade | Arms Control Today, April 2003 | Go to article overview

Unfinished Business in Iraq


Boese, Wade, Arms Control Today


IAEA and UNMOVIC Outline Remaining Disarmament Tasks

On March 19, the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) submitted work programs to the UN Security Council detailing the status of their efforts to verify Iraq's disarmament and future steps to realize that goal. UNMOVIC was charged with overseeing Iraq's elimination of its proscribed biological, chemical, and missile programs, while the IAEA was responsible for the abolition of Baghdad's nuclear weapons program.

The presentation of the work programs had a surreal quality. all of the arms inspectors had departed Iraq the day before under the prospect of a looming U.S.-led invasion of Baghdad, an action that U.S. and British officials said was intended to disarm Iraq. That attack began March 19. Backed by the United Kingdom and several smaller countries, the Bush administration argued force was needed to accomplish what it said the inspectors could not do. Many other countries, including China, France, Germany, and Russia, disagreed.

Although it appears that the UNMOVIC and IAEA work programs might have come to an end with the U.S.-led invasion, the inspectors' lists of key remaining disarmament tasks may well serve as a starting point for any post-war effort to account fully for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs.

The IAEA expressed confidence that it had a "coherent" picture of Iraq's illegal nuclear weapons program and had succeeded in eliminating it by 1998 when inspectors first left Iraq-only days before Washington and London carried out military strikes against Baghdad for its failure to cooperate fully with inspectors. Upon resuming its Iraq inspection work in November 2002, the IAEA set out to determine whether Iraq had restarted its nuclear weapons program during the four-year absence of inspectors. This year, the IAEA has reported several times to the UN Security Council that it "found to date no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons programme in Iraq." With that said, the IAEA still has some unresolved questions about Iraq's past nuclear weapons efforts, which the IAEA's work program was designed to answer.

UNMOVIC's predecessor, the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM), had said it succeeded in dismantling the key facilities involved in Iraq's efforts to acquire chemical and biological weapons and in supervising the destruction of significant quantities of proscribed weapons, including missiles. Yet, it had a much more difficult time than the IAEA in accounting for Iraq's past weapons efforts. UNMOVIC inherited from UNSCOM a host of unresolved questions and most of those remain unanswered, which UNMOVIC's much more extensive work program makes clear.

Summarized below is the IAEA's list of actions Iraq needs to take with regard to its past and current nuclear activities as well as the dozen disarmament issues in the biological, chemical, and missile fields that UNMOVIC highlighted as remaining unresolved.

IAEA

Saying its main task-the elimination of the Iraqi nuclear weapons program-has been accomplished, the IAEA focused its work program on obtaining as complete a picture as possible of Iraq's past nuclear efforts as well as a clear understanding of any current Iraqi activities or personnel that could be employed to reconstitute an illicit weapons program. To achieve these objectives, the IAEA said Iraq must provide full technical descriptions of its past nuclear weapons activities; turn over all documents related to nuclear activities; name and make available for interviews all personnel previously involved in Iraq's nuclear weapons program; describe any industrial infrastructure improvements over the past four years; list and explain any procurement activities that could be related to a nuclear weapons program; and describe its current procurement system. The IAEA also called on Baghdad to institute laws and create administrative bodies for enforcing UN prohibitions against weapons of mass destruction.

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