Prevention, Not Pre-Emption

Article excerpt


Yielding to pressure from members of Congress and major U.S. allies, President George W. Bush made the common sense decision to appeal to the United Nations to address the chronic problem of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs. As a result of the renewed international focus on its unfulfilled obligations to comply with UN Security Council disarmament resolutions, Baghdad agreed to allow UN inspectors back in the country "without conditions."

But this is only the beginning of a difficult process. Now, all the key players must give the weapons inspectors the time, authority, and support necessary to allow them to freely operate in a manner that can eliminate and prevent the re-emergence of Iraq's proscribed weapons programs. Over the course of the next few weeks, the sincerity of Bush's appeal to the United Nations, the will of the Security Council to uphold nonproliferation norms, and Iraq's willingness to cooperate will be tested.

Despite Iraq's past history of deceit and obstruction, in 1998 the United Nations assessed that "the bulk of Iraq's proscribed weapons programmes has been eliminated" by the previous inspections regime. But Iraq's past behavior makes it clear that the Security Council should deliver a new resolution outlining more effective conditions for Iraqi compliance.

The Security Council should insist that Iraq provide, in a timely manner, a full and accurate declaration of its current and past weapons activities, that inspections rules should be changed to allow for a freer exchange of intelligence on prohibited weapons, and that interviews with Iraqi scientists be free of intimidation. UN inspectors must be also allowed to conduct inspections anytime and anywhere, including "presidential sites."

In addition, the Security Council should clarify that the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)-not Washington-should determine whether and when Iraq fails to meet the requirements of a strengthened inspections regime. If Iraq repeats its past pattern of blatant noncooperation, the council should authorize the use of force only to ensure the safety of the inspectors and the completion of their mission. Furthermore, because the work of the inspectors will take time to complete properly, the Security Council (and Iraq) must not set arbitrary deadlines for the inspection process.

Quick action is needed, but the evidence presented thus far does not suggest that Iraqi weapons capabilities pose an imminent threat that warrants immediate military action. …