In the coming weeks, the only person standing between the United
States and war with Iraq could be chief UN weapons inspector Hans
The bespectacled career diplomat and bureaucrat is a former
Swedish foreign minister who was lured out of retirement to head the
new United Nations inspections commission. Though he previously
spent 16 years as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA) in Vienna, some today worry that he's about to embark on
Mission Impossible. Saddam Hussein boasts a track record of hiding
and deceiving - and Washington seems bent on his removal regardless
of what the weapons inspectors accomplish.
And Mr. Blix does not inspire absolute confidence, say some
His past, they note, indicates he may be averse to ruffling
feathers in Baghdad, or among the permanent members of the UN
Security Council who resist America's disarm-or-else approach.
"He has a long history of shrinking away from confrontations,"
says Kelly Motz, a research associate for the Wisconsin Project on
Nuclear Arms Control. "He'll definitely be more worried about the
feelings of the Iraqis than his predecessors were."
It was Blix who was head of the IAEA in 1990 when it gave Iraq a
clean bill of health, only to be humiliated after the Gulf War when
Baghdad's secret nuclear program was uncovered.
For now, at least, Blix is embracing the tough talk of the UN
Security Council's most influential member, the United States,
although officially, he takes marching orders from the entire 15-
member Security Council.
Meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell and other
administration brass Friday, Blix agreed that Iraq must issue a full
declaration of any existing biological, chemical, and nuclear
programs. This would establish a crucial benchmark: If any lies are
detected later, this "noncompliance" would justify military action,
While in Washington, Blix also appeared to endorse US threats of
"consequences" for noncompliance. "I think it is clear that there
has to be constant pressure," he told reporters. And on Thursday,
after briefing the Security Council, Blix agreed not to follow
through on his plan to send an advance team of inspectors to Iraq in
mid-October, and said inspections themselves would not resume
without a new resolution. "We are in [the Council's] hands," Blix
told the press after the meeting. "It would be an awkward situation
if we were already working there and were given a new directive."
This, though, came a few days after Blix held controversial talks
in Vienna with Iraqi officials. Blix - operating under 1998 and '99
UN agreements now viewed by many as too lenient - was there to
discuss the logistics of returning inspectors after a four-year
hiatus. But Iraqi negotiators spun a PR victory out of the meeting,
proclaiming all aspects of inspections resolved - and declaring that
a 1998 agreement to keep eight so-called "presidential sites" off-
limits had been left intact. Some supporters promptly praised
Baghdad for its "show of good faith."
But Powell called a quick press conference in Washington, in time
for the evening news, to clarify that no deal had been struck. He
said the contentious issue of inspecting eight presidential sites -
often referred to misleadingly as "palaces," but which total some 30
square miles and contain 1,100 buildings - would be revised and
tightened in the new resolution.
Some analysts faulted Blix for not awaiting a new UN mandate
before resuming talks with Iraq.
"It makes Iraq think that Blix is not tight with America and
Britain, and gives them hope they can manipulate him and the
inspectors to split the Security Council," says David Albright,
president of the Institute for Science and International Security
and an IAEA inspector in Iraq in 1996. …