The US and its critics on the UN Security Council appear to be
fundamentally divided on a basic question: whether the continuation
of weapons inspections in Iraq is more dangerous than war.
To the French and Germans, the inspectors' presence is arguably
as important as any discoveries. With UN teams crawling around the
country, Saddam Hussein's nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons
programs are now "frozen," according to French Foreign Minister
Dominique de Villepin.
Thus, while Mr. Hussein represents a danger to the world
community, it is a controlled danger, according to the Europeans.
To the Bush administration, this return to an inspections status
quo is not good enough. US officials profess little faith in the
ability of a handful of inspectors serving as a deterrent to WMD
development. Implicit in their rhetoric is also the assumption that
the most dangerous Iraqi weapon of mass destruction is Hussein
"We cannot rely on inspectors gradually finding [Hussein's WMD]
and disarming him," says John Reppert, a retired Army brigadier
general who headed the US On-Site Inspections Agency. "The US thinks
that doing it quicker and more effectively [via fighting], even
though it will cause casualties, is the only way we can have
Against this background, the much-anticipated Jan. 27 progress
report by the top UN inspectors was something easily interpreted by
both sides as supporting their position.
The report was tough - to some observers, unexpectedly tough - on
the lack of substantive compliance by Iraq with UN disarmament
"Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance, not even
today, of the disarmament that was demanded of it," UN weapons chief
Hans Blix said at the beginning of a crucial assessment of 60 days
of weapons inspections. Mr. Blix, head of the UN Monitoring,
Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), said it was not
enough for the Iraqis to "open doors."
Blix noted that Iraq's 12,000-page arms declaration contained
little more than old material previously submitted to inspectors.
One exception was an Air Force document that indicates that Iraq has
failed to account for some 6,000 chemical rockets. "The finding of
the rockets show that Iraq needs to make more effort to show that
its declaration is currently accurate."
On the nerve agent VX, which Iraq is believed to have weaponized
on the eve of the Gulf War, Blix said the Iraqis haven't
sufficiently answered questions regarding the fate of its
On biological weapons, Blix said Iraq had failed to produce
"convincing evidence" that it unilaterally destroyed its anthrax
stockpiles and that there are indications that Iraq could have had
larger quantities than it reported to inspectors. …