While Iraq has sought to strengthen its conventional forces, its most bitter struggles in the ‘‘war of sanctions’’ have been over its attempts to preserve its weapons of mass destruction. This war has become a series of battles of attrition which neither side seems likely to fully win. Iraq has suffered major defeats. The UN has maintained an intrusive inspection regime which has been able to verify the destruction of some seven to eight billion dollars of facilities, production equipment, weapon, and related material. It has also maintained controls which have denied Iraq access to dual-use and related imports.
Iraq has, however, resisted the UN’s efforts every step of the way. In spite of the best efforts of the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iraq has succeeded in remaining one of the world’s most dangerous proliferators. It has preserved its technology base and many of its capabilities to manufacture and deploy such weapons. It has set up new covert programs, and it has continued to smuggle in equipment and technology. At the same time, it has gradually undermined the UN inspection effort and obtained the support of other nations in its efforts to put an end to sanctions. It is still possible that Iraq may provoke new US and British strikes against its efforts to proliferate it, but many of its capabilities seem likely to survive the best efforts of UNSCOM and the IAEA.
Iraq’s leadership has given proliferation a high strategic priority for more than three decades. Iraq is the first nation in modern times to make extensive use of weapons of mass destruction. While Egypt used chemical weapons in the Yemeni civil war, and Japan used chemical and biological weapons in World War