UN Weapons Inspections Begin in Iraq
Kerr, Paul, Arms Control Today
UNITED NATIONS WEAPONS inspectors returned to Iraq this month for the first time since December 1998 after the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1441 November 8 requiring Iraq to admit inspectors. Following months of debate over how to disarm Iraq, the Security Council approved the new resolution by a vote of 15-0, but differences remain between Washington and the United Nations over future Iraq policy.
The first team of UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors arrived in Iraq November 25, with inspections scheduled to start November 27. The inspectors will update the Security Council on their progress 60 days later. Iraq must submit a "currently accurate, full, and complete declaration of all aspects of its [weapons of mass destruction] programmes" by December 8, according to the resolution.
The inspection teams have a strong mandate under the resolution, which specifies that Iraq must allow "immediate, unimpeded, unconditional and unrestricted access" to "facilities, buildings, equipment, records, and means of transport which they wish to inspect." To prevent Iraq from moving weapons materials, the resolution grants UN inspectors the authority to prohibit the movement of vehicles and aircraft around sites to be inspected. Inspectors also have the right to interview anyone they choose, without Iraqi officials present, in any location they wish, including outside Iraq. Additionally, the resolution mandates access to "presidential sites," superceding a 1998 memorandum of understanding between Baghdad and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that had placed special conditions on inspections of such sites. (See ACT, November 2002.)
The new resolution also encourages governments to provide "any information related to prohibited programmes or other aspects of their mandates," an apparent reference to national intelligence data.
Baghdad accepted the new resolution in a November 13 letter to Annan from Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri despite an Iraqi parliament vote the day before to reject the new resolution. The letter included antiAmerican rhetoric and assertions that Iraq does not possess weapons of mass destruction. Iraq sent a second letter, dated November 23, reiterating Iraqi charges that it has complied with weapons inspections in the past and that the United States is in violation of past UN resolutions. The letter also argued that Resolution 1441 simply provides cover for Washington to use force against Iraq.
IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei said in a November 19 press conference that Iraqi officials agreed to comply with the resolution after he and UNMOVIC Executive Chairman Hans Blix met with them in Baghdad November 18-- 19. ElBaradei added that UN economic sanctions on Iraq could be suspended within a year if Baghdad cooperates.
In a November 20 press conference, Blix said that Baghdad had agreed to submit the required declaration by December 8 although it is concerned about the short time frame and disclosing information about "peaceful industries." National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice suggested in a November 21 interview on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer that an Iraqi denial that it possesses weapons of mass destruction would "be a signal that [Iraq is] not ready to cooperate." Blix told the Security Council November 25 that Iraq maintains it does not have weapons of mass destruction programs.
"Material Breach" Still an Issue
The product of weeks of bargaining among Security Council members, the new resolution is different from a previous U.S.-- U.K. draft resolution in several important ways. Some council members had balked at language that declared Iraq in "material breach" of past Security Council resolutions, fearing it could provide an automatic trigger for a military attack. As a result, Resolution 1441 declares that Iraq "remains in material breach" of past resolutions but explains that the council had decided to "afford Iraq. …