Duelfer Disproves U.S. WMD Claims

By Kerr, Paul | Arms Control Today, November 2004 | Go to article overview

Duelfer Disproves U.S. WMD Claims


Kerr, Paul, Arms Control Today


Charles Duelfer, the CIA's special adviser to the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), told the Senate Armed Services Committee Oct. 6 that Iraq destroyed its stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, as well as eliminated its nuclear weapons program, after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Although his findings thus far largely confirm previous reports, they offer the most extensive analysis to date of the state of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) before last year's U.S.-led invasion.

Duelfer's testimony came shortly after the public release of a Sept. 30 report from the ISG, the task force charged with coordinating the U.S.-led search for Iraqi prohibited weapons. Duelfer's predecessor, David Kay, testified in January that Iraq had destroyed its weapons. (see ACT, March 2004.) However, the report goes into even greater detail about Iraq's weapons efforts.

Duelfer's testimony and report show that deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, constrained by UN sanctions, had not restarted the country's nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons programs. However, he was seeking to preserve and restore, to varying degrees, the intellectual and physical capacity to resume the nuclear and chemical weapons programs if sanctions put in place by the UN Security Council after the Gulf War were lifted.

Duclfer stated that escaping the sanctions was a "top priority" for Hussein, who manipulated the UN oil-for-food program by granting rights to low-priced Iraqi oil in exchange for recipient countries' support for getting the sanctions lifted. Established in 1995, the program allowed Iraq to purchase food, medicine, health supplies, and other civilian goods with proceeds derived from oil sales, which were held in a UN escrow account.

Iraq had some success in circumventing the sanctions, the report said. Baghdad was able to obtain cash through illegal oil sales and the import of illicit goods, including some dual-use items useful in WMD programs.

Duelfer told the committee that the sanctions were in a "free fall" but indicated that international sentiment following the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States halted the trend. Duelfer argued that support for the sanctions could not have been sustained indefinitely, but lifting sanctions was not seriously under discussion during the run-up to the invasion. At that time, security Council members opposed to the invasion were focused on extending the UN-mandated weapons inspections and maintaining sanctions.

Duelfer did not address the fact that security Council resolutions mandated continued UN monitoring of Iraqi facilities to prevent future attempts at rearming. Kay told Arms CoMtrof Tbday in March that such monitoring would have detected large-scale resumption of prohibited weapons activities, including a "restart" of the nuclear weapons program and "industrial production of missiles." Monitoring would not have stopped "small-scale cheating" in the case of chemical and biological weapons programs and might not have detecled importation of missiles, he added.

In any case, the sanctions were largely effective at restraining Iraq's weapons programs. Duelfer told the committee that the sanctions both constrained Iraq's weapons-related imports and induced Hussein not to pursue WMD because such efforts would jeopardize his goal of getting the sanctions lifted.

The Weapons

Duelfer testified that Iraqi WMD "stocks do not exist," despite occasional finds of pre-1991 chemical munitions. (see ACT, July/August 2004.) He also said that the ISG has found no evidence that WMl) were transferred to other countries, a theory some administration officials have advanced.

In his testimony, Duelfer also discussed Hussein's motives for pursuing illicit WMD, stating that the Iraqi leader believed that Baghdad's chemical weapons saved it from defeat during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. Hussein further believed that Iraq's chemical and biological weapons capabilities deterred the United States from overthrowing his government after the Gulf War, Duelfer said, adding that the Iraqi leader also wanted to deter Iran in the future. …

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