TCS Daily

Crazy Like a Fox

By Dale Franks - September 26, 2002 12:00 AM

Saddam Hussein's "unconditional" agreement to allow inspectors back into Iraq has, for the moment, blunted the momentum of the Bush Administration's efforts to encourage the UN Security Council to authorize force against Iraq in the immediate future. It also allows Hussein to be seen by some Council members, especially Russia and France, as making an acceptable attempt to comply with previous resolutions. To the extent that the Russians and French take this line, it reduces the chance that more forceful resolutions can be passed. This is a dangerous line to take.

Soon after agreeing to allow UN weapons inspectors to return, Hussein stated that Iraq was agreeing to inspections under the terms negotiated immediately after the Gulf War, under the United Nations Special Convention (UNSCOM) inspection regime. A more coercive system of inspections, he said would be rejected. Moreover, any further UN Resolutions, authorizing a more stringent inspection regime under the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), would be rejected as well.

"Unconditional" evidently means something different in Iraq.

The Iraqi argument is that if the issue is compliance with past resolutions, and Iraq complies with those resolutions, then not only are new resolutions unnecessary, but they also constitute unfairly changing the rules of the game. This, too, is an argument that opponents of regime change in Iraq will probably be prone to accept at face value.

Yet, the reasoning behind Iraq's position is obvious. Under the UNSCOM inspection regime, there were loopholes big enough to drive a truck through. For example, the UNSCOM inspectors were banned from a list of "Presidential" sites, purportedly private residences of the Iraqi leader. Was any work on Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) being carried out at those sites? That's a good question, and we don't really know the answer. Nor will we if the UNMOVIC inspections comply with the terms of the previous UNSCOM inspections. The "Presidential" sites will be off limits to inspectors.

An inspection regime that allows safe havens for proscribed research is not, in any essential way, better than no inspections at all, a fact that is sure to have come to Saddam Hussein's attention.

In addition, the key factor of time must be addressed. There are, reportedly, indications that Saddam Hussein may be close to constructing a nuclear weapon. How close? Well, no one really knows. But what we do know is that it will take an irreducible amount of time for UNMOVIC weapons inspectors to get their feet wet once they get into Iraq. Hans Blix, UNMOVIC's head, says that inspectors may need up to four weeks before they have a clear idea of where searches may need to be conducted.

In other words, even under a rigorous inspection regime, Saddam Hussein has been given around six weeks between his agreement to allow inspectors to return and the date that inspectors have a clear idea about where actual searches should begin.

Even after inspections begin, how long will it take before they find evidence of a smoking gun? Again, no one knows. Given Iraq's record of deception in the past, evidence might be covered up for a significant amount of time before inspectors catch on to it.

If Iraq is indeed close to constructing a small arsenal of nuclear weapons, perhaps Hussein feels he can win a race against time with the inspectors. Moreover, if inspectors get close to finding evidence of WMD construction, he can begin using the same stalling tactics he used on the UNSCOM team. Those obstructions lasted for several weeks before the UNSCOM inspectors finally gave up, and left the country.

If Hussein can, in fact, construct nuclear weapons in a fairly short time, and can keep UNMOVIC inspectors engaged elsewhere, the first we might hear of his arsenal is when he announces it publicly, in conjunction with his orders to expel the UNMOVIC team from Iraq. We will then be faced with a nuclear-armed Iraq. An attempt at regime change might be quite costly indeed.

This might be a speculative scenario, but it is one that has some foundation in the Iraqi regime's past behavior. Saddam Hussein has, in the past, done everything possible to prevent his construction of WMD from being stopped. Indeed, he has accepted a decade of sanctions, and immeasurable suffering among his people to keep his WMD programs alive. Clearly his desire to obtain those nightmarish weapons outweighs any concern he might have for his subjects. There must be a reason for this behavior, and to assume it is a benign one defies credulity.

We must not be mislead by Hussein's agreement to allow inspectors back into Iraq. When they return, they must have a mandate that allows them to inspect any facility, anywhere in the country, at any time. Hussein must be warned that failure to comply with the demands of the UNMOVIC inspectors in any material respect will be considered grounds for immediate military retaliation. In furtherance of this, the U.S. should do everything in its power to obtain a UN Security Council Resolution that imposes coercive inspections, backed up by the authorization to use force.

If such a resolution is not possible, then the U.S. must be prepared to act alone.



TCS Daily Archives