TCS Daily

Upon Closer Inspection

By Pejman Yousefzadeh - September 25, 2002 12:00 AM

President Bush's September 12th speech to the United Nations General Assembly was even more consequential than the immediate reviews of the speech gave it credit for. Not only did it put the world on notice of the seriousness with which the Administration treats and regards the threat from Iraq, it prompted the Iraqis to try to disrupt the burgeoning effort to depose Saddam Hussein and his regime by offering to let in weapons inspectors for the first time in four years.

It should be viewed as a mark of Saddam's fear of American military action that he has made the offer to let in inspectors. However, the offer should not be viewed as a turning point in Iraq's relations with the rest of the world. Rather, the latest Iraqi proposal constitutes nothing more than a continuation of Saddam's policy to deceive the international community, while he works to develop his weapons of mass destruction.

The Iraqis, aided by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, termed their offer to readmit weapons inspectors as "unconditional." In that same offer, however, the Iraqis insisted that "practical arrangements" regarding the weapons inspection teams had to be made, and that the "territorial integrity" of Iraq had to be respected. While these phrases appear to be perfectly harmless, they are in fact code words that have been used in the past to disrupt weapons inspections. Their reemergence in the latest Iraqi offer is evidence that the offer is made in bad faith. Additionally, it should be pointed out that the current international situation makes it less and less likely that any inspection regime would work.

First, let us address the substance of the Iraqi offer. If the offer to readmit weapons inspections was truly made in good faith, and "without conditions," there would be no "practical arrangements" to discuss in the first place. The Iraqis would merely accept the terms of the international community regarding the inspections. The fact that the Iraqis insist on the resolution of "practical arrangements" demonstrates that they do, in fact, attach conditions to the readmission of weapons inspectors.

The use of the code phrase "territorial integrity" also puts the lie to the claim that the offer is without conditions. "Territorial integrity" has been historically used to prevent weapons inspectors from being able to look at civilian sites where weapons of mass destruction, and the materiel needed to make them, may be hidden. The most common civilian sites that are mentioned as having a dual military purpose are Saddam's many lavish and spacious palaces. Weapons stockpiles and supplies can easily be hidden in the palaces, and weapons inspectors have been barred from visiting the palaces to determine whether or not they are being used as storage houses for weapons of mass destruction. As such there are conditions that are attached to the offer to readmit weapons inspectors.

Considering the fact that the offer was made in a last ditch attempt to disrupt the march to depose Saddam Hussein and his regime, it should be no surprise that the Iraqi offer constitutes sound and fury signifying nothing. But it is incumbent upon the Bush Administration to continue to point out the disingenuousness of the offer, in order to ensure that it is able to garner as much international support as possible-international support that appeared likely to assist the Administration immediately after the President's September 12th speech. I had written last week that it seemed the Bush Administration was able to win over France and Russia with the President's speech. But after Saddam's weapons inspection gambit was made public, both countries have once again become hesitant about backing the use of American power against Saddam's regime. It may be that France and Russia will be won over eventually, but that will take a fair amount of diplomatic arm-twisting-which will include a campaign to convince the French and Russians that Iraq's offer is laden with conditions that will make any attempt at weapons inspections impracticable.

Having discussed the substance of the Iraqi offer, we should now examine whether any inspection regime has the possibility of working. Assuming, for the moment, that the Bush Administration wishes to rely on inspectors, it would have to insist that any inspection regime be comprised of the following unconditional terms:

  1. The ability of the weapons inspection teams to constitute themselves in any way that they wish (including having as large a percentage of the weapons inspection teams made up of Americans as deemed desirable);

  2. The ability of the weapons inspection teams to have as many inspectors as deemed desirable;

  3. The ability of the weapons inspection teams to inspect any sites that they wish;

  4. The ability of the weapons inspection teams to inspect those sites as many times as they wish;

  5. The ability of the weapons inspection teams to access the desired sites as quickly as they wish;

  6. The ability of the weapons inspection teams to access the desired sites with no notice whatsoever to the Iraqi government.

These conditions would have to be delivered in the manner of an ultimatum to the Iraqi government. Given the duplicity and disingenuousness of the Iraqi regime with regard to the implementation of UN resolutions concerning weapons inspections, there should be no negotiations whatsoever regarding these terms. After all, if the Iraqis really are serious about admitting weapons inspectors without conditions, they will have no problem accepting these terms. Should any one of the aforementioned terms be rejected by the Iraqi government, or should the Iraqi government ask to negotiate all or part of the terms, the United States should conclude (and persuade the international community to conclude) that the Iraqis have rejected American terms, and that their offer to readmit weapons inspectors is not serious, and should be disregarded.

Additionally, the United States should point out - as Secretary of State Powell did in a joint press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and in testimony to the House International Relations Committee on September 19th - that American policy goals regarding Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction is not the readmission of weapons inspectors. Rather, it is disarmament. Weapons inspections are merely a means to an end. Saddam, as is his wont, wishes to throw off the focus of the international community on the desired end of disarmament. Because the Iraqi offer does not make disarmament the primary goal of a weapons inspection regime, reliance on such a regime appears less and less workable.

The decision to go to war is the most profound and difficult decision facing any democratic government. In dealing with Iraq, the United States is confronted by a bad faith Iraqi offer to readmit weapons inspectors, and an international situation that may not be amenable to a weapons inspection regime of any form. While weapons inspections may have worked in the past, they are unlikely to be able to defuse the current crisis. As difficult and perilous as war is, the best way for the United States to remove the threat a rogue Iraqi state poses, is to remove by force the source of those problems: Saddam Hussein and his Ba'athist regime. Any other policy simply serves to kick the problem further down the road, making it more difficult for the United States to deal with in the future, and making Saddam Hussein a more deadly opponent in the future. It is a chance America and the free world should never take.



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