TCS Daily

Lots to Lose

By Dale Franks - January 30, 2003 12:00 AM

The UN's chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, has delivered his report to the UN. The essence of the report is contained in his statement that the Iraqis appear "not to have come to a genuine acceptance, not even today, of the disarmament that was demanded of it."

And why should they? The immediate response from three of the permanent members of the UN Security Council was to ask for more time. China's deputy UN Ambassador Zhang Yishan stated, "The job has not been completed. We share the view of many that this process has not been completed and more time is needed." Russia's Ambassador Sergey Lavrov said that Russia strongly wishes "for inspections to continue." UN Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere of France chimed in that the inspections need "to go forward ... with the objective of Iraq's verifiable disarmament" for "several weeks" or "a few months."

One suspects that they are willing to wait much longer than that.

It's difficult to even reconstruct such obtuse reasoning. Is there any point in time at which the "Axis of Weasel", as these countries have been amusingly termed, will agree to military action in Iraq? Do they suppose that Saddam Hussein will be so grateful for yet another chance from the UN that he will begin cooperating fully? Has Iraq ever given any past indication of its willingness to cooperate in disarming itself?

Dr. Johnson once said that second marriages are the triumph of hope over experience. The response of France, Russia, and China proves that the same may be said of international diplomacy. The Iraqi government has now spent 12 years obfuscating, delaying, lying, and interfering with the inspections process in every way possible. In that time, the UN Security Council has passed 16 separate resolutions requiring Iraq's disarmament and its cooperation with the inspections process. Iraq's eventual response to the first 15 of those resolutions was to refuse to allow the inspectors into the country for three years. Iraq's grudging agreement to comply with Resolution 1441 came only under the threat of American military action. Since then, Iraq has failed to account for tons of chemical and biological warfare agents, beyond a bland denial of their existence. Requests for private interviews with Iraqi officials who might know something about the current status of Iraqi WMD programs have been repeatedly denied. Whatever else this may be, it is neither compliance, nor cooperation.

The issue is not whether inspectors will find a "smoking gun" in Iraq. The UN weapons inspection system is designed to verify disarmament in an atmosphere of cooperation, such as that recently given by the South African government. Weapons inspectors are not detectives who are trained in ferreting out programs, weapons, or precursors that have been intentionally hidden by a hostile government. As a practical matter, UN weapons inspectors will never be able to verify Iraq's disarmament without full cooperation from Iraq itself, no matter how much time they are given. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Iraq is willing to provide such cooperation even today.

The issue is Iraq's willingness to disarm itself, and about that, there can be no doubt. As Mr. Blix pointed out in his remarks to the UN, inspectors have discovered that Iraq has refurbished its ballistic missile program, producing weapons of significantly greater range and size than allowed under Security Council resolutions. Rocket engines for these missiles have been illegally imported into Iraq. Several relatively new 122mm chemical warheads, an item that Iraq is completely banned from possessing, were discovered in a bunker outside Baghdad. Taken together, these events show not only that there is no real willingness on Iraq's part to comply with its obligation to disarm, but also that Iraq has been actively pursuing prohibited weapons technology in outright defiance of the UN.

For more than a decade, Iraq has been given every chance to comply with its obligations. It has continually rejected those chances, instead choosing to rebuild its stock of prohibited weapons at every opportunity. The experience of the past 12 years is that the Iraqi government will never willingly disarm itself. As President Bush said in his State of the Union address, "Year after year, Saddam Hussein has gone to elaborate lengths, spent enormous sums, taken great risks to build and keep weapons of mass destruction. But why? The only possible explanation, the only possible use he could have for those weapons, is to dominate, intimidate, or attack."

We must make it clear that Iraq's time has run out. Absent an immediate capitulation by the Iraqi government, we must destroy Saddam Hussein's regime and replace it with one willing to live in peace with its neighbors and to cease terrorizing its own citizens. The President seems firmly committed to this policy, telling the American people that "if Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm, for the safety of our people and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him."

If the UN is willing to support us in this effort, that is well and good. If it is not, then we should make it perfectly clear that we will encourage the new government of Iraq to repudiate the country's billions of dollars in financial obligations to states that deny us their support.

Perhaps a naked appeal to French or Russian self-interest will motivate them in ways that Iraq's intransigence has not.

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