TCS Daily


Why Compliance Is Like Pregnancy

By Greg Buete - January 31, 2003 12:00 AM

"Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance, not even today, of the disarmament which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and to live in peace."
- Hans Blix to the UN Security Council, January 28, 2003

Hans Blix has stated that Iraq is not in compliance of UNSC resolution 1441. If Iraq were in compliance then Blix would have instead said that Iraq appears to have come to a genuine acceptance of the disarmament the world demands of it, or something along those lines. Like pregnancy, Iraq either is in compliance or is not.

Blix's statement means the Bush administration will begin a final push for regime change. On the flip side it means that those opposed to taking military action against Iraq will also begin their final push - for more time. Their logic is misguided and assuming.

A senior German official explained to the New York Times that since the arms inspectors were successfully containing Iraq, no military option should be pursued: "The pressure on Saddam is fine, and we want to keep it up. Why risk everything else that can go wrong - uprisings in the streets, a broken Iraq - if we have him where we want him?"

The assertion that the UN arms inspectors are containing Iraq is miserable spin. Iraq makes slow but steady progress attaining advanced weaponry. To expand his weapons of mass destruction, and complete his ultimate goal of creating a nuclear bomb, all Saddam needs is time. This is why those who argue to let inspections become a permanent endgame in Iraq play right into Saddam's hands.

Tale of the Tubes

An excellent example of how Saddam's cunning and resourcefulness manipulates the collective will of a hesitant and often delusional international community is illustrated in the aluminum tubing incident.

In his September speech before the UN, President Bush provided evidence that Iraq had acquired high-strength aluminum tubing, which U.S. intelligence believed Iraq would use to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. The UN, after analyzing the tubing, or at least the tubing Iraq offered them, proclaimed that it was inappropriate for enriching uranium. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a January 8 report stating the tubing had probably been acquired for conventional 188mm artillery shells - which matched Iraq's official excuse.

Technically, that's not the issue. Whether the tubing was acquired for nuclear development or for conventional weapons, either one is illegal under UN resolutions and is just another example of Saddam Hussein not taking those resolutions seriously. It begs the question of how many more dual-use technology items are being smuggled into Iraq without the knowledge of Western intelligence or weapons inspectors.

But even if the tubing's use were the issue, there is every reason to believe that Saddam is playing the IAEA like a cheap fiddle. At least one IAEA expert admitted Iraq's declaration was not foolproof: "It may be technically possible that the tubes could be used to enrich uranium. But you'd have to believe that Iraq deliberately ordered the wrong stock and intended to spend a great deal of time and money reworking each piece."

So it's possible so long as I believe that Iraq deliberately ordered the wrong stock and intended to modify it? Why's that so hard to believe? It sure fooled the UN! Saddam now knows the next time he acquires such tubing, or a similar dual-use item, the international community will yawn and move on, assuming they even find out about it.

Over the years Iraq has frequently tried to import such high-strength aluminum tubes for enriching uranium. In 2001 authorities intercepted a 60,000-tube order from China - a permanent member of the UN Security Council, by the way. Since then, two other attempts, both involving an unnamed NATO country, have been made. How do you "contain" a country when those demanding containment instead of force actively subvert your efforts?

Saddam Hussein has lots of money and as much time as the UN is willing to give him. So if that's all it takes - time and money - to mutate these aluminum tubes into nuclear components, we should consider it done. Having failed at attaining the real thing, is it difficult to believe that Saddam has found, with a little time and money, a substitute aluminum tube?

Pattern of Lies

It would be one thing if we had never caught Iraq lying about dual-use technology before. Unfortunately, the UN is uncomfortably familiar at playing Saddam's fool. During the 1991-1998 inspections the IAEA accepted at face value a claim that Iraq used giant magnets for maintenance at its power stations. It was only because of information provided by a defector - in this case Ibrahim Bawi - that the UN learned the magnets were intended to enrich uranium. Likewise, in 1998 Saddam found an unorthodox use for lithotripters, a medical machine used for smashing kidney stones. He converted them into a nuclear trigger.

Intelligence officers know that for every shipment of arms seized others get through, and Iraq's money is endless thanks to failing containment. Iraq has successfully turned Jordan, Turkey and Syria into middlemen who launder Iraq's oil for military equipment. Bill Clinton's National Security Council Director for Gulf Affairs, Ken Pollack, wrote in The Threatening Storm that economic sanctions against Iraq are "hemorrhaging." Iraq makes almost $3 billion in illegal smuggling through these three states alone. In addition Iraq has earned hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal oil surcharges. Despite the UN oil-for-food program Saddam Hussein has purposely allowed his legal oil sales to drop from $17 billion to $11 billion. So much for feeding the Iraqi children.

All these profits are of course used to both keep Saddam's security force strong and loyal, and for developing WMD. There is no lack of cash for weapons in Iraq; nor will there ever be. So long as French and Russian oil refineries pump out Iraqi oil for smuggling lanes in Turkey, Syria and Jordan, the U.S. will never be able to sustain a long-term allied commitment to containing Iraq.

Meanwhile the U.S. expends massive resources running this containment. British and U.S. pilots endanger themselves on a daily basis in the no-fly zones. How much longer is Germany or France willing to spend endangering U.S. and UK pilots, but not theirs? Indefinitely, of course.

Preventing Brainpower?

But, even if we stop every weapon no containment policy can prevent brainpower. No blockade will ensure that Iraqi cash can't woo experienced scientists from the former Soviet or Balkan states.

Khidir Hamza, former head of Iraq's Atomic Energy department, calls the employment of experienced foreigners the "X factor" of Iraq's weapons program. In his book Saddam's Bombmaker Hamza wrote that Iraq's clandestine nuclear bomb program, "at its peak in 1993-1994, employed more than 2000 engineers." Hamza defected in 1994, meaning that when he left the secret program was running as strong as ever, and that's despite UN inspectors who had been in the country for three years.

Hamza states further that Iraq had three hundred PhDs and 800 master's degrees working on Iraq's WMD. Combined, a total 12,000-employee Atomic Energy department, from scientists to technicians, was twice the size of the U.S. Argonne National Laboratory.

Before he left Iraq, Hamza actually created a working model for an atomic bomb. The only thing missing was the enriched uranium, which is why discovering any high-strength aluminum tubing ordered by Iraq should always be treated as a worst-case scenario.

Iraq has lied both about the strength of explosive lenses, otherwise known as a shaped charge, and possession of three hundred tons of HMX, an explosive used to make a nuclear implosion. Hamza says Iraq still hides the HMX in various military camps around the country. They know with ease when an inspection approaches.

Hamza's bomb was so good that bridge-wire explosives used to trigger the lens explosives were better than those in the U.S. Manhattan Project. Utilizing technological expertise from Poland, Hamza's team was able to simultaneously detonate all lenses in 0.1 microseconds. While the Gulf War and subsequent inspections caused much damage and delay in Iraq's nuclear program it is not foolproof. After the war, Hamza's bomb core, a uranium-metal sphere, was disassembled and hidden in separate locations from UN inspectors.

But, as Hamza relates, even if the UN does periodically find the components, the brainpower will remain. For example, Hamza says that Iraqi scientists could reverse engineer a neutron generator used by oil companies to locate oil at extreme depths in order to manufacture a neutron initiator. Once Hamza finished his working bomb model, the blueprint was forever etched into the soul of Iraq's Atomic Energy department. It will be recreated.


Saddam's nuclear bomb program was so secret that Hamza only learned in 1987 that Saddam's son-in-law, Hussein Kamel, was operating a clone nuclear project under the Ministry of Industry and Military Industrialization (MIMI). The program was run by General Amir al-Saadi, who bragged to Hamza about the amount of foreign technology and brainpower MIMI can buy. Then, and now, Saddam works with former Soviet and Yugoslavian states like Belarus and Serbia. If Saddam can run a nuclear mirror program so secret that his top scientist didn't know about it, he can pull the wool over the UN's eyes. "We'll have you up to your ears in Germans if you want," al-Saadi told Hamza. That same al-Saadi now makes almost daily appearances in the news to proclaim Iraq's innocence. That same al-Saadi said that Iraq's December 8 compliance report was "honest, truthful and comprehensive."

Race Against Time

We are in a race against time, which is just as much the enemy of the American citizen as Saddam Hussein. Containment may slow down the pace at which Iraqi cunning will overtake the U.S., but it cannot stop it.

Saddam's patience is unlimited. Not so for the international community. The world came together in 1990 to contain Saddam Hussein through a mix of inspections and sanctions. But after the Gulf War the allies' commitment to that process slowly eroded and died. Saddam grew bold throughout the 1990s while members of the UN Security Council grew bored. France quickly withdrew its aircraft from no-fly zone patrols. Allies became lax in policing company exports to Iraq.

Containment has to work perfectly and constantly. But in Iraq, it erodes. Any cracks and Saddam gets his prize - a nuclear weapon. Once Saddam does this the world changes forever, and for the worse.

But still our allies and even some high-level politicians in the U.S. wish to give Saddam all the time he needs. They delude themselves for political or economic gain.

But they miss the forest for the trees, because despite the erosion of containment, and aside from false hopes that we can continue to contain, those who argue that UNSC 1441 is containment in action misrepresent the resolution's objective. The word "containment" never appears in 1441, and for reason. The resolution "decides that Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions." It was enacted to give Iraq "a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations under relevant resolutions of the council."

As is often said by Blix himself, cooperation is not the same thing as compliance. Blix noted in his UN address that Iraq has still not accounted for the 3.9 metric tons of VX, 6500 chemical bombs, 8500 liters of biological agents, or 5000 liters of anthrax. Iraq had these weapons from 1991 to 1998, during the first UN inspections, and they still have them now during the second. Containment? Containment is made of sterner stuff.

UNSC 1441 asserts that "false statements or omissions in the declarations submitted by Iraq pursuant to this resolution and failure by Iraq at any time to comply with, and cooperate fully in the implementation of, this resolution shall constitute a further material breach." Blix's statement proves that Iraq is not complying with the resolution and so is in material breach. It's time to disarm Saddam by force and give the Iraqi people the leaders they deserve.
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