MISREPORTING IRAQ‘S WEAPONS DECLARATION
On 7 Dec., a day early, Iraq handed over to UN weapons inspectors a declaration of its activities concerning weapons of mass destruction and long- range missiles-all banned by UN Security Council Resolution 687.
The declaration-‘A Currently Accurate, Full and Complete Declaration plus supporting documents’-is over 12,000 pages long: 6,287 pages on long-range missiles; 2,081 pages on nuclear activity up to 1991 (300 pages for the period since); and 1,334 pages on biological activity. (And 352 pages on the UN monitoring process.) The contents page, released by the US, ‘strengthened initial assessments that most of the declaration was a reprint of earlier reports to the UN about Iraq‘s weapons programmes.’ (Guardian, 11 Dec., p. 17)
It is generally being reported that the 7 Dec. declaration has deliberately been inflated by Iraq into a massive document which will take months to check. Columnist Bruce Anderson writes, ‘A thorough scrutiny of the minutiae of deceit would inevitably take months: well past February’ (the optimum period for war, Anderson believes-a plausible and widely held view). (Independent, 9 Dec., p. 14)
However, it was the US and UK who wrote Security Council Resolution 1441, which required Iraq to report not only on its weapons programmes, but also ‘all other chemical, biological, and nuclear programmes, including any which it claims are for purposes not related to weapon production or material’. Chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix commented that while it was feasible for Iraq to report on Iraq’s past and present weapons programmes should be possible within 30 days ‘and the same should be true for declaring remaining permitted peaceful nuclear programmes’, ‘To declare all other chemical programmes in a country with a fairly large chemical industry, as well as other biological programmes might be more problematic in a short time.’ (Blix, ‘Notes for the briefing to the Security Council, 28 October 2002‘, <www.casi.org.uk>)
Reporting all chemical and biological activity in Iraq (including every fermenting vat in the country) in 30 days was designed to be impossible for Iraq to fulfill. It was also clearly going to lead to a very long declaration by Iraq.
THE DOUBLE TRIGGER
And any omission in the declaration, any unreported fermenting vat, could cost the Iraqi people dearly. Resolution 1441 says, ‘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 of Iraq‘s obligations’. (Para 4.)
The phrase ‘material breach’ is being interpreted by Washington and London (wrongly) as authorisation to go to war. Therefore, if Iraq has not compiled a complete inventory of all its civilian chemical and biological activity, that could contribute to an (unwarranted) US claim of legitimacy in launching a war. (See ARROW Anti-War Briefing 25: ‘Material Breach’ for more on this.)
There are two conditions built into the Resolution, in Paragraph 4: ‘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.’ ‘The resolution talks about a false declaration or omission plus non co- operation or compliance,’ says a ‘UK source’. ‘Plus is the important word… The document itself is not a trigger for war.’ (Observer, 8 Dec., p. 21)
‘The use of “and” rather than “or” was intensively debated by the security council, and was a condition for its unanimous support for the resolution. Despite hints to the contrary by both Mr Bush and Mr Blair, most senior officials in both Washington and London agree that this wording means that the Dec. 8 declaration alone will not provide a justification for military action.’ (Guardian, 27 Nov., p. 20)
What is needed is a ‘pattern of delays or outright refusal to provide access to a site or an official’–‘Much will depend on how Iraqi behaviour is described by Mr Blix and his fellow chief weapons inspector, Mohammed el-Baradei.’ (Guardian, 27 Nov., p. 20)
Some Washington hawks are pushing for a single trigger: US Vice President Dick Cheney ‘has taken up the most belligerent position, insisting to the President that any omission – no matter how minor – will constitute a material breach.’ (Observer, 8 Dec., p. 21) ‘Several senior officials in the Bush administration believe that if Saddam can be shown to have lied then it would be pointless for the UN inspections to continue… American officials have told The Daily Telegraph that war is now likely to begin in January  and that the signal that the inspections process would end would be an official statement from the White House that Iraq was in “material breach” of Resolution 1441.’ (Telegraph, 10 Dec., p. 13)
Assuming that the hawks are overruled, the task for the US then is first to demonstrate to the world’s satisfaction that the weapons declaration is flawed, and then to create a confrontation between the inspectors and Baghdad that can credibly be portrayed as a pattern of non-co-operation.
RELEASING US/UK INTELLIGENCE?
One way of proving that the declaration is flawed would be to release hitherto secret US and/or British intelligence which demonstrates that Iraq possesses materials, equipment or fully-assembled weapons that it has not declared. ‘US officials said that the CIA and national laboratories specialising in chemical, biological and nuclear warfare had begun an analysis of the entire Iraqi declaration, and had been told to focus on a handful of Iraqi claims that could be proved false with available intelligence.’ (Guardian, 10 Dec., p. 13)
The US is reluctant to release its secrets, however, even to UNMOVIC. Unfortunately, ‘US policy analysts question whether the classified US information will be as convincing to Washington‘s allies, and expect US intelligence agencies to be reluctant to share all that is at their disposal.’ US intelligence in the past often relied on information from Iraqi defectors: ‘Our intelligence isn’t bad, but is it sexy? No,’ says a US policy analyst familiar with US intelligence. ‘If you’re willing to give Saddam the benefit of the doubt, then any piece of equipment can be for civilian purposes.’ (FT, 9 Dec., p. 9) In other words, the secret ‘evidence’ that the US and Britain are relying on is extremely shakey.
‘Scepticism has been fuelled by uneventful inspection visits to several sites identified by America or Britain as suspect.’ (Sunday Times, 15 Dec., p. 22) Best then not to release the secret ‘intelligence’, and to attack the declaration in other ways. The Economist points out that if this route is taken, the US will be violating Paragraph 10 of Resolution 1441, which requests all countries to hand over ‘any information related to prohibited programmes’ in Iraq: ‘It would be ironic for America to breach the resolution before Iraq is caught doing so.’ (Economist, 14 Dec., p. 58)
UNACCOUNTED-FOR MATERIALS: THE FIRST STAGE
‘Probably the most important aspect of the declaration will be how it handles the Iraqi Government’s longstanding claim to have destroyed large quantities of banned chemical weapons and germ agents in the chaotic aftermath of the Gulf War in 1991. Hans Blix, the UN’s chief weapons inspector, has said Iraq must provide “convincing evidence” that the destruction actually took place-something it has not done to date.’ (Times, 6 Dec., p. 19)
Focussing on this issue keeps the burden of proof on Iraq, a key US goal. If the records documenting the destruction of these materials have really been destroyed, Iraq cannot provide “convincing evidence” of anything. The first stage of establishing a ‘material breach’ could be accomplished this way.
ABDUCTION OF SCIENTISTS: THE SECOND STAGE
‘The decider for Washington may come over a second key question – how tough the inspectors are prepared to be on the central issue of access to Iraqi biological, chemical and nuclear scientists… Here, perhaps, is the new “presidential sites” – the sticking point issue with the Iraqis.’ (Sunday Telegraph, 1 Dec., p. 27)
UNMOVIC has ‘bowed to intense pressure from the United States‘ and given Iraq until the end of December to provide the names and locations of Iraqi scientists linked to its weapons programmes. Under Resolution 1441, inspectors are empowered to fly scientists and their families out of Iraq for interviews. ‘Baghdad is widely expected to resist such a move, which would place it in material breach of the resolution.’ (Sunday Telegraph, 15 Dec., p. 22) Hans Blix, head of UNMOVIC, is not in favour: “We are not going to abduct anyone,” he has said. “The UN is not a defection agency.” (Observer, 8 Dec., p. 20) We shall see whether he is able to resist US pressure.
THE US SEIZURE OF IRAQ’S DECLARATION Resolution 1441 required Iraq to deliver its weapons declaration to all fifteen members of the UN Security Council. On the eve of the delivery of the declaration, however, the Security Council agreed that the declaration should be edited before circulation: ‘Diplomats said they had all but decided on Friday [6 Dec.] to allow UN experts to excise “proliferation- sensitive” material from the document, before passing copies to all 15 council members. Instead-following a weekend of telephone diplomacy that saw all but Syria agree to allow the five permanent members access to the unedited text-US officials walked into UN offices on Sunday and took the unedited declaration to Washington. The US has since forwarded copies to the other permanent members of the Security Council-the UK, Russia, China and France. The non- elected 10 members will receive an edited version later.’ (FT, 11 Dec., p. 8)
Iraq charged that the US would tamper with the declaration it had seized. ‘This is unlikely given that another full set exists’-apparently in UNMOVIC’s hands. (Economist, 14 Dec., p. 58)
‘Washington and London are believed to have been concerned that the UN and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) editing might hamper their own analysts from comparing the declaration against alleged intelligence material held on Iraq’s mass destruction programmes.’ (Independent, 10 Dec., p. 11) The fact that the declaration was seized despite the fact that Syria remained opposed was, the FT noted, ‘a departure from the Council’s usual search for consensus’: a diplomat said, ‘Procedurally it was a bit heterodox. But this is a political situation and we made a political decision.’ (FT, 10 Dec., p. 11) Power makes the rules. The declaration is to be a propaganda weapon, not a tool of disarmament.