THE MISSING DOSSIER
On 11 March 2002, President Bush signalled his determination to attack Iraq: ‘Men with no respect for life must never be allowed to control the ultimate instruments of death.’ (Times, 12 March 2002, p. 23.) ‘Mr Blair was more hawkish than Mr Bush, declaring emphatically that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction: “There is a threat from Saddam and the weapons of mass destruction he has acquired. It is not in doubt.”‘ (Guardian, 12 March 2002, p. 1) The Prime Minister has failed to provide any evidence to support this assertion. Downing Street briefed the press that a damning new dossier on Iraq‘s weapons would be released in early April. ‘Blair has encouraged expectations among MPs and cabinet colleagues that [this] intelligence dossier would provide fresh support for action to overthrow the Iraqi dictator. But there is little new information worth sharing or publishing, according to insiders.’ (Sunday Times, 10 March 2002, p. 2) ‘Mr Blair has deferred publication of a dossier of evidence against Mr Saddam, fearing that it would inflame matters while not presenting a convincing case.’ (Financial Times, 8 April 2002, p. 24) The dossier remains unpublished. Hans Blix, head of UNMOVIC, the new UN weapons inspection agency which has replaced UNSCOM, has said he ‘does not accept as fact the US and UK‘s repeated assertions that Baghdad has used the time to rebuild its weapons of mass destruction.’ (Financial Times, 7 March 2002, p. 20)
THE NEED FOR INSPECTORS
David Albright, former UN weapons inspector, remarks, ‘The evidence produced so far is worrying. It is an argument for getting the inspectors back in as fast as possible, but not for going to war.’ (Observer, 17 March 2002, p. 15) But the US seems to have little interest in ‘getting the inspectors back in as fast as possible.’
AN OFFER REJECTED
It’s not just the US: Britain has also shown a lack of interest in inspections. In March, Baghdad invited Britain to send weapons inspectors. ‘Iraq is ready to receive right now any British team sent by Blair and accompanied by the British media to show the world where and how is Iraq developing such weapons,’ said an unidentified Iraqi spokesperson in the official al-Thawra newspaper. (Associated Press report, 1 March 2002) This news wire report was ignored by the Government, and by the media, apart from a buried note and a one- line reference in an editorial. (Independent, 4 March 2002, p. 2; Times, 8 March 2002, p. 23) Such offers should be explored, not ignored.
DON’T TAKE YES FOR AN ANSWER
‘Senior German and French politicians argue that negotiations and a resumption of United Nations arms inspections are the way forward – a view that provokes exasperation in Washington.’ (Telegraph, 17 June 2002, p. 1) ‘Key figures in the White House believe that demands on Saddam to re-admit United Nations weapons inspectors should be set so high that he would fail to meet them unless he provided officials with total freedom.’ (Times, 16 February 2002, p. 19) A US intelligence official has said the White House ‘will not take yes for an answer’. (Guardian, 14 February 2002, p. 1) Seymour Hersh, the noted US investigative reporter wrote in December 2001: ‘Inside the Administration, there is general consensus on one issue, officials told me: there will be no further effort to revive the UN inspection regime withdrawn in late 1998’. (New Yorker, 24 December 2001, p. 63)
INSPECTIONS: THE NIGHTMARE SCENARIO
According to one former US official, ‘The hawks’ nightmare is that inspectors will be admitted, will not be terribly vigorous and not find anything. Economic sanctions would be eased, and the U.S. will be unable to act… and the closer it comes to the 2004 elections the more difficult it will be to take the military route.’ (Washington Post, 15 April 2002, p. A01) ‘The more hawkish members of the US defence department are said to favour direct military action on Iraq, which would be more difficult if weapons inspectors were on the ground.’ (FT, 5 March 2002, p. 10) It’s not just the hawks. US Secretary of State Colin Powell has made it clear that the US is intent on war, whatever happens with the inspectors: ‘US policy is that, regardless of what the inspectors do, the people of Iraq and the people of the region would be better off with a different regime in Baghdad. The United States reserves its option to do whatever it believes might be appropriate to see if there can be a regime change.’ The issue of the inspectors is a ‘separate and distinct and different’ matter from the US position on Saddam Hussein’s leadership, said Powell. (Guardian, 6 May 2002) US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice ‘dodged a question on whether the inspections issue provides justification for US military action against Iraq‘. She said that Saddam Hussein ‘is not likely to ever convince the world, in a reliable way, that he is going to live at peace with his neighbours, that he will not seek weapons of mass destruction, and that he will not repress his own people.’ (Guardian, 6 May 2002) The ‘principals’ in the Bush Administration ‘fear that Saddam is working his own UN angle for the return of weapons inspectors to Iraq, whose presence could make the US look like a bully if it invades.’ ‘”The White House’s biggest fear is that UN weapons inspectors will be allowed to go in,” says a top Senate foreign policy aide.’ (Time magazine, 13 May 2002, p. 38) Inspectors are not part of the solution, they are part of the problem, as far as the Bush Administration is concerned. Without inspectors, Iraq cannot be verifiably disarmed – the 1991 Gulf War proved that – but, for the US, preventing the development of weapons of mass destruction is secondary to overthrowing Saddam Hussein. Inspectors hinder the war effort, and they must be undermined.
UNDERMINING THE INSPECTORS I
Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter recalls that when he was UNSCOM’s chief inspector, there were dozens of men from US Special Forces, or from CIA paramilitary teams, under his command. When it was leaked in June 2002 that the CIA had been directed to capture or kill Saddam Hussein, Ritter remarked, ‘Now that Bush has specifically authorized American covert-operations forces to remove Hussein, however, the Iraqis will never trust an inspection regime that has already shown itself susceptible to infiltration and manipulation by intelligence services hostile to Iraq, regardless of any assurances the U.N. secretary-general might give.’ (Los Angeles Times, 19 June, 2002) For Ritter, ‘The leaked CIA covert operations plan effectively kills any chance of inspectors returning to Iraq‘. It closes ‘the last opportunity for shedding light on the true state of affairs regarding any threat in the form of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.’ (Los Angeles Times, 19 June, 2002)
UNDERMINING THE INSPECTORS II
The UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has been attempting to negotiate the return of weapons inspectors to Iraq. During his third round of negotiations with Iraqi diplomats, the US leaked a detailed Pentagon war planning document to the press, spelling out some of the military options under consideration. ‘The leak to the New York Times – this sort of document never surfaces by accident – seems to be a clear attempt to raise the stakes after a new round of talks in [Vienna] between Iraq and the United Nations failed to produce agreement on the return of UN weapons inspectors’. (Independent on Sunday, 7 July 2002, p. 14) True, the leak was no accident, but it did not come after the talks failed, it came in the middle of the talks, published on the morning of the second day of negotiations. A participant in the UN- Iraq talks, no doubt a UN official, said the leaked document ‘did not help’, as negotiations floundered. (Financial Times, 6 July 2002, p. 1) ‘The UN’s failure will come as a relief to many in the Pentagon, where senior officials fear that inspections might be granted some form of access, then give Saddam a clean bill of health he did not deserve.’ (Telegraph, 6 July 2002, p. 16) How can Pentagon officials know that Iraq does not deserve a clean bill of health? They have made no moves to publish evidence to the contrary.
UNDERMINING THE INSPECTORS III
One of the problems bedevilling the UN-Iraq negotiations is a list of nineteen questions that Baghdad submitted to Kofi Annan earlier in the year. ‘The questions range from technical to political, including queries about what type of weapons [the] inspectors would be looking to find in Iraq, concerns over the UK and US air patrols of northern Iraq, and questions about the creation of a “weapons free zone” in the Middle East.’ (FT, 5 July 2002, p. 10) ‘Not in a position to answer the questions, Mr Annan forwarded them to the Security Council.’ ‘Mr Annan never received any response to the questions from the Security Council.’ (FT, 5 July 2002, p. 10) The central question: ‘Iraqi officials have sought assurances that the US would call off its planned military campaign if Baghdad co-operated on weapons inspectors.’ (FT, 6 July 2002, p. 1) The US refused to respond, undermining the inspection effort. The US/UK position is that, ‘Attempting to answer [the 19 questions] would have played into Iraq‘s hands, weakening Mr Annan’s ability to persuade Baghdad to allow the inspectors back into the country, diplomats said’ at the UN. (FT, 5 July 2002, p. 10) The very reverse of the truth. The only way to persuade Iraq to accept a resumption of inspections is to be absolutely clear about the nature of the package, and to offer security from invasion while inspections continue.
Baghdad has sometimes said new inspections will never be permitted or only after sanctions are lifted; then at other times states that the new inspection body will be admitted, if ‘the locations to be searched are identified and a timetable is set up and respected.’ (FT, 19 March 2002, p. 11) ‘Analysts said Iraq would try to drag out the diplomatic process and would be likely to agree to allow inspectors back only when it felt a US military attack was imminent.’ (FT, 6 July 2002, p. 1) Washington is not helping. The US is attempting to torpedo fragile UN-led efforts to return weapons inspectors to Iraq – with leaked threats, and by refusing to answer reasonable questions about its intentions.
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BOOK This is a shortened chapter from a ARROW book WAR PLAN IRAQ by Milan Rai, available in September