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WebMemo #209 on Iraq

February 14, 2003

February 14, 2003 | WebMemo on Iraq

Don't Let Iraq Get Away With It

Hans Blix, the chief U.N. weapons inspector, today reported to the U.N. Security Council that Iraq still had not accounted for banned weapons, including huge stocks of anthrax and nerve gas. Blix also reported that two versions of Iraq's al Samoud 2 missile exceeded the maximum range of 150 kilometers (93 miles) established by the Security Council.

These findings are sufficient cause to declare Iraq to be in violation of U.N. Security Council 1441, which the Security Council passed by a unanimous vote on November 8, 2002 to give Saddam Hussein one "last chance" to avoid war. It is now clear that the Iraqi dictator has squandered that last chance. But France, Russia, and Germany appear determined to ignore Resolution 1441 and give Saddam yet another chance.

France has proposed to expand the U.N. inspection force and give Iraq more time to comply with its disarmament obligations. But more inspectors will not solve the problem, nor will stretching out inspections into an endless game of hide and seek. The simple truth is that the inspectors cannot inspect what they cannot find. And they are not likely to find much of Saddam's hidden arsenal because Iraq is bigger than Texas and the Iraqis have had years of experience in hiding prohibited arms and materials.

Nor is extending the time allotted for inspections a realistic way of solving the problem. The inspectors so far have turned up 12 empty chemical warheads. But Iraq has failed to account for roughly 30,000 of such warheads. At this rate it would take over 500 years for the inspectors to find those warheads.

The problem is not a lack of inspectors but a lack of Iraqi cooperation. The inspectors cannot do their jobs unless the Iraqis show them what needs to be inspected and destroyed. Yet it is futile to expect that Saddam Hussein will cooperate in disarming his own regime, because that would threaten his own survival.

France sees inspections not as a way to disarm Iraq, but as a way to disarm the United States. But the United States cannot afford to go along with the charade of continued inspections. Ineffective inspections are worse than none at all, because they give the world a false sense of security by conveying the illusion that arms control is working in Iraq.

The endgame in Iraq is now at hand. The Bush Administration should press the United Nations to uphold its own resolutions against Iraq, which is in violation of Resolution 1441 and 16 other Security Council resolutions. If the Security Council fails to do the right thing, then Bush should lead a coalition of willing allies to disarm Iraq by force without a new resolution.

The Clinton Administration chose to use military force in Bosnia and Kosovo without obtaining a specific resolution from the Security Council. The threat posed by Saddam Hussein's regime is too dangerous to do anything less now in Iraq.

James A. Phillipsis a Research Fellow in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

James Phillips Senior Research Fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs
Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy