ED120202a: Let's Not Go Down This Path Again
Here's a brainteaser for you: The day Iraq announced it would
accept the return of inspectors, its foreign minister said, "Iraq
will not have weapons of mass destruction." What missing words
should go at the end of the sentence?
"... by the time inspectors get here …"?
"... that United Nations' weapons inspector Hans Blix has any hope
of finding ..."?
"... that are not already assembled and ready for action
It would be nice if we could hold out hope that Saddam Hussein's
government meant what it said about these inspections. If it truly
"unconditionally" accepted their return. If it truly intended to
comply with all U.N. resolutions about disarming its weapons of
Unfortunately, Iraq's voluminous record of denial, duplicity and
deception with regard to weapons inspectors, compliance with
resolutions and intentions in the region provides little hope that,
this time, it means what it says.
More likely, the Iraqis have used the four years since the last
batch of inspectors left to conceal their weapons of mass
destruction and production facilities.
We can expect lip service to compliance, but only until Saddam
senses that the danger of U.S. military action has subsided. We can
expect shell games -- inspectors can look at this, but they can't
look at that; they can interview scientists, but only with
government "minders" present; they can search only those places
where weapons aren't located.
We can expect little of Hans Blix. As head of the International
Atomic Energy Agency, he gave Iraq a clean bill of health before
the Gulf War, certifying that it had complied with the nuclear
non-proliferation agreements it had signed. He has a reputation for
discouraging conflict between inspectors and their hosts.
And we can expect little cooperation from Saddam Hussein. He
probably will do precisely what he's always done -- feign
cooperation at first, then become more belligerent and less
How do we know this? Consider a little history.
In April 1991, after a crushing military defeat, Saddam agreed to
accept the U.N. resolution that ended the Gulf War. He agreed to
let the international community supervise the "destruction, removal
or rendering harmless" of all weapons and missiles with a range of
more than 150 kilometers (about 90 miles).
By June 1991, Iraqi officials had begun to block inspections. They
had fired warning shots to keep inspectors from intercepting a
vehicle loaded with nuclear-related equipment. By the following
April, Iraq had threatened to shoot down inspectors' surveillance
flights, and that June, it denied inspectors access to the Iraqi
Ministry of Agriculture.
By 1997, Iraqi escorts were physically keeping inspectors from
doing their jobs. In one case, they prevented a pilot from flying
his plane; in another, they prevented a photographer from taking
pictures of sensitive sites from a helicopter.
By January 1998, the inspections had all but broken down under the
weight of Iraqi threats and non-cooperation. And by December of
that year, the inspectors gave up and departed Baghdad, leading to
four days of air strikes by the British and Americans.
Of course, by then, the coalition that pummeled Iraq in Desert
Storm had all but fallen apart, and there was little will in the
Clinton administration or elsewhere to invade Iraq again. Saddam's
strategy had worked. He'd bided his time until the United Nations
had lost the will to enforce its own resolutions against him.
He'll do the same this time -- if we let him. The only way to be
certain of ridding Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction is to
rid Iraq of Saddam's brutal regime.
A. Phillips is a research fellow specializing in the
Middle East at The Heritage Foundation (www.heritage.org), a
Washington-based research institution.
Distributed nationally on the Knight-Ridder Tribune wire.