The dishonest case for war on Iraq
by Alan Simpson, MP - Chair of Labour Against the War
and Dr Glen Rangwala - Lecturer in politics at Cambridge University, UK.
There is no case for a war on Iraq. It has not threatened to attack the US
or Europe. It is not connected to al-Qa'ida. There is no evidence that it has
new weapons of mass destruction, or that it possesses the means of delivering
This pamphlet separates the evidence for what we know about Iraq from the wild
suppositions used as the pretext for a war.
For there to be a threat to the wider world from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction,
there need to be two distinct components: the capability (the presence
of weapons of mass destruction or their precursor elements, together with a
delivery system) and the intention to use weapons of mass destruction.
Most of the discussion on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction from British and
American governmental sources has focused on Iraq's capabilities. However, a
more fundamental question is why the Iraqi regime would ever use weapons of
mass destruction. There are three aspects to this:
- External military use.
The US administration has repeatedly stated that Iraq is a "clear and present
danger" to the safety and security of ordinary Americans. Yet the Iraqi leadership
have never used weapons of mass destruction against the US or Europe, nor threatened
to. Plans or proposals for the use of weapons of mass destruction by Iraq
against these countries have never been discovered, and in their absence can
only be presumed to be non-existent.
Iraq would face massive reprisals if its leadership ever ordered the use of
weapons of mass destruction on the US or Europe. It is difficult to imagine
circumstances in which the Iraqi regime would use these weapons directly against
any western country. The only conceivable exception would be if the Iraqi leaders
felt they had nothing left to lose: that is, if they were convinced of their
own imminent demise as a result of an invasion. Weapons of mass destruction
were not used by Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War, despite having both a much more
developed capacity than it holds at present (see below) and the routing of its
army. The best way to avoid prompting Iraqi leaders to use any non-conventional
capacity would be to refrain from invading Iraq or attempting to assassinate
or depose its rulers.
The only occasion on which the Iraqi government used weapons of mass destruction
against another country was against Iran from 1981/82 to 1988. The use of mustard
agents had a devastating impact on Iranian troops in the first years of the
war, and the civilian death toll from the use of sarin and tabun numbers in
the thousands. However, it should be noted that the use of chemical weapons
was undertaken with the compliance of the rest of the world. The US Secretary
of State acknowledged that he was aware of reports of Iraqi use of chemical
weapons from 1983, and a United Nations team confirmed Iraqi use in a report
of 16 March 1984. Nevertheless, the US administration provided "crop-spraying"
helicopters to Iraq (subsequently used in chemical attacks on the Kurds in 1988),
gave Iraq access to intelligence information that allowed Iraq to "calibrate"
its mustard attacks on Iranian troops (1984), seconded its air force officers
to work with their Iraqi counterparts (from 1986), approved technological exports
to Iraq's missile procurement agency to extend the missiles' range (1988), and
blocked bills condemning Iraq in the House of Representatives (1985) and Senate
Most crucially, the US and UK blocked condemnation of Iraq's known chemical
weapons attacks at the UN Security Council. No resolution was passed during
the war that specifically criticised Iraq's use of chemical weapons, despite
the wishes of the majority to condemn this use. The only criticism of Iraq from
the Security Council came in the form of non-binding Presidential statements
(over which no country has a veto). The 21 March 1986 statement recognised that
"chemical weapons on many occasions have been used by Iraqi forces against Iranian
forces"; this statement was opposed by the United States, the sole country to
vote against it in the Security Council (the UK abstained).
In summary, Iraq has never used chemical weapons against an external enemy
without the acquiescence of the most powerful states. It has done so only
in the knowledge that it would be protected from condemnation and countermeasures
by a superpower. There is no reason to suspect that the Iraqi leadership now
places any military gains it might achieve through the use of chemical weapons
above its desire to form international alliances with major powers.
Further reading: "U.S. Diplomatic and Commercial Relationships with Iraq,
1980 - 2 August 1990", www.casi.org.uk/info/usdocs/usiraq80s90s.html
(b) Arming terrorists
One prospect raised by President Bush in his State of the Union address of
29 January was that hostile countries such as Iraq could supply non-state organisations
with weapons of mass destruction, to use against the US:
"By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and
growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them
the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt
to blackmail the United States."
The State Department's annual report on terrorism, released on 30 April 2001,
stated that the Iraqi regime "has not attempted an anti-Western terrorist attack"
since 1993. The small paramilitary groups that Iraq supports, such as the Arab
Liberation Front (in Palestine) and the Mujahidin e-Khalq (for Iran), have no
access to Iraq's more advanced weaponry, let alone weapons of mass destruction.
Furthermore, these groups have never carried out attacks on the US or Europe,
and have little if any supporting infrastructure in those countries. The
Iraqi regime has no credible links to al-Qa'ida, either in the perpetration
of the 11 September attack, or in the presence in eastern Iraqi Kurdistan (controlled
by the US-backed Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, not the Iraqi government, since
1991) of Ansar al-Islam. This group is an off-shoot of the US-backed Islamic
Movement of Iraqi Kurdistan which has taken funds and arms from Iran and (reportedly)
The Iraqi regime has not been shown to have any intention of attacking the
Western world, and it knows that it would be subject to massive reprisals if
it did so. In summary, Iraq has shown no indication that it would be willing
to use terrorists to threaten the outside world with weapons of mass destruction.
Further reading: "Did Mohamed Atta Meet an Iraqi Spy in Prague?", at slate.msn.com/?id=2070410
(c) Internal repression by the Iraqi military
As part of the Anfal campaign against the Kurds (February to September 1988),
the Iraqi regime used chemical weapons extensively against its own civilian
population. Between 50,000 and 186,000 Kurds were killed in these attacks, over
1,200 Kurdish villages were destroyed, and 300,000 Kurds were displaced. The
most infamous chemical assault was on the town of Halabja in March 1988, which
killed 5,000 people. Human Rights Watch regards the Anfal campaign as an act
The Anfal campaign was carried out with the acquiescence of the West.
Rather than condemn the massacres of Kurds, the US escalated its support for
Iraq. It joined in Iraq's attacks on Iranian facilities, blowing up two Iranian
oil rigs and destroying an Iranian frigate a month after the Halabja attack.
Within two months, senior US officials were encouraging corporate coordination
through an Iraqi state-sponsored forum. The US administration opposed, and eventually
blocked, a US Senate bill that cut off loans to Iraq. The US approved exports
to Iraq of items with dual civilian and military use at double the rate in the
aftermath of Halabja as it did before 1988. Iraqi written guarantees about civilian
use were accepted by the US commerce department, which did not request licenses
and reviews (as it did for many other countries). The Bush Administration approved
$695,000 worth of advanced data transmission devices the day before Iraq invaded
As for the UK, ten days after the Foreign Office verbally condemned the
Halabja massacre, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry rewarded Iraq
by extending £400 million worth of credits to trade with Iraq.
The Iraqi regime has never used chemical weapons in the face of formal international
opposition. The most effective way of preventing any future use against Iraqi
civilians is to put this at the top of the human rights agenda between Iraq
and the UN. The Iraqi regime's intentions to use chemical weapons against
the Kurds will not be terminated by provoking a further conflict between the
Iraqi state and its Kurdish population in which the Kurds are recruited as proxy
forces. The original repression of the Kurds escalated into genocide in response
to Iran's procurement of the support of the two main Kurdish parties for its
military efforts from 1986. This is essentially the same role that the US sees
for the Kurds in its current war preparations.
Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction are a false focus if the concern
is with regional security. Chemical weapons were not used for Iraq's invasion
of Kuwait. A peaceful Gulf region can be achieved only through building political
links between Iraq and its neighbours. This is why the Arab states of the
Middle East have started to reintegrate Iraq into regional networks and purposeful
dialogue. Their interests are ill-served by attempts to turn the countries of
the Gulf against each other once again.
Further reading: Dilip Hiro, "When US turned a blind eye to poison gas",
In 1998, when the US ordered UN weapons inspectors to leave Iraq, it was
widely accepted the Iraq's nuclear capacity had been wholly dismantled.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), charged with monitoring Iraq's
nuclear facilities after the Gulf War, reported to the Security Council from
8 October 1997 that Iraq had compiled a "full, final and complete" account of
its previous nuclear projects, and there was no indication of any prohibited
activity. The IAEA's fact sheet from 25 April 2002, entitled "Iraq's Nuclear
Weapons Programme", recorded that "There were no indications that there remains
in Iraq any physical capability for the production of amounts of weapons-usable
nuclear material of any practical significance."
In recent months, however, the UK government has put primary emphasis on Iraq's
alleged nuclear programme. UK ministers have made three major claims:
- That Iraq was within three years of developing a nuclear bomb in 1991.
This could be true. Uranium was imported from Portugal, France, Italy and
other countries; uranium enrichment facilities operated at Tuwaitha, Tarmiya,
and Rashidiya, and centrifuge enrichment facilities were being built at al-Furat,
largely with German assistance. Theoretical studies were underway into the
design of reactors to produce plutonium, and laboratory trials were carried
out at Tuwaitha. The main centre for the development of nuclear weapons was
al-Atheer, where experiments with high explosives were carried out. However,
IAEA experts maintain that Iraq has never had the capacity to enrich uranium
sufficiently for a bomb and was extremely dependent on imports to create
centrifuge facilities (report of the Center for Strategic and International
Studies, 28 June 2002). If this is so, Iraq may have only been close to
developing a bomb if US and European assistance had continued to the same
extent as before.
In the Gulf War, all Iraq's facilities capable of producing material for
a nuclear programme and for enriching uranium were destroyed. The IAEA inspected
and completed the destruction of these facilities, with the compliance of
the Iraqi government. From 1991, the IAEA removed all known weapon usable
materials from Iraq, including 22.4kg of highly enriched uranium. The IAEA
left 1.8 tonnes of low-grade uranium in heavyweight sealed barrels at the
Tuwaitha facilities. This uranium has remained untouched by the Iraqis, and
is inspected annually by experts from the IAEA, who have confirmed that the
seals had never been tampered with. The remaining facilities at Tuwaitha and
buildings at al-Atheer were destroyed by the IAEA by 1992.
- That Iraq could make a nuclear device "within three years" without foreign
This claim, repeated by a UK Foreign Office minister, derives from a statement
from the head of Germany's Federal Intelligence Service (BND) in February
2001 that Iraq could enrich its own uranium and construct its own nuclear
device in three to six years. This claim was backed up by a statement from
the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control that Iraq's only uranium extraction
facility at al-Qaim has been rebuilt (it had been destroyed in 1991). If Iraq
was again extracting uranium, then it could reasonably be presumed that it
was intending to enrich and weaponise it. The allegation about Iraq's extraction
of uranium, however, seems to be wrong.
Since the emergence of these claims, a number of journalists have visited
al-Qaim and have found it in a state of disrepair. Paul McGeough, the much-respected
Middle East correspondent of the Sydney Morning Herald, wrote on 4 September
2002 that the site appeared to be a "near-vacant lot ... as the result of
a clean-up supervised by the [IAEA]". Reuters reporters have confirmed the
same impression. If Iraq was hiding its nuclear extraction facilities every
time a journalist visits, this would beg the question of when any extraction
could actually take place.
If Iraq has no operating facilities to extract uranium, and if it continues
to refrain from accessing the low-grade uranium sealed at Tuwaitha, then there
is no way it could produce a nuclear device without foreign assistance.
Furthermore, enriching uranium requires substantial infrastructure and a
power supply that could be easily spotted by US satellites. No such information
has been provided. Over the past year, US and UK sources have made much
of the fact that Iraq has attempted to import specialized steel and aluminium
tubes that could be used in gas centrifuges that enrich uranium. According
to the Washington Post (10 September 2002), such tubes are also used in making
conventional artillery rockets, which Iraq is not prohibited from developing
or possessing under UN resolutions. As David Albright, former IAEA inspector
in Iraq and director of the Institute for Science and International Security,
told the Washington Post, "This is actually a weak indicator for suggesting
centrifuges -- it just doesn't build a case. I don't yet see evidence that
says Iraq is close."
- That Iraq could have a nuclear bomb "within months" if fissile material
is acquired from abroad.
Even the US Department of Defense recognises
that claims about Iraq's imminent production of a nuclear bomb are not credible:
"Iraq would need five or more years and key foreign assistance to rebuild
the infrastructure to enrich enough material for a nuclear weapon" (January
2001 intelligence estimate). However, the International Institute of Strategic
Studies (IISS) managed to hit the headlines in September 2002 by claiming
that Iraq "could assemble nuclear weapons within months if fissile material
from foreign sources were obtained." This claim is no more than a tautology.
If Iraq could import the core material for a bomb, then it would have a bomb.
Obtaining the fissile material is the most difficult part of constructing any
nuclear device, and there are no signs that Iraq has attempted to obtain any
such material from abroad. According to the Nuclear Control Institute (nci.org/heu.htm),
"With bomb-grade, high-enriched uranium (HEU), a student could make a bomb powerful
enough to destroy a city". Unless we are to stop any students of physics from
entering Iraq, the best control on the circulation of fissile material would
be to invest resources into safeguarding Russia's nuclear material. We would
then need to complete a fissile-material cut-off treaty as agreed by the UN
General Assembly in 1993.
On 7 September 2002, Tony Blair and George Bush proclaimed that commercial
satellite photographs showing new buildings near a facility that had been part
of Iraq's nuclear programme before 1991 were "proof" of Iraqi intentions. By
contrast, a spokesperson from the IAEA - which had provided the pictures months
earlier - said: "We have no idea whether it means anything. Construction of
a building is one thing. Restarting a nuclear program is another."
IAEA's fact sheet from 25 April 2002, entitled "Iraq's Nuclear Weapons Programme"
Garry Dillon (IAEA Action Team in Iraq: Director of Operations from January
1994, head from June 1997), "The IAEA Iraq Action Team Record: Activities and
Findings ", in Iraq: A New Approach (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,
August 2002), at www.ceip.org/files/pdf/Iraq.Report.pdf
3. CHEMICAL and BIOLOGICAL
Allegations about Iraq's chemical and biological weapons fall into three categories:
- that Iraq has retained weapons that were produced before 1991.
- that Iraq has kept or rebuilt facilities since 1998, which are allegedly
producing or able to produce new chemical or biological agents that can subsequently
be weaponised; and
- that Iraq could threaten other countries by delivering these agents, by
missile or through other means.
(a) Retained stocks? Up to 1998, a substantial part of the work of the
weapons inspectors in Iraq was to track down chemical and biological agents
that Iraq produced before their entry in 1991, and to check the documentation
that showed how much of each agent Iraq had manufactured. However, the amount
Iraq is thought to have produced in the 1980s was found to be greater than the
quantity that Iraq or the inspectors verified as having destroyed. The discrepancy
between the two levels is the amount that remains - in the inspectors' language
- "unaccounted for".
The levels of agents that are unaccounted for in this way is large: 600 metric
tonnes of chemical agents, such as mustard gas, VX and sarin; and extensive
amounts of biological agents, including thousands of litres of anthrax as well
as quantities of botulinum toxin, aflatoxin, and gas gangrene, all of which
had been weaponised before 1991. But the fact that these quantities are unaccounted
for does not mean that they still exist. Iraq has never provided a full declaration
of its use of chemical and biological weapons against Iran in the 1980-88 war,
and destroyed large quantities of its own stocks of these weapons in 1991 without
keeping sufficient proof of its actions.
In some cases, it is quite clear that the stocks no longer exist in usable
form. Most chemical and biological agents are subject to processes of deterioration.
A working paper by the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (Unscom) from
January 1998 noted that: "Taking into consideration the conditions and the quality
of CW-agents and munitions produced by Iraq at that time, there is no possibility
of weapons remaining from the mid-1980's" (quoted in Ritter, Arms Control
Today, June 2000). Many other chemical or biological warfare agents have
a shorter shelf life. The sarin produced by Iraq in the 1980s was found to have
up to 40% impurities, indicating that it would deteriorate within two years.
With regard to biological weapons, the assessment by Professor Anthony H. Cordesman
of the Center for Strategic and International Studies should be taken seriously:
"The shelf-life and lethality of Iraq's weapons is unknown, but it seems likely
that the shelf-life was limited. In balance, it seems probable that any agents
Iraq retained after the Gulf War now have very limited lethality, if any" (Iraq's
Past and Future Biological Weapons Capabilities, 1998, p.13).
There are two potential exceptions for materials that would not be expected
to have deteriorated if produced before 1991. Mustard gas has been found to
persist over time, as shown when Unscom discovered four intact mustard-filled
artillery shells that would still have constituted a viable weapon. Unscom oversaw
the destruction of 12,747 of Iraq's 13,500 mustard shells. The Iraqi regime
claimed that the remaining shells had been destroyed by US/UK bombardment. This
claim has not been verified or disproved. However, as former UN weapons inspector
Scott Ritter notes, "A few hundred 155 mm mustard shells have little military
value on the modern battlefield. A meaningful CW attack using artillery requires
thousands of rounds. Retention of such a limited number of shells makes no sense
and cannot be viewed as a serious threat."
The other potential exception is VX nerve agent. It became clear to Unscom
during the 1990s that Iraq had succeeded before 1991 in producing stabilised
VX in its laboratories - that is, VX agents that would not deteriorate over
time. However, to produce significant stocks of VX requires advanced technology
that Iraq did not have. Iraq did have some elements of the production equipment
for developing VX on a large scale. Unscom tested this equipment before destroying
it in 1996, and found that it had never been used. This would indicate that
Iraq, despite its attempts before 1991, had never succeeded in producing VX
on a significant scale.
(b) Re-built facilities? If the stocks that Iraq had produced before
1991 are no longer a credible threat, then what of the facilities that Iraq
may still have to produce more weapons of mass destruction? The major facilities
that Iraq had prior to 1991 have all been destroyed. The Muthanna State Establishment,
Iraq's main plant for the production of chemical warfare agents, was destroyed
partially through aerial bombardment and partly under Unscom supervision. Al-Hakam,
Iraq's main biological weapons facility that was designed to make up to 50,000
litres of anthrax, botulinum toxin and other agents a year, was destroyed in
However, US and UK officials have claimed that new plants have been built since
1998. Among the allegations are that two chemical plants that were used to produce
weapons before 1991 have been rebuilt at Fallujah; further chemical and biological
weapons sites have been partially constructed at Daura and Taji; and that "mobile
biological production laboratories" have been deployed that would be able to
circumvent any inspectors who are re-admitted into Iraq. It has also been claimed
that other existing civilian facilities have been partially converted so as
to be able to produce agents for weapons of mass destruction.
These allegations are difficult to assess. Even the IISS study of September
2002 - edited by Gary Samore who had been a senior member of President Clinton's
staff and thus involved two years before in the making of the allegations -
concluded that the claims about mobile laboratories were "hard to confirm".
Much of the information comes from individuals who claim to have been scientists
employed by the Iraqi government but who have now "defected" to Europe or the
US. The US has offered financial rewards to scientists who defect, as well as
guarantees of asylum. As a result, many of the claims may be exaggerated,
highly speculative or simply concocted. US State Department officials have
often mentioned that they do not take verbal information obtained from defectors
seriously; it may be more plausible to assume that their information is publicised
more as part of attempts to win support for a war than to make a realistic assessment
of Iraqi weapons development.
The Iraqi government has invited journalists to visit some of the sites that
the UK and US have mentioned. For example, journalists who visited the Taji
warehouse in mid-August - which the US claimed days before was a major biological
weapons facility - found only "boxes of powdered milk from Yemen, Vietnam, Tunisia
and Indonesia and sacks of sugar imported from Egypt and India", according to
the Reuters correspondent. The visiting journalists are not weapons inspectors,
and do not have the resources to monitor facilities for chemical agents or radiation;
but they are able to ascertain if major new production facilities have been
constructed. Now that the Iraqi Foreign Minister has made an unconditional offer
to the UN to readmit weapons inspectors (on 16 September), allegations about
the production of new facilities can be checked. However, the British Foreign
Secretary and the White House have both disparaged the Iraqi offer, even though
it could lead to the verified disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
(c) Delivering an attack? Possession of chemical or biological agents
is not enough to threaten another country, even if the Iraqi regime desired
to. British and American claims about possession have therefore been linked
to allegations that Iraq could fire these agents on missiles, which could even
The first problem with this claim is the very low number of longer range missiles
that Iraq might have. According to Unscom, by 1997, 817 out of Iraq's known
819 ballistic missiles had been certifiably destroyed. On the worst-case
assumption that Iraq has salvaged some of the parts for these missiles and has
reconstructed them since 1998, even Charles Duelfer - former US Deputy Assistant
Secretary of State, deputy head of Unscom and strong proponent of an invasion
of Iraq - has provided an estimate of only 12 to 14 missiles held by Iraq. Even
under this scenario, it is difficult to see Iraq posing a threat to the rest
of the world through its missiles. Furthermore, biological weapons cannot
be effectively disbursed through ballistic missiles. According to the IISS,
much of the biological agent would be destroyed on impact and the area of dispersal
would be small. For example, if anthrax is filled into missile warheads, up
to 95% of the content is not dispersed (according to the Director of Intelligence
of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff: www.bt.usf.edu/reports/Anthraxthreat.pdf).
British ministers have made much of the claim that Iraq has experimented with
using small Czech-built L-29 training jets as remote-controlled drones, which
could deliver chemical and biological weapons. Such drones were apparently spotted
at Iraq's Talil airbase in 1998. A British defence official invoked the possibility
that if these drones were flown at low altitudes under the right conditions,
a single drone could unleash a toxic cloud engulfing several city blocks. He
labelled them "drones of death". The hyperbole is misleading: even if Iraq has
designed such planes, they would not serve their purpose, as drones are easy
to shoot down. A simple air defence system would be enough to prevent the drones
from causing damage to neighbouring countries. The L-29 has a total range of
less than 400 miles: it would be all but impossible to use it in an attack on
Israel. The only possibility for their use against western targets would be
their potential deployment against invading troops.
Further reading: Scott Ritter (former head
of Unscom's Concealment Unit), " The Case for Iraq's Qualitative Disarmament",
from Arms Control Today (June 2000), at www.armscontrol.org/act/2000_06/iraqjun.asp
Many of the assessments of Iraq's development of biological, chemical and nuclear
weapons are based largely on a hypothetical analysis of what could be done by
the Iraqi regime if it was determined to produce these weapons. Using worst-case
scenarios, they present Iraq's potential activities - such as importing fissile
material or producing anthrax spores - as an immediate threat. Whilst such assessments
may be valuable in order to understand the range of possibilities, they do not
provide any evidence of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction or the Iraqi regime's
intention to use them. As Hans Blix, executive chairman of Unmovic - the new
UN weapons inspection body - said on 10 September, there is much that is unknown
about Iraq's programmes,
"but this is not the same as saying there are weapons of mass destruction.
If I had solid evidence that Iraq retained weapons of mass destruction or
were constructing such weapons I would take it to the Security Council."
You cannot launch a war on the basis of unconfirmed suspicions of both weapons
and intentions. It would be better to take up Iraq's unconditional offer
of 16 September to allow inspectors to return, and to reject the plans for an
invasion to achieve "regime change".
The US and UK policy has been to provide disincentives to Iraqi compliance
rather than incentives. The UK has refused to rule out its support for "regime
change" even if a full weapons inspections system is in place: Foreign Secretary
Jack Straw has only said that the possibility of an invasion "recedes" in such
circumstances. Senior members of the present US administration have been more
forthright: Vice-President Cheney labelled the return of weapons inspectors
to Iraq as counterproductive in his Nashville speech of 26 August. Inspections
would be counterproductive to US war plans, but would also serve to discover
- and if necessary, constrain - Iraq's weapons programmes.
If the Iraqi regime is led to believe that the US has made an invasion inevitable,
it will have no reason to cooperate with weapons inspectors. As Hans Blix
said on 18 August, "If the Iraqis conclude that an invasion by someone is inevitable
then they might conclude that it's not very meaningful to have inspections."
The Iraqi regime also has a clear disincentive if it believes that the weapons
inspectors will - like their predecessors in Unscom - collect information that
the US government would use to plot its overthrow. That Unscom was engaged in
such actions is now beyond doubt. Its executive director from 1991 to 1997,
Rolf Ekéus, said on 28 July that the US tried to gather information about
Iraq's security services, its conventional military capacity and even the location
of Saddam Hussein through the supposedly impartial weapons inspections programme.
It is not hard to guess why the US wanted such information.
Iraq has repeatedly asked for a clear timetable for the lifting of economic
sanctions to be coupled with the weapons inspections system. This is not an
unreasonable demand: in fact, it was the agreement made in the ceasefire that
ended the Gulf War, and which the US in particular has done so much since 1991
to obscure. The ceasefire agreement - Security Council Resolution 687
- lays out the elements of a political solution: an independent weapons inspectorate,
an end to the threat of war, a clear timetable to lifting economic sanctions,
and the creation of a weapons of mass destruction free zone in the Middle East
(entailing the need for the end of Israel's nuclear arsenal).
On each of these four points, the US in particular stands in clear violation
of the terms of the agreement.
The consequences of that violation have been apparent in the deterioration
of the weapons inspections system. Garry B. Dillon, the Director of Operations
of the IAEA Action Team in Iraq from January 1994, and its head from June 1997,
characterised Iraq's compliance with the nuclear inspectorate from late 1991
to mid-1998 as "essentially adequate" (in the paper cited above). Dillon concludes
that "Iraq's motivation to cooperate was shattered by the statement [by the
then-US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright] that, regardless of Iraq's compliance,
the embargo and the sanctions would not be lifted as long as President Saddam
Hussein remained in power". Backing a "carrot and stick" approach to Iraq, Dillon
argues that "the carrot should represent a tangible benefit, not merely the
withholding of the stick. Indeed, during 1998, Iraq repeatedly claimed that
'the light at the end of the tunnel had gone out.'"
If the US and UK re-engage with the political
process that was laid out in the ceasefire resolution, Iraq will once again
be provided with reasons to cooperate with the weapons inspectorate. That
possibility, which will remove the need for instigating a humanitarian crisis
inside Iraq and instability in the region, should not be dismissed lightly.