As of August 2006, Iraq Watch is no longer being updated.
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3, Issue 1
Understanding Containment: A Task for Inspectors in Iraq
By Shabnam Faruki
Charles Duelfer, the new head of U.S. weapon inspectors in Baghdad, has embarked on what some may see as a futile quest. His predecessor, David Kay, has predicted that no forbidden weaponry remains to be found in Iraq. But even if Kay is right, Duelfer still has a vital task. He needs to explain how the U.N.'s containment policy really affected Saddam Hussein's bomb builders. Did the combination of an embargo and inspections keep Saddam in his "box"? If so, what does that tell us about containing other countries?
The first task for Duelfer's inspectors will be to explain the effects of the international embargo. Did holes in the embargo allow Saddam to buy enough illicit weapons and material to defeat containment?
Under the embargo, Saddam was not allowed to sell Iraqi oil without U.N. permission. The U.N. Oil-for-Food program, which was set up in 1995, allowed him to use oil sales to buy humanitarian goods and engage in other U.N. mandated activities. It is well known, however, that the embargo was beginning to unravel well before Iraq was invaded in March 2003. According to one estimate, Jordan was importing $300 million in oil every year outside the oil-for-food program. In Syria, oil flowed through a pipeline repaired in 2000, again outside U.N. control, at a value of almost $1 billion per year. At the same time, approximately 70 percent of the vendors to the oil-for-food program appear to have agreed to pay a ten percent kickback to Iraq in cash or through bank accounts in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
Large slush funds were thus available for Saddam to use at will. Duelfer's team needs to tell us how this money was spent. Did it allow Saddam to rearm? If so, to what extent? Was the rearming sufficient to declare the oil embargo a success or a failure? The answers to these questions will tell us how to close the loopholes in such international sanctions.
Duelfer's second task is even more complex. U.S. inspectors need to investigate the failings in another aspect of the embargo--the prohibition against selling goods to Iraq without U.N. permission. In a March interview with the Arms Control Association, David Kay said that Iraq "managed to…import a large amount of technology--both expertise and goods--that clearly were prohibited by the sanctions program." On March 5, the New York Times reported that Russian engineers had been helping Iraq develop long-range missiles in violation of the U.N. embargo until 2001. In 2003, the Bush administration publicly expressed concern about Russian sales to Iraq of prohibited military equipment, including jamming devices, antitank missiles and night-vision goggles. In 2002, a Polish company delivered the last batch of at least 380 surface-to-air Volga/SA-2 missile engines to Iraq through Syria, and the Iraqi military received four optical scanners, which could be adapted for missile guidance, from an unsuspecting U.S. company through Jordan.
It is important to discover what the sum total of these imports achieved. Were they so few and scattered that little could be made with them? Or were they enough to put Saddam back on the track to mass destruction weapons?
The inspectors could also provide fresh supplier leads, by telling us which of Saddam's illicit suppliers were recently active. If these suppliers were willing to outfit Iraq even in the face of global condemnation, they could also be helping other countries buy mass destruction weapons. By shedding light on Saddam's suppliers, Duelfer's team could help curb proliferation outside Iraq.
Duelfer's third task will be to reach a final judgment on the impact of U.N. inspections. Did U.N. inspectors demoralize Iraqi weapon-makers and the regime to the point where Iraq became unable to produce additional arms? Or was Saddam's concealment mechanism so successful that the inspections were effectively foiled?
In this connection, it might be especially fruitful to examine Iraq's conduct during the four years between 1998 and 2002, when inspectors were absent. If Iraq did not produce illicit weapons during those years, does that show that factors other than inspections were more important in slowing or stopping Iraq's weapon efforts?
Much of the focus to date has been on the role of U.N. inspections in disarming Iraq. Duelfer's team must also investigate the impact of these inspections on rearming--that is, on preventing Saddam from reconstituting his weapon programs. This task will be complicated by the fact that Saddam lied about his weapon efforts and evaded inspections. Even if Saddam's lies did not conceal forbidden arms, Duelfer may conclude that if a country is dishonest, there is no way to prove that it is disarming or disengaging from efforts to rearm.
In sum, Duelfer's team could furnish considerable guidance in containing other rogue regimes bent on acquiring mass destruction weapons. For containment to serve as a viable alternative to preventive war, we need to understand how it worked in Iraq. Though the embargo was eroding and it was difficult to gauge the impact of inspections, containment may have kept Iraq weapon-free. If that proves to be the case, the world needs to know how and why.
As of August 2006, Iraq Watch is no longer being updated. Click here for more information.
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