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THE IRAQ DILEMMA
by Garry Dillon,
At the Carnegie International Non-Proliferation Conference 2001
18-19 June 2001
President Saddam Hussein We the people demand your compliance with all relevant Security Council Resolutions. We demand your full co-operation. We are committed to your removal from power. In the meantime just lie back and think of Babylon Ongoing monitoring and verification, the long-term safeguard of resolution 687 (1991), was the first casualty of the military action of December 1998 We can't get back from here!
Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, it is an honour to be invited to join this panel and inflict my thoughts upon such a well-informed audience at such a prestigious gathering.
Firstly, allow me to confess that I am a fundamentalist! Fundamentally and unashamedly convinced of the value of WMD inspections in Iraq.
I could perhaps waste this opportunity and stay safely within my former area of expertise by focusing on the technical value of the IAEA (that is the nuclear) ongoing monitoring and verification plan. Frankly, I want to believe that in doing so I would be preaching to the converted.
With your indulgence, I would rather step into the minefield outside my technical safe haven, and discuss a notion related to current political situation vis á vis Iraq. A notion that I suspect will be "stillborn" but, I believe, deserves to die in public.
Make no mistake, if my observations appear to be critical of the status quo, I have not lost the plot. Although I confess to having sympathy for the Iraqi people, I have none for the Iraqi regime. I do know who is the "villain of the piece".
On the other hand, it is also appropriate to remind ourselves of another component of the plot - the Persian Gulf War was about oil, not sand or dates.
So to the Iraqi dilemma; what are the priorities?
The principal priority is, self-evidently, secure oil supplies.
The important sub-priorities, though not wholly unconnected, are:
The popular view, with which I have no reason to disagree, is that the current Iraqi regime cannot be trusted not to use its oil revenues in contravention of its undertakings under Security Council resolution 687 (1991) - the cease-fire agreement.
So where are we?
The requirements of resolution 687, which remains to be the controlling resolution, must be satisfied before the oil embargo can be unconditionally lifted – "the prohibitions...shall have no further force or effect."
Resolution 687 cannot be satisfied without the presence of inspectors.
The Iraqi regime believes that resolution 1284 (1999) despite, or perhaps because, of its flexible wording, would be a rock round its neck that would for ever prevent it from getting its hands on its oil revenues. Consequently, in refusing to comply with resolution 1284, the Iraqi regime refuses to recognise UNMOVIC or allow it access to Iraq.
"Resolution in progress (2001)" appears likely to become a 1284 without inspectors. Not surprisingly, Iraq has pre-emptively rejected any such resolution, has halted legitimate oil sales and has called upon its ever-resourceful, though increasingly resource-less, population to seek new ways to make new sacrifices.
Without the presence of inspectors, resolution 687 cannot be satisfied.
The so-called smart sanctions are supposed to cut off the flow of cash to the Iraqi regime from its "visible" oil transactions with Turkey and Jordan and with its not so visible suspected transactions with Syria. What is gained?
Cutting off this billion-dollar flow of cash makes it more difficult for Saddam Hussein to "purchase in cash" the loyalty of his political entourage and his military.
The increase of the multi-billion dollar flow of kind makes it possible for Saddam Hussein to "purchase in more generous kind" those loyalties. Iraq's general population are the losers under the present system and will likely remain so under the new proposals.
By the way do we assume that the regime is rich or broke? I personally favour the former assumption but have you noticed how the nature of the regime is changed to fit whatever point is being made. For example, the regime is a threat because it has enough money to purchase weapon-usable nuclear material, versus, the regime should not be allowed access to cash in case it get enough money to purchase weapon-usable nuclear material.
What is the goal? Is it the international humiliation of Saddam Hussein. Is it for him to humble himself and finally admit to be the loser? Are we so small? I hope not because if Saddam Hussein is the person we have determined him to be, this is not going to happen. Is it totally impossible that Saddam Hussein, allowed a modicum of dignity, could be persuaded to focus his energies on the rebirth of Iraq and the health, social and financial well-being of its population? Well probably it is, but just in case let us spare a thought for the Iraqi population and consider a possible way forward.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if someone could come up with a workable first order solution rather than second or third order "band-aids" like containment. Sadly this is unlikely.
So why not bite the bullet! In fact why not bite a few.
Here's a spoonful for your consideration.
[This is by no means certain to be positive. It is not a "dumbing-down" of the conditions for compliance. It is not the "hide and seek" option included in the package suggested by Russia. It is, perhaps, a final opportunity for Iraq to seek to prove it is in technical compliance with its obligations.]
In this resolution the Security Council should:
There are other variations but I won't further waste your time as I'm sure by now most of you are probably "underwhelmed" with the notion. Nonetheless, some version of this approach could satisfy international priorities and provide the opportunity for Iraq to re-join the "family of nations".
The current alternative "contain and seek to topple" strategy does not have the best track record.
The fundamental and hence most controversial component of the notion is the pre-emptive empowerment of the "existing" alliance to deal with material breaches. In effect it requires the Security Council to commit to the view that Iraq’s embracing conquest or WMD is, in political terms, a capital offence.
What, under the prevailing conditions is, anyway, expected of the US, most probably the UK and perhaps et al, should Iraq commit a warlike action, with or without WMD. The expectation is decisive military action. So why not be "up-front"? Could the Security Council possibly be shocked or outraged? Could differently focused members of the Council wish to grant Iraq license to commit a material breach?
Most importantly, the re-introduction of meaningful inspection makes it possible to take decisive preventative action rather than inflicting "after the fact punishment" - it can remove the victim from the equation.
Silly though my notion may be, it is almost certainly "off a smaller wall" than any notion that border controls, could provide a meaningful substitute for ongoing monitoring and verification, in seeking to deter a determined Iraq from acquiring the necessary materials and rebuilding its WMD programme.
Iraq covers an area of some 400,000 square kilometres, roughly the same size as California, though admittedly with comparatively little coastline. Its border extends to some 3,000 km, much of which is a line in the sand. I have not bothered to gather reliable data on the number of tonnes of contraband, particularly narcotics, smuggled into California each year and I'm sure I do not need to do so in order to make this rather obvious point.
Should Iraq be determined to build a nuclear weapon, it has all the necessary raw materials except the weapon-usable nuclear material. Iraq must be assumed to know enough about nuclear weapons technology to be able to fuel a weapon with no more than 25 kg of HEU. As I have said, Iraq has comparatively little coastline but I am led to believe that the "ship of the desert" can carry many times this mass.
I base my comparative calm on the firm belief that there are very many people more clever than I, but why on earth can't one of them think of something brighter than baiting the hell out of a belligerent dictator and then attempting to contain him in a sand castle.
I do not presume to pretend that what I have discussed is the answer but I hope that I have provided some food for thought. How could the Iraq that has frequently declared itself to have foresworn WMD and territorial ambitions, refuse such a resolution and still lay claim to the moral high ground?
I am sure that many, if not all of you, will think that I am wrong. I am not offended -- I have been wrong before! Indeed, I carry an increasingly loud and persistent thought that I sincerely hope is wrong.
That is the thought that we have left it too late. That the precious product developed by the IAEA and UNSCOM - WMD monitoring and verification - has been left on the shelf too long and is irrecoverably spoiled.
I know, scientists should stick to science and more importantly, retirees should stick to retirement; but, anyway, thank you for your time and your attention.
As of August 2006, Iraq Watch is no longer being updated. Click here for more information.
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