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Remarks by Richard Butler,
Executive Director of UNSCOM

At the Carnegie International Non-Proliferation Conference 1999

11-12 January 1999

Because only a short time is available in which to deal with an important and complex subject, but also because I am aware that this room is filled with non-proliferation experts and persons with an already deeply formed knowledge of the case of Iraq, I will go directly to the main points.

First, following Iraq's expulsion from Kuwait, it became clear that the Saddam Hussein government had created a range and quality of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) that was truly alarming. Iraq had also acquired a very considerable long-range missile force to deliver those weapons. There was also concern about Iraq's nuclear weapons program, which through the International Atomic Energy Agency, we now know was advanced. It was for these reasons that the Security Council imposed very heavy, very strict requirements upon Iraq for the destruction, removal or rendering harmless of those weapons, and all of that to be done under international supervision. Those obligations were backed up by heavy sanctions.

The actions that were taken to try to ensure the fulfillment of Iraq's obligations included the establishment of a unique organization and set of mechanisms; namely, UNSCOM.

It was envisaged that UNSCOM's job in the disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction would take a relatively short time, possibly as little as a year. It has taken eight years, and the job is still not completely finished.

The reason for this distressing lag is that Iraq never kept its side of the bargain by: not making honest disclosure statements of its prohibited weapons and weapons capability; unilaterally destroying weapons in order to ensure that the Commission would never know the full nature and scope of what it had held and this, under circumstances where the law required that all destruction be conducted under international supervision; and, through the pursuit of an active policy and practice of concealing weapons and proscribed components from the Commission.

Secondly, in addition to the envisaged disarmament of Iraq, the Security Council decided that a system of ongoing monitoring and verification should be established to seek to ensure that Iraq did not reconstitute its prohibited weapons in the future. The first version of that system has been established and, in fact, been in operation since 1994. It is widely recognized, however, that the monitoring system will need further, and perhaps substantial development when it is decided by the Security Council that the disarmament phase has concluded, and, as a consequence, certain, if not all, of the sanctions are lifted, and thus Iraq's economic and financial capacity, including, by definition, the capacity to acquire dual-use materials which might be diverted for the production of weapons of mass destruction capability, has increased.

Thirdly, the case of Iraq has two aspects, both of which are important, but I suggest, the second of which should be of particular concern to a conference such as this one, a conference of persons devoted to the concept of the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The first aspect is what I would call the intrinsic one; namely, the need to deal with that array of weapons created and obtained by Iraq, as an intrinsic case of physical disarmament. It has long been held to be true that this is, in and of itself, important, especially given the past behavior of Iraq with respect to its use of the weapons it has had at its disposal but, of course, also because of the particular characteristics of the region in which Iraq is situated.

The second aspect is that of Iraq as a wider test case of the ability of the international community to maintain the nonproliferation regimes. It has been suggested frequently that were the intrinsic case of Iraq to be lost, something  of deeper and wider importance would also be lost, namely, the faith of States in many parts of the world in the nonproliferation regimes themselves. On the whole, I must say I share that view.

Let us look briefly at what is the inner nature of the nonproliferation regimes.

I would argue that the concept and the treaties themselves have three aspects: a moral commitment; a political decision; a system of verification and common assurance.

The moral commitment, put at its simplest, is the view or value judgment to the effect that the weapons involved are inadmissible. Such commitment can be seen in the three main treaties; the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the Biological Weapons Convention. Each of these asserts, elementally, that no one should have, or seek to acquire, the weapons involved.

Now, when Governments embrace that commitment, the pattern has been that this is then followed by the second feature, namely political commitment to give effect to what has been agreed upon at the moral level. And typically, that political commitment is expressed in the development of a Treaty or Convention and the decision to join it.

That latter decision is deeply influenced by the third feature, namely the perception of States of whether or not adherence to the Treaty by Treaty partners can be relied upon. The key way in which that assurance is given is through a system of verification of compliance with the terms of the Treaty and its obligations.

Now, no one should fantasize that verification can ever be 100 percent effective, but I deeply believe that there is a discernible point of intersection between a relatively high degree of credible verification, expressed largely in technical terms, and a similarly high degree of political confidence derived from that level of verification. This point of intersection, the intersection of objective fact and subjective political judgment, results in a climate of confidence which then underpins the nonproliferation objective.

Simply put, as every day passes in which States see that their neighbors are keeping their promise, they then recommit to keeping their own. As every year passes, under circumstances such as this, the original moral commitment and the behavioral implications flowing from it, solidifies to the point where, as the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty has largely demonstrated, it becomes unthinkable for most States that they should take the extraordinary decision to back away from the moral and political commitment and begin to acquire prohibited weapons.

Now, this conceptual structure and, indeed, reality I have just described, a reality that has grown in strength during the last 30 years, is most deeply threatened by what I would call the "worst nightmare" of Treaty partners or potential Treaty partners--that a state will cheat from within.

The problem of States which remain outside the nonproliferation system is well known and not small. But there is an obvious sense in which cheating from within, that is behavior by States to the effect that while they have joined a given Treaty, they in fact seek, on a clandestine basis, to make the weapons prohibited by that Treaty, is the larger problem. This is the "nightmare" problem because it threatens the whole nonproliferation concept and structure at the most fundamental level.

Iraq is a party to NPT and BWC. Yet it has cheated on and/or sought to cheat on both of them. Iraq has made "the nightmare problem" more than theoretical.

Iraq's behavior in respect of its obligations, principally under Security Council resolution 687, has also raised very grave challenges to both the authority of the Security Council and to the credibility of efforts to verify compliance with the nonproliferation regimes.

I will have little if anything to say about the first of these challenges because, strictly speaking, that is beyond the scope of my present mandate. The Council alone can address this issue.

But, with respect to the second concern, I will make these main points.

First, UNSCOM developed groundbreaking means of inspection and verification. These were needed because of the special nature of the Iraq case. But their spin-off is that they have demonstrated that, with a relatively modest organization and budget, much can be achieved if the organization involved is endowed with the required technical skills and flexibility of operation. These are facts and lessons which should be valued in the context of work under the nonproliferation regimes. In this context, it is important to note that UNSCOM's verification and monitoring rights are far more extensive than those of any current disarmament and verification agency. This has been and remains important.

Secondly, Iraq's behavior has illustrated another point of irreducible significance. In a world of sovereign States and, bear in mind that all of the nonproliferation Treaties accept that the responsible actor is the sovereign independent State, recalcitrance on the part of any State, refusal to provide the modicum of cooperation required by the Treaty regime, can be a major and possibly inseparable obstacle to the achievement of common objectives.

You will have noticed that we are at present, yet again, in one of those periods where Iraq is challenging the concept of cooperation on the ground that it will not bring results, such as the lifting of sanctions. This is a sadly planned stance. Cooperation is essential to the conduct of UNSCOM's work and thus to the fulfillment of the requirements of the Security Council including presumably any sanctions decision.

Various solutions are being suggested for this problem. Work is underway at very high levels, but it is not yet clear what solution will be chosen, as the means of ending the present crisis. Your discussions at this Conference could be helpful.

My hope and indeed belief is that the decisions that will be taken will be consistent with the advancement of what is one of the great achievements of the international system in the second half of the 20th Century--the establishment of a tapestry of Treaties which express the determination to ensure that weapons of mass destruction do no proliferate.






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