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UNDERSTANDING THE LESSONS OF NUCLEAR INSPECTIONS AND MONITORING IN IRAQ: A TEN-YEAR REVIEW
Sponsored by the Institute for Science and International Security
14-15 June 2001
Lessons Learned and Looking Forward
Dillon, former Leader, IAEA Action Team
David Albright: I would like to call the conference back to order. For our last session, we have a panel of speakers whom we have asked to address "lessons learned."
The first speaker Garry Dillon. Garry has a long career in the nuclear energy area, including many years at the IAEA. In 1993 he was appointed Deputy Leader for Operations of the IAEA Action Team, and spent several hundred days in Iraq leading on-site inspections and in discussions with senior Iraqi scientists and government officials. He was the Leader of the Action Team from June 1997 until his retirement from the IAEA at the end of October 1999.
The second speaker is Dr. Ephraim Asculai. He recently retired from the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, where he served in a number of senior positions. We have been very fortunate to have him serve as a Senior Research Fellow here at ISIS for the past year.
Michael Eisenstadt is the panel's third speaker. He is a Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He is a specialist on Arab, Israeli and Persian Gulf security affairs and has published many, many articles and monographs on the Middle East situation.
Garry, I turn the podium over to you.
Garry Dillon: Thank you David.
I've been told to limit myself to 15 or 20 minutes, so I'm going to count four pairs of closed eyes and then I'll stop talking (Laughter).
I must say that I was really very jealous of Bob Gallucci's presentation yesterday. I would much rather make a presentation like that. But viewed from an inspector's situation--and I'm a retired inspector, so I shouldn't be so upset about it, but I am--in all honesty, I am really very upset, because where we are now is not funny. I simply can't make a joke about it, and it's very, very worrisome to me that we've allowed the situation to deteriorate so far and for so long. I think everybody has questions of different varieties as to whether we will ever get inspectors back into Iraq, or even whether we should get inspectors back in.
Jacques Baute, myself, and several other inspectors were in Iraq on the 13th of December in 1998. We left on that date, and three days later the rest of the team left. Since then, nobody has been back to Iraq under the authority of resolution 687. For me, that's a tragic state of affairs, and I think the time scale has made the resumption of inspections a very moot point.
As for the work that is going on at the moment on what I call the "resolution in progress," I will, without any sense of shame, say that I consider this resolution to be "resolution 1284 without the inspectors." I really don't see how it is going to help, if you believe there are real concerns about Iraq acquiring direct-use, nuclear-weapons-usable material.
(Laughter) It isn't really funny, you know.
Iraq is a large country--certainly from the perspective of a UK citizen, it's a large country. Jacques quoted a figure about Iraq's area and I mentioned Iraq's 3,000 km-long border. Now, I can believe that we may get the cooperation from Iraq's neighbors to beef up their export controls and their smuggling controls, such that they will stop fleets of Mercedes going over the border. But that 3,000 km of border is largely a line in the sand, which is crossed daily by camel trains of nomadic people who don't need a visa or a passport, and have been traversing borders from time immemorial.
Beefing up border controls will do little to prevent the smuggling of what we are most concerned about--for example, 25-kg packages of highly enriched uranium.
What I'm supposed to be talking about on this panel--having now finished my commercial--are lessons learned. I think the most significant lesson learned is that there really aren't any new lessons. We really should have known better.
The first lesson I wanted to talk about is information. Bob Gallucci painted an encouraging picture about the way in which the information was provided to UNSCOM right at the beginning--very grudgingly at first, but then better and better and better. My own personal experience was not quite as rosy. In fact, I spent a lot of time, even as late as 1994-1995, trying to encourage member states to really open up with information that was relevant to the IAEA's mandate while the information was still fresh. We got the information eventually, but usually it was very much after the fact, and it was by then rather stale.
Even though I have limited time, I would like to tell you a very short story about my grandfather. My grandfather was a hatter. When he retired, the company that had employed him for many decades suddenly realized that the knowledge that they had for making silk top hats--an every-day item of clothing in the UK--had retired with him. So they brought him back to teach the apprentices, and he went back for three months and taught them how to make a silk top hat that would grace any Derby Day. Then he retired again. I remember being in the room when my grandmother said to him, "And can these young men now make a good silk hat?" And my grandfather said: "Yes, but I didn't tell them everything."
That story illustrates my impression about the natural reluctance to transfer information. The information received by the Action Team was very useful, but I frequently felt that there was something missing, something that we didn't have.
So it's very important for the people who hold information to somehow persuade themselves that the people who are doing the task in the field are worthy of receiving that information, and are capable of acting upon it. If the information holders are not satisfied about this, then they should endeavor to change the people who are to act upon the information. It is silly to have the notion that information is power, and it shouldn't be shared because that means losing power.
I think that the intelligence services in all countries have difficulty accepting the need to share information. Many countries have several, apparently competing intelligence services, and we read in the newspapers about how difficult it is for one intelligence service to speak to one another. So you can imagine the reluctance that there was for people to give us full and fresh information. But that has to change if there is to be any continuation of this venture. Information really has to be fully exploited. It is worth nothing in the desk drawer.
The second lesson concerns the definition of tasks, and also the understanding of the definition of tasks. I'd like to say a little bit towards the end about the definition of the safeguards task, and the big difference between that definition and the actual public perception of what our task was. But it's very important that, when a task is defined, it is defined clearly, and that it's also made very clear who's the boss and who makes the decisions. The friction that, in the early days, existed between UNSCOM and the IAEA, arising from a lack of clarity in the division of responsibility, made the organizations vulnerable to exploitation by organizations and member states. This friction decreased over time as we formulated a working relationship. I hope I'm not too na´ve to believe that, certainly at the end of my time at the IAEA, this became a very positive and constructive relationship. But it's very, very important that, when you formulate a task, the structure is clear and correct. You really need to know what is your territory, what is expected of you, and how you are going to do it.
And the other thing is--someone from the audience made a very good example of this during a previous session--you should be clear on the scale and scope of the task, and you should review that scale and scope as time goes along. We've had several questions to which the answer has been: "Yes, I know, and I know it's very embarrassing now, but we never thought we would get kicked out of Iraq." So, there are a lot of "what if's" to be asked.
I was not going to say this when I started this talk, but now I am: there is a good "what if" under the present circumstances. What if this "resolution in progress" is accepted by the Security Council, and Iraq rejects it, once again suspends its oil sales, and the dead baby count goes up, month by month? What is then to be done?
You need to review the task and understand the results of any action or inaction.
Funding is another area for lessons learned. Rolf Ekeus spent an inordinate amount of his very valuable time going around to member states with the begging bowl. UNSCOM and the IAEA were given a large and hugely important task, and after about a year and a half both organizations had very little money and resources with which to do it. So again, you need to be certain of secure, long-term funding.
Today, funding at the Agency is nearly OK. Now, the Action Team has money coming out of its ears, and nowhere to spent it. But even so, all is not well. As soon as resolution 986 came along, funding for UNSCOM and IAEA activities in Iraq was more assured. But it was assured at the previous low level, instead of being assured at a level which truly reflected the costs of the necessary headquarters and field activities. The Agency included, in its post-1997 reporting to the Security Council, an estimate of costs of implementing its OMV program. As I said earlier, this was priced at around $10 million a year, not including the cost of the support and cooperation from what would be UNMOVIC.
The funding of the task determines the size of your staff and the intensity of your activities. I know that with hindsight, if I were to start again on a task like Iraq, I would sit down and look at all the credible expertise that I needed, and all the not-so-credible expertise that I needed, and I'd buy them all. Then, after I'd made my first inspections and I found I didn't really need certain expertise--both the "not-so-credible" and perhaps even some of the "credible" types--then I would scale down. But you must have adequate funding, and the guarantee of continued funding, to be able to do sort of thing.
A fourth lesson is the question of perception. I believed that member states are unduly pessimistic about the ability of an international organization--both existing organizations, and specially formed ones like UNSCOM--to carry out actions which individual member states believe to be important for their own national security. It's very, very clear that no member state is going say: "I'm going to rely entirely on this organization to keep me safe." That's a little too na´ve.
On the other hand, member states seem to be unduly optimistic about their own ability to address the task and sustain their focus on the task. Reality lies somewhere between these two perceptions--I would be very happy if we could get a better balance. I think the overlap is not strong enough.
I wrote two rather
complicated sentences here, but I am going to inflict them on you:
Don't worry about whether the glass is half full, or half empty. I suspect that the glass itself has gone.
The final and most important lesson is to remember the old lessons. One of the best old lessons is that if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing properly. If you apply this old adage to an international organization, particularly an international organization charged with safeguarding nuclear materials, then I believe that the IAEA--decades ago--would have been empowered to include undeclared nuclear material and undeclared nuclear activities in its remit. It was not.
Since 1991, there have been many, many statements to the effect that Iraq represented a serious failure of the IAEA. Well, not precisely. What it did do was highlight a serious failure in the IAEA safeguard system, namely that the internationally approved (IAEA member states) system did not include undeclared activities and undeclared material. A lot has been done since then to correct that, and the Additional Protocol, codified as INFCIRC/540, is the way forward.
Now, I don't work for the IAEA any more, so I think I am fairly safe in saying that I'm not very happy with the response to the Additional Protocol. In fact, I believe that the poor and slow response by member states to adopt the protocol, and the even poorer statistics of it actually being put into force, say very little in terms of a substantial change of heart amongst the IAEA member states.
But there is no other way forward for a meaningful safeguards system, other than something like the Additional Protocol. I hope that, sooner or later, all member states will sign up and there will be universal adherence. I just hope that it does not become too late.
Thank you for your attention.
Ephraim Asculai: Thank you very much. I am very honored to appear on this panel to discuss lessons learned from the Iraqi experience.
I want to thank Mr. Dillon and all the previous speakers for having done such a great job in preparing the way for my talk. Usually, it is a very disastrous thing to talk at the end of a meeting, because everything you wanted to say probably has already been said. But this time I'm going to provide a summary that is reinforced by the many good things that have already been said at this conference.
I'm not going to go into any of the causes of political events; I'm going to work on a more technical level. Not with technicalities per se, but rather I will talk about the technical aspects of verification in Iraq. The question is: what are the possibilities for the future verification activities?
I divided the possibilities into four main areas, and I would argue that among the thousands of variations that you can find in these four areas, these are the main categories of what could happen in Iraq in the future. It could also be a transition phase or a combination of these.
The first possibility is the adherence to Security Council resolution 1284 and the implementation of on-going monitoring and verification, which has been in force since 1991. This is what I'll call the ideal case, the best case.
The second possibility is of a lower preference. This would be the adherence or the employment in Iraq of the verification requirements of the Additional Protocol--INFCIRC/540. This is what Mr. Dillon just talked about--it is the aim of the Agency to get all members to adhere to this. So, this is at least a theoretical possibility for Iraq.
The third possibility is the continuation of today's state of affairs. It is the employment of some aspects of "full-scope" safeguards in Iraq, and we have heard that the IAEA presently is able to conduct inspections to verify the existence and the inventory of the natural uranium and low-enriched uranium stockpiles in Iraq.
The fourth, and worst, possibility is that there will not be any verification activities in Iraq in the future.
Let us assume that
there is a resumption of the IAEA verification activities in Iraq. What
are my recommendations to the people in charge, regarding the basis for
their planning? I would offer some planning assumptions:
Another assumption--and I think this is an important one--is that if inspections are resumed, it is a totally new ballgame. Resolution 1284 does not say this; in fact, the resolution only refers to "a few remaining questions." But this is no longer true today, after two and one-half years since the inspectors left. Everything is now open again; the inspections have to start from the beginning, and that has to be assured. So a conclusion is that little effort, if any, should be devoted to going back to the findings of the pre-December 1998 inspections.
And as Mr. Perricos so very aptly said yesterday, and other people reinforced his view, without the Security Council's political backing, the verification effort will again fail. Without strong backing, the whole thing can return again to where we are today, and again we will lose the verification process and any possible positive outcome that it may have had.
Second, as Mr. Dillon just mentioned a few moments ago, without the supply of all necessary resources, including human resources, equipment, and logistics--the effort could fail.
Now, the ideal situation will occur if resolution 1284 will really be implemented. What are the main points I want to make here? First: there can not be a resumption of the old verification activities. It's a completely new thing, as I said before. Also, there should be no reenactment of the old restrictions on the inspectors' activities. These would include the old restrictions--the agreement brokered by Ambassador Rolf Ekeus on "sensitive sites," the presidential site MOU, and probably other things that I am leaving out. But they controlled the day-to-day lives of the inspectors and made them more and more miserable. It should be understood from the beginning that this has to be a fresh start.
It is very nice, you could say, for me to stand here and say what the Iraqis ought to do. But if resolution 1284 is going to be implemented, it should be insisted upon that it must be implemented in the best possible way, from the beginning. Furthermore, and this is a technical thing--the verification teams must be self-sufficient, and their safety must be assured.
The other point I want to make is that, from the beginning, this must be a very large-scale effort. The Action Team effort in Iraq cannot be composed of a small number of good and competent teams. We have heard about the size of the team, the size of the Action Team permanent staff, the low level of resources, and the money that was not forthcoming. If someone wants to get good reassurances, then the effort must be of a very large scale at the beginning. Later, after the baseline has been established, the effort can probably become smaller. But at this time it must be a parallel effort. Many things have to be covered in parallel, and not only because time is short, or because that was one of the basic assumptions. Rather, it is because of the coordination between the teams, which is essential, and the comparison of data and preventing the Iraqi personnel from coordinating their statements in real-time. The teams should be doing the thing as best as can be done.
The activities have to be done in parallel--at sites, at headquarters and security offices, at banks and administration offices. Personnel have to be re-identified, because ten years have passed since 1991, and older people have retired and new people have come in.
Everything has to be reestablished. Once you do that, a baseline can be determined for the continuation of the work.
The one thing that has been said--and very clearly stated by Mr. Dillon and others--is that a clean bill of health is not a possible outcome. I will already qualify my views by saying that if Iraq should become another South Africa by a change of the regime--by a total change of the regime--and totally come clean by really demonstrating cooperation, then perhaps a good result can be achieved. But if it is still a cat-and-mouse game, no end result can be achieved that resembles a clean bill of health.
The second scenario is the application of the Additional Protocol in Iraq. Had this happened in 1989, it would have been a great thing. Ironically, the Additional Protocol would not have come into being if not for the situation in Iraq at that time, and if not for the IAEA discoveries after the Gulf War. But, had it been possible to implement the Protocol in Iraq in 1989, the situation would have been completely different.
Concerning Iraq today, to rely on the Additional Protocol, instead of resolution 1284, is almost disastrous. The Additional Protocol implies that the state will be on good behavior, or at least on reasonably good behavior. The Protocol gives the state a lot of leeway in accepting things and in opposing things. The Protocol also restricts the IAEA in saying that the IAEA shall not mechanistically or systematically endeavor to verify the declarations.
This cannot work in Iraq. The Additional Protocol has many limitations that are not included in the OMV plan. If you want to apply the Additional Protocol, there also must be some additional privileges for the Agency. Reaching conclusions by employing the Additional Protocol is not that easy.
The third scenario, as I mentioned, is the present situation. The present situation, of course, is a very bad situation. Full-scope safeguards really give you nothing. The annual inspection--by the way, I do not know why it is only an annual inspection, and why the inspections cannot be done more frequently, but that perhaps is in the agreement--the annual inspection is all that is being done. Now, under full-scope safeguards, the IAEA can do more in Iraq. I'm not sure that it should be done, but the IAEA could go to old declared sites where there were reactors, waste disposal facilities, and so on, and take environmental samples. Is this a good idea? I really cannot say, because such sampling could give Iraq an alibi of sorts that says: "Hey, we are good guys, we let them go back, we let them do this, we let them do that." So, I don't know if this is a good idea.
So, what are the conclusions of this short talk? The task of the Action Team, of course, is to detect and uncover Iraq's activities. There is a small chance of success using INFCIRC/540, and a larger one if resolution 1284 is applied. The present situation, in my personal view, is worse than no inspections at all, since it does give an illusion that something useful is being done. While I do agree that it is very important to get the material--the natural uranium and the LEU--out of Iraq, I'm not sure that inspecting it once a year does give us any assurances.
I think it has been said here already--and, unfortunately, I agree with it--that there is no technical deterrent in Iraq's way, and that Iraq could achieve nuclear capability in the foreseeable future. I don't know the timelines. This state of affairs should be the basis for any new Security Council resolution.
Question: If I may interject a question? If we wait until the end, then we will lose the train of thought.
Dr. Asculai, what strikes me is that your approach assumes--again--that there is some way of moving Iraq to accept things that are very unlikely to be accepted, because it treats Iraq very, very differently ten years after the war. For instance, when you recommend that one ought to go with a large-scale effort right away, my reaction is that, whereas in an ideal situation that may have been a great thing to do in 1991, in 2001 the effect would be just the opposite. If you do this, you will go in once and you'll never be back. If you have many inspection teams in there, there is bound to be a crisis--you're going to have an immediate crisis, and you'll never get back. And Iraq will have all the ammunition to say: "I told you so, they're going to pick on us."
Secondly, I think you under-sell the Additional Protocol--even for Iraq. I think if you were to take a less confrontational approach, build relationships, and stay in Iraq with the Additional Protocol, then you at least have the possibility to get at clandestine nuclear material stocks, which is the choke point. You are never going to get into peoples' brains, you're never going to find all the secrets hidden in computers, and you may never find the centrifuges. But nuclear material, after all, does have some signatures. And INFCIRC/540 does give the Agency--not the Action Team, but the Agency--additional tools to find it.
I'll cut off my comments here, but I would like to debate the question of the proper approach. It ought to be debated.
Ephraim Asculai: Thank you for your comments, and for the chance to explain again what I did here.
Had I taken only resolution 1284 or INFCIRC/540, and said: "this is the way that things are going to go," I am not sure that I would reach the same conclusions that I did. What I did in my talk was present a spectrum of only four categories. I could have enlarged this talk to an hour or even longer, but I took only four categories and I said "what if" to each one. I suggested some lines, and I did not undersell INFCIRC/540 too much.
But let me say that, had Iraq wanted to pursue a clandestine program somewhere that was never visited before, and that national intelligence capabilities would not have found this effort, then INFCIRC/540 would have been hard pressed to find this program in a country as large as Iraq. Perhaps it could have, but perhaps not.
This is what I said. It doesn't have a large chance to uncover undeclared activities or materials. INFCIRC/540 could, of course, give you good assurance as to existing facilities--and that is debatable--but was not the purpose of my talk. I only said that you have the possibility of resolution 1284, and that's the ideal situation. I didn't want to go into political issues--that is, how to go about it. I was speaking technically--what the verification scenarios can do relative to each other. I said that if you can do it--if it's a return to the old situation--then go full in. INFCIRC/540 is not as good. As for the choice between INFCIRC/153 and no inspections at all--well, that part is debatable.
Michael Eisenstadt: My presentation will focus on political-military issues relating to Iraq's nuclear ambitions, and will look at the dynamics relating to a potential Iraqi nuclear breakout. I will discuss potential implications for the region, and then quickly review American policy: where things stand now and, in my perception, where we're headed for the future.
With regard to Iraq's current nuclear ambitions, I would posit the following guiding assumptions: First, in many ways, Saddam Hussein has not changed at all over the last decade. For the most part, he still retains his grandiose ambitions, and he still seeks a leadership role for Iraq, even in its current weakened state. All you have to do is look at Iraqi conduct over the last few months-for example, their reassertion of their claim to Kuwait; the move to support Syria during periods of tension with Israel last fall, when elements of several divisions were moved towards the direction of the Syrian border; and their provision of financial support for the intifada. These acts all show, to me at least, that Saddam Hussein is a man who still has broad ambitions, who sees Iraq playing a regional role, and for whom Baghdad and the borders of the country are simply too limited in terms of the scope of his ambitions.
I think we have also seen that Iraq is acting with growing self-confidence. I think the Iraqis see momentum working in their direction. Sanctions are eroding, and that's why I think Iraq wants to keep the current oil-for-food regime intact. I think it is, from their point of view, only a matter of time before sanctions collapse.
Saddam also, I think, is driven by a desire for revenge against his neighbors for the defeat during Desert Storm. He also wants revenge against the United States for the defeat, and for a decade of sanctions. I think this is partly driven by the logic of the type of regime that he heads. This is at a man who heads a totalitarian regime, based on torture and violence, that cannot afford to be seen as having been slighted without having gotten retribution at some point down the road. It is also a function of his personality.
However, I would say that, at least since Operation Desert Fox, we have seen a somewhat different Saddam in terms of his diplomatic strategy. He has been more careful about not engaging in direct military challenges to the United States, at least outside the no-fly zones, but I feel that--sooner or later--his ambitions will cause him to abandon whatever restraint he has practiced in the last two years. At that time, we will find ourselves in a confrontation with him. I think it is simply inevitable that we will find ourselves squaring off with Iraq and Saddam Hussein sooner or later.
If you assume that he still retains his grandiose ambitions, I think it is also fair to assume that nuclear weapons remain central to his efforts to transform Iraq into a regional power and, from his point of view, remain central to the survival of the regime. We have seen some rather modest indications that he has continued work on Iraq's other prescribed programs--chemical and biological weapons and missiles. There was the case of the gyroscopes from Russia in 1995. There were also reports that they were trying to acquire fermenters from Russia for their BW program. There was also an episode involving Romania, in terms of an attempt to get missile-related items.
If they are trying to acquire stuff for the missile program and if they are continuing work on the BW program, then we have to assume that Saddam Hussein is probably working on the nuclear program--all the more so, because nuclear weapons have a cachet that chemical and biological weapons just don't have.
Now, let me just introduce some qualifiers here. I would say that there probably is a difference in the way he is going about his activities in the chemical and biological arena versus the nuclear arena. This is because Iraq has probably retained capabilities in the chemical and biological arena, in terms of agent produced before Desert Storm. The chemical agent is most certainly viable. The biological agent--there might be issues with regards to the viability of biological agents after 10 years, although viability depends on various technical factors. If he had dry anthrax agent, for example, it might very well be viable. But there is no need for him to engage in a crash effort with chemical and biological weapons now.
With nuclear weapons, I think it is different. As far as we know, Saddam Hussein did not have nuclear weapons in 1991, so he doesn't have a strategic reserve that he can rely on. Secondly, I think one of the lessons that the Iraqis learned from their failed crash nuclear weapons program is that you cannot afford to be caught short at the next crisis. Therefore, strategies that people have put forth for other proliferating states--say, for example, Iran, which is an NPT member state--that they would go up to the threshold and not beyond, or that they would try to build a rapid break out capability--I don't think this is applicable for Iraq, based on past history. Iraq doesn't feel a need to be seen as abiding by international treaties. And from their experience in 1991, Iraq can't afford not to have a nuclear "force-in-being."
So I think they will go full bore, if possible, with their nuclear weapons effort, with the only constraint being operational security considerations. Iraq will not want to create a signature that could be used for targeting purposes. I think that that might have an impact on the pace, scope and nature of their nuclear weapons related activities, but I think that, besides access to fissile material, that is the only constraint.
So, what is the bottom-line with regard to Iraq's current nuclear status? I think we have to acknowledge that, given the circumstances of Russia's nuclear complex and the uncertainties with regard to special nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union, given our lack of knowledge and understanding about Iraqi activities in the nuclear arena over the last few years, we have to assume--or at least acknowledge--the possibility that Iraq may already be a de facto nuclear power. At least, we should accept that Iraq may be on the threshold of a breakout. And we have to acknowledge that neither revamped sanctions, with tighter border controls, nor resumed inspections would substantially affect Iraq's ability to acquire nuclear weapons as a result of diversion. I am not talking about a clandestine program to produce fissile material, but the bottom line is that, even with inspections, even with revamped sanctions, if they are able to acquire fissile material from abroad, they will be able to bring it into the country and they probably will be able to weaponize it.
What are the potential reverberations or impact of Iraqi nuclear breakout in the region, should Iraq announce such a development, or should Iraq's neighbors start acting on the assumption that Iraq is a nuclear power? Well, with regard to Israel, I would suggest that we might see further efforts to reduce the already thin veneer of ambiguity or opacity surrounding its own nuclear capabilities, if not an outright change of policy, in which Israel becomes a declared nuclear weapons state. I'd be interested to hear Avner Cohen's thinking about this. I'm not saying that Israel would go down this route, but I'm sure that it would reevaluate its policy in that situation.
Likewise, an Iraqi nuclear breakout could prompt Iran to accelerate its own nuclear program and perhaps even withdraw from the NPT. The NPT has an escape clause that Iran might invoke, given the Iraqi threat.
An Iraqi nuclear breakout could influence Egypt and Syria to reconsider their nuclear options. Thus far, they have not gone down this route, but an Iraqi breakout may cause a reversal in these countries. Likewise, with regard to Saudi Arabia and the smaller Gulf states--although it's more likely with the smaller Gulf states, which have well develop petrochemical industries--we might see them go down the proliferation route in the chemical area. They certainly don't have the ability to go nuclear. Saudi Arabia might have an option to purchase nuclear weapons from Pakistan or China. I'll leave that for the Pakistani and Chinese experts to discuss, but I would just simply refer to the Abdullah Qadir Khan document discovered by inspectors, where apparently he offered his services to the Iraqis. Maybe there are people in the Pakistani program who would be willing to provide nuclear material--if not a finished weapon--to the Saudis. Well, I assume a finished weapon would require a policy decision, but I will not speculate any more on this, simply because I just don't know enough about the country to say whether this is a possibility.
Certainly, an Iraqi nuclear breakout would accelerate the process of accommodating and reintegrating Iraq into the region that we are seeing already happening now. And finally it could prompt the U.S. to deepen its security involvement in the region and perhaps even to extend a security umbrella-maybe even a nuclear security umbrella--to its friends in the region in order to both deter Iraq and prevent any residual proliferation by U.S. allies.
I would now like to make a few comments about the potential dynamics of an Iraq nuclear breakout. Again, I am assuming that, in the near term, a potential Iraqi nuclear breakout will be based on diversion, and therefore they will be limited to just a few weapons--maybe 1-3 bombs--because of the difficulty involved in the diversion of fissile material. I would also say that one diversion success is likely to inspire hope of further diversion successes. So, for this reason--at least initially--I assume that Iraq is unlikely to publicize its success in this area. I would assume that Iraq would not brandish a weapon, at least initially, simply because it doesn't want to scuttle the possibility of acquiring additional fissile material from whatever source it got it from.
Now, in the event of a crisis, this assessment might change. Iraq may find itself in a crisis where it needs to brandish its newfound nuclear weapons capability for reasons of deterrence or compellance. In addition, I think we have to acknowledge that there is a good chance that U.S. intelligence or the intelligence communities of friendly governments would not know about a case of diversion, and we will therefore be living in a gray zone with regard to Iraq's nuclear capabilities for some time to come.
This, then, raises a question: what is the use of having a nuclear weapon if nobody knows about it? I would respond by saying that there are ways that the Iraqi government can encourage speculation about its nuclear status. It can do this by dropping public hints, or leaks to the Arab press, so that it could reap some of the benefits of possession, without the possible costs or risks of actually declaring that it has a nuclear capability.
I would also point out that, in the past, Saddam has been able to sit on certain capabilities without announcing them. He boasted about his chemical weapons capability in 1990 and about his missiles, but we already knew about those capabilities. However, he did not announce his biological weapons capability, and he did not publicly disclose either his super gun project or his nuclear program. So he has shown an ability to keep secret programs under wraps when it's in his interest.
Again, as I hinted at before, I think he might be eventually tempted to try to exploit the perceived potential provided by his new nuclear arsenal by some kind of high-risk gambit. Thus, I think it is quite possible that, eventually, Iraq is liable to stumble into a crisis that might force it to brandish its newfound nuclear capabilities. By way of an historical analogy, I would point to the period in 1989 and 1990, where we saw a period of growing Iraqi self-confidence and activism in the region, which I believe was largely influenced by his growing, non-conventional arsenal, at that time mainly composed of chemical and biological weapons. So, whereas maybe in the case of other countries, we haven't seen increased risk- taking as a result of proliferation, in the case of Iraq once before we did. At least that is my contention.
Therefore it is quite possible that if Saddam Hussein were to acquire a nuclear capability, this would result again in increased risk-taking, possibly forcing a crisis that would force him to brandish his nuclear capabilities.
Some people have suggested that once Iraq has achieved a nuclear weapons capability, it will conduct a weapons test. Well, if Iraq has 1-3 weapons, I'm not sure it will conduct a test, since testing could compromise Iraq's ability to obtain additional quantities of fissile material on the black market. I think it might be more likely that Iraq will take an approach of making calculated leaks in order to, at least, plant the idea in the minds of decision makers in neighboring countries that Iraq does have this capability.
I think it is generally the bias of policy makers in a situation like this to err on the side of caution. No policy maker is going to want to find out that they underestimated Iraqi capabilities in this area. So, once the idea is out and people start acting on the assumption that Iraq has the nuclear capability, I think Iraq will have, in many ways, gained the benefits of having a declared weapon without the costs and risks.
Finally, there are just a few technical considerations that I think we have to think about with regard to an Iraqi nuclear arsenal. First of all, have they succeeded in their efforts to miniaturize the weapon so that it can be delivered with their retained missile force? I think the weapon design that they had in 1990 or 1991 was still too big for a Scud missile. But maybe by now Iraq has succeeded in reducing the size of the design, and any weapon that they would make based on this design could be carried by a Scud. Maybe it's small enough and light enough by now. This raises the question of the 6-16 Scuds--those are the numbers used by UNSCOM, I think at least by Rolf Ekeus, in 1996 or 1997.
Of those remaining Al Hussein missiles, we don't know how many are operational. It is quite possible that in transporting them around the country, they may no longer be operational. So if they want to have a more reliable delivery means, they will have to rely on aircraft. I would, however, point out that many of their strike aircraft went to Iran during the Gulf War in 1991. So, they might have to rely on less capable aircraft, if they want to use an aircraft as delivery means. But both an aircraft and a missile have a downside from Iraq's point of view, which is lack of deniability.
This raises the possibility of covert delivery. But there is a problem with possible covert delivery means, whether it is a vehicle, a small boat, a larger boat, or a human agent. It would probably take weeks to do the logistical planning needed in order to implement a covert delivery option. And if your talking about delivery by boat and you wanted to deliver the weapon to the United States, it could several weeks to get to the United States. By that time, the crisis could be over, or the war could be lost, so there are certain disadvantages inherent in a covert delivery means.
Now for just a few final comments about U.S. policy. Basically, we have been pursuing a policy of containment for this last decade, and this remains our policy today. When I say "containment," I don't mean it in the sense that George Kennan used it with regard to the Soviet Union-that containment would eventually lead to the implosion of the regime. Rather, in the Iraqi context, containment means to simply limit Iraq's ability to threaten U.S. interests and allies. Up until now, containment has looked like a modest success. I would argue, though, that that assessment would change very much if we were to find out now or in the near future that Iraq has acquired nuclear weapons. But, the bottom line is that, barring the willingness to do what it takes to get rid of the regime, containment is the only game in town, unfortunately. It was often said of containment and I think it can still be said: it's the worst policy, except for all the rest.
There were four major elements of containment in the 1990s: sanctions, inspections, no-fly zones, and the threat or use of force to deter or compel. Sanctions--whatever you might say about their social impact on Iraq--clearly had a decisive impact on Iraq's conventional military capabilities and its ability to rebuild its WMD programs. The Iraqi conventional military today looks much the same as it did in 1991. Morale is still very low and that is directly a result of sanctions.
Sanctions also had an important impact in that they facilitated weapons inspections, in that sanctions provided a certain incentive to Iraq to cooperate with the UN weapons inspectors, or at least to allow weapons inspections to occur so that they could legitimately make the case--in their eyes, at least--that they had cooperated with inspections, and therefore the mechanism outlined in resolution 687, which would entail the lifting of the oil embargo, should go into effect. Sanctions also had another beneficial impact in terms of weapons inspections, in that they kept the level of the military industrial base in Iraq static, and that made it a lot easier for the inspectors to do their job. It would have been much harder for inspectors to do their job if Iraq was engaged in a massive rebuilding of its industry during the 1990s.
Also in terms of talking about the synergistic impact of the various elements of containment, I want to agree with Bob Gallucci that the threat of the use of force was crucial to the success of weapons inspections through the 1990s. Although the threat of the use of force often did not translate directly into success on the ground in terms of inspections, it created the political environment in which inspections could continue.
I would like to respectfully differ with Garry Dillon about Operation Desert Fox and its impact on OMV. The bottom line is that Desert Fox was a parting shot by the Clinton administration, which was no longer willing to do what was necessary in order to enable weapons inspections to continue and succeed. And as I see it--forgive me if I sound a little cynical--Desert Fox provided the Clinton administration with political cover for disengaging from the policy of supporting weapons inspections in a way that made it hard to claim that the administration was going soft on Iraq.
We also saw that, after Desert Fox, there was a strengthening of the rules of engagement in the patrolling of the no-fly zones to allow more active patrolling by U.S. and coalition forces. Again, I think this was in order to provide a certain degree of political cover for the administration. But the bottom line is this: had we been willing to do Desert Fox again, I believe that inspections and monitoring would have continued. I don't think it would have been the end. I think the Iraqis knew this, in part because Desert Fox was initiated four days before Ramadan, and because of all the indicators coming out of Washington that this was a parting shot. Therefore, the Iraqis felt that they could close down inspections and monitoring. Had we been willing to do a Desert Fox again--had this not been perceived as a parting shot--I believe that it is quite likely that monitoring and inspections would have continued. The threat of military force is why inspections and monitoring continued for as long as they did.
Where are we now? I'll summarize where we are now and where we are going. The bottom line is that we are still in the containment mode, but we don't have all the tools that we once had. We don't have the inspections, and the sanctions are weakening. With regard to inspections, it seems to me that the Bush administration has come down on the side of those who argue that it is better to have no inspections than sham inspections. Under current political conditions, inspections are a potential trap that could lead to the lifting of sanctions.
Without sanctions, are the only way to slow down Iraq's progress in the WMD area. Clearly, the revamped sanctions regime that is being considered, I think, has the ability to prevent Iraq from rebuilding its conventional capabilities. But the best they could probably do in the WMD arena is slow down Iraqi efforts. But I think, from the administration's point of view, it is better to have a revamped sanctions regime in place that has a degree of political viability and longevity. This is preferable than to go down the route of inspections that could lead to the total lifting of sanctions, which is clearly the direction in which the Russians are moving. The Russian position is to suspend sanctions when inspectors go in, and lift sanctions after 120 days, if nothing shows up.
So, I think that, at least for now, the United States has decided that it is not going to actively work for inspections. On the other hand, the United States supported resolution 1284, and it cannot walk away from this resolution. We supported it very strongly. So, we will continue to give lip service to resolution 1284, but, in fact, I suspect that we really don't want inspections to resume under circumstances where we believe they are not going to work.
With regard to our effort to revamp sanctions, I think we had no choice to do what we're doing, in terms of trying to alter the political dynamics regarding sanctions on Iraq, but unfortunately I'm not very optimistic that these efforts will succeed. First of all, even if we do get an agreement in the Security Council on some kind of revamped sanctions regime, I think that will simply be a new point of departure from which the Russians, the French and the Chinese will then try anew to further water down the sanctions regime. The logic of their position, at least in my mind, is this: on the one hand, they do not want to undercut the authority of the Security Council because, for Russia, China and France that is a major source of their international influence. On the other hand, they want to stay in the good graces of Baghdad to a certain degree, in order to assure themselves preferred positions in the Iraqi market once sanctions are lifted or crumble. So this forces them to tack a course somewhere between the position of the Security Council, as manifested by Security Council resolutions, and the position of Baghdad. So they will always pull us in the direction of the further watering down sanctions, and as a result, I don't think that the passing of this resolution will be end of the story. It will simply start a new cycle in further efforts to water down the sanctions on Iraq.
And likewise in terms of affecting the attitude on the Arab street, we're in the situation now where attitudes in the Arab world are very raw because of the Israeli-Palestine violence. There are very strong anti-American feelings. Many people in the Arab world see the effort to revamp sanctions as simply another effort to consolidate American hegemony in the region and to continue the despoliation of Iraq. For that reason, there will continue to be pressure in the Arab street to do away with these sanctions.
The bottom line is this: a revamped sanctions regime, even if one is adopted, does not change the situation of the Iraq people. If Saddam Hussein wants to undersell his oil, if he wants to under-order food and medicine to ensure that he has sick children on TV, thereby prompting outrage in the Arab street, then he can do it, and we can't force him to do otherwise.
So, that is a fundamental factor, which is not addressed by this revamped sanctions regime. As a result, I believe that the political dynamics relating to sanctions will not change, and eventually we will get "smart sanctions fatigue" down the road. This will lead us to be extremely reliant on deterrence to deal with this regime, in terms of dealing with both its conventional and nonconventional capabilities. And I think experience shows that deterrence is a weak reed in dealing with Saddam Hussein for several reasons. First, because of his ambitions and his lust for vengeance, I think he will miscalculate again. His tendency is to miscalculate, which he has done twice in a very big way--when he invaded Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990. I think, sooner or later, he is going to be driven by his ambitions to do something that will bring him into conflict with us. Add this to the fact that the United States is a global power, with global commitments, and is not always able to focus attention on Iraq 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There will be a time that the United States will be focusing attention somewhere else, and Saddam might perceive an opportunity. As a result, we have to prepare for the next round with him.
Which leads us to my final comment, which concerns regime change. I don't want to get this conference involved in the whole debate about regime change, but in my mind this is basically the only way to fundamentally manage the problem of proliferation in Iraq.
I have no illusion that a successor regime is unlikely to pursue WMD as well. But I think that a leader other than Saddam is unlikely to combine the various attributes that Saddam Hussein embodies, in terms of his propensity for miscalculating, his desire for revenge, and his very grandiose ambitions. As a result, I think anybody but Saddam would probably be preferable, and it would make the problem of managing proliferation in Iraq easier.
But the problem is, and I have thought this through quite a bit, there is no way now to get there from here. There is no support in the region for any of the various regime change plans that have been floated in this country. There are problems with the Iraqi opposition, in terms of leadership and lack of capacity. And while this remains a desirable objective, there is no road map.
I have not seen anybody make a credible case, and I've tried myself to figure out a road map of how to get from here to there. The best I can offer is that, maybe, the next confrontation that we have with Saddam--which I think is only a matter time--may create opportunities to foment either a coup or an uprising in Iraq, which could lead to regime change. But the problem with this policy--and I don't even want to call it a "policy"--is that it relies on Iraq to make a mistake first, and one should never have to rely on an adversary's mistake in order to achieve one's policy objectives. So, again, that leads us back to doing what we can do with sanctions and deterrence. And it's not a happy picture, with regard to either.
David Albright: We have a few minutes left for questions.
Question: I wanted to add a little bit of the political dimension to this problem. I would like to begin by addressing a question that was raised in the prior session: why did UNSCOM and the IAEA get their presence terminated in Iraq? My conclusion is that it was because they were doing their jobs. The inspectors were in the way of Saddam's weapons programs, and for Saddam to reconstitute and develop those weapons programs, the inspectors had to go. Saddam achieved the removal of inspectors through a serious of crises that he engineered, starting in October of 1997 and culminating a year later in Desert Fox.
I might also add, because some of the speakers talked about it, some comments about whether it could be foreseen that the inspectors' presence in Iraq would end. I am very sympathetic, but I think that there is evidence to suggest, in August 1995, that Saddam intended to kick UNSCOM and the IAEA out of Iraq because of the BW program. Once UNSCOM was on to the BW program, which it was in April 1995, it meant sanctions were not going to be lifted, because Saddam is very attached to that program. Iraq was moving to kick the inspectors out of Iraq, and would have continued to do so, I think, but for Kamel's defection.
As for Ephraim's comments, I think they are a dangerous illusion. Inspectors are not going back to Iraq, because Saddam was bent on getting rid of them, and because of the reasons that Mike described regarding the U.S. position.
I think it might be useful to remind ourselves of some of the Middle Eastern politics that have contributed to the sorry situation, in which we have no inspectors in Iraq and Saddam is building those programs. Sadly, all this Iraqi activity took a very distinctively back seat among U.S. policy makers to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in the 1990s, which received all of people's attention.
Now, the United States and Britain, which had a primary responsibility for making this work, were capable of messing it up on their own. But I think it is also very important to mention the Israeli role--the contribution of the government of Yitzak Rabin and successive Israeli governments--to this present situation. Rabin, back in early 1995, developed this concept that the way to deal with Iraq and Iran was sanctions. Both Iran and Iraq, although different countries, were equated. We still see that continuing today in the priorities of AIPAC in supporting the ILSA legislation for another five years. The function of this is to cause people to pay less attention--much less attention--to Iraq, and have countries see Iraq and Iran as virtually the same country, and presenting the same threat.
Finally: Mike, I think that, while you warn that we should never underestimate the threat from Iraq, it seems to me that your presentation did just that. I think that we are in the gray zone that you described. I think that the discussions at this conference have suggested that no one can be confident that Iraq does not now have nuclear weapons if there has been diversion.
And what are Iraq's intentions? I personally believe that Iraq, if it believes that it can do it, will make another grab at Kuwait and the oil of the Gulf, because that is Saddam's enduring vision. I don't think that he will declare that he has nuclear weapons before the crisis comes. We'll find ourselves in a situation where there has been one more act of Iraqi aggression, but this time when we go to war, he'll let us know that Iraq is now nuclear-armed.
Michael Eisenstadt: Thanks for your comments. With regard to a sense of urgency, the problem is this: policy makers tend not to act on the basis of assessments that say: "Iraq probably has the bomb, so what are you going to do about it?" In general, policy makers tend to be energized only when there is a clear and present danger to deal with, at least when it cones to authorizing preemptive strikes.
The kind of thing that the Israelis did at Osirak is very rare. When the United States thought about a preemptive strike it in the context of North Korea in 1994, it caused a lot of people to think very long and hard. In general, the psychology of policy makers is such that they don't deal with problems like this until it is on their doorstep. And that is just a fact of life--I don't like it, and you don't like it, but I'm not sure that there is much we can do about this.
Question: Mike, you talked about regime change. The only regime change that I see is when Saddam dies and Qusay takes over and I think that Saddam has trained Qusay and Oday well, so that they have it down to be just like Dad.
Also, Mike, I disagree with your assessment that Saddam might have a few nuclear weapons, and he would leak it out that he had that capability. Based on what I have seen, given his personality and proclivities in the past, I would say that Saddam Hussein would probably be in your face with a nuclear test, and that would focus people's attention. If he leaked it out, people would say, "maybe he does, maybe he doesn't, I don't really know." Look at the world reaction to India and Pakistan's tests--that definitely caused a focus of world attention in a way that never happened before, given all the reports and rumors of Pakistani and Indian bombs. So, keep that in mind.
All he needs is one device to test, and then he'll say: "There is more where that came from!" Who is going to call his bluff? Those are just points that I want to leave on the table as an alternative view from what you said.
Garry Dillon: My opinion is that we simply don't know what is Iraq's current nuclear capability. But the kind of worst-case analysis that you present is very easy to construct, and it probably goes down well in some governments and the media. But it's extremely dangerous, and you really need to back it with a little more evidence.
I would suggest that the priority--and I'm not saying that you ignore the dangers out there--the real priority is to get more evidence. And that points towards the extreme importance of at least trying to get the inspectors back in there. Now, I think that the very act of trying to get them in--and getting a P-5 agreement on a process by which they might go back in, even if the inspectors don't actually return--is extremely important. Such an agreement would serve to unify the Security Council, putting the international community in a far better position to deal with whatever Saddam Hussein might throw at it. Trying to get the inspectors back into Iraq should be part of a political process that, in a sense, is preparing the grounds for a coordinated response to whatever Saddam Hussein might do in the future.
David Albright: Any other questions?
Well, we actually ended right on time. Before we end, I would like to thank the sponsors again--the Department of Energy for its contribution to the conference, the W. Alton Jones Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John Merck Fund, the New-Land Foundation, the Ploughshares Fund, the Prospect Hill Foundation, the Scherman Foundation, and the rest of ISIS's funders. We are also certainly grateful to the Carnegie Endowment for providing the conference facility.
And again I would like to thank very much the speakers and the audience. I think audience participation is always the great unknown in these things, we always count on our excellent speakers to draw out the audience. I think the audience has been absolutely marvelous and the discussions have been very, very stimulating. So thank you.
This conference is adjourned.
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