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These were the subjects of a roundtable discussion that the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control hosted in Washington, D.C. on May 24, 2001. The roundtable's five panelists were chosen on the basis of their experience in Iraq and the Middle East. They were W. Seth Carus, one of the world's leading authorities on Iraq and on the spread of weapons of mass destruction, Pierce S. Corden, who served as Deputy Executive Chairman of the UN Special Commission on Iraq, David Kay, who led nuclear inspection teams in Iraq, Gabriele Kraatz-Wadsack, who led biological weapon inspection teams in Iraq and who is presently chief of the biological weapon section at the U.N.'s Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, and John Larrabee, who led missile inspections in Iraq and is a specialist on ballistic missile technology.
The panel found, in sum, that there is little incentive for Iraq to disarm or cooperate with U.N. inspectors; that smuggling has created a multilayered infrastructure that has corrupted Iraq's neighbors from top to bottom; that "smart sanctions" may not be an improved policy; and that given the forces and policies now operating in the Gulf, the mass destruction weapon threat from Iraq will continue.
These findings are a composite of the panelists' personal views; no particular finding should be attributed to any single panelist, nor should the findings be thought to represent the views of any organization with which a panelist is affiliated. The full text of the panel's findings follow.
Finding 1 Iraq is still
committed to developing weapons of mass destruction. In biological weaponry,
Iraq is now self-sufficient; it has what is necessary to build a biological
arsenal. Iraq also appears to possess stocks of chemical agent and is
known to have had virtually every element of a workable nuclear weapon
except the fissile material needed to fuel it. Iraq's authorized program
for developing short-range ballistic missiles could enable the building
of longer-range missiles, and Iraq is also showing an interest in cruise
missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles.
Iraq is still committed to developing weapons of mass destruction. In biological weaponry, Iraq is now self-sufficient; it has what is necessary to build a biological arsenal. Iraq also appears to possess stocks of chemical agent and is known to have had virtually every element of a workable nuclear weapon except the fissile material needed to fuel it. Iraq's authorized program for developing short-range ballistic missiles could enable the building of longer-range missiles, and Iraq is also showing an interest in cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles.
Since the cease fire agreement that terminated the Gulf War in 1991, Iraq has waged an unceasing political struggle with the United States, the object of which has been to undo the strategic results that the Gulf War produced. Iraq's goals are to undermine the position of the United States in the Middle East, to reestablish Iraq as the leading Arab state, and eventually to dominate the region.
Iraq's programs to acquire nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, together with long-range missiles, are seen as essential to the achievement of these goals. The drive to possess these arms will not abate as long as the current regime remains in power. In fact, the regime has paid a huge price to protect these programs. Equally important, it has paid this price in order not to be seen as surrendering to the United States.
The panelists agree that Iraq's biological capability now presents the greatest threat. Iraq has the infrastructure, the knowledge base, and the ability to produce what it needs indigenously. This includes growth media for microorganisms, equipment to produce microorganisms in vials, and biological warfare agents. Iraq already possesses the necessary biological strains, some of which are endemic, so there is no need to rely on imports. In addition, biological weapons are relatively cheap to make so there is no financial constraint. Iraq has never demonstrated that its biological weapon program has been terminated or destroyed.
Some panelists are particularly concerned about the covert use of an agent not known to have been in Iraq's arsenal. Such an agent could be produced with a minimum of effort, and a properly released or timed introduction could bring an opponent to its knees. The agent need not be lethal. In fact, the introduction of an economic-focused agent (such as foot and mouth disease) could be highly effective and difficult to trace.
Nuclear weapons also remain a danger in Iraq. Baghdad presently possesses a workable nuclear weapon design and had virtually every necessary component to build it except the fissile material needed for fuel. In addition, Iraq has sought to keep its nuclear weapon teams intact. With sanctions against Iraq declining, foreign travel to Iraq increasing, and interactions becoming more common with Russians trying to recover billions of dollars in pre-Gulf War debts, the odds are increasing that Iraq may get what it needs. If Iraq manages to import the necessary fissile material, one panelist believes that Iraq could fashion a bomb in a matter of months. This panelist also believes that Iraq still has a pilot centrifuge cascade of some size that the U.N. inspectors missed. The panelist warns that the operation of such a cascade would be hard to detect, and could be used in an effort to process low-enriched uranium up to weapon grade.
Iraq's chemical weapon capability also remain a danger, despite the fact that U.N. inspectors managed to destroy large amounts of it. Iraq appears to retain small stocks of chemical weapon agents, including the highly destructive nerve agent VX. It may be some time, however, before Iraq can produce strategically significant quantities of chemical munitions. To be effective, a chemical agent must be delivered over a considerable area in high concentrations. One panelist pointed out that in addition to the risk that Iraq may restart its known chemical weapon programs, Iraq could pursue some of the new avenues the Soviets opened up. These avenues included novel chemical agents, such as the Novichok family, which are designed to avoid the routine monitoring provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention, while being easy and cheap to produce in civilian plants. A step in this direction by Iraq might be difficult to detect.
Iraq is presently barred by U.N. resolutions from possessing or developing ballistic missiles with a range of more than 150 kilometers. Most panelists agreed that Iraq will not be able to perfect missiles beyond that range without flight tests, which would probably be discovered. They note that the technologies Iraq has chosen for its 150 kilometer missiles, however, are clearly intended to support follow-on systems with longer ranges. Thus, Iraq's 150 kilometer Al Samoud missile, which is now under development, is little more than a reduced-range SCUD missile, which has a range of 300 kilometers. Iraq has already shown the ability to modify SCUDs to fly more than double their original range and Iraq may still retain a few SCUD-type missiles at secret locations. Some panelists were of the view that the 150 kilometer limit is not self-defining. Without overtly violating the 150-kilometer restriction, Iraq could flight test some of the systems and technologies necessary for a longer-range missile. Iraq could use techniques such as increasing the warhead weight beyond that designed for the eventual operational missile. The heavier payload would limit the range in flight tests, but would still allow the testing or validating of longer-range operational systems.
Some of the panelists believe that Iraq is more likely to deliver chemical or biological agents with a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) or cruise missile. These agents are more difficult to deliver successfully with ballistic missiles. A UAV or cruise missile provides better control. It is known that Iraq had a program for using a MiG-21 as a UAV for delivering biological agents and that Iraq actually carried out delivery tests with simulated agents. Iraq also modified a fuel tank to disperse biological agent from a Mirage F1 used as a UAV.
Iraq's conventional military forces are limited, but significant. Iraqi ground forces are weaker than they were in 1991. Some panelists believe that Iraq nevertheless retains the power to overrun Kuwait unless the United States should have enough warning time to increase U.S. forces in the region. Iraq's air defense system is also weak, but improving. U.S. military commanders have expressed the view that it is only a matter of time before Iraq manages to shoot down a U.S. aircraft operating in one of the no-fly zones.
The panel believes that the pace of Iraq's present activities may depend on whether Iraq plans to re-admit U.N. inspectors under some future compromise. If Iraq re-admits inspectors, it would be required to account for the use of the sensitive equipment that the inspectors were formerly monitoring. This requirement could limit what Iraq is doing with the equipment now. If, however, Iraq has decided that it will never again admit inspectors, then Iraq could already be using the sensitive equipment without restraint, which would increase significantly its ability to develop weapons of mass destruction. From Iraq's recent announcements, it appears that the latter course is the most likely.
Finding 2 Iraq has little
or no incentive to disarm or to cooperate with U.N. inspectors. Several
panelists noted that the United States no longer appears to consider
the disarming of Iraq to be an achievable foreign policy goal, or to
believe that the resumption of U.N. inspections is a high priority.
Iraq has little or no incentive to disarm or to cooperate with U.N. inspectors. Several panelists noted that the United States no longer appears to consider the disarming of Iraq to be an achievable foreign policy goal, or to believe that the resumption of U.N. inspections is a high priority.
Most panelists agree that Iraq has little or no incentive to re-admit U.N. inspectors. Iraq has achieved much of what it sought to gain - including an easing and possibly a near lifting of sanctions - with no cooperation on its part. By promising and actually providing financial advantages to key countries, Iraq has assembled a number of supporters in both the United Nations and the Gulf region. There is no reason for Iraq to see its present intransigence as bringing anything but gain. The greatest remaining restraint on Iraq is U.N. control of Iraq's oil income. Iraq is working hard, however, to increase the amount of oil that is smuggled across its borders without U.N. control.
Some panelists noted that the Bush administration appears to have decided that inspections are not a high priority. The administration has no desire to return to the situation in which the Clinton administration found itself, where U.N. inspectors asked for access to an Iraqi facility, were wrongfully refused, and then turned to the United States for enforcement help. That process gave Saddam Hussein the power to create an international incident at will, and ultimately demonstrated the impotence of the international community - and the United States - when it came to the use of force. They noted that Vice President Cheney has expressed the view that Saddam Hussein can be counted on to frustrate any inspection likely to produce results, and therefore that inspections should not be a high priority.
Nevertheless, some panelists pointed out that it is in Iraq's interest to work out a better relationship with the U.N. Security Council. As long as Iraq is in noncompliance with U.N. resolutions, Iraq's diplomatic standing will be impaired. Even more important, Iraq will continue to be barred from military and civilian dual-use imports. These factors, however, have not been enough to produce Iraqi cooperation so far, and are not likely to produce it in the future.
Finding 3 If Iraq were
to re-admit U.N. inspectors, a new baseline for inspections could still
be created, notwithstanding the gap in inspection coverage during the
past two and one half years. Iraq, however, would have to provide accurate
declarations of its weapon activity and immediate, unrestricted access
to all persons, documents and sites. In addition, the U.N. Security
Council would have to refrain from exerting pressure on the inspectors
to wrap things up quickly.
If Iraq were to re-admit U.N. inspectors, a new baseline for inspections could still be created, notwithstanding the gap in inspection coverage during the past two and one half years. Iraq, however, would have to provide accurate declarations of its weapon activity and immediate, unrestricted access to all persons, documents and sites. In addition, the U.N. Security Council would have to refrain from exerting pressure on the inspectors to wrap things up quickly.
If Iraq re-admits U.N. inspectors (by accepting, for example, U.N. Resolution 1284) Iraq would be required to declare every change made to its monitored facilities since December 1998, when inspections ended. It would also be required to declare what it did with every piece of monitored equipment and all monitored materials. New sites would also have to be declared, as would imports of dual-use equipment. UNMOVIC would analyze these initial declarations, together with other information, and use them as a starting point for a new inspection baseline.
In the opinion of some panelists, a missile or nuclear baseline would probably require only a few months, whereas baselines in the chemical and biological areas would take considerably longer. The gaps in knowledge of these latter areas could be resolved only over a period of time. The time needed would depend on the accuracy of Iraq's declarations and on the degree of access provided to the inspectors. Immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access to physical locations, personnel and documents would be essential to both disarmament and monitoring.
Some panelists fear that if inspectors were re-admitted, there would be tremendous political pressure from the U.N. Security Council to do baselining quickly and to get the inspections over with. Because the inspectors' only authority is derived from the Security Council, the Council's ability and willingness to insist on effective inspections is vital to success.
It is also a fact that even the most intrusive inspection system - such as the one that UNSCOM operated in Iraq - will still produce a residue of uncertainty. It is simply not possible to monitor every square inch in the territory of a state - and some weapons activities do not require much space. It is a political task to decide how serious the residue is. International inspections can be an important confidence building measure, but no illusions should be harbored.
Finding 4 Oil-for-food
monitors are no replacement for arms inspectors.
Oil-for-food monitors are no replacement for arms inspectors.
It has been suggested that the monitors responsible for the oil-for-food program in Iraq could verify that sensitive items purchased by Iraq are not misused. However, these monitors have neither the ability nor the mission to carry out such a task.
First, they lack the expertise. They have no training in the use of sensitive equipment or in the ways by which such equipment might be diverted to a weapon program. The typical oil-for-food inspector would not be able to distinguish a milling machine from a vacuum furnace, and would have no hope of distinguishing a corrosion-resistant pump from an ordinary one. Even trained UNSCOM inspectors have had difficulty combating Iraq's practice of switching identification plates on machines, and of carrying out secret weapon work at supposedly civilian sites.
Second, oil-for-food monitors do not have the mission or the authority to prevent diversions. Their mission is limited to verifying that contracts are fulfilled and that an item goes to the site that purchased it. What happens to an item after that is not their concern. The task of weapon inspectors is quite different; weapon inspectors must track sensitive items wherever they go and however they are used. Only continuous monitoring can prevent weapon development at a civilian site. Thus, the presence of oil-for-food monitors cannot justify the export of sensitive items under "smart sanctions.">
Finding 5 The smuggling
of oil out of Iraq and of goods into Iraq has created a multilayered
infrastructure that has corrupted Iraq's neighbors from top to bottom.
The prospects of stopping this smuggling are not good.
The smuggling of oil out of Iraq and of goods into Iraq has created a multilayered infrastructure that has corrupted Iraq's neighbors from top to bottom. The prospects of stopping this smuggling are not good.
The international trade embargo did reduce Iraq's access to resources when it was first imposed. Since then, however, Iraq's methods for smuggling oil have grown more sophisticated and the financing harder to trace or block. Within Iraq, Saddam Hussein has used smuggling revenues to enrich his family and friends and to bind groups to his regime. He has also used these revenues to build support in neighboring countries. In addition, important elements of the Kurdish economy have become entrapped and dependent upon oil smuggling.
The smuggling of goods into Iraq has also grown, and become more sophisticated. It now consists of a multilayered infrastructure that reaches back through the highest levels in Jordan, Syria, Turkey and even Iran. Overall, Saddam's oil revenue has now reached the levels he enjoyed before the Gulf war. This increased stream of petrodollars has created a political momentum in Iraq's favor that will be difficult to stop.
To reverse the momentum, the front line states would have to be given great incentives. However, there are obstacles in the way. The first is the nature of the governments with which one would have to deal. There is real doubt whether some of the front line states possess the internal coherence to counteract the secret flow of money to elites - a weakness that Iraq is now exploiting. There is also the fact that the West would have to deal with people in the Middle East that it doesn't normally turn money over to. And finally, there is the brute question of the amounts required. It is by no means evident that the United States and its allies would be willing to pay enough to offset the secret profits from billions in illicit oil sales.
Among the incentives that might be possibly offered - other than money - are intelligence sharing, increased sales of weapons or dual-use goods, or even threats of sanctions for non-cooperation. These incentives, of course, present many problems of their own. Iraq would no doubt retaliate against the first state that decided to cooperate with the West, and would immediately shift its business elsewhere. Thus, all states would have to cooperate. One benefit of cooperation would undoubtedly be increased inspections at the borders of the front-line states. These inspections might catch some goods coming in, but, in the panel's opinion, they would be no effective substitute for U.N. inspectors on the ground inside Iraq itself. Borders leak, and the more money that is at stake, the more they leak. A dedicated country with the desire and resources of Iraq will either divert revenue or obtain it outside the streams presently controlled. It will also seek new illicit revenue streams as old ones are closed off.
Finding 6 The "smart sanctions"
proposed by the administration may not be an improved policy, and could
increase the danger posed by Iraq.
The "smart sanctions" proposed by the administration may not be an improved policy, and could increase the danger posed by Iraq.
The administration has proposed a new set of "smart sanctions" for Iraq, but the panel as a whole is not convinced that they are a step forward. Allowing Iraq to import a broader range of civilian goods, which is what the new sanctions would do, is not likely to help the Iraqi people. Saddam Hussein has deliberately chosen to maintain the suffering of the Iraqi population by refusing to buy civilian goods with existing oil-for-food revenue. He has used the suffering, in turn, to build pressure for ending the U.N. sanctions and its control over his oil revenue. In fact, none of the major players on Iraq's side in the present debate - Russia, China or France - appear to be motivated by concern about the Iraqi population and neither does Saddam Hussein. Ordinary Iraqis are ill-starred pawns in the struggle for control of Iraq's bank accounts.
The U.S. proposal would retain U.N. control over Iraq's oil income and would forbid the purchase of arms and sensitive dual-use items; however, it would abolish controls on just about everything else. It would not require Iraq to re-admit U.N. inspectors or to take any steps toward disarmament.
Without inspectors, there is no internal restraint on Iraqi efforts to rebuild the infrastructure necessary for rearmament, including efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction. In particular, there would be no on-the-ground control to prevent diversion of Iraq's increased civilian imports to military ends. One panelist pointed out that when the United States and its allies compromised in December 1999, and agreed to U.N. Resolution 1284, they were trying to allay the humanitarian argument against sanctions by allowing Iraq to sell unlimited amounts of oil. The U.N. received, however, nothing in return. Now, with smart sanctions, the process would be repeated. Controls on Iraq would be weakened once again without any Iraqi movement toward disarmament or inspections. There is no reason to believe that Iraq will cooperate with the new sanctions any more than with the previous ones. Thus, the new sanctions may be a slippery slope, with further reductions of sanctions to follow. The illusion of controls would be preserved while sanctions continue to erode.
Finding 7 The prospects
are dim for a satisfactory outcome in Iraq. Options are few, and there
are no good ones. The United States has never had a long-term strategy
for dealing with Iraq; this would be a good time to devise one.
The prospects are dim for a satisfactory outcome in Iraq. Options are few, and there are no good ones. The United States has never had a long-term strategy for dealing with Iraq; this would be a good time to devise one.
Most panelists agree that Iraq has won the public relations battle over sanctions. The general public no longer realizes that if Saddam Hussein truly decided to disarm, he could clear Iraq's name in a matter of months, end the embargo, and remove any restraint on the flow of goods to the Iraqi population. He has been rejecting this opportunity, however, since 1991. Saddam Hussein obviously believes that preserving his mass destruction weapon programs is more important than the billions of dollars in oil income that his country has foregone and will continue to forego.
In the face of Iraq's intransigence, the West has tried to compel its compliance, both by economic means through sanctions, and by political and military means through a multilateral coalition. Neither of these efforts is succeeding. The principal remaining option - full-scale military intervention - carries a price no one is willing to pay. Thus, an uneasy status quo remains.
Yet the status quo is unacceptable. The Gulf states and others are already currying favor with Iraq because they perceive that it will not be compelled to give up its weapon potential. They also perceive that Iraq has a growing chance of evading U.N. control of its bank accounts. Thus, there is an increasing willingness to violate sanctions. The result is that sanctions are eroding even while Iraq is working to enhance its mass destruction weapon capabilities.
This outcome will undoubtedly spur weapons proliferation in the region. If Iraq is successful in pursuing secret weapon programs, others will see that they can do the same. Iran, in particular, will be under pressure to match Iraq in mass destruction weaponry, and Saudi Arabia will be watching. The United States and its allies have been able to threaten countries with an array of sanctions for proliferation, but if sanctions prove unsuccessful in Iraq, they will necessarily lose credibility. The price of not making things better in Iraq may be to make things worse in the region.
The alternatives seem to be to keep sanctions as strong as possible or to replace them with something better. However, giving up on sanctions would hand a tremendous victory to Iraq; there would be no way to "spin" it otherwise. Thus, while there may be a temptation to declare victory on sanctions and retire from the field - by arguing that sanctions have at least slowed down Saddam for a decade - it is not possible to abandon sanctions unless something more effective can be substituted.
The opposition to sanctions is fundamentally driven by money. The reason why Russia, France and China oppose sanctions is that they want access to Iraq - to "get the money out," in the words of one panelist. France, in particular, has always seen Iraq as a major source of income. What is needed is an arrangement in which these countries can get dollars out of Iraq while preserving international security. That arrangement cannot mean a resumption of Iraqi mass destruction weapon programs.
One of the reasons the United States may not have been more successful in the Gulf is that U.S. diplomats have pointed their energy further west - to the Israeli peace process. Because the United States sees the peace process as its most important interest in the region, it has been willing to overlook things, for example, taking place in Jordan. To make progress in the Gulf, the United States needs to spread its efforts across both parts of the Middle East more equally.
U.S. Iraq policy continues to be largely tactical, without an evident long-term strategy for dealing with the threat that Saddam Hussein presents. "Smart sanctions" are primarily a tactic - designed to counter the criticism that too many sales are now being held up by U.S. and U.K. objections. Even if these new sanctions are adopted, however, Iraq would be no nearer to disarmament than it was before.
The longer-term strategic question seems to be whether some common ground can be found among the former members of the Gulf Coalition and the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. Most panelists believe that little such ground exists. Nevertheless, it might be feasible to fashion a consensus around the principle that Iraqi military moves against its neighbors will not be tolerated; that Iraq's military capabilities must be strictly limited; and that information should be shared on what Iraq is up to. The United States may be compelled to seek such a consensus eventually.
The panel concludes that "solving" the problem of Iraq does not now seem feasible. The removal of Saddam Hussein does not have the support of U.S. allies, nor is such a step within the power and resources that the United States is willing to commit. Nor is Iraq likely to disarm or re-admit arms inspectors with real authority. This situation, coupled with the rise in Iraq's oil income, will produce a steady increase in Iraqi arms, with weapons of mass destruction likely to be part of the mix. This is a hard conclusion to accept, but given present policies toward the Gulf, the risk that Saddam Hussein will plunge the world into another crisis remains.
As of August 2006, Iraq Watch is no longer being updated. Click here for more information.
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