2002 November 19 Tuesday
UNMOVIC Is Not Capable Of Doing Its Assigned Tasks

Former UNSCOM inspector David Kay emphasises the limits of inspections:

The experience with Iraq leaves the international community with a set of unhappy lessons: Voluntary arms control arrangements may fail to prevent or detect massive violations when faced with a clever, determined violator. Military action may stop short of removing the industrial and technical capabilities needed to support weapons of mass destruction programs, and leave untouched the political will that led a state to seek such capabilities. Finally, coercive disarmament by inspections, even when backed by economic sanctions and access to intelligence information, can fail when met by a determined regime that believes its own interests require possession of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

Also see Dr. Kay's NPR interview here.

The UNMOVIC inspectors have less experience and were drawn from a smaller talent pool than the UNSCOM inspectors were:

Seventy-five percent of the roughly 270 UN inspectors from 48 countries will be visiting Iraq for the first time.

"It can be very disorienting to be in Iraq, and almost everything we saw was ambiguous," says Jonathan Tucker, a former UN bioweapons inspector. An inspector "may go into a facility and feel something is not quite right. ... There can be very subtle clues of illicit weapons production. It's a very challenging task, especially if Iraq plans to conceal things."

Hans Blix has weeded out the more aggressive inspectors and UNMOVIC is set up to have less access to intelligence:

But on biological and chemical weapons, there was broader agreement that the new inspection organization, the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, known by the acronym UNMOVIC, is in many ways weaker than the group it has replaced at Iraq's insistence: the United Nations Special Commission on Monitoring, which was known as UNSCOM.

"They are weaker in many respects than we were," said Richard Spertzel, a former army germ scientist who was an UNSCOM inspector until the group was withdrawn from Iraq in 1998. "It is optimistic to assume that in one year, which is the time they are likely to have, they will be able to account for the lack of inspectors for the past four years."

The UNMOVIC inspectors will be going up against a regime that has plenty of time to prepare to fool them:

Duelfer believes the Iraqi regime is well prepared to re-admit inspectors. "They took the decision (to admit inspectors) back in February, according to Iraqis with whom I have indirect contact. They know they can buy time. They certainly have had many years to prepare for inspectors to come back in." Furthermore, Duelfer suspects the regime also knows how long it will have to wait before creating a confrontation.

"There is a mismatch between inspectors and the tools that can be applied against them by a nation state with one of the most extensive security and intelligence apparatuses in the world." Duelfer told the Washington file.

The UNMOVIC inspectors will be too few in number:

Former UN weapons inspectors said they fear that the 100 inspectors slated to be in Iraq will be too few to outwit Hussein.

''They will be up against a concealment plan,'' said Terry Taylor, a former UN weapons inspector, now Washington director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

''They will need more resources than they have.'

The mobile weapons labs are going to be especially hard to find:

Rumbling along Iraq's highways or threading their way through crowded city streets, these mobile weapons labs may look like ice cream trucks, motor homes or 18-wheel tractor-trailer trucks, officials and experts say. But their cargo is believed to be germ agents such as anthrax, botulinum toxin and aflatoxin that theoretically could kill hundreds of thousands in an attack.

Dubbed "Winnebagos of death," the anonymous vehicles are hard to locate, even with sophisticated sensors.

Update: Also see this interview with Kenneth Pollack, author of The Threatening Storm, about why inspections can not work:

What's more the smuggling also means that Saddam is more able than ever to use that money to purchase and smuggle into the county all kinds of prohibited items for his military and WMD programs. The second element of containment are the inspections. There are many problems with the inspections - let me just name two. First we simply do not know where any of Saddam's WMD are hidden and therefore don't know where to send inspectors to find it. This was precisely the problems we had in 1996-1998. The Iraqis had gotten so good at hiding it that we didn't know where they were. Today our intelligence about it is even worse. Second, successful inspections will take a long long time - probably on the order of 4 to 6 years -- and they can only work if the international community remains united and determined to compel Saddam to comply, but all of the evidence indicates that other than the US and maybe a handful of other countries, no one else is willing to make the effort necessary to make Saddam comply. And so as I - and most of the former inspectors - believe is that new inspections might work for a year or so but at some point soon we will find ourselves right back where we were in 1998 with Saddam cheating on the inspections and no one willing to make his stop.

Also see my set of posts on Preemption, Deterrence, Containment and on Inspections and Sanctions.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2002 November 19 12:01 AM  Inspections and Sanctions


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