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WMD Terrorism

Blix Assumes Charge of UNMOVIC; Security Council Debates Oil-for-Food

Matthew Rice

WITH NO END in sight to Iraq's opposition to renewed arms inspections, Hans Blix, executive chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), assumed his post March 1 and began work on an organizational plan for the fledgling organization. At a press conference the same day, Blix offered some details about the organization's potential makeup and his approach to re-establishing the inspections regime.

According to Blix, UNMOVIC will not adopt a less aggressive monitoring posture at the expense of onsite inspections. "The Security Council confirmed the right of UNMOVIC to unrestricted access to sites and to information and, indeed, I intend to exercise that," he said. The role of surprise inspections may be smaller, however. "I am also determined that our role is not to humiliate the Iraqis," Blix said.

Blix maintained that none of the weapons files are closed, but noted that while chemical and biological weapons issues have the most discrepancies to be accounted for, "total clarification" would be impossible. "There will always be a small residue of uncertainty…in a vast country there is no way you can be sure," he said.

Blix also clarified his position on hiring personnel from UNMOVIC's predecessor, the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM), for his own staff. The likelihood that some UNSCOM inspectors would be included on the UNMOVIC team was high, he said, citing the necessity of retaining UNSCOM's institutional memory. But the positions will be open to outside competition and will require complete allegiance to UNMOVIC and the United Nations, eventually eliminating UNSCOM's practice of "borrowing" experts from member governments.

While the decision on the composition of the staff must await Blix's submission of an organizational plan, several faces were added to the UNMOVIC roster with the March 8 announcement of the organization's college of commissioners. (See listing.) The 17 commissioners (16 appointees plus Blix as chairman) will review UNMOVIC reports before they are submitted to the Security Council. In a shift from the composition of the UNSCOM college of commissioners, who were primarily experts on technical aspects of the verification process, the new body also includes several career diplomats. Blix emphasized that the college was an advisory body and that he would make all final decisions.

Looming over UNMOVIC's preparatory activities in New York is the question of when, if ever, Iraq will accept Security Council Resolution 1284, which established UNMOVIC and offers sanctions relief in exchange for Iraqi cooperation on arms inspections. (See ACT, December 1999.) During the press conference, Blix refused to speculate under what conditions, if any, Iraq would cooperate, stating simply that it was not UNMOVIC's role to "tempt" the Iraqis into allowing inspectors to start their work. Sanctions relief alone should be enough of an inducement, he said.

Other experts expressed less confidence in the wait-and-see approach. Asked whether UNMOVIC was likely to begin inspections in the near future, Charles Dulfer, former deputy chairman of UNSCOM, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 22, "Frankly no…. Iraq got a clear message that there is no strong consensus in the council on this…[and] if they don't believe the council is serious, they're not going to comply."

The clearest evidence of rifts remaining in the Security Council continues to be the disagreement over sanctions and the humanitarian situation in Iraq. On March 24, the council engaged in a rancorous debate on the efficacy of the oil-for-food program, the poor state of Iraq's oil production infrastructure, and the role of the UN Sanctions Committee, which reviews requests from Iraq for dual-use items.

While the debate did not break significant new ground in either strengthening or weakening the regime the U.S. representative, James Cunningham, asked the council not to ignore continuing U.S. efforts to improve the responsiveness of the oil-for-food program despite Iraqi intransigence and oil smuggling. Responding to charges that the United States places undue holds on dual-use contracts, Cunningham said, "In reviewing oil-for-food contracts, the United States has acted, and will continue to act, strictly and objectively in accordance with the arms control policies defined by the council…. Our holds are not politically motivated, nor are they driven by calculations of commercial prospect or gain."

UNMOVIC College of Commisioners

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Hans BLIX, Sweden, executive chairman, UNMOVIC

Gunterio HEINEKEN, Argentina, technical adviser, Applied Chemistry Department, Technical and Scientific Research Institute of the Armed Forces

Roque MONTELEONE NETO, Brazil, technical adviser on the Biological Weapons Convention

Ronald CLEMINSON, Canada, former UNSCOM commissioner

Cheikh SYLLA, Senegal, ambassador to Burkina Faso

CONG Guang, China, deputy director, Political Division, Department of International Organizations and Conferences, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Takanori KAZUHARA, Japan, former ambassador

Malmi Marjatta RAUTIO, Finland, former UNSCOM


Thérèse DELPECH, France, director for strategic affairs, Atomic Energy Commission

Reinhard BÖHM, Germany, chair of environmental and animal hygeine, University of Hohenheim

Annaswamy Narayana PRASAD, India, former director, Bhabha Atomic Research Center

Adigun Ade ABIODUN, Nigeria, senior special assistant to the president on space, science, and technology

Yuriy FEDOTOV, Russia, director, International Organizations Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Kostyantyn GRYSHCHENKO, Ukraine, member, UN Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters; ambassador to the United States

Robert EINHORN, United States, assistant secretary for nonproliferation, Department of State

Hannelore HOPPE, Germany, senior political affairs officer, UN Department for Disarmament Affairs

Paul SCHULTE, United Kingdom, director, Proliferation and Arms Control, Ministry of Defense

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Blix Assumes Charge of UNMOVIC; Security Council Debates Oil-for-Food

Toward a Consensus on Iraq

How to deal with a scofflaw Iraq remains a pivotal issue in determining the future of the nuclear non-proliferation regime. Saddam Hussein's flagrant violation of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) prior to the Persian Gulf War and his subsequent failure to comply with UN Security Council resolutions mandating the verified destruction of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, culminating in his refusal to accept inspectors from the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM), constitute a brazen challenge to both the NPT and the Security Council. After almost a year of heated bickering, the Security Council has agreed to replace UNSCOM with a new organization, the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC). Unless the new organization succeeds, Saddam will have shown the world that even in defeat a nation can successfully flaunt its legal obligations under the NPT and Security Council resolutions.

In dealing with the new organization, the United States must recognize that a successful policy toward Iraq demands achieving a broad consensus, including among the five permanent Security Council members, on objectives and tactics. Without such a consensus, sanctions cannot be successfully enforced or more forceful actions contemplated.

To this end, the United States should make preventing Iraq from attaining the capability to use nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction its primary objective-a goal that serves the security interests of the other permanent members and all other states of the region. This objective, while more important, is less demanding than the requirement in Security Council Resolution 687 calling for the verified complete elimination of Iraq's former programs to develop weapons of mass destruction. Although Resolution 687 is recognized in UNMOVIC's charter, it is probably unattainable without complete Iraqi cooperation, which is unlikely, and should not be allowed to prevent fulfillment of the more fundamental objective of containing Iraq's future capabilities.

The argument is made that Saddam will never accept UNMOVIC inspections, and this may well be the case. However, in the absence of a new organization, Saddam would certainly not accept inspectors and would rely on hiding behind differences among the permanent members. But, if France, Russia and China can persuade Saddam to accept the new arrangement, the broader objective will be greatly facilitated; if they fail, there will be a new rationale for enforcing sanctions and ultimately employing force if evidence of capabilities to use weapons of mass destruction becomes apparent.

The suggestion has been made that even if Saddam accepts inspections, they would be worse than useless because, in the absence of complete transparency, he could manipulate access to create the illusion of compliance. In the real world, so much is known about the Iraqi programs from UNSCOM and U.S. national intelligence that the inspection of selected suspicious sites would reveal ongoing programs; and if inspections were denied, it would provide cause for further action.

The fact that the new organization will be under the UN secretary-general, and therefore elicit greater international participation, should be looked on as a positive move toward strengthening the international consensus, which was weakened by charges of U.S. domination. While not as closely tied into day-to-day operations, the United States can continue to make information available, as is done with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), without creating the destructive perception that the inspection process is being used by the United States to collect information for its own purposes.

After a difficult selection process, the Security Council wisely agreed upon Hans Blix, former head of the IAEA, to lead UNMOVIC. Charges that he was responsible for the failure to discover Iraq's nuclear program are absurd. At the time, the IAEA was essentially constrained to the inspection of declared facilities. Although special inspections were possible in principle, the United States had apparently chosen not to share its extensive pre-Gulf War knowledge of the Iraqi nuclear program with the IAEA. Subsequently, utilizing U.S. intelligence, Blix brought North Korean violations of the NPT to the Security Council's attention and championed the IAEA's "93+2" improvement program, which confirms the agency's access to suspect sites as well as its use of national intelligence.

The international community has agreed that it must deal with Iraq's transgressions. The administration must now make every effort to assist the new organization as a multinational effort and not compromise it by attempting to micromanage or overburden its operation. The objective now is not to find the last piece of undeclared equipment, but to build a strong international consensus that Iraq will not be allowed to emerge as a nuclear threat to its region and the world.

Iraq's Reconstitution of Its Nuclear Weapons Program

October 1998

By David Albright and Khidhir Hamza

Iraq has provided few credible indications that its nearly three-decade quest for nuclear weapons has ended. Since its invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, however, Iraq has had an extremely difficult time making any progress in building nuclear weapons. The economic sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council after the invasion disrupted many vital imports, particularly for Iraq's uranium enrichment program. The allied bombing campaign destroyed many of its key nuclear facilities.

The subsequent, highly intrusive inspections mandated by the Security Council and carried out by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Action Team in cooperation with the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) exposed and destroyed vast amounts of nuclear equipment and materials. In the process, the inspections uncovered a long-standing and determined clandestine nuclear weapons program, despite Iraqi denials until 1995 that such a program existed. Currently, essentially all of Iraq's pre-Gulf War nuclear facilities and equipment have been eliminated or converted to non-proscribed purposes under periodic Action Team inspections. But Iraq retains its nuclear cadres and its extensive knowledge and experience built up before the Gulf War. Moreover, some key unanswered questions remain about Iraq's effort to build the nuclear weapon itself—called "weaponization" here—and to build a gas centrifuge enrichment program to enrich uranium for weapons purposes.

Since the war, Iraq is suspected of having made progress on a number of bottlenecks in its weapons program, at least those which could be done with little chance of detection by inspectors. These activities include design work, laboratory efforts, subcomponent production, and the operation of test machines. If the inspection system becomes ineffective, Iraq could reconstitute major aspects of its nuclear weapons program that would likely be discovered under the current inspection regime, a combination of historical investigations and an on-going monitoring and verification (OMV) system. Even under the OMV regime, Iraq's illicit acquisition of plutonium or highly enriched uranium (HEU) from the former Soviet Union would be very difficult to detect. Because of this and other weaknesses, the OMV system needs improvement to be effective in deterring and detecting Iraq's banned activities.

There are few alternatives. A nuclear-armed Iraq would be extremely dangerous. Nuclear weapons would aid Saddam Hussein in ensuring his own survival and increasing his regional power. If he detonated a nuclear explosive underground, the international community, and in particular the United States, may not risk intervention, particularly if definitive information about the size of Iraq's nuclear arsenal is lacking.

Essential to any discussion about about Iraq or the OMV system are estimates of the time needed for Iraq to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program. Such an assessment requires a thorough understanding of Iraq's pre-war program and reasonable inferences about its activities after the war. This article attempts to summarize this discussion and outline some of the most important scenarios of how Iraq may reconstitute its nuclear weapons program. In addition, this article looks at a neglected part of the entire inspection process, namely improving methods to reduce the risk posed by the Iraqi nuclear scientists. There is wide agreement about their central importance to any Iraqi attempt to reconstitute its nuclear program. Yet, little has been done to reduce the threat they pose.


Acquiring a Safeguarded Fuel Cycle

Since its inception in the early 1970s, Iraq's nuclear weapons program has depended on deception and determination. Originally, the plan, which one of us (Hamza) authored, was to acquire a complete nuclear fuel cycle able to produce and separate plutonium. The plan focused on the foreign acquisition of complete nuclear facilities with training in their use conducted in the supplier country.

During the 1970s, Iraq concentrated on acquiring nuclear facilities overseas that would have been under IAEA safeguards, since Iraq had signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968. Nonetheless, Iraq reckoned it could defeat the safeguards at these facilities or secretly build undeclared duplicate facilities.

In 1976, Iraq succeeded in buying from France a 40-megawatt materials test reactor called the Tammuz-1 reactor, or Osiraq reactor, that ran on weapons-grade uranium fuel. In 1979, Iraq established a radiochemical laboratory, equipped through a contract with the Italian company SNIA-Techint, suitable for laboratory research on reprocessing. It also acquired a fuel fabrication plant from Italy that was suitable for making natural uranium targets for secret irradiation in the Osiraq reactor.

Iraqi teams calculated that the Osiraq reactor could conservatively produce about 5 kilograms to 7 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium per year. This value could be higher or lower depending on how the targets were arranged in the reactor; it also depended on the frequency of visits by IAEA inspectors and French personnel. The Iraqis believed that the safeguards on the reactor, which would have included periodic inspections and surveillance cameras, could have been defeated. Prior to visits by IAEA inspectors and French personnel, Iraq planned to pull out the unsafeguarded targets. Iraq had also developed plans to defeat the cameras.

Before Iraq could illicitly produce any plutonium and put the IAEA's safeguards to the test, however, Israel bombed the reactor in June 1981, shortly before the reactor was scheduled to go into operation. The radiochemical laboratory and fuel fabrication plant were not bombed. Later, the fabrication facility was used to produce unsafeguarded targets which were irradiated in a Russian-supplied research reactor to produce plutonium. The reactor also irradiated bismuth targets to make polonium-210, a material used in beryllium-polonium neutron initiators which trigger the nuclear explosion. Material from the targets was extracted in the Italian radiochemical laboratory, which was expanded in the early 1980s.


Iraq Goes Underground

Following the bombing of the Osiraq reactor, Iraq decided to: (1) replace the Osiraq reactor or to develop a heavy water or enriched uranium reactor and associated plutonium separation capability; and (2) develop a uranium enrichment production capacity.

Iraq tried to replace the Osiraq reactor, but by 1985, it realized that it could not buy a replacement. Before the bombing, Iraq had developed plans and purchased some minor items for a 20- to 40-megawatt heavy water natural uranium reactor. After delays in buying a replacement reactor, Iraq decided to pursue this reactor project again. In the late 1980s, however, it put its plans on hold, facing resource limitations. But Iraq continued its efforts to learn how to separate plutonium from irradiated fuel and to make heavy water. Depending on the success of the enrichment programs, Iraq may have reconstituted the nuclear reactor project.

Even before the Israeli bombing of the Osiraq reactor, Iraqi scientists had been evaluating the development of uranium enrichment technologies. However, Iraq has declared that a decision by the Iraqi leadership to pursue these options came after the June 1981 bombing. An Iraqi evaluation finished in 1981 concluded that electromagnetic isotope separation (EMIS) was the most appropriate technology for Iraq and that gaseous diffusion was the next most appropriate option. Gaseous diffusion was planned to produce low-enriched uranium (LEU) which could be used as a feedstock for EMIS, dramatically increasing overall HEU production in EMIS separators. If EMIS was unsuccessful, the plan called for expanding the gaseous diffusion facility to produce HEU directly. At the time, gas centrifuge technology was viewed as too difficult to accomplish. (See below.)



The goal of the EMIS program was to build two production units, each able to achieve 15 kilograms per year of weapons-grade uranium using natural uranium feed. Iraqi estimates of the HEU output using LEU feed (enriched to 2.5 percent uranium-235) vary between roughly 25 kilograms and 50 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium per year. The variation reflects different plant designs and performance uncertainties.

After several years of research and development work of mixed success, Iraq nonetheless started in 1987 to build its first EMIS production facility at Tarmiya, north of Baghdad. Also in late 1987, Iraq decided to build a replica of Tarmiya at Al Sharqat, about 200 kilometers northwest of Baghdad. This facility, which was built by Iraqis only, was originally viewed as a second production site that would come into operation roughly at the same time as Tarmiya. In the late 1980s, this plan was modified to one where Al Sharqat would operate after Tarmiya was finished. Iraq also sought unsafeguarded LEU on the international market during the late 1980s. However, it has declared that its search was half-hearted and unsuccessful. Whether this declaration is complete is unclear. As of 1997, the Action Team had not pursued this issue further.

The EMIS program faced repeated delays and technical problems, and by the time of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, Tarmiya was at least a year behind schedule. At that time, Tarmiya was not expected to produce its first goal quantity of weapons-grade uranium, or 15 kilograms, until at least 1992, assuming that the plant would function well and that a stock of LEU would be used. If natural uranium was used, the date for the production of the first goal quantity would have been 1993 or later.

Because of the large size of EMIS facilities, few expect Iraq to try to secretly rebuild its EMIS production facilities. In addition, it still has to overcome several technical problems, including problems in vacuum technology and ion sources, before its separators would work properly. Armed with a stock of LEU, however, Iraq could produce 15 kilograms per year of weapons-grade uranium with a facility about one-third the size of Tarmiya.


Enrichment Options

By 1987 or 1988, when it became apparent to the Iraqi leadership that the gaseous diffusion program was not progressing well, Iraq decided to de-emphasize this effort. It instead concentrated on chemical enrichment as a source of LEU feedstock for the EMIS program. By 1990, Iraq had made little progress in building a chemical enrichment plant. However, both programs could be reconstituted, although substantial technical challenges would need to be overcome before Iraq could operate production-scale facilities.

After the cancellation of the gaseous diffusion program, the team started to work on gas centrifuges. The team had already been transferred from the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center to a new site on the northern edge of Baghdad near Rashdiya, later named the Engineering Design Center (EDC). This change reflected a change of authority from the Atomic Energy Establishment to the Ministry of Industry and Military Industrialization.

This group managed to acquire extensive overseas cooperation in designing and building gas centrifuges, so much so that inspectors have characterized the assistance as key to progress in the centrifuge program.

Despite such help, at the time of the Gulf War, Iraq was still a few years from an operating plant able to produce goal quantities of weapons-grade uranium, declared by the centrifuge program as 1,000 centrifuges producing 10 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium per year. Because of the relatively small size of a gas centrifuge program and the extensive progress made before the war, Iraq is viewed as likely to reconstitute its gas centrifuge program.



Iraq's effort to produce a nuclear explosive started in the mid-1980s. Under a 1988 plan, Iraq intended to have its first weapon by the summer of 1991, based on an implosion design. Iraq had worked on developing the capability to make fissile material for many years prior to this date, and Iraq has explained that the decision at that particular time reflected the expectation that domestically produced HEU would become available within a few years. Iraq intended that its nuclear weapons would be put on ballistic missiles. Iraq faced many problems in trying to reduce and ruggedize its design to fit on top of a ballistic missile.

Questions remain about the status of Iraq's weaponization program at the time of the allied bombing campaign in January 1991, when most activities were halted. Nevertheless, the Action Team inspectors have concluded that with the accelerated effort under the crash program, Iraq could have finished a nuclear explosive design by the end of 1991, if certain technical problems were overcome. However, it would have needed longer to prove a design for the Al Hussein missile. This missile, for example, would have required a warhead with a diameter of 70 centimeters to 80 centimeters, much smaller than the diameter of the design nearing completion that had a diameter of about 120 centimeters.

Iraq was also planning to build a nuclear test site, called the Al Sahara Project. At the time of the allied bombing campaign, Iraq had picked candidate sites in southwest Iraq but it had not performed a site investigation. In addition, according to a senior Iraqi nuclear official, Iraq did not plan to conduct a test before it had accumulated a few nuclear weapons. Iraq has stated that it planned to develop confidence in its weapon designs through an extensive experimental testing program that stopped short of a full-scale nuclear test.


Crash Program

By the time Iraq invaded Kuwait, Iraq still lacked an indigenous source of fissile material; its enrichment plants were still far away from producing HEU. In mid-August 1990, the Iraqi leadership ordered the diversion of its stock of safeguarded HEU fuel. Iraq's initial plan was to extract the HEU from the fuel, further enrich a portion of it, and build a nuclear weapon. The goal was to execute this plan within six months, although by the time of the allied bombing campaign in mid-January 1991 which stopped the effort, Iraq had fallen several months behind. A nuclear warhead for a ballistic missile would have taken significantly longer.


Iraq has denied trying to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program after the Gulf War, although Iraqi documents suggest otherwise, at least for the period right after the war. Documents dated early June 1991 but finished several weeks earlier, called for salvaged equipment for processing safeguarded HEU fuel to be moved from the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center to Tarmiya. Only in late May did the first inspection team show up at Tarmiya, unknowingly halting any Iraqi effort to reconstitute these projects there.

Determining whether Iraq has conducted any proscribed nuclear activities since the Gulf War remains a thorny problem for the Action Team and UNSCOM. Little evidence has surfaced since the defection in August 1995 of General Hussein Kamel, then head of the Ministry of Industry and Military Industrialization (and Saddam Hussein's son-in-law), suggesting that Iraq has been conducting secret nuclear weapons work. Given the nature of the Iraqi regime, however, few accept that it has given up its nuclear weapons ambitions. Iraq's persistence in weakening inspections and hiding equipment, information and materials over the past seven years at great cost in lost oil revenue has only intensified suspicions about its intentions.

There is no simple answer to how much Iraq has accomplished in its nuclear weapons program since 1991 or how quickly Iraq could obtain nuclear weapons in the future. Below, we consider several important scenarios by which Iraq could build nuclear weapons. These estimates assume that the activities are carried to fruition without being discovered by the inspectors.


What Iraq Still Has

Iraq has demonstrated many times in the past seven years that it will make great sacrifices to preserve its basic resources for its weapons program. Nonetheless, vast amounts of equipment, materials and facilities have been destroyed by the inspectors. There are no known facilities working on nuclear weapons. The IAEA routinely says it has no evidence that banned activities are happening. However, an IAEA statement that it found "no evidence of any activity" does not mean that it has "evidence for no activity." This distinction is important.

Iraq is known to have kept its nuclear weapon teams together following the Gulf War. These teams are kept together by force and intimidation. They appear not to be significantly reduced in size or number from before the Gulf War. Many of these scientists are now in "unreal career paths," according to one Action Team inspector, and could be quickly redirected to nuclear weapons activities, if a decision were made to do so. Iraq has a relatively complete set of documents, despite its frequent protestations to the contrary. It has undoubtedly continued since the war collecting relevant data, reports and information throughout the world. Travel by Iraqis and Internet access have continued.

Following the Gulf War, Iraq established a program at its universities to train a new generation of nuclear scientists and provide more advanced instruction to members of the program. The new scientists are viewed as more loyal to the regime and may apply their expertise only in Iraq, further inhibiting defections. Many key nuclear scientists also gained experience and confidence after the war by rebuilding Iraq's civil industries. Nuclear scientists were instrumental in putting oil refineries, telephone exchanges and power stations back into operation under adverse conditions.

We believe that Iraqi scientists have been conducting theoretical design work and small-scale research and development in a wide range of proscribed areas since inspections began. Iraq may have also modified non-banned items that would be useful for small-scale research and development (R&D) and manufacturing work. Small numbers of such items may have been smuggled from abroad. Nonetheless, extensive progress by Iraqi scientists has been likely hampered by poor working conditions and the IAEA's and UNSCOM's intense scrutiny of the Iraqi program and facilities (and the difficulty in smuggling in key items, or items in sufficient quantity, from abroad).

However, these hardships should not disguise an important cultural shift in the nuclear program. In a new era of international sanctions, intense scrutiny and a lack of funds, new and more ruthless management teams are likely to emerge. The lack of accomplishments prior to the Gulf War, frequently exposed by the inspectors, will drive the new program to correct old mistakes and be more self-reliant and productive. Iraq's core asset is its seasoned and well-experienced cadre. These scientists can be expected to create more focused and productive programs at a reduced cost, size and visibility.


Post-War Weaponization

Prior to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, Iraq was unable to achieve its goal of making a nuclear explosive or weapon. This weakness inhibited its ability to take advantage of the safeguarded HEU fuel before the start of the allied bombing campaign. Iraq probably has focused on making sure it would not be so limited again, if it were presented with a new supply of plutonium or HEU. It is difficult to detect small-scale weaponization work, such as high explosive lenses, uranium metallurgy and neutron initiators—even under the most intrusive inspection regimes. Based on our own assessment conducted in mid-1997, we concluded that in early January 1991 Iraq was within a few months to a year of building a nuclear explosive. Building a weapon able to be mounted to a ballistic missile would have required more time.

After the war, scientists in the weaponization program worked six days a week, eight hours per day. They had time to resolve several theoretical design issues they could not properly evaluate during the crash program. They conducted a range of theoretical activities, such as computer simulations of the atomic explosion. They also worked on more advanced explosives for the device. These activities led to a much better understanding of nuclear explosives and their behavior.

Iraq worked on small-scale experiments to improve its knowledge of particular components. It may have smuggled in subcomponents, machine tools and other items. Technicians could have continued to improve their skills in making uranium components by using surrogate materials. Iraq has worked on improving the design of high-explosive lenses and its ability to make them.

A special problem for Iraq is the neutron initiator. Its pre-war design was based on beryllium and polonium-210, a highly radioactive material with a half-life of about one year. Any polonium-210 Iraq may have successfully hidden from inspectors would have decayed away by now. Because Iraq obtained its polonium by irradiating bismuth targets in its research reactor, which is now defunct, it cannot produce more. Thus, Iraq needs a new type of neutron generator, and one likely candidate is a pulsed neutron generator based on tritium and deuterium. Iraq obtained several pulsed tritium-deuterium generators that are used in the oil exploration industry. One of the "oil well logging" devices could be suitable to trigger a nuclear explosive. Iraq also had established a program before the war to build its own pulsed neutron generator, but this program did not progress very far.

One of us (Hamza) was involved in an attempt in 1991 to create an off-shore company in Jordan to produce tritium-deuterium generators. The company would have produced these generators for the oil industry, but in secret; it would also have produced miniaturized neutron generators for use in Iraqi nuclear weapons. The company would have depended on the involvement of an East European expert with long experience in building such devices. This expert was not told the true purpose of the company, but he said that a civilian endeavor could no longer be done in Iraq because of the UN sanctions. Hamza pulled out of the project when Iraq stated that he could not take his family with him to Jordan. He believes that the company was never built in Jordan.

Assuming that Iraq has done nothing on weaponization since the Gulf War, we estimate that Iraq may need more than a year to reconstitute its program and finish a device, absent the fissile material. However, this scenario appears unlikely. The more likely scenario is that Iraq has made progress since the war, although the extent of progress is difficult to judge. Our conclusion is that Iraq could make a nuclear device within two to 12 months after deciding to do so, assuming it acquired sufficient fissile material. We also believe that the more probable time is closer to two months if HEU is obtained. The lower bound of two months includes the time needed to make components out of HEU and conduct any final testing of the device. The design would probably be an implosion system. However, Iraq was working on a gun-type device before the war, but it did not emphasize this design because of an anticipated scarcity of HEU. After the war, this design could have been perfected. If plutonium were obtained, Iraq would likely need more time, but still less than 12 months, to build a modified implosion device. Because the estimated time to complete a device is less than a year, likely considerably less than a year, the emphasis must remain on preventing Iraq from acquiring fissile material.

Our assessment appeared to be confirmed by Scott Ritter, an UNSCOM inspector who resigned in August 1998. He said that UNSCOM had intelligence information which indicates that Iraq has components necessary for three nuclear weapons, lacking only the fissile material. However, Ritter's statement has been challenged as unsubstantiated by UNSCOM, IAEA and U.S. officials. At least three of the four sources Ritter cited as the basis for his information have disputed Ritter's account, according to IAEA and U.S. officials.


Procurement of Fissile Material

Iraq denies ever making any attempt to procure fissile material abroad after the war. It also denies any serious attempt to do so before the war. Iraq has readily admitted, at least after Kamel's defection, that it received many offers for fissile material from abroad. One senior official said in 1996 that in the last 10 years, Iraq had received over 200 offers of everything from red mercury to fissile material to complete nuclear weapons. He insisted that Iraq had turned down every offer.

One offer, however, is being investigated by the Action Team. This offer, described in summary in a one-page document found at Kamel's farm after his defection, was purported to be by A.Q. Khan, the father of Pakistan's gas centrifuge program. An intermediary approached Iraqi intelligence in October 1990 with the following offer: Khan was prepared to give Iraq project designs for a nuclear bomb and to provide assistance in enriching uranium and building a nuclear weapon. He would also ensure any requirements of materials from Western European countries through a company Khan owns in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. He requested a preliminary technical meeting to discuss the documents that he was willing to sell.

However, a meeting with Khan directly was not possible at that time, given the situation. An alternative of setting up a meeting with an intermediary, who had good relations with the Iraqi intelligence agents, was mentioned as a possibility. Iraqi intelligence officials believed the motive was money. Both the Pakistani government and Khan vehemently deny any such offer. Whether or nor Khan was involved, the Iraqis took this offer as genuine. Iraq's statement that it rejected this offer appears credible.

One of us (Hamza) knew of this offer at the time, and believes Iraq would not have pursued it. This type of offer would have given those involved too much knowledge and control over highly secret nuclear programs. What if they talked? Pakistan has had close relations with the United States. If the offer was a scam, large amounts of money could be at risk.

Despite these cases, we know of no evidence that Iraq has procured plutonium or HEU overseas since the war. But concern remains that Iraq may have already attempted to do so in the former Soviet Union. We cannot exclude the possibility that it has already obtained fissile material there. Nonetheless, preventing Iraq from acquiring nuclear explosive material abroad, particularly in Russia and former Soviet republics, remains a difficult but absolutely essential goal.


Gas Centrifuge Program

The gas centrifuge enrichment process is the most critical of the technologies Iraq pursued to make fissile material domestically. This type of activity is difficult to detect under the current OMV system. Before the war, Iraq made substantial progress in mastering the operation and construction of a variety of gas centrifuge designs. It also acquired illegally a large number of highly classified gas centrifuge design, operation and manufacturing documents from German centrifuge experts.

Suspicions remain that gas centrifuge activity resumed after the war at Rashdiya. Little verified information exists for activities at Rashdiya after the war. It was not bombed at all during the war, and it was not inspected until the summer of 1991, and then only in a cursory manner. Iraq has declared that in March 1991, it started bringing evacuated equipment and materials back to Rashdiya, but had not finished reconstituting its program by the time it accepted the UN Security Council Resolution 687 (the Gulf War cease-fire resolution) in April. Iraq says that it did not resume any centrifuge work at Rashdiya or elsewhere after the war.

Nevertheless, questions remain about why Iraq decided to hide Rashdiya's existence. Although Iraq chose to tell the inspectors about many of the centrifuge program's accomplishments and the existence of other unknown centrifuge sites, it decided not to reveal Rashdiya or the extent of foreign assistance. Iraq continued to deny the importance of Rashdiya even after defectors had identified the site in 1991. Iraq came clean about Rashdiya and the extent of foreign assistance only after Kamel's defection in 1995, when exposure was certain.

Iraq also continues to maintain that all centrifuge program reports and progress reports were destroyed during the bombing or after the war. This statement is viewed by the Action Team as non-credible because documents from the rest of the Iraqi nuclear programs continue to surface. The collection of papers from Kamel's farm also included several tons of maraging steel and large quantities of carbon fiber, both key materials in making gas centrifuges. The inspectors did not know that Iraq still had this material. Whether some was used in small-scale R&D activities is unknown. In addition, Iraq may have acquired more such materials. An Iraqi official has bragged to inspectors that overseas procurement of maraging steel is no problem.

Iraq could have made progress in the following areas. It could have improved its ability to make centrifuge components to high tolerances, an absolute must for the successful operation of centrifuges and a difficult problem for Iraqi industry. Centrifuge experts could have expanded their theoretical and "hands-on" knowledge of single machines or a few hooked together by pipes into a cascade. Iraq may have also procured illicitly more machine tools to make centrifuge components. Despite this progress, Iraq would still face formidable challenges in making significant progress toward building a facility able to make kilograms of weapons-grade uranium annually. It would also need to acquire a stock of uranium hexafluoride, a demanding task.

We consider two cases, which both assume that Iraq has not started to build a centrifuge facility, whose goal capacity is taken as 10 kilograms per year of weapons-grade uranium. These cases also assume that Iraq may opt for a simpler centrifuge design that is easier to build and requires materials and equipment that are less controlled internationally.

The first case posits that Iraq needs to procure manufacturing equipment, build a manufacturing plant, conduct additional testing of the centrifuge design, produce uranium hexafluoride and manufacture 1,000 to 2,000 centrifuges. We estimate that Iraq would need about three to seven years to accomplish this set of tasks and produce its first 10 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium. The second case assumes that Iraq just needs to manufacture the centrifuges in sufficient number, having finished all necessary testing and procurement of materials and equipment. In this case, Iraq would need an estimated two to three years to bring the plant into operation and produce its first 10 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium. In brief, Iraq would need at least a few years to construct and operate a clandestine gas centrifuge enrichment plant. Because Iraq would need to procure several key items abroad, the inspection system needs to have a strong export-import focus in order to have a better chance of detecting Iraq's procurement efforts.


Focus on Iraqi Scientists

The Action Team realized soon after inspections started the importance of identifying and interviewing key Iraqi nuclear scientists. Most key scientists have been identified. Over a hundred are periodically interviewed by the Action Team. However, this process is inadequate in obtaining necessary information or ensuring early warning if these scientists are engaged in prohibited activities.

Most of the scientists are virtual prisoners. They live in fear of their government's punishments if they do or say anything outside the limits imposed by it. Even if they manage to leave, their families are held hostage with the possibility of terrible reprisals against them if they reveal any significant information. Currently, Iraqi scientists are interviewed in the presence of government security officials. This arrangement gives the Iraqi regime control over what the scientists can say and provides an easy way to control the information flowing to the inspectors. One of us (Hamza) was told that in case the inspectors found out his former role as head of the weaponization program, he was not to make himself available to inspectors. If he was forced to talk to them, he was instructed to claim not to remember anything about what he did.

On one inspection, the other author (Albright) was able to interview Iraqi scientists only in groups or in the presence of a "minder." One-to-one contacts usually involved pleasantries or being pulled aside to be "fed a line." In one case, the head of the gas centrifuge program tried to convince him that the first gas centrifuge facility would have taken years to finish.

Typically, the interviews are video-taped by the Iraqis. These tapes provide the Iraqis with a means to analyze in detail the information that is revealed in those sessions, any mistakes that are made, and the underlying knowledge and strategy of the inspectors. The genesis of this interviewing process dates to the beginning of inspections. One inspector said that it did not occur to the inspectors to do it any other way. "We just did not think about it," he added.

At least, the inspectors need to have the right to interview the scientists without their "minders," particularly under the OMV program. Ideally, such interviews should be conducted in another country. An alternative is to conduct the interviews in a secure room, which for example exists at the Baghdad Verification and Monitoring Center.


Getting the Scientists Out

A better solution is to create a method to allow Saddam's cadre of knowledgeable nuclear weapon scientists and their families to leave Iraq safely. With years of valuable experience before the war, Iraq's nuclear weapon experts are both a valuable and necessary asset to implement a decision to seek nuclear weapons. If the key scientists leave, Iraq may be unable to reconstitute a nuclear weapons program.

A practical method to implement this proposal is for the United States to link its support for lifting sanctions to Iraq agreeing to allow certain scientists and their families to leave Iraq. Such a method would avoid the need for Security Council agreement and permit the United States to name the scientists it wants out.

Would any scientists leave Iraq voluntarily? There is a growing recognition that many of the nuclear experts are not committed to remaining in this highly repressive police state. Most of the experts were arbitrarily assigned to the nuclear weapons program after returning from overseas education. After suffering years of hardships created by sanctions, many scientists and their families could be expected to leave. As mentioned earlier, the vast majority of the former nuclear weapon scientists have been identified through captured Iraqi documents and Action Team inspections. The resettlement of just a few dozen key scientists would devastate Saddam's ability to rebuild his nuclear weapons program.

Key to the success of this initiative is protecting the scientists and their families from retaliation. The United States would be a possible resettlement country, because it can provide adequate protection against Saddam's agents if he decides to violate Security Council resolutions. The Security Council would also need to assign the Action Team and UNSCOM the task of investigating any suspected retaliation against family members in Iraq. In the event of retaliation, the Security Council must be ready to punish Iraq decisively.

The scientists would need to be provided economic support until they could find adequate employment. Any costs during this resettlement process could be collected from Iraq, just as the costs of UNSCOM and Action Team inspections are taken from proceeds of Iraqi oil sales. For their part, these experts would commit not to work in any weapons of mass destruction program and agree to host government or Action Team monitoring to ensure that they are not violating their commitment or secretly helping Saddam to rebuild his military programs.

Time is running out to deprive Saddam of his most valuable remaining nuclear weapons asset. If successful, this initiative could nip an Iraqi nuclear weapons program in the bud. The alternative is letting the nuclear cadre, intimidated by Saddam, remain in Iraq, awaiting the inevitable orders to reconstitute the nuclear weapons program or train the next generation of nuclear weapons experts.



Ensuring that Iraq does not build nuclear weapons will require vigilance. The chance of Iraq building nuclear weapons in secret depends critically on the effectiveness of the OMV system. If inspections become ineffective, even if sanctions remain, Iraq's chance of success will be unacceptably high. Iraq has developed a deep understanding of the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of the entire inspection system. It appears to have a strategy to weaken inspections at will. Although a robust and constantly improving inspection system is necessary to detect and thwart Iraq's proscribed nuclear activities, Security Council enforcement of the inspections, backed up by U.S. and British willingness to use military force, will remain vital to the future effectiveness of inspections.

The OMV needs improvement, including a more system-wide approach to its design and deployment. More environmental monitoring in Iraq is needed. Improved cooperation on detecting illicit imports into Iraq is also increasingly vital, as the sanctions become less effective. International efforts to improve controls over fissile material in the former Soviet Union must receive a higher priority. With a strengthened, enforced OMV program, Iraq is far less likely to build nuclear weapons in secret. If key Iraqi scientists are brought to the West, Saddam Hussein may find it difficult to succeed in building nuclear weapons for many years.

Ultimately, the goal of the inspections in Iraq is to buy time, in hopes that the regime will either change or give up its ambitions for nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction. A highly confrontational inspection system has little chance of lasting for decades in any country. It is a tribute to the Security Council, and in particular the United States, that the inspections have lasted this long. But the system of stringent inspections must remain effective at least as long as the current regime persists on its noncooperative path. The stakes are high. A nuclear-armed Iraq could haunt the world for decades, and make the accomplishment of Middle East peace a dream of the past.

Iraq's Reconstitution of Its Nuclear Weapons Program

Iraq Blocks UNSCOM Monitoring; Security Council Calls for Review

ESCALATING ITS standoff with the UN Security Council, Iraq announced on October 31 that it would no longer allow inspectors from the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) to monitor sites in Iraq for prohibited weapons activities. On August 5, Baghdad suspended inspections by UNSCOM, which oversees chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missile programs, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which handles nuclear issues, into Iraq's past weapons activities. Iraq's announcement specified only UNSCOM's monitoring activities, but will likely affect IAEA's monitoring work as well, since the IAEA depends heavily on UNSCOM for logistical support. Iraq's action may have been prompted by the Security Council's approval on October 30 of a plan for a "comprehensive review" of Iraq's compliance with its disarmament obligations that was not to Baghdad's liking. The review, provided for in Security Council Resolution 1194 (approved September 9), can only proceed after Baghdad revokes its August 5 decision to suspend UNSCOM and IAEA investigations. Initially supported by states sympathetic to Iraq as means of narrowing the remaining disarmament issues and thus hastening the end of sanctions, the final review plan does not appear to provide Baghdad much leeway.

The Security Council issued a statement on October 31 condemning Iraq's action and demanding that Baghdad "rescind immediately and unconditionally" the bans on both monitoring and inspections. While the United States has taken a decidedly low-key approach to Iraq's August blockage of UNSCOM inspections, the latest interference with monitoring activities is likely to provoke a more robust response. (See ACT, August/September, 1998.) President Clinton termed the Iraqi decision "a clear violation of the UN Security Council Resolutions" and stated, "From my point of view we should keep all our options open."


UNSCOM & IAEA Reports Presented

Amid the Security Council's deliberations on the nature of the comprehensive review, UNSCOM and the IAEA presented their latest biannual reports on Iraq on October 6 and 7, respectively. The IAEA report stated—as did the previous IAEA report—that "no indication of prohibited materials, equipment or activities" had been found in the last six months, but cautioned that without inspections, the agency is unable "to ensure that prohibited activities are not being carried out in Iraq." The report also reiterated past concerns about missing information on Iraq's nuclear weaponization and centrifuge development efforts, offers of foreign assistance, and documents showing Baghdad has officially ended its nuclear weapons program.

Similarly, UNSCOM's report recalled previous submissions to the Security Council documenting significant gaps and discrepancies in Baghdad's declarations of its ballistic missile, biological and chemical weapons holdings and production capabilities. Highlighting the relatively small number of outstanding issues in the missile and chemical areas, UNSCOM concluded that its disarmament work in those areas "is possibly near its end" if Iraq chooses to cooperate.


BW Concerns Remain

Efforts to verify the destruction of Iraq's biological weapons program have been much less successful, and the UNSCOM report listed gaps in Iraq's declarations on biological weapons munitions, stocks of biological agents, and growth media. The report noted that a panel of international experts asked in July to verify Iraq's latest declarations recommended that no further "expert level" verification efforts be made "until Iraq commits itself to provide substantive, new information."

Another international group of experts assembled by UNSCOM reported to the Security Council on October 26 that Iraq had, contrary to its claims, weaponized the nerve agent VX for delivery by ballistic missiles. The VX panel confirmed the validity of tests (performed by a U.S. laboratory on missile warhead fragments unearthed in May at a warhead destruction site) that found degraded VX and a VX stabilizing agent. Other samples later analyzed by French, Swiss and American labs did not show VX, but revealed the presence of a chemical compound and a decontamination agent that should not have been present had Iraqi claims of the warheads' contents been accurate.


Review in Limbo

With the three reports in hand, and with Iraq continuing to refuse access for inspections, the Security Council adopted on October 30 a plan for the comprehensive review that is slightly at odds with Secretary-General Kofi Annan's original October 5 proposal. Instead of asking UNSCOM and the IAEA to provide evidence to demonstrate that Iraq has not complied with its disarmament obligations, the review plan calls on the two agencies to report on Iraqi compliance with the UN disarmament resolutions and to identify "any tasks which still need to be undertaken."

Pointing out that it cannot "prejudge the outcome of the review," the Security Council nevertheless suggested the process would conclude with the creation of a list of "remaining steps" to be taken by Iraq and a "likely time-frame for this purpose, assuming full Iraqi cooperation." The council also agreed that the review could only take place once the secretary-general has received reports from UNSCOM and the IAEA confirming that they are receiving "full cooperation from Iraq."

Dismantling the Concept Of 'Weapons of Mass Destruction'

April 1998

By Wolfgang K. H. Panofsky

The world today faces a confused and potentially extremely dangerous situation in its current contradictory treatment of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons-commonly referred to collectively as weapons of mass destruction (WMD). A worldwide norm has been established which prohibits use and even possession of biological weapons (BW) and chemical weapons (CW), while possession and some uses of nuclear weapons by the five nuclear-weapon states remain legal, and the nuclear weapons potential of the "threshold" states-India, Israel and Pakistan-are tacitly accepted by the nuclear powers. Thus, nuclear weapons, which have been demonstrated to be by far the most destructive of the three classes of weapons, remain legitimate within certain restrictions while biological and chemical weapons, with more limited and problematic effectiveness, have been outlawed.

In addition to their differing legal status, these three classes of weapons are very diverse in their technical nature and military significance. Progress in controlling each category of weapons and resolution of the contradictions in the existing non-proliferation regime is made more difficult by lumping biological, chemical and nuclear weapons together under the banner of WMD.

The contradictory nature of these international norms raises questions with far-reaching consequences. First, what should U.S. policy be on the use, or threatened use, of nuclear weapons as a deterrent or response against possession or use of BW and CW? The United States has agreed to give up all biological and chemical weapons and, therefore, cannot threaten retaliation against the use of biological and chemical weapons in kind. Consequently, U.S. deterrence against the use or threatened use of such weapons has to be based either on conventional military superiority or through an expressed or tacit nuclear threat.

A second, more profound, question is: How will the role of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons evolve from the present situation, with its fundamental discriminatory nature and internal inconsistencies with regard to nuclear weapons. One can surmise four potential future paths; two are damaging to the security interests of the United States and the world, while the other two would potentially reduce the threat posed by the existing imbalance in non-proliferation efforts.

On the negative side, the United States faces the risk that the existing prohibitions over BW and CW will unravel as nuclear weapons remain in the hands of the nuclear-weapon states and possibly new nuclear proliferants; or, that the existing nuclear non-proliferation regime will be undermined as other states seek a nuclear option as a deterrent to BW and CW. On the positive side, the United States can hope that the present pattern, with its prohibitions against BW and CW, will endure as the nuclear-weapon states and threshold states gradually reduce their dependence on nuclear weapons; or, that the international community will be persuaded to extend the norm prohibiting BW and CW possession and use to nuclear weapons worldwide as well.


Diversity of Military Roles

The three classes of WMD's differ greatly with respect to: potential lethality and destructive power; the feasibility of protection and defenses; and, the potential mission of these weapons.


Lethality and Destructive Power

Nuclear weapons can increase the total explosive power that can be delivered in military payloads by up to a factor of a million. The weapons detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which killed about a quarter of a million people, had an explosive power about one-tenth that carried by a modern nuclear weapon. Even after reductions from Cold War heights, today's arsenals still comprise over 30,000 weapons worldwide.

The destructive power of nuclear weapons is well understood. If a 1-megaton thermonuclear warhead exploded at optimum altitude over a large city, little would be left standing or alive within five miles. A firestorm could be ignited, further extending the range of destruction. In a large-scale exchange, lethal fallout would cover an entire region. The "kill expectancy" of nuclear weapons against hardened military targets can be accurately predicted. Using sophisticated technology, "small" nuclear weapons weighing as little as 100 pounds can be constructed in the kiloton-yield range.

Biological weapons have not been used in warfare in modern times, but they have been and are still being stockpiled. The former Soviet Union had an extensive program, the status of which remains under some cloud. The United States had an offensive BW program until the early 1970s. The future threat of biological weapons is real. Modern technology has produced and will continue to produce a long list of potentially powerful agents and toxins, and several means of dispersal have been tested.

Much has been written recently about the lethality of biological weapons. If virulent BW materials were to be widely distributed over an exposed population, then the ratio of potential lethality to the total weight of the material could be comparable to that of nuclear weapons. However, for this horrifying scenario to occur, the materials cannot be dispersed by a single-point explosion, but instead must be spread by an appropriate mechanism such as spray tanks or by "fractionating" a missile's payload and dispersing separate mini-munitions over a wide area. Moreover, survival of BW material depends critically on local meteorological and other conditions which define the delivery environment. The survival of agents is generally of short duration and effects are delayed for days. Fortunately, there is no operational experience and test data are limited.

Chemical weapons were used extensively by the Central and Allied Powers during World War I, and to a very limited extent in World War II when Japan used them in its invasion of Manchuria. Iraq has used chemical weapons against both its own Kurdish population and Iran, and Egypt reportedly used CW against Yemen in the mid-1960s. The United States and Russia still possess their Cold War inventories of 30,000 and 40,000 tons of agents, respectively, which they are committed to destroy over the next decade at a cost of as much as $15 billion to $20 billion.

There is little question that the lethality of chemical weapons-as measured by per unit weight of delivered munitions-is lower by many orders of magnitude than it is for nuclear weapons or the undemonstrated and inherently uncertain potential of biological weapons. Thus, it is misleading to include chemical weapons in the category of WMD; "weapons of indiscriminate destruction" or "weapons of terror" might be a more appropriate designation.


Feasibility of Defenses

Meaningful defense against nuclear weapons, either by passive or active means, is extremely difficult if not impossible. This conclusion stems both from the extreme destructiveness of a single nuclear explosion and the multitude of delivery options available to an attacker. Each attempted intercept would have to be extremely effective and the defense must be all-inclusive against feasible means of nuclear attack. Delivery vehicles for nuclear weapons in the form of land- or sea-based ballistic and cruise missiles of various ranges, artillery shells and aircraft have been developed and deployed. Nuclear explosives have been "weaponized" into atomic demolition munitions, anti-submarine weapons, earth penetrators, and air and missile defense warheads. Nuclear weapons can also be delivered on short-range missiles fired from nearby ships, detonated on board ships in a harbor, or simply smuggled across national borders.

During World War II, British air defenses succeeded in shooting down approximately one in 10 attacking aircraft carrying conventional bombs. As a result, German air force units were reduced by a factor of three after flying 10 attacking sorties. London stood, although it was badly battered. Yet a single, successfully delivered large thermonuclear warhead would have wiped out most of the population and structures of that great city. Thus, the standard which a defense against nuclear weapons has to meet is vastly higher than that required for conventional military exchanges. Such a standard simply cannot be met, particularly given the action-reaction dynamics between defense and offense. In response to deployed defenses, the offense can deploy countermeasures (such as decoys) and multiple or maneuvering vehicles, or can even change its means of delivery and bypass the defense altogether. Undoubtedly, such offensive stratagems would, in almost all cases, be much cheaper than the cost of the defense and still leave the threatened country just as vulnerable. Passive defenses are of limited value because a nuclear explosion results both in intense prompt effects (such as blast, radiation and heat) and delayed effects (such as firestorms and radioactive fallout).

Consequently, independent of the outcome of the highly politicized debate whether to develop and eventually deploy an expensive national missile defense (NMD) system, protection against nuclear weapons by technical means will remain elusive. Protection, therefore, must be sought through dissuading potential opponents from acquiring or delivering nuclear weapons, or through their global prohibition.

Technical defenses have a much more significant role against BW and CW. Passive defenses (such as gas masks and protective clothing) can be quite effective against both BW and CW, and such protection can be made generally available to troops and, to a more limited extent, to civilian populations (as Israel did, for example, during the Gulf War). While masks and protective clothing are available to the military, they are only reluctantly used because they interfere with the performance of troops in combat. Preventive vaccinations against biological agents can be effective, but only if the type and strain of enemy biological weapons are known. Unfortunately, due to advances in biotechnology, the list of potentially lethal agents has lengthened and strains of agents resistant to particular vaccines continue to evolve. Thus, mass vaccinations against a single agent, such as those recently ordered against anthrax for U.S. troops deployed in the Persian Gulf, can be negated if an attacker has an alternate agent available.

In general, it is difficult for either side to estimate in advance the effectiveness of passive countermeasures against BW and CW. Active defenses against BW and CW are equally difficult to evaluate due to the large number of delivery options available. It is interesting to note that the currently proposed U.S. NMD system, as designed, would be ineffective against delivery of BW by ballistic missiles if their payloads were fractionated to assure dispersal of the agents, which is necessary to achieve a major impact.


Potential Missions

In view of their inherent differences, the potential military roles of the three types of weapons are entirely different. Nuclear weapons remain in the inventories of the five declared nuclear-weapon states, and India, Israel and Pakistan either possess usable nuclear weapons or can rapidly assemble them. Because there are currently no deployed NMD systems besides Russia's old and very limited deployment around Moscow, and because such systems are expected to be ineffective at any rate, hostile nuclear explosions can only be prevented by successfully maintaining the tradition of non-use of such weapons, converting this tradition to policy and eventually removing such weapons from national inventories. The tradition of non-use has been enforced in the past by treaty, by political dissuasion and through deterrence of nuclear weapons use by the existence of nuclear retaliatory forces. One can only hope that such measures will continue to prevent the use of nuclear weapons in the future.

Much has been written-without general consensus-on whether nuclear deterrence should be credited for the absence of nuclear weapons use during the Cold War, as well as for the absence of direct armed conflict between the superpowers. However, it will always remain difficult to explain confidently why something did not happen.

The nuclear weapons policies of the United States and Russia continue to evolve, but at this time in opposite directions. Russia, confronted with the deterioration of its conventional forces, has withdrawn the former Soviet no-first-use declarations and adopted a policy akin to the former NATO doctrine of compensating for its perceived conventional inferiority through reliance on nuclear weapons. For its part, the United States has made limited moves in the direction of constraining nuclear weapons to a purely deterrent role. The latest step in this direction is the November 1997 presidential decision directive (PDD) on nuclear policy that reportedly eliminated the requirement that the United States be prepared to fight and win a protracted nuclear war.

Yet, U.S. policy still remains ambiguous given the "reduce and hedge" policy outlined in the 1994 Nuclear Posture Review. Reductions of strategic nuclear weapons are being pursued via the START process, while the United States is still planning for an "enduring stockpile" of about 10,000 nuclear weapons in order to "hedge" against the emergence of a more hostile Russia. The "weapons of last resort" doctrine of NATO-permitting first use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear attacks-has not been revoked.

Notwithstanding this complex situation, there is a growing recognition in the U.S. military that, in the words of a 1991 National Academy of Sciences study, "the principal objective of U.S. nuclear policy should be to strengthen the emerging political consensus that nuclear weapons should serve no purpose beyond the deterrence of, and possible response to, nuclear attack by others." As long as nuclear weapons remain in the legal inventories of the nuclear-weapon states and the de facto possession of India, Israel and Pakistan, that mission of nuclear weapons will continue. Today, that mission should be the only valid use of nuclear weapons. This view, however, is not the avowed policy of any of the nuclear-weapon states except China.

Terrorist use of nuclear weapons remains unlikely. Barring the clandestine acquisition of an intact nuclear weapon, the successful construction and use of nuclear weapons requires access to substantial technical infrastructure as well as technical knowledge and skill. Such an operation would be extremely difficult to carry out clandestinely without a state sponsor. One cannot, however, exclude nuclear terrorism sponsored by a state which has a nuclear weapons program. The only technical means to forestall nuclear terrorism or accidental or unauthorized use of a nuclear weapon is by stringent safeguards and controls over nuclear weapons and the weapons-usable fissile materials essential to their construction.

The military situation with respect to BW and CW is generally the inverse of that pertaining to nuclear weapons. As a terrorist tool against civilians, chemical weapons, and particularly biological weapons, are a clear danger. The science and technology underlying these weapons is widely known, and terrorist use of nerve gas was demonstrated in 1995 by the Aum Shinrikyo religious cult in Japan. While the technology to detect small quantities of released agents is improving rapidly, technical tools to forestall terrorist use are limited and most ingredients have legitimate civilian as well as offensive military uses. Therefore, prevention must largely rest on intelligence gathering and sharing, infiltration, law enforcement activities and other measures. Even inspections as intrusive as those conducted in Iraq by the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) cannot definitively prevent clandestine efforts to maintain residual inventories. Moreover, such an intrusive inspection regime cannot be practically extended to other states suspected of possessing biological and chemical weapons.

Chemical weapons are demonstrably a relatively ineffective tool in warfare. The effectiveness of biological weapons during military conflict is uncertain. In either case, a military commander would not have confidence in their use against a designated target because he could not judge the effectiveness of defenses. The effect of a broad-scale BW attack against opposing troops is impossible to predict and would be delayed by days under any circumstance. But even more than in the case of chemical weapons, biological weapons remain a formidable tool of terror as an adjunct to war.


The Legal Environment

While there has been major progress in arms control relating to nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, the legal constraints on these three classes of weapons are very different.

During the Cold War, the number of nuclear warheads worldwide grew to about 60,000, but it has now fallen to roughly half that amount. Part of that contraction is the result of the bilateral agreements between the United States and the Soviet Union/Russia, including the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, START I and the reciprocal unilateral actions initiated by the heads of state. However, non-deployed weapons and some classes of tactical systems were not affected. The 1972 ABM Treaty, which limits both the United States and Russia to 100 ABM interceptors deployed at a single site, has played an integral part in achieving these agreements. The ABM Treaty provided reassurance to both sides that even reduced strategic nuclear forces would provide an effective deterrent.

Beyond these bilateral arms control agreements, the United States has the strongest possible interest in preventing the further proliferation of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are the "great equalizer" in that their possession diminishes the gap in military power between weak and strong nations. The principal legal tool designed to limit nuclear weapons proliferation is the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which in 1995 was indefinitely extended by states-parties. The NPT seals a complex bargain: the nuclear-weapon states agree not to transfer nuclear weapons and their materials to non-nuclear-weapon states, which agree not to receive or manufacture them.

In order to diminish the discriminatory impact of these provisions, all parties are allowed to pursue the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and the nuclear powers agree to assist states-parties in good standing under the treaty in their civilian nuclear power activities, provided these are carried out under safeguards administered by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to give timely warning of diversion of fissile materials from peaceful purposes to nuclear explosives. The nuclear-weapon states also agree to work in good faith toward elimination of nuclear weapons, albeit without a defined deadline.

In addition, almost one-half of the globe and nearly one-fourth of the world's population are covered by nuclear-weapon-free-zone (NWFZ) treaties, which guarantee the non-weapon status of countries in the zones and forbid the presence of nuclear weapons. The nuclear-weapon states have signed protocols to three of these accords forbidding the threatened use or use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states that are states-parties.

The legality of nuclear weapons use in war was addressed somewhat inconclusively by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in an advisory opinion delivered in July 1996. In its decision, the ICJ (in a 7-7 vote) held that the threat or use of nuclear weapons "would generally be contrary" to the rules of international law, except in retaliation against nuclear attack, but that it could not "conclude definitively" on the same issue of legality in the extreme circumstance of self-defense, when the survival of the state is at stake. Also, the court unanimously held that a threat or use of nuclear weapons should "be compatible" with international laws governing armed conflict and with "specific obligations under treaties and other undertakings which expressly deal with nuclear weapons" (such as the NPT and NWFZ treaties). This prohibition, however, left room for some limited exceptions. In addition, the ICJ ruled (11-3) that these specific injunctions did not constitute "comprehensive and universal prohibition" of the threat or use of nuclear weapons. However, neither the nuclear-weapon states nor the "threshold" states have formally accepted the jurisdiction of the ICJ in this matter.

The 1925 Geneva Protocol prohibits use of biological weapons and the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) prohibits their manufacture and stockpiling but permits research on BW materials in order to develop defenses. The BWC currently incorporates no verification or enforcement provisions, although in 1994 states-parties agreed to establish an "Ad Hoc Group" to negotiate verification provisions. Those negotiations have thus far generated a "rolling text" of a proposed protocol, but that document still contains much disputed language. Moreover, given the dual-use nature of many BW-related activities, some of which can be carried out in small facilities, the danger of state or terrorist use of biological weapons will not soon disappear.

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which entered into force in April 1997, prohibits the development, manufacture and possession of CW and provides for an international organization charged with carrying out inspections and passing judgment on suspected violations. The CWC built on the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which also prohibits use, but not possession, of chemical weapons and has no enforcement provision.

In summary, while non-use of nuclear weapons is a historical fact since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it is not an internationally binding rule except as it relates to the NPT and to NWFZ treaties. In contrast to nuclear weapons, international law explicitly bans possession and use of BW and CW, and current efforts focus on improving verification of compliance with these norms.


Nuclear Ambiguity

Given the profound differences in the significance and legal status of nuclear, compared to chemical and biological weapons, what should U.S. policy be with regard to the use, or threat of use, of nuclear weapons against threat or actual use of chemical or biological weapons?

The underlying problem is that while explicit threatened use or implied use of nuclear weapons in response to BW and CW provides a powerful deterrent, such a role can also undermine U.S. non-proliferation interests. The United States has given "negative security assurances" to countries adhering to the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon states and to members of NWFZ treaties. While these assurances would appear to rule out a nuclear response to the potential use of BW and CW in possession of these countries, the issue has been brought into sharp focus as a result of the ongoing confrontation with Iraq.

The U.S. declared position on this question has been, and continues to be, ambiguous. A number of official statements have indicated that "all possible means" would be used to counter the Iraqi BW and CW threat. In particular, during the Gulf War Secretary of State James Baker implicitly included nuclear retaliation in his threats to use "all possible means" should Iraq resort to biological or chemical warfare. However, Baker's threat also included retaliation against setting fire to Kuwait's oil fields, which indeed Iraq did on a grand scale despite the secretary's explicit warning. Some Israeli spokesmen maintain that the absence of chemical warheads on Iraqi Scud missiles fired at Israel was the result of Israel's nuclear weapons potential. At the same time, Saddam Hussein had good reason to fear other non-nuclear responses, so whether nuclear weapons provided a unique deterrent value during the Gulf War will remain in contention.

In an effort to clarify the policy situation, Robert Bell, the responsible official on the National Security Council staff, in February reaffirmed past negative security assurances-given in 1995 by Secretary of State Warren Christopher and in 1978 by Secretary of State Cyrus Vance-on behalf of the United States. Bell stated that it was the policy of the United States, as reaffirmed in the November 1997 PDD, not to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict unless faced with the following situations:

  • In response to attacks on the United States, its military forces or allies by nuclear-capable states, including both the declared nuclear-weapon states and the threshold states not party to the NPT.
  • In response to attacks on the United States, its military forces or allies by non-nuclear-weapon states in alliance with a nuclear-weapon state.
  • In response to attacks by a non-nuclear-weapon state that is party to the NPT, or an equivalent regime, but is not a state-party "in good standing." The phrase "in good standing" was not included in the earlier U.S. statements. This category presently includes Iraq and North Korea, in the eyes of the IAEA.

Significantly, Bell did not include another exception: response to a BW or CW attack by a non-nuclear-weapon state in good standing under the NPT. While Bell presented the negative security assurances simply as U.S. policy, the ICJ's 1996 advisory opinions and many international law jurists consider such declarations to be legally binding. In contrast, former Secretary of Defense William Perry frequently emphasized that he saw "no need to use" nuclear weapons in such a role, although he did not explicitly rule out a nuclear response against biological and chemical weapons.

The above examples underscore the ambiguity in the present U.S. position. Past statements by U.S. officials on potential responses to BW and CW threats from certain non-weapon states range from "will use" nuclear weapons to "all options are open" to "all possible means" to "no need to use" to "will not use." Of course, some of this ambiguity is deliberate and, whatever the declaratory policy, the very existence of nuclear weapons constitutes a residual deterrent.

The current confrontation with Iraq is not a replay of the Gulf War. Iraq has not invaded another country and its military power, measured in terms of troop strength and conventional munitions, has greatly eroded since 1991. The issue now is that Baghdad has failed to meet its obligations under UN Security Council resolutions that it had accepted in settlement of the Gulf War. Under those resolutions, Iraq was to give a full accounting of its nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs so that the world can be confident that these programs have been eliminated.

Iraq's nuclear weapons program has been accounted for and equipment has been eliminated to the extent that the IAEA has concluded that the program is no longer an active factor. However, UNSCOM inspectors are still not satisfied that sufficient information has been made available to conclude that Iraq's BW and CW programs have been accounted for and no longer pose a threat. Nevertheless, President Clinton and other U.S. officials have repeatedly asserted that the issue remains Iraq's possession of WMD and record of past "willingness to use" these weapons, without distinguishing among nuclear, biological and chemical weapons capabilities. A U.S.-led military strike against Iraq was narrowly averted in late February as a result of a UN-brokered deal that opened up so-called "presidential sites" to inspection. It remains unclear, however, how long the agreement will hold.

Linking these three classes of weapons in a single WMD category elevates the status of both biological and chemical weapons. When the use of nuclear weapons is threatened to deter BW and CW threats, these non-nuclear capabilities attain the status of "poor man's nuclear weapons." But above all, extending the role of nuclear weapons to include this mission contradicts the fundamental U.S. obligation under the existing non-proliferation regime to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in international relations.

In addition, the Iraq crisis has indirectly created a broader conflict between the U.S. desire to maintain the strongest possible posture against Iraq to contain its chemical and biological warfare ambitions and the U.S. pursuit of nuclear weapons reductions with Russia. U.S. and Russian policies on using force against Iraq are significantly at odds, with Moscow objecting to the U.S. approach to Iraq as being "hegemonic." With Russian ratification of START II hanging in abeyance because of NATO enlargement and the Duma's hostility to President Yeltsin over political control, unilateral U.S. military action against Iraq could have easily tipped the balance against the Duma's ratification of START II.

Nevertheless, the United States has decided to give priority to containing Iraq's BW and CW ambitions over optimal progress in nuclear arms reduction with Russia. Thus, the United States has put at risk not only further nuclear reductions, but its avowed nuclear non-proliferation objectives.


The Nuclear Danger

With the end of the Cold War, the nuclear danger remains although it has changed in character. Today, the likelihood of an all-out exchange between the United States and Russia has become remote, but the risk of lesser nuclear disasters appears at least as probable as in the past. Nuclear weapon stockpiles still exceed one-half of the Cold War peak and are vastly excessive if their only mission is to deter the use of nuclear weapons by others. Many nuclear weapons remain on a high state of alert. The security of nuclear materials, particularly in Russia, remains a serious and continuing problem. Decreasing nuclear weapons inventories and shifting operational doctrine to make accidental or inadvertent launch less likely should remain an urgent task. Finally, arresting and even reversing the spread of nuclear weapons remains essential to U.S. national security.

In view of the technical character and limited military utility of biological and chemical weapons, the United States, as the world's pre-eminent power in conventional arms, does not have a military requirement for a nuclear response to counter these weapons. The need to reduce the nuclear danger should take precedence over any perceived potential advantage such a role for nuclear weapons might offer under certain circumstances.

Combining nuclear, biological and chemical weapons under the umbrella of WMD tends to obscure the overriding priority of reducing the nuclear danger when real or perceived crises involving BW or CW gain public and political attention. The current crisis with Iraq should not deflect U.S. efforts to diminish the dangers posed by nuclear weapons. The struggles over ratification of START II and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, reductions of nuclear weapon stockpiles, the preservation of safety and security of the remaining stockpiles, and the reduction of risk of inadvertent or accidental launch of nuclear weapons demand increased governmental priority and public attention. The United States cannot afford to wait for an unforeseen catastrophic event involving nuclear weapons to advance the priority of controlling nuclear weapons.

This brings us back to the four alternatives offered above for the future control of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Under the first of two negative scenarios, the existing norm prohibiting biological and chemical weapons could deteriorate if states perceive that their security interests cannot be maintained without the possession or acquisition of nuclear weapons. Alternatively, the nuclear non-proliferation regime could erode if the nuclear-weapon states-particularly the United States, which has been the leader in building the regime-appeared to be failing to meet their obligations under the NPT.

Notwithstanding these adverse scenarios, controls under the present illogical and discriminatory non-proliferation regime could endure and be strengthened if nuclear arms control advances sufficiently to demonstrate that the role of nuclear weapons in international relations is shrinking. This path would require real progress in the START process and further reciprocal unilateral moves in restraining nuclear weapons. It would also have to include a reduction in regional tensions, particularly in the Middle East and South Asia, to eliminate pressures to "go nuclear" in local confrontations.

The final alternative would be to extend to nuclear weapons the global norm that now exists for biological and chemical weapons. Many now advocate such a move toward the prohibition of nuclear weapons. Prohibition of nuclear weapons would eliminate the inconsistencies as to legal status of these weapons, and would focus world attention on compliance with a global norm applying across the board to nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. The world would have to decide whether there would be increased security under verifiable prohibitions on all three classes of weapons, taking into account the risk of evasion or abrogation of the prohibition, relative to the present international non-proliferation regime with its tensions, inconsistencies and dangers. In evaluating this balance, the potential benefits of comprehensive nuclear disarmament appear to outweigh the attendant risks. With the end of the Cold War, exploration of the conditions making nuclear prohibition feasible and of the paths to reach that goal should now be put high on the international agenda.



1. National Academy of Sciences, Committee on International Security and Arms Control, The Future of the U.S.-Soviet Nuclear Relationship, Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1991.Back to origin.

2. Robert Bell, "Strategic Agreements and the CTB Treaty: Striking the Right Balance," Arms Control Today, January/February 1998, pp. 3-10.

Back to origin.

Wolfgang K. H. Panofsky, director emeritus of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, is a member of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors.

Dismantling the Concept Of 'Weapons of Mass Destruction'

UNSCOM Completes First Inspections at 'Presidential Sites'

March 1998

By Erik Leklem

On April 4, the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) completed its first round of "Special Group" inspections at eight presidential sites in Iraq that had previously been declared off-limits by Baghdad. This restriction on access, opposed by the United States and Britain, subsequently led to the largest military buildup in the region since the Persian Gulf War. Military conflict over the issue was averted by a February 23 diplomatic accord brokered by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. (See ACT, January/February.)

After the Annan agreement was reached, President Bill Clinton vowed to maintain an increased U.S. military presence in the gulf until Iraqi compliance with the Special Group inspections and relevant Security Council resolutions is assured.

The completion of the Special Group inspections, so-called due to the addition of diplomatic observers, was the second major test of Annan's efforts and Iraqi compliance with the agreement. The initial test of unfettered access for UNSCOM, as stipulated in the accord, was successfully passed with a series of short-notice, regular inspections conducted during the second week of March at several sensitive locations in Iraq, including a first-ever visit to the Iraqi Ministry of Defense.

The Special Group inspection mission, held March 25-April 4, included 20 diplomatic observers and 88 UNSCOM personnel. Despite previous Iraqi objections to the role of U.S. personnel in UNSCOM inspections, an American ambassador, Ryan Crocker, was assigned to the diplomatic contingent of the Special Group and an American official, Charles Duelfer, deputy chairman of the Commission, led the UNSCOM component.

Although a formal report on the Special Group inspections is not due until mid*April, an UNSCOM official said the visits provided a physical assessment of the presidential sites and enabled inspectors to gauge whether the facilities in question could be used as either storage or production facilities for illicit weapons. UNSCOM did not expect to make any major discoveries in the first round of visits the official said, and he reserved further comment until after Ambassador Richard Butler, executive chairman of UNSCOM, transmitted the inspection report to the Security Council.

A State Department spokesperson declined to comment specifically on the matter, other than to say the United States understood that the Special Group inspections were completed without significant incident and that the administration looked forward to Butler's report.

In a separate review of Iraqi compliance, a technical evaluation meeting (TEM) on Iraq's biological weapons (BW) program, comprised of UNSCOM officials, independent experts and Iraqi representatives, was held in Vienna March 20-27. The BW TEM (a report on which is forthcoming), was the third such meeting held in the last two months, following a TEM on special warheads and one on the chemical agent VX.

These meetings were designed to accelerate UNSCOM's verification of Iraqi compliance with UN Security Council resolutions requiring the destruction of its nuclear, chemical and bilogical weapons and means of delivery. A follow-up TEM on special warheads is scheduled tentatively for late April and another TEM on VX was agreed to, though a date was not set.

UNSCOM Completes First Inspections at 'Presidential Sites'

Iraq Strikes New Deal On Inspections at Special Sites

By Howard Diamond and Erik J. Leklem

With a U.S.-led strike on Iraq possibly only days off, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan brokered an 11th hour deal with Saddam Hussein, averting what could have been the most significant conflict in the region since the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The new agreement ended a three month standoff between Iraq and the international community by providing UN weapons inspectors access to eight so-called presidential sites Baghdad had previously declared off limits. A seven point memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by Annan and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz on February 23 provides special procedures for inspections of presidential sites where UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors will have to be accompanied by diplomats.

Since last December, UNSCOM has been seeking access to the presidential compounds to search for documents and computer data it believes Iraq has hidden in an attempt to deny the information to inspectors. Although UNSCOM and IAEA inspectors are supposed to have complete access to all sites in Iraq in order to verify the elimination of Baghdad's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and their ballistic missile delivery systems, Iraq has refused to provide access to the so called "presidential and sovereign" sites. The new agreement, while reaffirming the inspectors' right to "immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access" to presidential and all other sites, recognizes Baghdad's concerns about the composition and conduct of UNSCOM's teams and the sensitivity of the presidential sites.

According to the MOU, inspections of presidential sites will be conducted by a Special Group composed of senior diplomats appointed by Annan, and experts drawn from UNSCOM and IAEA. Annan announced on February 26 that Sri Lankan Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala, the new UN undersecretary general for disarmament, would be leading the Special Group as commissioner. Dhanapala achieved acclaim in 1995 for shepherding the indefinite extension of the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty through the treaty review conference.

UNSCOM Executive Chairman Richard Butler of Australia said Dhanapala would be reporting to him and that he was "delighted" with the secretary general's selection. As of the end of February, procedures for the Special Group were still being worked out at the UN, and regular UNSCOM inspections into Iraq's past weapons programs and concealment activities were expected to resume in early March.

Clinton Cautious

The Clinton administration has offered cautious approval of the Annan Aziz deal, but insists that with seveal details of the presidential inspections agreement to be worked out, final judgment should wait until the new procedures are tested. President Bill Clinton has said the new arrangements could enable UNSCOM to fulfill its mandate, "but the proof is in the testing." Clinton said he intends to keep the U.S. strike force deployed in the Persian Gulf until the new inspection arrangements are in effect and Iraqi compliance is confirmed.

Republican reaction to the secretary general's diplomacy was mixed. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) complained "it is always possible to get a deal if you give enough away," while two top leaders of the House of Representatives, Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) and Majority leader Dick Armey (R-TX) took a wait and see approach. Other Republicans objecting to the secretary general's deal included the chairmen of the foreign affairs committees, Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) and House International Affairs Committee Chairman Benjamin Gilman (R-NY), as well as House National Security Committee Chairman Floyd Spence (R-SC).

Annan's trip to Baghdad came after three months of escalating tension over UNSCOM's ability to inspect all sites within Iraq. Last November, only days after accepting a Russian diplomatic initiative to resolve the October 29 to November 22 stand-off over UNSCOM's right to use American inspectors, Baghdad began warning that special sites reflective of Iraq's sovereignty and security would be off-limits to UN inspectors.

At the urging of the Security Council, Butler traveled to Baghdad for meetings with Aziz on December 14 and 15 to discuss ways to accelerate progress on verifying the elimination of proscribed weapons and to seek clarification of Iraq's position on access. In the meetings, Baghdad made clear that "presidential and sovereign sites" were off limits to UNSCOM. Aziz also declared that Iraq had completely divested itself of all of its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and would no longer offer new data to UNSCOM. After declining Butler's request to develop a joint program for accelerating UNSCOM's work, Aziz proposed holding technical evaluation meetings (TEMs) where outside experts and UNSCOM staff would meet with Iraqi officials and assess Baghdad's disarmament achievements. 

Assessing Iraqi Compliance

Butler accepted the Iraqi proposal for TEMs and agreed to schedule meetings on the chemical agent VX, missile warheads and the entire biological weapons file. In response to Iraq's declaration that no access would be given to presidential sites, on December 22 the UN Security Council issued a statement rejecting the Iraqi position and again insisted that weapons inspectors were entitled to complete access to all parts of Iraq.

On January 13, six days before Butler's scheduled trip to Baghdad to arrange the TEMs, Iraq blocked a team of UNSCOM inspectors led by American Scott Ritter. Unwilling to accept Baghdad's limits on the nationalities of inspectors, Butler pulled Ritter and his team out of Iraq on January 16 but kept UNSCOM's monitoring and verification staff in their Baghdad headquarters. Backed by another Security Council statement demanding Iraqi compliance with UN resolutions, Butler returned to Baghdad for meetings January 19 to 21 with Tariq Aziz.

Iraq, Aziz said, had already fulfilled its disarmament obligations and would not allow inspections of its eight presidential compounds. Baghdad was ready for war if it came as a result, he said.

Amid Butler's December and January trips to Baghdad, U.S. and British officials reiterated their readiness to use force against Iraq and began pressing allies and members of the Security Council to support military action against Iraq. Following a meeting with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on January 29, French Foreign Minister Herbert Vedrine announced France would not oppose military action, but still believed in finding a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Iraq.

U.S. officials were unable to obtain even passive support from Russia and China. Days before strikes were expected in late February, Moscow and Beijing were still outspoken opponents of using force against Iraq. Arab states in the Gulf were more forthcoming, offering varying levels of cooperation and support for U.S. airstrikes. Bahrain and Kuwait offered Washington bases for strike aircraft, while Saudi Arabia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates gave permission for cargo, refueling and airborne warning jets to operate from their soil.

Unresolved Issues

Washington initially emphasized using force to coerce Baghdad into giving full access to UNSCOM inspectors by attacking the key supports of Saddam Hussein's power. As criticism of this approach mounted in late January, however, the administration changed its objective to punishing Baghdad by degrading Iraq's production facilities for proscribed weapons and its ability to threaten its neighbors. The administration also continued to build up the largest assembly of warships and attack aircraft in the Persian Gulf since the 1991 war. By mid February the United States and allies had sent over 30,000 military personnel, 20 warships and 400 combat aircraft to the Gulf area to prepare for strikes on Iraq.

Washington and London also began providing assessments of the outstanding issues remaining in Baghdad's compliance with Security Council resolutions, in attempts to justify military action against Iraq. On February 4, British Foreign Minister Robin Cook released a White Paper arguing that Iraq retained or had not accounted for: chemical precursors that could be used to produce over 200 tons of VX; 17 metric tons of biological growth media that could be used to produce "up to 350 liters of weapons grade anthrax per week;" and continuing efforts by Baghdad "to acquire banned WMD technology," including "advanced missile guidance parts."

The British paper was followed on February 15 by a more detailed report released by the U.S. National Security Council (NSC). Starting with the extensive record of Iraqi interference with inspections and refusal to provide necessary documentation, the NSC report detailed continuing concerns in the nuclear, chemical, biological and missile areas.

According to the NSC paper, Iraq continues to hide or cannot verify the elimination of 25 missile warheads filled with anthrax, botulinum toxin or aflatoxin; 45 to 70 missile warheads for use with chemical agents, 134 aerial bombs and a small number of aerosol spraers for delivering biological agents; and a stockpile of as much as 600 metric tons of VX, sarin, mustard agents and associated munitions and production equipment. Baghdad may also have a small force of SCUD type missiles and the capability to make more. In the nuclear file, Iraq continues "to withhold significant information about enrichment techniques, foreign procurement, weapons design andpostwar concealment," suggesting continued interest in nuclear weapons.

The U.S. and British assessments were supported by reports from the VX and missile warhead TEMs that met in early February. Both panels, after meetings with Iraqi officials, confirmed UNSCOM's judgment that Iraq had not provided sufficient information to confirm the destruction of the proscribed weapons and production facilities associated with them. An UNSCOM source said the missile warhead meeting produced no new information and described it as a political maneuver by Iraq to try to undercut UNSCOM. The biological weapons TEM was delayed due to the political crisis of February and has been rescheduled for mid March in New York, according to UNSCOM officials.

With UN officials working out the details of the Annan Aziz deal, analysts are attempting to assess its likelihood of success as well as the long term effect the new arrangements will have on UNSCOM. Critics of the new arrangement, including previous UNSCOM inspectors, cite the new deal as evidence of success in Baghdad's campaign to discredit the UN inspection regime and challenge the integrity of its inspectors.

Others are more sanguine. Chief weapons inspector Butler quickly voiced his approval of the new arrangement, which he had himself proposed during his January meetings in Baghdad. Some U.S. officials, while remaining skeptical of Saddam's willingness to cooperate, have suggested that if Iraq fails to comply with the new arrangements, Washington will be well situated to demand international support for military action.

Iraq Strikes New Deal On Inspections at Special Sites

Give Diplomacy a Chance

January/February 1998

By Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's last-minute resolution of the latest Iraqi crisis saved the United States from the potentially disastrous consequences of its planned bombing campaign against Iraq. The attack would almost certainly not have secured the rights of the UN inspectors or eliminated proscribed Iraqi weapons, but it would have seriously undercut major U.S. policy objectives.

Saddam Hussein was clearly in violation of UN Security Council resolutions when he declared eight large "presidential sites" off-limits to UNSCOM inspections. This was simply the latest maneuver in Iraq's seven-year effort to impede the mandated activities of UNSCOM and the IAEA to eliminate Iraqi nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs as well as its ballistic missiles with ranges over 150 kilometers. Despite these recurring Iraqi efforts, UNSCOM and the IAEA have been remarkably successful in dismantling Baghdad's prohibited weapons programs. In fact, UNSCOM has been responsible for the destruction of much more of Iraq's stockpiles of weapons and equipment to produce them than the bombing campaign during the Gulf War. Nevertheless, although the IAEA concluded that the nuclear weapons program had essentially been eliminated, questions remain on the disposition of chemical and biological stocks and indigenously produced ballistic missiles.

To resolve these uncertainties and determine whether clandestine efforts might be underway to reconstitute these capabilities, knowledgeable inspectors on the ground are far more valuable than smart bombs that do not know where to go. The initial U.S. objective should therefore have been to maintain the presence of UNSCOM rather than to punish Iraq for its unacceptable behavior. The successful negotiations with North Korea to eliminate its nuclear program should have been the administration's model rather than a mini-replay of the Gulf War air campaign. When the United States began the unilateral deployment of forces for air strikes against Iraq, the action had few supporters and many strong critics, including Russia, France and China, as well as most Arab countries.

It soon became clear that the proposed air strikes were unlikely to destroy remaining chemical and biological materials or production facilities whose location was not known or to topple Hussein, the ultimate cause of the problem. Such an attack would very likely have resulted in the expulsion of UNSCOM inspectors, the final collapse of the Gulf War coalition and the end of the remaining sanctions regime. Hussein might well have emerged in a stronger domestic position, perceived by many in the region as a heroic figure rather than an international scofflaw.

More serious, however, would have been the effects on broader U.S. international objectives. Rather than reinforcing U.S. leadership in maintaining the non-proliferation regime, an ineffective bombing campaign would have brought into question U.S. responsibility in the exercise of power. In particular, Russians across the political spectrum viewed the possibility of such an attack—occurring concurrently with Senate approval of NATO expansion and in total disregard of Moscow's efforts to broker a peaceful settlement—as proof of U.S. "hegemonic ambitions." Key members of the Duma vowed to postpone ratification of START II indefinitely, delaying further progress on strategic arms control for the rest of the Clinton administration. Moreover, a unilateral attack with its inevitable civilian casualties would also have undercut U.S. effectiveness as middleman in rescuing the Middle East peace process.

The United States was indeed fortunate that Kofi Annan was able to achieve a face-saving solution which commits Iraq to provide access to the controversial sites by UNSCOM inspectors accompanied by UN-selected diplomats. How much this favorable outcome depended on the U.S. military buildup in the Gulf will probably never be known, but the negative consequences of the actual use of that force are clear.

Only time can tell whether this diplomatic solution will succeed. Hussein now has to decide whether to cooperate with UNSCOM in resolving remaining questions or to exploit the reprieve to drag out the inspection process in hopes of outlasting the unity of the Security Council so that he can eventually reconstitute his prohibited weapons programs from concealed components. But, if he openly challenges the new procedures, he will build the international support for military action without the severe penalties associated with a unilateral U.S. bombing campaign.

President Clinton was wise to support Kofi Annan's initiative despite pressure from domestic supporters and adversaries to attack first and face the consequences later. The United States should not exploit the welcome respite to seek a casus belli but rather to give diplomacy a chance.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's last-minute resolution of the latest Iraqi crisis saved the United States from...


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