The dishonest case for a war on Iraq
by Alan Simpson,
MP - Chair of Labour Against the War
Dr Glen Rangwala - lecturer in politics at Newnham College, University of Cambridge
There is no case for a war on Iraq. It has not threatened
to attack the US or Europe. It is not connected to al-Qa'ida. There is no evidence that it has new weapons of mass destruction,
or that it possesses the means of delivering them.
This pamphlet separates the evidence for what we know
about Iraq from the wild suppositions used as the pretext for a war.
For there to be a threat to the
wider world from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, there need to be two distinct components: the capability (the presence
of weapons of mass destruction or their precursor elements, together with a delivery system) and the intention to use weapons
of mass destruction.
Most of the discussion on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction
from British and American governmental sources has focused on Iraq's capabilities. However, a more fundamental question is
why the Iraqi regime would ever use weapons of mass destruction. There are three aspects to this:
(a) External military use.
The US administration
has repeatedly stated that Iraq is a "clear and present danger" to the safety and security of ordinary Americans. Yet the
Iraqi leadership have never used weapons of mass destruction against the US or Europe, nor threatened to. Plans or proposals
for the use of weapons of mass destruction by Iraq against these countries have never been discovered, and in their absence
can only be presumed to be non-existent.
Iraq would face massive reprisals if its leadership
ever ordered the use of weapons of mass destruction on the US or Europe. It is difficult to imagine circumstances in which
the Iraqi regime would use these weapons directly against any Western country. The only conceivable exception would be if
the Iraqi leaders felt they had nothing left to lose: that is, if they were convinced of their own imminent demise as a result
of an invasion. Weapons of mass destruction were not used by Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War, despite having both a much more developed
capacity than it holds at present (see below) and the routing of its army. The best way to avoid prompting Iraqi leaders to
use any non-conventional capacity would be to refrain from invading Iraq or attempting to assassinate or depose its rulers.
The only occasion on which the Iraqi government used
weapons of mass destruction against another country was against Iran from 1981/82 to 1988. The use of mustard agents had a
devastating impact on Iranian troops in the first years of the war, and the civilian death toll from the use of sarin and
tabun numbers in the thousands. However, it should be noted that the use of chemical weapons was undertaken with the compliance
of the rest of the world. The US Secretary of State acknowledged that he was aware of reports of Iraqi use of chemical weapons
from 1983, and a United Nations team confirmed Iraqi use in a report of 16 March 1984. Nevertheless, the US administration
provided "crop-spraying" helicopters to Iraq (subsequently used in chemical attacks on the Kurds in 1988), gave Iraq access
to intelligence information that allowed Iraq to "calibrate" its mustard attacks on Iranian troops (1984), seconded its air
force officers to work with their Iraqi counterparts (from 1986), approved technological exports to Iraq's missile procurement
agency to extend the missiles' range (1988), and blocked bills condemning Iraq in the House of Representatives (1985) and
Most crucially, the US and UK blocked condemnation
of Iraq's known chemical weapons attacks at the UN Security Council. No resolution was passed during the war that specifically
criticised Iraq's use of chemical weapons, despite the wishes of the majority to condemn this use. The only criticism of Iraq
from the Security Council came in the form of non-binding Presidential statements (over which no country has a veto). The
21 March 1986 statement recognised that "chemical weapons on many occasions have been used by Iraqi forces against Iranian
forces"; this statement was opposed by the United States, the sole country to vote against it in the Security Council (the
In summary, Iraq has never used chemical weapons against
an external enemy without the acquiescence of the most powerful states. It has done so only in the knowledge that it would
be protected from condemnation and countermeasures by a superpower. There is no reason to suspect that the Iraqi leadership
now places any military gains it might achieve through the use of chemical weapons above its desire to form international
alliances with major powers.
Further reading: "U.S. Diplomatic and Commercial Relationships
with Iraq, 1980 - 2 August 1990", www.casi.org.uk/info/usdocs/usiraq80s90s.html
(b) Arming terrorists
One prospect raised by President
Bush in his State of the Union address of 29 January was that hostile countries such as Iraq could supply non-state organisations
with weapons of mass destruction, to use against the US:
"By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes
pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred.
They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States."
The State Department's annual report on terrorism,
released on 30 April 2001, stated that the Iraqi regime "has not attempted an anti Western terrorist attack" since 1993. The
small paramilitary groups that Iraq supports, such as the Arab Liberation Front (in Palestine) and the Mujahidin e-Khalq (Iran),
have no access to Iraq's more advanced weaponry, let along weapons of mass destruction. Furthermore, these groups have never
carried out attacks on the US or Europe, and have little if any supporting infrastructure in those countries. The Iraqi regime
has no credible links to al-Qa'ida, either in the perpetration of the 11 September attack, or in the presence in eastern Iraqi
Kurdistan (controlled by the US-backed Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, not the Iraqi government, since 1991) of Ansar al-Islam.
This group is an off-shoot of the US-backed Islamic Movement of Iraqi Kurdistan which has taken funds and arms from Iran and
(reportedly) from al-Qa'ida.
The Iraqi regime has not been shown to have any intention
of attacking the Western world, and it knows that it would be subject to massive reprisals if it did so. In summary, Iraq
has shown no indication that it would be willing to use terrorists to threaten the outside world with weapons of mass destruction.
Further reading: "Did Mohamed Atta Meet an Iraqi Spy
in Prague?", at slate.msn.com/?id=2070410
(c) Internal repression by the Iraqi military
part of the Anfal campaign against the Kurds (February to September 1988), the Iraqi regime used chemical weapons extensively
against its own civilian population. Between 50,000 and 186,000 Kurds were killed in these attacks, over 1,200 Kurdish villages
were destroyed, and 300,000 Kurds were displaced. The most infamous chemical assault was on the town of Halabja in March 1988,
which killed 5,000 people. Human Rights Watch regards the Anfal campaign as an act of genocide.
The Anfal campaign was carried out with the acquiescence
of the West.
Rather than condemn the massacres of Kurds, the US
escalated its support for Iraq. It joined in Iraq's attacks on Iranian facilities, blowing up two Iranian oilrigs and destroying
an Iranian frigate a month after the Halabja attack. Within two months, senior US officials were encouraging corporate co-ordination
through an Iraqi state-sponsored forum. The US administration opposed, and eventually blocked, a US Senate bill that cut off
loans to Iraq. The US approved exports to Iraq of items with dual civilian and military use at double the rate in the aftermath
of Halabja as it did before 1988. Iraqi written guarantees about civilian use were accepted by the US commerce department,
which did not request licences and reviews (as it did for many other countries). The Bush Administration approved $695,000
worth of advanced data transmission devices the day before Iraq invaded Kuwait.
As for the UK, ten days after the Foreign Office verbally
condemned the Halabja massacre, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry rewarded Iraq by extending £400 million worth
of credits to trade with Iraq.
The Iraqi regime has never used chemical weapons in
the face of formal international opposition. The most effective way of preventing any future use against Iraqi civilians is
to put this at the top of the human rights agenda between Iraq and the UN. The Iraqi regime's intentions to use chemical weapons
against the Kurds will not be terminated by provoking a further conflict between the Iraqi state and its Kurdish population
in which the Kurds are recruited as proxy forces. The original repression of the Kurds escalated into genocide in response
to Iran's procurement of the support of the two main Kurdish parties for its military efforts from 1986. This is essentially
the same role that the US sees for the Kurds in its current war preparations.
Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction are a false
focus if the concern is with regional security. Chemical weapons were not used for Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. A peaceful Gulf
region can be achieved only through building political links between Iraq and its neighbours. This is why the Arab states
of the Middle East have started to reintegrate Iraq into regional networks and purposeful dialogue. Their interests are ill-served
by attempts to turn the countries of the Gulf against each other once again.
Further reading: Dilip Hiro, "When US turned a blind
eye to poison gas", at: www.observer.co.uk/focus/story/0,6903,784125,00.html
In 1998, when the US ordered UN
weapons inspectors to leave Iraq, it was widely accepted the Iraq's nuclear capacity had been wholly dismantled. The International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), charged with monitoring Iraq's nuclear facilities after the Gulf War, reported to the Security
Council on 8 October 1997 and subsequently Iraq had compiled a "full, final and complete" account of its previous nuclear
projects, and there was no indication of any prohibited activity. The IAEA's fact sheet from 25 April 2002, entitled "Iraq's
Nuclear Weapons Programme", recorded that "There were no indications that there remains in Iraq any physical capability for
the production of amounts of weapons-usable nuclear material of any practical significance."
In recent months, however, the UK government has put
primary emphasis on Iraq's alleged nuclear programme. UK ministers have made three major claims:
(a) That Iraq was within three years of developing
a nuclear bomb in 1991.
This could be true. Uranium was imported from Portugal, France, Italy and other countries; uranium
enrichment facilities operated at Tuwaitha, Tarmiya, and Rashidiya, and centrifuge enrichment facilities were being built
at al-Furat, largely with German assistance. Theoretical studies were underway into the design of reactors to produce plutonium,
and laboratory trials were carried out at Tuwaitha. The main centre for the development of nuclear weapons was al-Atheer,
where experiments with high explosives were carried out. However, IAEA experts maintain that Iraq has never had the capacity
to enrich uranium sufficiently for a bomb and was extremely dependent on imports to create centrifuge facilities (report of
the Center for Strategic and International Studies, 28 June 2002). If this is so, Iraq may have only been close to developing
a bomb if US and European assistance had continued to the same extent as before.
In the Gulf War, all Iraq's facilities capable of producing
material for a nuclear programme and for enriching uranium were destroyed. The IAEA inspected and completed the destruction
of these facilities, with the compliance of the Iraqi government. From 1991, the IAEA removed all known weapon usable materials
from Iraq, including 22.4kg of highly enriched uranium. The IAEA left 1.8 tonnes of low-grade uranium in heavyweight sealed
barrels at the Tuwaitha facilities. This uranium has remained untouched by the Iraqis, and is inspected annually by experts
from the IAEA, who have confirmed that the seals had never been tampered with. The remaining facilities at Tuwaitha and buildings
at al-Atheer were destroyed by the IAEA by 1992.
(b) That Iraq could make a nuclear device "within three
years" without foreign assistance.
This claim, repeated by a UK Foreign Office minister, derives from a statement from
the head of Germany's Federal Intelligence Service (BND) in February 2001 that Iraq could enrich its own uranium and construct
its own nuclear device in three to six years. This claim was backed up by a statement from the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear
Arms Control that Iraq's only uranium extraction facility at al-Qaim has been rebuilt (it had been destroyed in 1991). If
Iraq was again extracting uranium, then it could reasonably be presumed that it was intending to enrich and weaponise it.
The allegation about Iraq's extraction of uranium, however, seems to be wrong.
Since the emergence of these claims, a number of journalists
have visited al-Qaim and have found it in a state of disrepair. Paul McGeough, the much-respected Middle East correspondent
of the Sydney Morning Herald, wrote on 4 September 2002 that the site appeared to be a "near-vacant lot ... as the result
of a clean-up supervised by the [IAEA]". Reuters reporters have confirmed the same impression. If Iraq was hiding its nuclear
extraction facilities every time a journalist visits, this would beg the question of when any extraction could actually take
If Iraq has no operating facilities to extract uranium,
and if it continues to refrain from accessing the low-grade uranium sealed at Tuwaitha, then there is no way it could produce
a nuclear device without foreign assistance.
Furthermore, enriching uranium requires substantial
infrastructure and a power supply that could be easily spotted by US satellites. No such information has been provided. Over
the past year, US and UK sources have made much of the fact that Iraq has attempted to import specialized steel and aluminium
tubes that could be used in gas centrifuges that enrich uranium. According to the Washington Post (10 September 2002), such
tubes are also used in making conventional artillery rockets, which Iraq is not prohibited from developing or possessing under
UN resolutions. As David Albright, former IAEA inspector in Iraq and director of the Institute for Science and International
Security, told the Washington Post, "This is actually a weak indicator for suggesting centrifuges -- it just doesn't build
a case. I don't yet see evidence that says Iraq is close."
(c) That Iraq could have a nuclear bomb "within months"
if fissile material is acquired from abroad.
Even the US Department of Defence recognises that claims about Iraq's imminent
production of a nuclear bomb are not credible: "Iraq would need five or more years and key foreign assistance to rebuild the
infrastructure to enrich enough material for a nuclear weapon" (January 2001 intelligence estimate). However, the International
Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) managed to hit the headlines in September 2002 by claiming that Iraq "could assemble
nuclear weapons within months if fissile material from foreign sources were obtained." This claim is no more than a tautology.
If Iraq could import the core material for a bomb,
then it would have a bomb. Obtaining the fissile material is the most difficult part of constructing any nuclear device, and
there are no signs that Iraq has attempted to obtain any such material from abroad. According to the Nuclear Control Institute
(http//:www.nci.org/heu.htm), "With bomb-grade, high-enriched uranium (HEU), a student could make
a bomb powerful enough to destroy a city". Unless we are to stop any students of physics from entering Iraq, the best control
on the circulation of fissile material would be to invest resources into safeguarding Russia's nuclear material. We would
then need to complete a fissile-material cut-off treaty as agreed by the UN General Assembly in 1993.
On 7 September 2002, Tony Blair and George Bush proclaimed
that commercial satellite photographs showing new buildings near a facility that had been part of Iraq's nuclear programme
before 1991 were "proof" of Iraqi intentions. By contrast, a spokesperson from the IAEA - which had provided the pictures
months earlier - said: "We have no idea whether it means anything. Construction of a building is one thing. Restarting a nuclear
program is another."
IAEA's fact sheet
from 25 April 2002, entitled "Iraq's Nuclear Weapons Programme" www.iaea.org/worldatom/Programmes/ActionTeam/nwp2.html Garry Dillon (IAEA Action Team in Iraq: Director of Operations from January 1994, head from June 1997),
"The IAEA Iraq Action Team Record: Activities and Findings ", in Iraq: A New Approach (Carnegie Endowment for International
Peace, August 2002), at www.ceip.org/files/pdf/Iraq.Report.pdf
3. CHEMICAL and BIOLOGICAL
Iraq's chemical and biological weapons fall into three categories:
¨ that Iraq has retained weapons that were produced
before 1991. ¨ that Iraq has kept or rebuilt facilities since 1998, which are allegedly producing or able to produce new chemical
or biological agents that can subsequently be weaponised; and
¨ that Iraq could threaten other countries by delivering
these agents, by missile or through other means.
(a) Retained stocks? Up to 1998, a substantial part
of the work of the weapons inspectors in Iraq was to track down chemical and biological agents that Iraq produced before their
entry in 1991, and to check the documentation that showed how much of each agent Iraq had manufactured. However, the amount
Iraq is thought to have produced in the 1980s was found to be greater than the quantity that Iraq or the inspectors verified
as having destroyed. The discrepancy between the two levels is the amount that remains - in the inspectors' language - "unaccounted
The levels of agents that are unaccounted for in this
way is large: 600 metric tonnes of chemical agents, such as mustard gas, VX and sarin; and extensive amounts of biological
agents, including thousands of litres of anthrax as well as quantities of botulinum toxin, aflatoxin, and gas gangrene, all
of which had been weaponised before 1991. But the fact that these quantities are unaccounted for does not mean that they still
exist. Iraq has never provided a full declaration of its use of chemical and biological weapons against Iran in the 1980-88
war, and destroyed large quantities of its own stocks of these weapons in 1991 without keeping sufficient proof of its actions.
In some cases, it is quite clear that the stocks no
longer exist in usable form. Most chemical and biological agents are subject to processes of deterioration. A working paper
by the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (Unscom) from January 1998 noted that: "Taking into consideration the conditions
and the quality of CW-agents and munitions produced by Iraq at that time, there is no possibility of weapons remaining from
the mid-1980's" (quoted in Ritter, Arms Control Today, June 2000). Many other chemical or biological warfare agents have a
shorter shelf life. The sarin produced by Iraq in the 1980s was found to have up to 40% impurities, entailing that it would
deteriorate within two years. With regard to biological weapons, the assessment by Professor Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center
for Strategic and International Studies should be taken seriously: "The shelf-life and lethality of Iraq's weapons is unknown,
but it seems likely that the shelf-life was limited. In balance, it seems probable that any agents Iraq retained after the
Gulf War now have very limited lethality, if any" (Iraq's Past and Future Biological Weapons Capabilities, 1998, p.13).
There are two potential exceptions for materials that
would not be expected to have deteriorated if produced before 1991. Mustard gas has been found to persist over time, as shown
when Unscom discovered four intact mustard-filled artillery shells that would still have constituted a viable weapon. Unscom
oversaw the destruction of 12,747 of Iraq's 13,500 mustard shells. The Iraqi regime claimed that the remaining shells had
been destroyed by US/UK bombardment. This claim has not been verified or disproved. However, as former UN weapons inspector
Scott Ritter notes, "A few hundred 155 mm mustard shells have little military value on the modern battlefield. A meaningful
CW attack using artillery requires thousands of rounds. Retention of such a limited number of shells makes no sense and cannot
be viewed as a serious threat."
The other potential exception is VX nerve agent. It
became clear to Unscom during the 1990s that Iraq had succeeded before 1991 in producing stabilised VX in its laboratories
- that is, VX agents that would not deteriorate over time. However, to produce significant stocks of VX requires advanced
technology that Iraq did not have. Iraq did have some elements of the production equipment for developing VX on a large scale.
Unscom tested this equipment before destroying it in 1996, and found that it had never been used. This would indicate that
Iraq, despite its attempts before 1991, had never succeeded in producing VX on a significant scale.
(b) Re-built facilities? If the stocks that Iraq had
produced before 1991 are no longer a credible threat, then what of the facilities that Iraq may still have to produce more
weapons of mass destruction? The major facilities that Iraq had prior to 1991 have all been destroyed. The Muthanna State
Establishment, Iraq's main plant for the production of chemical warfare agents, was destroyed partially through aerial bombardment
and partly under Unscom supervision. Al-Hakam, Iraq's main biological weapons facility that was designed to make up to 50,000
litres of anthrax, botulinum toxin and other agents a year, was destroyed in May-June 1996.
However, US and UK officials have claimed that new
plants have been built since 1998. Among the allegations are that two chemical plants that were used to produce weapons before
1991 have been rebuilt at Fallujah; further chemical and biological weapons sites have been partially constructed at Daura
and Taji; and that "mobile biological production laboratories" have been deployed that would be able to circumvent any inspectors
who are re-admitted into Iraq. It has also been claimed that other existing civilian facilities have been partially converted
so as to be able to produce agents for weapons of mass destruction.
These allegations are difficult to assess. Even the
IISS study of September 2002 - edited by Gary Samore who had been a senior member of President Clinton's staff and thus involved
two years before in the making of the allegations - concluded that the claims about mobile laboratories were "hard to confirm".
Much of the information comes from individuals who claim to have been scientists employed by the Iraqi government but who
have now "defected" to Europe or the US. The US has offered financial rewards to scientists who defect, as well as guarantees
of asylum. As a result, many of the claims may be exaggerated, highly speculative or simply concocted. US State Department
officials have often mentioned that they do not take verbal information obtained from defectors seriously; it may be more
plausible to assume that their information is publicised more as part of attempts to win support for a war than to make a
realistic assessment of Iraqi weapons development.
The Iraqi government has invited journalists to visit
some of the sites that the UK and US have mentioned. For example, journalists who visited the Taji warehouse in mid-August
- which the US claimed days before was a major biological weapons facility - found only "boxes of powdered milk from Yemen,
Vietnam, Tunisia and Indonesia and sacks of sugar imported from Egypt and India", according to the Reuters correspondent.
The visiting journalists are not weapons inspectors, and do not have the resources to monitor facilities for chemical agents
or radiation; but they are able to ascertain if major new production facilities have been constructed. Now that the Iraqi
Foreign Minister has made an unconditional offer to the UN to readmit weapons inspectors (on 16 September), allegations about
the production of new facilities can be checked. However, the British Foreign Secretary and the White House have both disparaged
the Iraqi offer, even though it could lead to the verified disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
(c) Delivering an attack? Possession of chemical or
biological agents is not enough to threaten another country, even if the Iraqi regime desired to. British and American claims
about possession have therefore been linked to allegations that Iraq could fire these agents on missiles, which could even
The first problem with this claim is the very low number
of longer range missiles that Iraq might have. According to Unscom, by 1997, 817 out of Iraq's known 819 ballistic missiles
had been certifiably destroyed. On the worst-case assumption that Iraq has salvaged some of the parts for these missiles and
has reconstructed them since 1998, even Charles Duelfer - former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, deputy head of Unscom
and strong proponent of an invasion of Iraq - has provided an estimate of only 12 to 14 missiles held by Iraq. Even under
this scenario, it is difficult to see Iraq posing a threat to the rest of the world through its missiles. Furthermore, biological
weapons cannot be effectively dispersed through ballistic missiles. According to the IISS, much of the biological agent would
be destroyed on impact and the area of dispersal would be small. For example, if anthrax is filled into missile warheads,
up to 95% of the content is not dispersed (according to the Director of Intelligence of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff: http://www.bt.edu/reports/Anthraxthreat.pdf)..bt.usf.edu/reports/Anthraxthreat.pdf).
British ministers have made much of the claim that
Iraq has experimented with using small Czech-built L-29 training jets as remote-controlled drones, which could deliver chemical
and biological weapons. Such drones were apparently spotted at Iraq's Talil airbase in 1998. A British defence official invoked
the possibility that if these drones were flown at low altitudes under the right conditions, a single drone could unleash
a toxic cloud engulfing several city blocks. He labelled them "drones of death". The hyperbole is misleading: even if Iraq
has designed such planes, they would not serve their purpose, as drones are easy to shoot down. A simple air defence system
would be enough to prevent the drones from causing damage to neighbouring countries. The L-29 has a total range of less than
400 miles: it would be all but impossible to use it in an attack on Israel. The only possibility for their use against Western
targets would be their potential deployment against invading troops.
Further reading: Scott Ritter (former head of Unscom's
Concealment Unit), " The Case for Iraq's Qualitative Disarmament", from Arms Control Today (June 2000), at www.armscontrol.org/act/2000_06/iraqjun.asp
Many of the assessments of
Iraq's development of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons are based largely on a hypothetical analysis of what could
be done by the Iraqi regime if it was determined to produce these weapons. Using worst-case scenarios, they present Iraq's
potential activities - such as importing fissile material or producing anthrax spores - as an immediate threat. Whilst such
assessments may be valuable in order to understand the range of possibilities, they do not provide any evidence of Iraq's
weapons of mass destruction or the Iraqi regime's intention to use them. As Hans Blix, executive chairman of Unmovic - the
new UN weapons inspection body - said on 10 September, there is much that is unknown about Iraq's programmes,
"but this is not the same as saying there are weapons
of mass destruction. If I had solid evidence that Iraq retained weapons of mass destruction or were constructing such weapons
I would take it to the Security Council."
You cannot launch a war on the basis of unconfirmed
suspicions of both weapons and intentions. It would be better to take up Iraq's unconditional offer of 16 September to allow
inspectors to return, and to reject the plans for an invasion to achieve "regime change".
The US and UK policy has been to provide disincentives
to Iraqi compliance rather than incentives. The UK has refused to rule out its support for "regime change" even if a full
weapons inspections system is in place: Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has only said that the possibility of an invasion "recedes"
in such circumstances. Senior members of the present US administration have been more forthright: Vice-President Cheney labelled
the return of weapons inspectors to Iraq as counterproductive in his Nashville speech of 26 August. Inspections would be counterproductive
to US war plans, but would also serve to discover - and if necessary, constrain - Iraq's weapons programmes.
If the Iraqi regime is led to believe that the US has
made an invasion inevitable, it will have no reason to co-operate with weapons inspectors. As Hans Blix said on 18 August,
"If the Iraqis conclude that an invasion by someone is inevitable then they might conclude that it's not very meaningful to
The Iraqi regime also has a clear disincentive if it
believes that the weapons inspectors will - like their predecessors in Unscom - collect information that the US government
would use to plot its overthrow. That Unscom was engaged in such actions is now beyond doubt. Its executive director from
1991 to 1997, Rolf Ekéus, said on 28 July that the US tried to gather information about Iraq's security services, its conventional
military capacity and even the location of Saddam Hussein through the supposedly impartial weapons inspections programme.
It is not hard to guess why the US wanted such information.
Iraq has repeatedly asked for a clear timetable for
the lifting of economic sanctions to be coupled with the weapons inspections system. This is not an unreasonable demand: in
fact, it was the agreement made in the ceasefire that ended the Gulf War, and which the US in particular has done so much
since 1991 to obscure. The ceasefire agreement - Security Council Resolution 687 - lays out the elements of a political solution:
an independent weapons inspectorate, an end to the threat of war, a clear timetable to lifting economic sanctions, and the
creation of a weapons of mass destruction free zone in the Middle East (entailing the need for the end of Israel's nuclear
On each of these four points, the US in particular
stands in clear violation of the terms of the agreement.
The consequences of that violation have been apparent
in the deterioration of the weapons inspections system. Garry B. Dillon, the Director of Operations of the IAEA Action Team
in Iraq from January 1994, and its head from June 1997, characterised Iraq's compliance with the nuclear inspectorate from
late 1991 to mid-1998 as "essentially adequate" (in the paper cited on p.4 above). Dillon concludes that "Iraq's motivation
to co-operate was shattered by the statement [by the then-US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright] that, regardless of Iraq's
compliance, the embargo and the sanctions would not be lifted as long as President Saddam Hussein remained in power". Backing
a "carrot and stick" approach to Iraq, Dillon argues that "the carrot should represent a tangible benefit, not merely the
withholding of the stick. Indeed, during 1998, Iraq repeatedly claimed that 'the light at the end of the tunnel had gone out.'"
If the US and UK re-engage with the political process
that was laid out in the ceasefire resolution, Iraq will once again be provided with reasons to cooperate with the weapons
inspectorate. That possibility, which will remove the need for instigating a humanitarian crisis inside Iraq and instability
in the region, should not be dismissed lightly.