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UNSCOM's failure; US on sanctions

A rather odd article on UNSCOM's lack of success - I can't vouch for its
validity. But it includes some quotable quotes at the end on sanctions by
Martin Indyk, acknowledging their harmful effects but again linking them
to the ousting of the current government. For those of you who don't know,
Indyk is probably the most influential official within the US
administration on Middle East policy.

18 November 1998
They seek them here, they seek them there...
By George S. Hishmeh

A STARTLING little bit of information here amidst the high drama
surrounding the near terror promised Iraq this past weekend by the United
States and Britain is that UNSCOM, the controversial U.N. agency in charge
of scrapping Iraqıs weapons of mass destruction, has not been able to find
on its own any additional weapons since the 1991 Gulf War. 
The Republican vice presidential nominee, Jack Kemp, said in a public
statement last Friday that he and his staff ³can find no evidence of
UNSCOM documentation² of further weapons finds. 
Robert D. Novak, the prominent conservative American commentator, reported
that he had asked the State Department spokesman earlier this month
³whether it was accurate that no weapons of mass destruction have been
found in Iraq since just after the Gulf War ended and that those
discovered at that time were disclosed by Iraqi officials.² 
James P. Rubin asserted then that the weapons inspectors ³have found more
weapons of mass destruction in the seven years since the Gulf war than
were destroyed during the Gulf war.² 
But writing in his column on Monday in the Washington Post, Novak insisted
³that is almost untrue² and added that when he again asked Rubin about
Kempıs statement of last Friday Rubin ³cited specifically only the weapons
pointed out by the Iraqis in 1991, though he added that he had been
assured there have been other discoveries.² 
Martin Indyk, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs,
also maintained at a briefing for the foreign press here on Monday that
UNSCOMıs unpublicised failure was ³not true,² and assured the writer, ³and
to give you the most recent example, the discovery of VX (nerve gas) on
warhead fragments is an example of the kind of work that UNSCOM is able to
do in terms of tracking down what Iraq has done with its WMD (weapons of
mass destruction) programmes.² 
Naturally Indyk skipped over the doubt cast by tests in France and
Switzerland which could not substantiate the questionable findings by
American lab of traces of VX gas on some destroyed Iraqi warheads. 
The role of UNSCOM has also become controversial after the resignation of
chief inspector Scott Ritter, a former American Marine, who admitted that
he had contacts with Israeli and American intelligence during his work in
Baghdad for the international organisation. President Clinton and the
State Department quickly came to the defence of UNSCOM on Monday, but they
did not actually assert that it was the U.N. inspectors who had found
these alleged stocks of biological and chemical weapons-making materials.
Rather, Clinton reported that ³since the system was created and the
inspections began, Iraq has been forced to declare and destroy, among
other things, nearly 40,000 chemical weapons, nearly 700 tonnes of
chemical weapons agents, 48 operational missiles and 30 warheads
especially fitted for chemical and biological weapons, and a massive
biological weapons plant equipped to produce anthrax and other deadly
Foreign diplomats privately ridicule UNSCOMıs inability to find any
weapons in the past seven years and some have wondered aloud whether it
may take the U.N.  commission another 50 years to complete its job. 
A week ago as a matter of fact, the New York Times quoted senior American
officials as saying that the Clinton administration ³is preparing to
abandon the United Nations inspections regime as an effective instrument
for restraining² Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Even in a recent
testimony before Congress Defence Secretary William Cohen underlined the
difficulties facing the U.N. mission, pointing out that a few inspectors
could not possibly find concealed weapons in a country the size of several
American states in the north-east. 
The near consensus here before the American and British military build-up
was on traditional containment through sanctions. 
Again when the futility of sanctions was pointed out to Indyk at the press
briefing by this writer as is the case with Cuba which has faced nearly 40
years of U.S.  sanctions without any discernible change in the Communist
regime a few miles from the Florida Keys, Indyk admitted that ³loosening
Saddamıs grip on power is a daunting challenge² blaming it on ³his
ruthlessness, and because his regime is so repressive.² 
Indyk went on, ³and thatıs why weıre realistic about this, and believe it
will take some time.² 
He also conceded that ³the sanctions have had the effect of hurting the
Iraqi people² but with the oil-for-food programme, which is expected to be
renewed shortly, he argued that ³sanctions could be maintained until
there was full compliance.² 
If so, it should not come as a surprise to the Clinton administration if
it finds that it will have to go it alone on the issue of sanctions, which
actually have been eroding for some time. Take the case of the new ferry
service between Dubai and Iraq, the growing trade with India, Turkey, Iran
and Syria.

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