The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]
Scott Ritter - the former UNSCOM arms inspector who is a vociferous opponent of economic sanctions - has written the following article for "American Spectator" (available online at http://www.spectator.org/). Regards, Drew Hamre Golden Valley, MN USA e-mail: email@example.com --- Iraq's Hot Season, Redux by Scott Ritter There is a space on the calendar, a 90-odd day span of time between early July and late September, that veteran Iraq hands watch with a mix of interest and dread. In the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM, the organization mandated by Security Council resolution to oversee the disarmament of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction), we referred to it by a number of names, perhaps the most appropriate of which was the "Hot Season". The "Hot Season" is aptly named, for in addition to being the hottest time temperature-wise in Iraq, it also produce a disproportionate number of major confrontations between Iraq and the United Nations Security Council in the wake of the Gulf War of 1991. These confrontations have more often than not produced their own political, diplomatic and military "heat". The nine past Hot Seasons underscore this: 1991, Iraq obstructed weapons inspectors hunting Iraq's undeclared nuclear program; 1992, Iraq blocked inspectors from gaining access to a cache of proscribed documents hidden in the buildings of the Iraqi Agriculture Ministry; 1993, Iraq interfered with the installation of cameras at ballistic missile test sites; 1994, Iraq moved troops towards the Kuwait border in an attempt to trade the recognition of that border for an easing of sanctions; 1995, Iraq threatened to sever relations with the UN weapons inspectors, only to have the crisis shift gears with the defection of Hussein Kamal; 1996, Iraq confronted weapons inspectors over the issue of access to "sensitive sites," forcing a compromise reducing the effectiveness of the inspection regime, and Iraq invades Kurdistan, routing CIA-backed coup plotters; 1997, Iraq again blocked the work of weapons inspectors, this time over the issue of inspector access to so-called "Presidential Sites"; and 1998, Iraq refused to cooperate with the weapons inspectors, prompting a confrontation which led to military action and the final expulsion of the inspection personnel. If one includes the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, we have a decade of Hot Seasons which have shaped the world's relationship with Iraq. An examination of each crisis shows that the Iraqis react aggressively to initiatives undertaken by others, in particular the UN weapons inspectors. It is very rare that the Iraqis initiated a crisis. Iraq appears to time its Hot Season activities in an effort to define the nature of the debate in the Security Council that occurs every October concerning Iraqi compliance with resolutions calling for its disarmament of weapons of mass destruction (such discussions have been scheduled every six months since the passing of Security Council resolution 687 in April 1991). In 1996 the Iraqis succeeded in splitting the coalition when France objected to the expansion of the southern no-fly zone in response to Iraq's incursion into Kurdistan, and in 1997 Iraq was able to parley its "Hot Season" crisis into an abstention from voting on new sanctions by Russia, France, and China. This gradual erosion of consensus within the Council reached its climax in 1998, when Iraq was able to parley repeated confrontations into the demise of the UNSCOM weapons inspection process. Since the 70-hour bombardment of Iraq in December 1998 (Operation Desert Fox), the international community has struggled to come to grips with the Iraqi problem. The Security Council remains hopelessly divided, with three of the five veto-wielding permanent members (Russia, France, and China) pushing for the total lifting of economic sanctions with a reduced inspection process, and the United States and the United Kingdom diplomatically maneuvering to align the ten non-permanent members of the Council with their own policy of trading off the resumption of vigorous weapons inspections for a suspension of economic sanctions which leaves control of how Iraq spends its oil-derived income in the hands of the Security Council. The problem of what to do with Iraq is far more complicated than just the issue of arms inspections and disarmament. Two other factors have appeared on the landscape which shape the Iraqi political battlefield in ways not foreseen by original Security Council when passing its disarmament resolutions. The first is economic sanctions and the horrific devastation of the Iraqi economy and quality of life since 1990, and the second is the low-grade war of attrition being waged by the United States and the United Kingdom over northern and southern Iraq. Both factors result in the death and suffering of innocent Iraqi people, and neither have a direct impact on resolving the current impasse over stalled weapons inspections. However, these two factors play a critical role in shaping the upcoming debate in the Security Council on how to facilitate the resumption of weapons inspections. And, as the "Hot Season" for 1999 gets into full swing, it is on these two issues that Iraq will focus on in trying to influence the future of weapons inspections and Iraqi sovereignty. The American and world media are only now wakening to the reality that the United States is knee-deep in an undeclared war against Iraq. The goals and objectives of this conflict are nebulous and purposely ill-defined by the Clinton administration. The sustained campaign of air strikes in northern and southern Iraq are ostensibly acts of self-defense, carried out by our pilots in response to Iraqi threats and attacks on their aircraft patrolling the skies over these regions. The reality is much more complicated. The current quasi-war in Iraq was implemented in the aftermath of Operation Desert Fox, when the Pentagon adjusted its military might in the region to contain and degrade Saddam Hussein through a low-profile, yet sustained war of attrition. Continued Iraqi defiance of the no-fly zones only provides a pretext for the United States to bomb an expanded list of targets. Further complicating the current air war is its lack of any mandate under international law. While the original humanitarian focus of the no-fly zones shielded the United States from harsh criticism prior to Operation Desert Fox, since December 1998 this humanitarian pretext has worn thin, and increasingly the United States finds itself criticized for waging an illegal war against Iraq in contravention of the United Nations Charter. It is this sentiment Iraq is hoping to tap into in the coming weeks and months. Saddam has already escalated the war of words concerning the no-fly zones; his next step will be to escalate the scope and scale of the conflict, trying to provoke the United States into what Pentagon officials call "disproportionate response," massive bombing in retaliation for a minor offense. Iraq has tried, unsuccessfully, to score political points by highlighting recent miscues by American warplanes, publicly decrying the destruction of mosques, grain silos, and civilian housing, and the inflicting of scores of casualties among the Iraqi civilian population. The growing frustration on the part of the Pentagon and the White House over the ineffectiveness of their air campaign is almost palpable. Iraq is rebuilding its air defenses and command and control sites as quick as the American and British pilots can destroy them. Military aid, brought in from Russia via Syria in violation of sanctions, has enabled Iraq to expand its air defense capabilities. These expanded defenses, when combined with an increase in provocation by the Iraqis, may well prove to be too much of a red flag for the American military bull. The other point of contention is economic sanctions. A recent UNICEF report highlighted the disaster unfolding in central and southern Iraq (those regions controlled by Baghdad; Kurdistan, in the north, is self-governing). The infant mortality rate has doubled in the years since 1993, reinforcing the case humanitarian organizations have been making for years: Thousands of Iraqi children are dying every month as a direct result of the deprivations brought on by economic sanctions. While the world as a whole has been slow to rally around this particular cause, citing the threat from Saddam Hussein as the greater of two evils, the recent UNICEF report may be the beginning of a turn in public opinion. The inability to deal effectively with Saddam Hussein's Iraq has led to a growing sense of Iraq fatigue, both in the United States and the United Nations. The threat of Saddam's Iraq is no longer as looming as it once seemed, opening a crack in the armor of public opinion that the Iraqi government, by emphasizing the results of surveys such as that conducted by UNICEF, hope to capitalize upon. If attempted in isolation such a tactic might not stand a chance. However, when undertaken in tandem with a surge in American military strikes against Iraq, the two issues might succeed in redefining Iraq as the aggrieved party and the United States as the aggressor in the arena of world opinion. Such a posture would have enormous benefits to Saddam Hussein's Iraq, especially during the Security Council debates scheduled in the coming weeks concerning the future of weapons inspections and the status of economic sanctions. This, more than any thing else, appears to be the underlying goal behind Iraq's current Hot Season activities. The Clinton administration is approaching the upcoming Security Council deliberations with a very low profile. Its objectives are clear: Keep Saddam Hussein "in his box" by maintaining economic sanctions and continued enforcement of the no-fly zones. The resumption of weapons inspections are actually very low on the American agenda. The surprisingly open assessment put out by the CIA last month which found no evidence that Iraq was taking advantage of the lull in inspections to rebuild its prohibited arsenal was released to the public in part to minimize the importance of getting inspectors back into Iraq. The CIA report stands in marked contrast to the alarmist rhetoric dispensed by Washington, DC and London during the build-up to Operation Desert Storm which emphasized the immediacy of the Iraqi threat. The current British-Dutch draft resolution, the subject of the upcoming Security Council discussions, attempts to jump-start the inspection process by "suspending" most of the economic sanctions on Iraq (subject to periodic review) in exchange for Iraqi acquiescence on a fresh, "vigorous" regime of inspections carried out by a new inspection body renamed and reorganized to address the sensitivities of Iraq and its Security Council allies, Russia, France, and China. However, the United States has no intention of allowing Saddam Hussein to stray far from the box that has been constructed for him. The United States knows that the British-Dutch draft resolution, in its current form, has no chance of withstanding a veto from Russia, France, or China. This, of course, makes for interesting dialogue in the Security Council when the draft resolution's merits are debated. The United States will seek to extract as much political mileage from this resolution as possible (i.e., being seen as moving forward on issues such as disarmament and humanitarian relief), while transferring responsibility for the failure to resurrect arms inspections onto Iraq and its erstwhile Security Council allies. In this manner, the administration's policy of containment is continued and, in their eyes, justified. But it is Saddam and the Iraqis who seek to have the last laugh. Through an escalation of tensions with the United States and Great Britain over the enforcement of the no-fly zones in the coming weeks, Saddam hopes to lure the Americans into a trap, one which will forever redefine the nature of the debate, minimizing Iraq's disarmament obligations while underscoring the humanitarian debacle in Iraq and the undeclared war of attrition being waged over north and south Iraq. The Iraqis will most likely to seek to coincide this escalation of confrontation with the Security Council debate of the British-Dutch draft resolution, thus seeking to enlarge the debate in the Council to include issues other than disarmament. If Iraq succeeds in this strategy, the United States will be hard pressed to satisfactorily explain the inherent contradictions in its current Iraq policy, shifting initiative and world opinion to Iraq, Russia, France, and China. The United States must avoid stumbling into this trap. Iraq must be held accountable for its disarmament obligation, and there are significant issues that need to be resolved before Iraq can be given a clean bill of health. UNSCOM's case concerning the scope and scale of Iraq's VX chemical weapons program is a clear case in point. Iraq's VX nerve agent program is a documented fact. Iraq admits to producing 3.9 tons of this deadly chemical. UNSCOM disputes these figures, expressing concern that chemical precursors capable of producing some 200 tons of VX have not been adequately accounted for. Iraq denies that it ever produced significant quantities of the VX agent in a stabilized form, i.e., so that the agent would not chemically degrade, thus rendering it useless, while stored in a weapon. Iraq also denies that any VX agent was ever loaded into a weapon. UNSCOM's discovery last year of SCUD missile warheads buried in Iraq which contained chemical residues that proved the presence of stabilized VX gas contradicts Iraq's position on both these counts. This impasse between UNSCOM and Iraq remains one of the greatest obstacles towards UNSCOM's ability to certify Iraqi compliance with its disarmament obligations. The VX issue represents a real and meaningful capability that must be dealt with before any comprehensive resolution of the overall problem of Iraq can be considered. The absence of a sound American policy regarding Iraq in no way absolves the Russians, Chinese, and French from their unfortunate and highly destructive recent statements regarding Iraq's VX program. Any contention that somehow the missile warhead fragments uncovered by the Special Commission might have been deliberately tainted by inspectors not only flies in the face of the forensic evidence assembled (evidence supported, ironically, by the findings of French chemical laboratories), but also plays into the hands of the Iraqi regime. It is high time for the Russians, and their French and Chinese allies to stop playing such games. These nations must use the legitimacy that a permanent seat on the Security Council brings to pressure Iraq to come clean on VX. Similar actions would be required concerning certain aspects of Iraq's past biological weapons programs as well. Only through such action might Russian diplomacy towards achieving the lifting of economic sanctions stand a chance. Ditto for France and China. There are other obstacles as well. There can be no progress on disarming Iraq as long as the United States adheres to its current policy of seeking the removal of Saddam Hussein from power. The Iraqi Liberation Act, put into law by a bi-partisan Congress, has so far failed to threaten Saddam Hussein in any meaningful way. On the other hand, it has succeeded in institutionalizing a disparate and ineffective Iraqi opposition and politicizing its support inside the United States, further entrenching the authoritative rule of Saddam Hussein. In seeking to implement the Iraqi Liberation Act, any potential for a meaningful diplomatic initiative is hamstrung by locking the United States into a unilateral policy of regime removal that is the antithesis of forging Security Council consensus. Trying to pursue a Security Council-brokered arrangement with Iraq and a policy of overthrowing Saddam Hussein in parallel are inherently contradictory. Of course, it doesn't have to be this complicated. Instead of conducting a policy which has repeatedly found itself in danger of slipping away altogether, America could be pushing a policy that results in the rapid reintroduction of weapons inspectors into Iraq, and use this as the cornerstone of a new relationship regarding Iraq. Trading the lifting (vice suspension) of economic sanctions for the resumption of meaningful inspections is one means of accomplishing this. New Security Council resolutions are not required; the Security Council has already passed resolutions calling for the monitoring of Iraqi compliance (resolution 715) and Iraqi export-import activities (resolution 1051). What is required is a conclusion to the original resolution 687, one which redefines the disarmament obligations of Iraq to meet more realistic qualitative benchmarks. The subsequent refocusing of inspection goals and objectives on preventing the future reconstitution of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction capability would not only capitalize upon the many accomplishments of UNSCOM in rooting out and disposing of Iraq's prohibited weapons, but also help the Security Council regain some of its lost credibility and resume its role as a viable overseer of international peace and security. Thus, as the Hot Season of 1999 progresses, there is little on the horizon that suggests that the five members permanent members of the Security Council will be able to break the current deadlock over Iraq. It is just this environment that the wily strategists in Iraq will be seeking to exploit as they plan their next moves. Saddam Hussein will pursue a fresh round of confrontations, this much is certain. His goal is escalation, and it is this trap that the United States must avoid falling into if it wants to continue to implement its current containment policy. However, even if the United States avoids this trap, given the fact that the Americans are not putting forward any meaningful options beyond the policies currently pursued, there will be no victors, only losers. Twenty-two million Iraqi citizens who continue to suffer under the combined effects of economic sanctions and tyrannical rule, and hundreds of millions of others will pay a price in economic and security concerns as the Iraqi crisis stumbles, unresolved, through yet another Hot Season. The fallout from the failure of the current American policy towards Iraq has serious implications for the formulation of foreign and national security policy in the new millennium. It is this very reason that the lack of discussion on Iraq from the camps of the various Presidential hopefuls of both parties is disheartening. The American people, and the world, deserve better. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- ---- Scott Ritter is a former weapons inspector for the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) who resigned his post in August of 1998 in protest of US and UN policies concerning Iraq, and is the author of Endgame: Solving the Iraq Problem Once and For All. (Posted 9/1/99) -- ------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To be removed/added, email firstname.lastname@example.org, NOT the whole list. Please do not sent emails with attached files to the list *** Archived at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss.html ***