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Recent Scott Ritter interview on Iraq

Attached is a contribution from Sean Gonsalves, who writes for the Cape Cod
Times and for syndication. He can be reached at
Published on Tuesday, March 7, 2000 in the Cape Cod Times  

Scott Ritter on Iraq 
by Sean Gonsalves 
Last week, I interviewed Scott Ritter, who was part of the United Nations
team in charge of dismantling Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Can you tell me about the "threat" that Saddam Hussein poses to the Middle
East region, in particular; and the world in general?

"Let's talk about the weapons. In 1991, did Iraq have a viable weapons of
mass destruction capability? You're darn right they did. They had a massive
chemical weapons program. They had a giant biological weapons program. They
had long-range ballistic missiles and they had a nuclear weapons program
that was about six months away from having a viable weapon.

"Now after seven years of work by UNSCOM inspectors, there was no more (mass
destruction) weapons program. It had been eliminated....When I say
eliminated I'm talking about facilities destroyed....

"The weapons stock had been, by and large, accounted for - removed,
destroyed or rendered harmless. Means of production had been eliminated, in
terms of the factories that can produce this...."There were some areas that
we didn't have full accounting for. And this is what plagued UNSCOM.
Security Council 687 is an absolute resolution. It requires that Iraq be
disarmed 100 percent. It's what they call 'quantitative disarmament.' Iraq
will not be found in compliance until it has been disarmed to a 100 percent
level. That's the standard set forth by the Security Council and as
implementors of the Security Council resolution, the weapons inspectors had
no latitude to seek to do anything less than that - 80 percent was not
acceptable; 90 percent was not acceptable; only 100 percent was acceptable.

"And this was the Achilles tendon, so to speak, of UNSCOM. Because by the
time 1997 came around, Iraq had been qualitatively disarmed. On any
meaningful benchmark - in terms of defining Iraq's weapons of mass
destruction capability; in terms of assessing whether or not Iraq posed a
threat, not only to its immediate neighbors, but the region and the world as
a whole - Iraq had been eliminated as such a threat....

"What was Iraq hiding? Documentation primarily - documents that would enable
them to reconstitute - at a future date - weapons of mass destruction
capability....But all of this is useless...unless Iraq has access to the
tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars required to rebuild the
industrial infrastructure (necessary) to build these weapons. They didn't
have it in 1998. They don't have it today. This paranoia about what Iraq is
doing now that there aren't weapons inspectors reflects a lack of
understanding of the reality in Iraq.

"The economic sanctions have devastated this nation. The economic sanctions,
combined with the effects of the Gulf War, have assured that Iraq operate as
a Third World nation in terms of industrial output and capacity. They have
invested enormous resources in trying to build a 150-kilometer range
ballistic missile called the Al Samoud.

"In 1998 they ran some flight tests of prototypes that they had built of
this missile. They fizzled. One didn't get off the stand. The other flipped
over on the stand and blew up. The other one got up in the air and then went
out of control and blew up. They don't have the ability to produce a
short-range ballistic missile yet alone a long-range ballistic missile....

"The other thing to realize is: they are allowed to build this missile. It's
not against the law. The law says anything under 150 kilometers they can
build and yet people are treating this missile as if it's a threat to
regional security....It's a tactical battlefield missile, that's it. Yet,
(Congressman Tom) Lantos and others treat this as though it's some sort of
latent capability and requires a ballistic missile defense system to guard
against it. It's ridiculous. Iraq has no meaningful weapons of mass
destruction program today.

"Now, having said that, I firmly believe we have to get weapons inspection
back in for the purpose of monitoring...especially if we lift economic
sanctions. And I believe that there should be immediate lifting of economic
sanctions in return for the resumption of meaningful arms inspections. Iraq
would go for that.

What Iraq is not going for is this so-called suspension of sanctions where
the Iraqi economy is still controlled by the Security Council and held
hostage to the whim of the United States, which has shown itself
irresponsible in terms of formulating Iraq policy over the past decade. The
United States still has a policy of overthrowing the regime of Saddam
Hussein - in total disregard for international law and the provisions of the
relevant Security Council resolutions. 

"I, for one, believe that a.) Iraq represents a threat to no one, and b.)
Iraq will not represent a threat to anyone if we can get weapons inspectors
back in. Iraq will accept these inspectors if we agree to the immediate
lifting of economic sanctions. The Security Council should re-evaluate
Iraq's disarmament obligation from a qualitative standpoint and not a
quantitative standpoint."
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