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Interview with Hans Blix.

Dear all,

On the 6 of May, Hans Blix, Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC, gave a 25 minute
interview on Swedish radio, focussing on UNMOVIC, inspections and sanctions.
Those of you who understand Swedish might be interested in accessing the
original Real Audio clip, links to which can be found on

As Blix will be the person reporting to the Security Council on whether Iraq
has 'cooperated in all respects with UNMOVIC' (see paragraph 33 of SCR 1284)
and therefore qualifies for a suspension of sanctions, his attitude and
understanding of the situation seems like an important aspect of the future
of sanctions.

Sadly, my conclusion is that Blix vigorously supports sanctions. He seems to
see them merely as a useful tool helping him to carry out his assigned task,
and denying any moral dimension. He dismisses humanitarian concerns by
arguments seemingly directly borrowed from the US State Department. What is
more, throughout the interview he backs his claims by referring to 'American
assertions', 'American opinion', and 'the detailed statements made by the
American and other governments'; actual UN reports are attributed a
strangely secondary role throughout. While making clear that the suspension
of sanctions is completely dependent on him reporting favourably on Iraqi
co-operation, he completely denies any moral connection between his
activities and the effects of sanctions.

In sum, Blix's position amounts to the most hawkish defence of sanctions I
have encountered in Swedish. Indeed, it's hard to remember any UN official
being so one-sided. I am not able to assess whether the many inaccuracies in
Blix's interview (see below for details) are the result of deliberate
distortions or just stem from a remarkable level of ignorance of the real
conditions in Iraq. Hoping for the latter, his position is in either case
saddening, given the pivotal position attributed to his office by the vague
provisions of SCR 1284. Let's hope that if inspections ever do recommence,
Blix will be guided by professional integrity in his reporting; we certainly
cannot hope for his sympathy with the Iraqi people.


Per Klevnäs.

Below follows a thematic description and some analysis of what I perceive to
be the most important parts of the interview.


On the question on how UNMOVIC will be different from UNSCOM, Blix says the
he hopes to conduct inspections in the more 'correct manner' of IAEA (of
which he was Director General from 1991 to 1996), i.e. in a less aggressive
way than that of UNSCOM. At the same time, he is very eager to deny
allegations that he will be 'softer' on Iraq than were previous heads of
inspections such as Rolf Ekéus.

He states that there will be a great deal of continuity between UNSCOM and
UNMOVIC in terms of personnel, due to the limited pool of expertise, but
sees as important the shift in allegiance from national governments to the
UN. Notably, he denies that UNSCOM in any way should be seen as having been
dishonest in intentions, and he dismisses the spying charges as Iraqi and
Russian allegations for which there is not evidence. He also says that it is
not in his interest to enquire into these allegations.

UNMOVIC will be training its officers for inspection this summer, and will
theoretically be able to start inspections by the end of August.


Blix makes no mention of Scott Ritter's distinction between qualitative and
quantitative disarmament, claiming instead that there now is no knowledge of
what actually has been going on in Iraq since December 1998. Nevertheless,
he states that sanctions and military action have been very effective
methods of pressure over the last decade, so that 'the greater part of their
[the Iraqi] capacity for mass destruction is destroyed'.

Iraqi nuclear weapon capacity, he says, was completely destroyed by the
Autumn of 1998, as reported by IAEA. Blix believes that by now the USA
agrees with this conclusion, despite statements to the contrary at the time.
The mention of this aspect is of some significance, as highlights how any
future UMOVIC reports could be summarily rejected as inadequate, should they
fail to satisfy the US or the UK. Moreover, Blix unwittingly, it seems,
makes the same comment as Scott Ritter that it naturally is impossible to
know whether 'every centrifuge, every computer program' has been found and
destroyed. He odes not, however, draw the same conclusion as Ritter that it
always will be enormously difficult to ascertain complete quantitative

Iraqi missile capacity he also deems was sufficiently destroyed in 1998 so
as to satisfy inspection criteria, but he does not touch upon how this lack
of carrying capacity for WMDs should contribute to the assessment of Iraq as
a security threat.

Below are some examples of statements which I believe highlights Blix's
attitude to sanctions.


On the scope of sanctions, Blix makes a number of very striking comments:
* He states that 'Iraq can sell as much oil as it wants to, which amounts to
at least $10 billion per year'; failing to mention the crippling role of
holds on contracts. This export he claims enables Iraq to buy 'vast' amounts
of food, ignoring that the grand total of foodstuffs supplied under
oil-for-food for the last three years amounts to only $6,95 billion, nothing
near the $10 billion per year that he alludes to.
* He denies that there are no limitations on purchase of medicines. This is
not truthful, as there have been several instances of invoking dual use
arguments for stopping vaccines and much medical equipment.
* He says that 'all goods that can be bought in the West can also be bought
in Baghdad', which just is plainly wrong. To the extent that, for example,
anything containing a Pentium chip is available in Baghdad, it has got there
by smuggling.
* Most worryingly, he concludes that 'Iraq can buy vast amounts of food;
what Iraq cannot import are parts of weapons of mass destructions, of
platforms for weapons of mass destruction'. The extraordinary extent of this
distortion, making it seem that the sanctions make up an exclusively
military embargo - is almost unparalleled.


Blix denies practically all links between the sanctions
policy and human suffering in Iraq. The examples of distortions of evidence
are numerous, but here are but a few examples:
* Blix says that 'the Iraqi population is certainly much better [sic] hurt
by sanctions [than is the regime], but it was already hurt by the war
against Iran, which span over many years, and which hurt the economy and
took  very many human lives'. Coming from a UN official, this is an
extraordinary contradictions of figures and conclusions produced by UN
agencies themselves. Indeed, the only previous instance I can recall of this
argument is in Pilger's documentary, where something similarly absurd is
proposed by James Rubin.
* When asked about Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, Blix states that
they resigned 'because they did not feel that the sanctions were
meaningful', implying that their was linked to the failure of sanctions to
bring about disarmament. Anyone who has heard Halliday's statements about
'genocidal sanctions' will know that this hardly is a fair description of
their damning criticism of the sanctions. Blix follows up his comment by
saying that 'the American opinion is that sanctions still are a means of
bringing pressure to bear on the regime', with the implication that this is
enough justification to counter both Halliday and von Sponeck's claims.
* When asked directly about the humanitarian situation, he says that,
'according to American assertions', 'the picture is disjointed', and invokes
the familiar arguments of comparing infant mortality rates in Northern and
South/Central Iraq. He fails to mention any of the factors that Carol
Bellamy and UNICEF claim explain this difference.

Per Klevnäs
Girton College
Cambridge, CB3 0JG
+44 79 01 80 77 82

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