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[casi] Interview with Rolf Ekeus; manipulation of UNSCOM by US

Dear all,

Rolf Ekus, Executive Chairman of UNSCOM 1991-1997, gave an interview in
Swedish radio this morning. I believe this contains information that has
not appeared in the English-speaking press, and have therefore transcribed
and translated the interview below.

The most important points are:
 - The US and other members of the Security Council routinely attempted to
influence UNSCOM, and succeeded in using it as a tool for their own
political interests. This was particularly the case some years into the
inspections regime, when initial 'genuine' concern about weapons of mass
destruction had abated.
 - The US used 'controversial' UNSCOM inspections as a means to engineer
crises in relations with Iraq, with the aim of legitimising other, non-UN
aspects of its Iraq policy.
 - UNSCOM was pressurised into gathering information about other aspects of
Iraq than weapons of mass destruction; including what must be branded
regular espionage.
 - There are plans in the US for a new inspections regime with 'military
backing', although Ekus is reticent about what this may mean.
 - A new Yale University study about the inspections is about to be
published. Does anyone have information about this?
 - Ekus implicitly points a finger at Richard Butler, by saying that these
tendencies became much worse after he stepped down in 1997.

The message is clear: it adds to the charge that the US did not give UNSCOM
a chance to settling the conflict over weapons of mass destruction. This
does not exonerate the Iraqi government from the charge that it obstructed
inspections and failed to cooperate, but it does counter much of the
argument that inspections cannot disarm Iraq. That we cannot know until a
genuine effort to do so is made.

Rolf Ekus was Chairman of UNSCOM from 1991 to 1997, when he stepped down
to become Sweden's ambassador to the USA, a post he still holds. He is
also, inter alia, Chairman of the Governing Board of the Stockholm Peace
Research Institute and OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities.

For Swedish speakers, the original interview can be found on:


RE: There is no doubt that the Americans wanted to influence the
inspections to further certain fundamental US interests. I don't think this
was the case during the first few years, as there was, at that time, a
genuine concern about the weapons of mass destructions that Iraq could

There were some, especially the US, who were interested in get hold of
[information about] other forms of capacity [than WMD]. For example: how
was Iraq's security services organised; what was the conventional military
capacity; etc. I was head [of UNSCOM] until 1997, from 1991 to 1997, and I
was conscious of this ambition to gather information that did not have
anything directly to do with proscribed weapons. For me, the task was to
have such discipline and a structure in the organisation [UNSCOM] that
there would be no attempts to exploit the system of inspections as a cover
for other activities.

I: What kind of activities?

RE: To attempt to gather information about other aspects [of Iraq], for
example about the location of president Saddam Hussein, which could be of
interest if one were to target him personally, etc., i.e. about areas that
were not within the UN mandate. It is entirely wrong for the UN to be a
cover for such... for that type of activities.

I: Is it the case that the UN did become a cover at times?

RE: Yes, there were attempts. I think it succeeded. During my time [as head
of inspections] I don't think there were any such activities, but the
pressure did increase with time. Another aspect of this was the attempts to
create crises in relations with Iraq, which to some extent were linked to
the overall political situation, internationally, but also nationally. This
put pressure on the inspectors. I think that we managed to ward off such
attempts until 1997. But there were always different interests from all
powers, from USA, but also from the Russians, with Russia taking action.

I: What do you mean by 'creating crises'?

RE: That the inspectors and the directorate of the inspections was
pressurised to undertake controversial inspections - at least inspections
that the Iraqis thought were controversial - and thereby cause a stalemate
which could form the basis for direct military action.

I: Creating a crisis -- isn't hat a provocation?

RE: There was an ambition to cause a crisis through pressure for, shall we
say, blunt provocation, for example by inspection of the Department of
Defence, the Ministry of Defence in Baghdad, which at least from an Iraqi
point of view much have been very provocative. It is possible that the
inspectors - this was after my time - believed that there was something of
interest in those buildings. I did not believe this, as I was entirely
convinced that there was no [WMD] material in that type of buildings. But
there could be situations where we prepared for such a hard and tough round
of inspections, and then were put under pressure from the US to halt them,
as, all of sudden, a confrontation was no longer wanted, owing to wider
political interests. It could have something to do with the wider situation
in the Middle East, with US-Russian relations; something to do with other
priorities which for the moment were more important.

I: If I understand you correctly, it could be the case that one week there
was an interest in creating a conflict with Iraq, and the next week the
American president was going to Moscow, and then you were supposed to take
it easy?

RE: Well, that is an abstract example, but there developed hard pressure
from primarily the US, but also from other members of the Security Council,
that the inspectors should take into account not only the work to find and
destroy proscribed materials and equipment, but also strategic and tactical
considerations, which corresponded to the interests of individual members
of the Security Council. This was a dangerous development for the UN, as it
ran the risk of overstepping its mandate.

I: And this also gave Iraq a reason to question the whole systems of

RE: Well, they did question it all along anyway, but it is true that it
lent more credibility to their accusations and complaints, and that other
informed observers thought that there was some substance to their claims,
viz. that the inspections were adapted to suit the interests of great

I: But if this really happened as you say, that one or a few countries in
the Security Council - the US and Russia, as you have said, and maybe also
others - from time to time wanted to turn the inspections into a political
instrument, then surely Iraq was justified in its criticism?

RE: Yes, there is no doubt that from the very start... I experienced such
pressure all the time, directed towards the [UNSCOM] directorate. The
problem was for the UNSCOM directorate not to take any notice, and [make
sure] that the UN kept to the rules of the game, so that no individual
member of the [Security] Council manipulated decisions or influenced the
activities [of the inspectors].

I: But what you're saying is that members of the Security Council really
did this, and managed to do so?

RE: Yes, I guess you could say so. There are several studies about to be
published, including one by Yale University, which investigate this
further, and these will show very clearly that there were attempts by
governments to exercise their influence: stopping some kinds of
inspections, while encouraging other types.

I: But you're at the same time giving us examples of government succeeding
in doing so?

RE: Yes, with time such hard pressure developed. This happened after my
period [as Director of UNSCOM], and it seems that pressure escalated so
that there was a degree of adaptation [of inspections].

I: What does this mean for the new inspections organisation [UNMOVIC] under
the leadership of Hans Blix, which is prepared, but which has not yet
managed to leave the headquarters in New York?

RE: It is almost entirely up to the US, whether they are prepared to give
inspections a chance.

I: But is there anything indicating that the US would not be interested in
invading Iraq, and deposing president Saddam Hussein?

RE: Well, what we try, quite a few of us, is to convince the US that it is
possible to carry out successful inspections, in the way we did before. It
is a question of sticking to the rules of the game.

I: But my question was whether you see any signs that this will happen?

RE: Yes, I see that the US, in the internal decision-making process about
which I have information, does consider and analyse the system of
inspections, to start the inspections again. But it could also be that
there will be a mix of some sort.

I: What would that look like?

RE: There is a thought to link inspections very closely to heavy military
backing, without an outright war. This is the sort of thing that are being

I: An armed inspectorate?

RE:  Some sort of backing, that's right.

I: Could you make explain that further?

RE: No, I don't want to do that, as this is so topical. There is a number
of people involved in this, thinking about this.

I: Are you involved?

RE:  I have not comments about that.  I stay informed about what happens.

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