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[casi] On the imposition of new conditions on UN weapons inspectors

Email to Channel 4 debate on Iraq

from Milan Rai, author of War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Why We
Shouldn’t Launch Another War Against Iraq (Verso, 2002/ARROW
Publications 2002)


This is rubbish. There are long-standing agreements (made in 1996,
1997 and 1998) which allow inspections of 'sensitive sites', including
Presidential palaces, subject to certain conditions (limiting numbers of
inspectors or requiring accompaniment by foreign diplomats). It is the
US, not Iraq, which is putting new conditions on the inspections
(Colin Powell has admitted this) in order to cook up such an
objectionable resolution that Iraq will withdraw its offer to allow in
inspectors, and so open the way for war. (References for these
statements at the end of this email.)


This whole issue was shamefully misrepresented by the British
Government in the recent dossier on Iraq's weapons:

‘In December 1997, Richard Butler reported to the UN Security
Council that Iraq had created a new category of sites, ‘presidential’
and ‘sovereign’, from which it claimed that UNSCOM inspectors
would henceforth be barred. The terms of the ceasefire in 1991
foresaw no such limitation. However, Iraq consistently refused to
allow UNSCOM inspectors access to any of these eight Presidential
sites.’ (Dossier, p. 34)

It is true that Iraq resisted inspection of ‘sensitive sites’. But, in fact,
there was a series of agreements between UNSCOM and Baghdad
between 1996 and 1998, which enabled UN weapons inspectors to
visit these disputed sites.

1) In June 1996, Rolf Ekeus, then head of UNSCOM, agreed with the
Iraqis that only FOUR weapons inspectors would enter designated
‘sensitive sites’.

2) In Dec. 1997, Richard Butler, the new head of UNSCOM,
negotiated a new agreement, whereby at larger ‘sensitive sites’ such as
the sprawling presidential palaces, more inspectors could enter ‘if the
size of the site warranted it, as decided on a case by case basis’.

3) In Feb. 1998, Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, agreed new
procedures for inspecting eight identified presidential palaces.
Inspectors would be accompanied by foreign diplomats to safeguard
Iraq’s ‘sovereignty’.

(Reference for all three agreements: Richard Butler, Saddam Defiant:
The Threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Crisis of Global
Security, London; Ekeus: p. 96; Butler: p. 125; Annan: p. 155)

So, in Dec. 1997, the month that the Government says that Richard
Butler concluded Iraq was embarking on total noncooperation over
the inspection of ‘sensitive sites’, the UNSCOM chief actually
concluded an agreement with Iraq that allowed MORE weapons
inspectors into these ‘sensitive sites’ than had previously been
permitted by Baghdad.

The Government says that ‘Iraq consistently refused to allow
UNSCOM inspectors access to any of these eight Presidential sites.’

This is also the reverse of the truth. The ‘sensitive sites’ inspection
process developed by Ekeus, Butler and Annan enabled UNSCOM to
inspect the presidential palaces after the Feb. 1998 Memorandum of

‘Our inspections of the Presidential sites were eventually conducted
over a period of ten days, and on April 15 [1998], a report on these
“entries” (in the UN vernacular) was presented to the Security
Council.’ (Reference: Richard Butler, Saddam Defiant, p. 164)

On the validity of the Iraqi position that the 1996/1997/1998
agreements are still in force: ‘We understand the MOU
[memorandum of understanding] to still be valid’, said UNMOVIC
spokesperson Ewen Buchanan. (FT, 19 Sept.)

Colin Powell told a Congressional committee, ‘There is standing
authority for the inspection team but there are weaknesses in that
authority which make the current regime unacceptable. And we need
a new resolution to clean that up and put NEW CONDITIONS on
the Iraqis so that there is no wriggling out . . . if somebody tried to
move the [inspectors’] team in right now, we would find ways to
thwart that.’ (Telegraph, 21 Sept., p. 20, emphasis added)


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