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[casi] Inspector - Inspectors Have Found Nothing - US Not Sharing Intelligence

Source: Sergei L. Loiko and Maggie Farley, “Inspectors 'Have Zilch' Thus
Far”, Los Angeles Times, 31 December 2002,,0,3161828.story?coll=la%2Dheadlines%2Dworld


BAGHDAD -- In their search for hidden Iraqi arms, U.N. inspectors have so
far faced little conflict, have found little evidence and have received
little outside intelligence to guide them, said one inspector. The teams
have discovered two technical matters that could be considered violations of
U.N. resolutions but have yet to find a smoking gun, a trace of radiation or
a single germ spore.

"If our goal is to catch them with their pants down, we are definitely
losing," the inspector said on condition he wouldn't be named. "We haven't
found an iota of concealed material yet."

In one of the first glimpses of the inspection process from inside Iraq, the
inspector described a team of experts who have been thwarted by Iraqi
authorities who have better preparation, equipment and intelligence than the
inspectors. Their minders have faster cars and better radios with which to
alert others that they're on their way and, of course, know just where
they're going and what they're looking for.

The list of Iraq's violations is short. During the four years in which
inspectors have not been allowed in the country, the Iraqis tried to procure
missile parts and altered others without notifying the U.N., the inspector
said -- two incidents that could be considered a breach of U.N. resolutions,
though perhaps not large enough to justify military action.

But the inspectors' roster of frustrations is long. There are 110 U.N.
weapons experts in Iraq, 100 searching for chemical and biological weapons
and 10 looking for evidence of a nuclear program. Their mission is nearly
impossible -- trying to find suspected caches of material or documents in a
country about the size of California.

Their work is relentless -- sometimes the different teams conduct seven
inspections a day, which means early wake-up calls, long drives and intense
searches. Monday was that kind of day as inspectors made seven visits,
including one to a water-purification plant and one to a missile factory.

To keep their plans secret from wiretaps, moles or eavesdropping devices,
inspectors operate like spies, passing notes about the day's plans rather
than speaking aloud, and driving their U.N. jeeps in circles to confound
those trying to determine their destination.

But often, inspectors say, by the time the U.N. convoys arrive at a site,
the gates are open and the workers are waiting. The Iraqis have been
obliging, even eager to please, allowing the inspectors to wander through
the bedrooms of a once off-limits presidential palace "like idle
museum-goers," the inspector said.

"Even private facilities which are not part of their state-run military
industrial complex open up for us -- like magic," he said. "But even if they
open all the doors in Iraq for us and keep them open 24 hours a day, we
won't be able to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if it is not
there. We need help. We need information. We need intelligence reports if
they exist."

The inspector said he and his colleagues feel acute pressure from Washington
to find something soon. But if the U.S. has provided its long-promised
intelligence, they haven't seen it yet.

"We can't look for something which we don't know about. If the United States
wants us to find something, they should open their intelligence file and
share it with us so that we know where to go for it," he said.

A senior Bush administration official said Monday that the U.S. has passed
along "high-quality" information regarding suspected chemical or biological
sites but that the inspectors haven't acted on it yet.

"They have gotten some intelligence, and they will get more," the official
said. But what the U.S. intelligence community is concerned about is whether
the information can be used fruitfully and not compromised so that it loses
its value, he said. "It is as much a test of the inspectors as it is of

Past inspection teams were infiltrated by moles who reported the U.N.
experts' plans to Iraqi authorities. This time, the demands for secrecy are

"We are not allowed to say a word about what we are doing," said the
inspector, noting that the Iraqis, in contrast, usher journalists into
just-searched sites and describe in detail what questions the experts asked
and what they were looking for.

"By being silent, we may create the false illusion that we did uncover
something," the inspector said. "But I must say that if we were to publish a
report now, we would have zilch to put in it."

The chemical experts haven't found a trace of the tons of chemical agents
that Iraq is suspected of having, he said. The biologists are taking air
samples to find spores, but the biological agents don't have a long shelf
life and probably have long been buried or disposed of.

The nuclear inspectors found that the massive installations used to enrich
uranium were practically undisturbed since they were decommissioned and
sealed by the previous inspection team. They are convinced that the old
facilities are not being used. But the inspectors are still searching for
secret stores of enriched uranium, small caches of which could be hidden
almost anywhere in the country.

The only possible breaches, the inspector said, might come from Iraq's
handling of aluminum tubes that experts suspect were to be used as part of a
centrifuge to enrich uranium. The Iraqis say that the tubes were meant for
helicopter-launched air-to-ground missiles but that when they didn't work as
expected, they were altered for use in antiaircraft rockets. Altering the
tubes without informing the U.N. violated previous resolutions about
dual-use goods.

Then, Iraq used foreign-registered front companies to buy replacement tubes
without informing the U.N. -- another breach of U.N. sanctions.

In the past, the inspectors' best source of information came from defectors
who had worked on the weapons program, and U.S. officials are pressuring the
U.N. teams to take scientists and relatives out of the country for
interviews. Last week, Iraqi authorities provided inspectors with a list of
500 scientists who headed or worked on weapons programs. Probably 1,000 more
have knowledge of weapons work, the inspector said.

The interviews are "a very difficult and complex thing," he said. "I took
part in such interviews in 1998. It is a spectacle, not for people with poor
nerves. It was happening in the presence of Iraqi generals, in the lights of
the cameras. You could see large drops of sweat streaming down the forehead
of a mature middle-aged scientist. These interviews didn't get us anywhere
then. They will not take us anywhere now. The risk for their lives and the
lives of their relatives is great, and we can't do anything to create a
normal situation."

The first interview this time produced nothing, the inspector said, because
the minders were all security service officials, keeping careful track of
what was being said.

"It's stupid to think that we can offer them to go abroad to testify. Once
any of them expresses a desire to go abroad for an interview, his brains
will be kicked out in no time -- his and his entire family's," he said.

The inspectors said his colleagues think it possible that Iraq really has
eliminated its banned materials. But, he noted, it still has its scientists.

"We didn't cut off heads," he said. "They can gather all the intellectual
potential together and start their deadly work again."


Nathaniel Hurd
Consultant, United Nations Iraq policy, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC)
United Nations Office
90 7th Ave.
Apt. #6
Brooklyn, NY  11217
Tel. (M): 917-407-3389
Tel. (H): 718-857-7639
Fax: 718-504-4224

Any views or opinions presented above are solely those of Nathaniel Hurd and
do not necessarily represent those of the Mennonite Central Committee.  The
Mennonite Central Committee has no legal or other responsibility for the
contents of this message.

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