The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]
Source: Sergei L. Loiko and Maggie Farley, “Inspectors 'Have Zilch' Thus Far”, Los Angeles Times, 31 December 2002, http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-iraq31dec31004422,0,3161828.story?coll=la%2Dheadlines%2Dworld [begin] 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 Iraq." Past inspection teams were infiltrated by moles who reported the U.N. experts' plans to Iraqi authorities. This time, the demands for secrecy are intense. "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." [end] 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 ************************************************ DISCLAIMER ************************************************ 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. _________________________________________________________________ Protect your PC - get McAfee.com VirusScan Online http://clinic.mcafee.com/clinic/ibuy/campaign.asp?cid=3963 _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk