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INSIDE UNSCOM: The Scott Ritter Tape

Long but interesting interview with Scott Ritter (particularly
interesting talk about exit strategies near the end...)


  INSIDE UNSCOM: The Scott Ritter Tape
  Saturday, 14 November 1998, 1:55 am
  Staff Reporter: Alastair Thompson


***** Highly Recommended Reading. ***** This weekend UNSCOM has
taken the Middle East once again to the brink as US forces mass
to enforce the weapons inspections agency's right to access to
Iraqi military sites. The following interview tells the UNSCOM
story from an insider. WARNING: The background to the latest war
in Iraq is not what you would expect....

BACKGROUND: Former UNSCOM Iraq arms inspector Scott Ritter spoke
to Wellington freelance journalist Jeremy Rose in San Franciso at
the State of the World Forum. Rose attended the Forum as part of
a team commissioned by Saatchi and Saatchi to provide a webcast
(see from the conference held at
the Fairmont Hotel. The team also included NewsRoom political
editor Alastair Thompson.

This interview is proudly brought to you for the first time by
NewsRoom. This interview is copyright to the author, applications
for permission to republish in part or wholly should be sent to

The interview was conducted three days before Iraq called for the
sacking of UNSCOM executive chairman Richard Butler on October
31. This was the Iraqi move which has since led to the latest
Gulf Crisis. Butler, who had been attending the State of the
World Forum, was about to receive an award for his work on human
rights from the Forum when he was recalled to New York to deal
with Iraq's call for his dismissal. In the interview Ritter
provides an insight into the operations of UNSCOM, its
relationships with the Security Council, the US military and
intelligence services and, with revealing detail describes the
relationship with Israel and the Israeli intelligence service,
the Mossad.
Ritter was formerly a senior inspector working for UNSCOM inside
Iraq. Something of a media star during his time on the inside of
the weapons inspection agency, his revelations, since he
resigned, on the nature of UNSCOM's operations have received
extensive coverage, particularly in the UK. On the night prior to
this interview Ritter fronted up to Butler with his criticisms of
UNSCOM in a BBC debate. The contents and implications of this
interview are discussed in an earlier NewsRoom editorial.. Empty
Clash Threatens Future Of UN - Editorial -


Rose: Could you describe your work in Iraq?

Ritter: I was brought into the Special Commission for the purpose
of creating something called the information assessment unit
which is a UN euphemism for intelligence capability. Intelligence
from the perspective of receiving information organised and then
collated into rudimentary assessment and then using that
information to co-ordinate assistance for inspectors as they go
around the country.

It was a very basic job early on. Iraq was supposed to provide
the declaration, and then we were supposed to verify it. But it
became obvious early on that Iraq was providing false information
and inaccurate declarations. And so more of a burden fell on our
shoulders to do more than just verification of Iraq's
declarations but to actually do inspections of discovery to try
and expose the lies, to expose the hidden information in Iraq.
And if Iraq's not providing the information we have to get it
from somewhere. So we formed this unit to receive this
information from governments.

And that was my initial task. After I helped set the unit up then
I took over the information/intelligence requirements for
ballistic missile programmes. I would receive the information,
co-ordinate with governments on ballistic missile programmes then
use that information to plan inspections in Iraq.

Rose: Did you find ballistic missiles?

Ritter: Well what we found was evidence that Iraq was lying about
what they told us. You know it's pretty disingenuous of the
Iraqis to say UNSCOM has never found anything. I mean, I don't
want to sound like Bill Clinton, but let's discuss what the
meaning of found is here. Iraq gave us a false declaration about
the number of operation launches and operation missiles that it
had left after the war. We did not find the hidden launchers the
hidden missiles. What we did was expose the Iraqi lies and
present them with a fait accompli. You have lied we know you've
lied this is the proof. And Iraq went ohh.

Rose: Was that satellite proof or something similar?

Ritter: I probably shouldn't get into the sources or methods used
because once you've exposed that Iraq knows what capabilities
there are looking at it. We showed Iraq proof that they were
lying. And they went oh we guess we were. Here we will give you
the launchers we'll give you the missiles. But they didn't give
us the missiles and the launchers. What they did was they said
well you know the reason we didn't declare it was that we've
destroyed all that stuff. We just didn't tell you about it. We've
scattered the pieces all around Iraq and we didn't keep any
records of the destruction and we really can't give you the
evidence that we destroyed it, you just have to trust us. We've
destroyed everything. Well our job is to verify so we'll start
working verifying on your statements. And as we progressed down
that path. We have now moved away from being a traditional arms
control organisation receiving declarations and verifying them we
have become sort of a forensic detective agency where we have to
into Iraq and carry out after-the-fact investigations. We have to
carryout forensic investigations looking for pieces of evidence
analysing this evidence and trying to determine what it means.

Rose: What's the truth behind the VX find?

Ritter: Well the VX is an example of this. From the very
beginning we told the Iraqis we had information that they
produced VX. They no we didn't. So to give you an example of how
special commission exposed the VX story. They had a factory
called Methon State Establishment??? which was heavily bombed
during the war. The Iraqis sanitised this facility. Sanitised
means going in and cleaning up all the papers all the bits and
pieces so the commission couldn't find anything when we got
there. But there was one bunker, a very heavy concrete bunker,
which ceiling had collapsed in. So the Iraqis couldn't' get to
what was underneath that. We had a very innovative Dutch
inspector called Kace Walterbeck(?) come up with the idea. Why
don't I go in there and raise the roof and excavate in there and
see what I can find. And he did that. What he found was log
books. And the log books clearly showed that Iraq produced VX. We
confronted the Iraqis with this evidence and they said "we didn't
declare it to you because it was only lab level work. We never
produced that much VX. We tried but we failed so we didn't want
to complicate the issue and tell you about this. But yes we did.
So we said where are the precursors, where are basic chemicals
that you used to make VX? How do you account for these. We
destroyed them all. Where? In this field. So again Kace
Watlerbeck went in and dug up soil samples. And when he analysed
the soil samples he found that the Iraqis had lied about the lab
efforts that were done. They claimed they had made VX using one
approach yet the chemical analysis showed a different approach.

The Iraqis were stunned and they said well we did but we didn't
succeed. We never stabilised this VX. We produced it but it would
degenerate rapidly. But again the inspectors in digging around
found a container which the Iraqis had cleaned out. Scrubbed.
There was nothing in it. But at the top there was a little purge
valve that would be used if you connected a tube and were pumping
liquids out. The purge valve had a tiny little catchment, the
inspectors went in there ran a swab in there and there was
liquid... pure VX. It's stabilised VX. Iraq said they didn't do
it. We now have proof they did. So what the hell's going on here
now? You lied to us yet again. Then Iraq said we only produced a
limited quantity of stabilised VX and we never weaponised it. We
never put it in a weapon.

Now the commission has extremely sensitive information that says
Iraq did indeed weaponise VX. But one of the natures of our work
is that given the sensitivities we can't go to the Security
Council with this data because the Security Council unfortunately
has members who are very sympathetic to Iraq. It would give away
these sources and methods that we use.

So we still couldn't confront Iraq with the evidence that they
did it in warheads. So we worked on exposing the inconsistencies
in their story. We had a wonderful inspector Nikita smenovech who
earlier this year had a seminar with the Iraqis about warhead
accounting and he tied them in knots. The problem with telling a
lie is it starts to unravel and when it starts to unravel in
unravels in a big way. And Nikita was able to dig into their
story and find the frayed edges and start pulling the string and
their whole story came apart and the Iraqis were flustered. They
were forced to admit that they had additional warheads to what
they had declared. Now that you've declared the additional
warheads how did you account for them. They said well we
destroyed them. We said fine Where. They said well in these other
locations that we didn't tell you about. So Nikita sent a team
there and excavated it and pulled up pieces. The Iraqis thought
that would be it. No he said we going to pull them out and look
at them. And the Iraqis were panicked because they knew damn well
what we would find if we looked at these pieces. They said you
can't do that. They actually intervened with the Secretary
General and said you have to stop Richard Butler he's trying to
create a confrontation. A crisis. The Secretary General
intervened and tried to prevent us pulling these pieces out up
but we were insistent. So after a compromise which Richard Butler
agreed we would only take 30 days to analysis this material we
pulled it out took to a US army lab and found incontrovertible
proof that Iraq had filled these weapons with VX.

Rose: But tests by other countries didn't verify that did they?

Ritter: This one came out in June. And then the Iraqis
immediately challenged that. Said well it was done by Americans
therefore it can't be good. Now we pulled these samples from a
wide field. The American samples came from a specific part of the
field. The report is very detailed. I think there were 40
something samples and we found VX degradation products on 17 of
them. that's a good quantity.

Other samples were pulled from other parts of the field and taken
to a warehouse and locked. But we didn't put cameras on them
inspectors never went back and checked-up on it Iraq was in total
control of that warehouse. Iraq then said you have to have other
people besides Americans do these tests. So they said they want
French and Swiss and Americans can come back in and pull these
other samples out. But they wouldn't let the samples leave. You
see the American test was done on actual metal samples. The first
time the Americans did the test the took a swab analysed it and
they found nothing and only when the special commission pushed
them to go into the metal itself did they find the material but
on the second round of tests the Iraqis wouldn't allow the metal
out. And the French, the Swiss and the Americans had to take just
swabs right there in Iraq. Now the swabs went out and got
analysed. But the metal fragments that were being looked at there
were came from a different part of the field not the same part
that the Americans originally took their sample. So it's not the
same sampling case.

Rose: It obviously been a frustrating time. And it sounds like
the Security Council has also been frustrating to you. If you
can't report things to them for fear they will share it with Iraq

Ritter: Well it's troublesome because we work for the Security
Council. And we get our authority off the Security Council
resolutions. But the unit that I was responsible for creating and
I was involved in for the last seven years the job of uncovering
Iraq's weapons became extremely difficult and required the
special commission to take extraordinary measures to try and
accomplish its mission and these extraordinary measures required
us to go to governments and ask for very sensitive support. These
governments agreed on the condition that it was bilateral between
that government and the special commission. Not with anybody else
- to include the Security Council.

Rose: Some of those nations that you are referring to have the
right of veto, why haven't they just vetoed the continuation of
the sanctions [not a possibility, I know]?

Ritter: That would be the end of the Security Council. There is
no doubt in any body's mind that Iraq is not in compliance. So
for Russian, France or China to veto something that they passed
to begin with would show that they're not serious at all about
the Security Council. They're not serious at all about their
responsibilities as a permanent member of the Security Council.
They can't veto it, what they can do is work behind the scenes to
try and limit the requirement of Iraq for getting rid of these
weapons. And that's what taking place today. These countries are
pushing what's called a comprehensive review which will reduce to
a very small number of issues the outstanding requirements left
for Iraq to achieve compliance.

Rose: What would that do?

Ritter: To give you an example. VX. These tests came back and proved that
the American lab results were correct. They can't be challenged.
Furthermore they showed that Iraq tried to decontaminate those pieces that
were tested the second time around. They used a special decontamination
device to hide the evidence. Why is Iraq doing this. What's happening now
at the Security Council and at the Secretary general's office is they're
saying this is a technical issue between the special commission and Iraq,
but we're trying to resolve the situation on a political level. Well that
means that know one cares about the technical level anymore. This new
comprehensive review will state that instead of saying Iraq produced VX
and Iraq must admit it and declare it, it will state that there are some
difficulties.  There are some technical issues that need to be resolved
and they can be resolved through long term monitoring. So they will close
the file and Iraq will never be forced to explain its VX. And what's
troublesome about that is that there is serious evidence that Iraq retains
VX salt which is a compound that can be stored forever. And which can be
rapidly turned into a weapon. I thought we were supposed to be getting rid
of this stuff in Iraq, I thought Iraq wasn't allowed to have this
capability and therefore the special commission needs to account for all
of this and ensure Iraq has none of this left. 

We are now sitting on evidence that proves Iraq has lied about
its VX story. That it did stabilise VX and that it has not
accounted for hundreds of tonnes of precursors. Something is
wrong here. The Security Council is behaving in a manner which
obviates this evidence and is allowing Iraq to create a situation
together with the Secretary General where Iraq won't be held
accountable for this. Iraq will somehow be allowed to push this
off to long-term monitoring and that will be long term monitoring
on terms dictated by Iraq which means we can't have inspection
teams doing no notice inspections to try and find this material.

Rose: How do you feel about people like Denis Halliday who resigned at a
similar time to you in protest at the sanctions? 

Ritter: I have nothing but the highest respect for Denis Halliday. And it
would surprise a lot of people to find out that I totally agree with Denis
Halliday. Sanctions are horrible. The sanctions regime being imposed on
Iraq is a huge injustice. Being perpetrated by the United Nations at the
behest of the United States.

Sanctions were imposed on Iraq to punish Iraq for invading Kuwait. The
decision to keep these sanctions were made after the end of the Gulf War
when a precondition for conflict termination was imposed saying Iraq must
get rid of these weapons of mass destruction. Until they do so sanctions
will be left on. But the purpose of sanctions is to create harm in Iraq.
To create pain. So that Iraq is compelled to obey the law. Iraq is a
brutal dictatorship the pain is being felt by 22 million innocent Iraqi
people, not by the leadership, not by Saddam Hussein, not by his cronies.
So therefore sanctions are going after the wrong people. The people of
Iraq are not the decision makers.  Saddam Hussein is more than willing to
use them as a pawn to keep himself in power and to further his own
personal interests. Now we have a situation where the UN imposes sanctions
at yet the same time another part of the UN comes in and says this is a
humanitarian disaster, which it is, and we have to alleviate the pain and
suffering of the Iraqi people. Which is good, except sanctions were
imposed to create pain and suffering so that the Iraqi people would
pressure the regime. Now you have Denis Halliday in there doing an
extremely frustrating task trying to bring in food and medicine. To the
women, the children and the elderly who are suffering. And he's bringing
that in to alleviate suffering caused by the United Nations. The UN is at
war with itself in Iraq.

Rose: So what's the answer? 

Ritter: The answer is you cannot punish Iraq solely on a sanctions based
policy. Sanctions don't work. The Iraqi regime is thriving. They've
learned to violate sanctions left and right. Sanctions are unenforceable.
The continuation of sanctions only weakens the efforts of countries like
the United States to put pressure on Iraq. Because what's happened is Iraq
is turning sanctions around and undermining the basis of support that the
United States has for its policy. Hardly any country around Iraq right now
supports the continuation of sanctions.

Rose: How would you put pressure on Iraq without sanctions? 

Ritter: To me it is just glaringly obvious. What I will say is this. It's
not my job to dictate national policy to any country. But I can be
diagnostic. What we have in Iraq is a situation that sanctions aren't
working, Iraq is getting away literally with murder, they're going to keep
these weapons and they're going to get sanctions lifted eventually. Sooner
than anybody believes. The Security Council is fractured and there is no
unanimity for decisive action against Iraq. The resolution was created
under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. This means that Iraq has foregone
aspects of its sovereignty, Iraq presents a clear and present danger to
international peace and security.  Iraq must disarm in order to stop
presenting this capability and if they don't disarm they can be compelled.
This means the Security Council has the authorisation to either act as a
council and do military action or have a member nation on its own
undertake military action. The United States is the country behind all of
this. We built the coalition that went to war to liberate Kuwait, we
pushed for the creation for this resolution at the end of the war to
disarm Iraq and the United States pushed the special commission to
carryout these very difficult inspections which resulted in guns being
pointed at the heads of inspectors.

The US pushed it. We're in this position because the US wanted Iraq
disarmed. Iraq is not being disarmed right now. It's up to the United
States to compel Iraq. Sanctions aren't working. They're not going to
work. There's only one person to blame for all of this and it's Saddam
Hussein. He has to be held accountable. I think the answer is quite
obvious what has to happen. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure
it out. I don't have to say it. 

Rose: I think you've said that UNSCOM gave film to Israel...? 

Ritter: We didn't give anything to Israel. Israel is a member of the
United Nations. In April of 1991 the Special Commission sent out letters
to around 185 nations asking for help. Thirty five responded. One of those
nations was Israel. They provided information. 

Rose: So it's been a one way exchange of information? 

Ritter: What happens. I've talked about extraordinary situations. The
special commission cannot collect information on its own. We have a U2
Aircraft which flies at our request. But the United States flies that
aircraft.  It takes film. We don't have 15 - 20 photo interpreters who can
effectively analyses that film. The US does. So the US will assess this
imagery and will feed the results to the special commission. Are we
sharing information with the United States. In effect we are, because
we've authorised them to take photographs, look at the photographs and
give data to us. But that data is also going to the United States. Is that
sharing no, that's a special co-operation so that the special commission
can the information it needs to carry out inspections. For a number of
reasons in 1994 the executive chairman Rolf Aekeus authorised me to go to
Israel and undertake a special relationship with the Israelis in which we
would get information from the Israeli which would enable us to do our job
in Iraq. As I said the Iraqis created a nearly impossible situation for us
to work. They head these weapons.  Then they built an elaborate mechanism
to conceal these weapons. We had to defeat this concealment mechanism and
we needed new techniques, new methodologies, new ways of thinking. The
Israelis brought that to the table, so we undertook a special relationship
with Israel to try and defeat this Iraqi mechanism. It's not sharing. I'm
not going to Israel at the behest of the Israeli intelligence service and
given them information to serve the interests of Israel. 

Rose: You're using them as contractors? 

Ritter: They have their own information. Israel can't operate inside Iraq.
Israel can't send teams into Iraq to verify these buildings. UNSCOM can.
So Israel would give us information, we would assess and ensure that
everything they gave us was in total conformity with our mandate under
Security Council resolution. That it dealt with disarmament issues as
covered by the Security Council. Then we would take action and do
inspection. At the end of the inspection we would gather results and we
would take these results to Israeli analysts who would assess it together
with us. So that we would have a better picture. That was the arrangement
approved by the executive chairman. 

The concept of me spying on behalf of Israel is a total lie. It is an
Iraqi attempt to divert attention from the fact that the reason we had to
go to Israel and go to other countries is that they've lied about their
weapons, they're holding on to their weapons, they're concealing their
weapons. The Special Commission had to take, was forced to take
extraordinary measures to respond to that Iraqi action. It's disingenuous
for Iraq, the Security Council and the world to somehow point the finger
at me and the special commission and say we've behaved improperly. We have
not. We've behaved with honour. With due respect for the United Nations
Charter and for the Security Council resolutions and the mandate they gave
us. It's Iraq that's behaved dishonourably. They're the ones that have to
be held accountable. The special commission has only been trying to do a
very difficult job that was given to us. 

Rose: Would you support the lifting of sanctions? 

Ritter: Iraq is getting itself 5.2 billion worth of oil. It's joke. That's
more oil than they've sold at any time before 1990. They can't even pump
that much oil out of the ground. What's happening is a charade. It's a
joke. The Iraqi people are suffering and Iraq and Saddam Hussein is
building international support because of sanctions. 

In theory the immediate lifting of sanctions would be warranted. One it
would rob Saddam Hussein of this political tool he has been wielding very
effectively. The problem with lifting sanctions is that we can't. Because
we have a law. We have international law that's been imposed and Iraq's
been told that in order to change this law. In order to reverse what's
been implemented it has to comply. So if we unilaterally lift sanctions we
have in effect set a precedent for not holding Iraq accountable. We've
boxed ourself into a corner we can't lift sanctions. But we can't allow
sanctions to go on. We have to resolve this situation and resolve it now. 

If that means the United States has to hike up its pants, roll up its
sleeves and get in there and start swinging  then by God get it done.
Because if you don't do it now you are going to have to do it later and
the price you pay now is going to pale in comparison with the price you
have to pay down the road. 

Rose: The price to the US or the region? 

Ritter: American lives, Iraqi lives, disruption of the economy of the
entire region. Pain and suffering for millions of people. You can't allow
this situation to continue. If the UN wants to have a meaningful role in
international peace and security in the future it has to stick to what it
started. It started something that was honourable back in 1991.  To get
rid of these weapons of mass destruction. A lot of countries agreed with
it. You have to see that through because if you don't you're sending a
signal to the rest of the world that we can just wait the UN out. The UN
is not serious about doing this.

Rose: How do you feel about criticism from Arab states that Israel has
nuclear weapons and yet no pressure is going on them? 

Ritter: It's a valid point. But you have to look at it in the context of
why Israel has nuclear weapons. There's not a single Arab country that had
a coalition assembled against it for the purpose of eradicating that
nation and its population from the face of the earth. In 1948 Israel was
surrounded by a coalition of Arab states whose sole purpose was to drive
in and kill every Jew in Israel. To eliminate to eradicate this cancer
that had been created by the United Nations. That hasn't changed. Israel
has developed an extremely strong sensitivity to its national security. I
think they felt because they're so small. And because they don't have the
luxury of trading space for time, they don't have a large population, and
after the holocaust, the have a tremendous respect for human life, they
don't want to trade life for time. They believe that the ultimate way of
ensuring their continued existence was to create weapons that would deter
Arab states from trying to eradicate Israel. I understand why they created
them but its always short-sighted. I think Richard Butler said very
effectively, last night, if you have them others will want them, and if
you have them some day you may have to use them. And if you use them the
result is never going to be what you intended it to be. It will be
catastrophically bad for all parties involved. Israel has to get rid of
these weapons, there's no doubt about it. But that is not a license for
Arab states to behave irresponsibly. I think something has to be done
about the Israeli weapons. Hopefully the future will alllow some sort of
negotiated resolution to that issue. 

Rose: You don't think there should have been some sort of linkage? 

Ritter: No, absolutely not. Iraq deserves no linkage. Iraq is a criminal
state. Iraq has broken international law.  Israel is not a criminal state.
Israel is a democracy. That's one thing people have to understand. It's a
thriving democracy. Iraq is a dictatorship a brutal dictatorship. There's
no way I would ever support elevating Iraq's concerns to the same level
with Israel. Israel is in a league of its own. It is a functioning
democracy. It has a true desire for peace and security in the Middle East.
It's made mistakes. It's made grievous mistakes. It needs to be held
accountable for those errors. It has weapons that it needs to get rid of.
There's no doubt about that. It's not a perfect entity. But Iraq in no way
compares to Israel. Iraq is a nation that has used chemical weapons
against its neighbours, used them against its own population. Invaded for
the purpose of absorbing, Israel never wanted to absorb Lebanon into
Israel. Iraq invaded Kuwait with the sole purpose of absorbing it. Doing
away with Kuiwait.  There's no way you can compare Iraq with Israel and
link Iraq's concerns with those of Israel. It would be a disservice to

Rose: Yesterday must have been the first time you've seen Richard Butler
for awhile? 

Ritter: It's the first time I've met with Richard Butler since I resigned. 

Rose: How was that. I understand there were some legal problems? 

Ritter: There was never any legal problems, people have to understand that
I'm an American and I have first amendment rights and I report to a higher
authority than the United Nations. Some people might not agree with that.
I felt there was a grievous wrong being done, and there still is a
grievous wrong being done by my government. By this administration. But
the Government has several parts to it, and one of those parts is
congress, and I have an obligation to report to congress about what I view
to be a threat to the international security interests of the United
States. So I report to Congress. 

Rose: So when you say you're responsible to a higher authority you mean... 

Ritter: The United States. Look the United Nations is a wonderful
organisation and I am glad I had an opportunity to work with them and I
would hope in the future I could work with them again. There is no world
government. The United Nations is not going to dictate how I live as an
American in the United States. I signed a special service agreement with
the UN saying would not discuss this information. It's a serious
undertaking. But I think a contract is a two way street. In signing this
agreement with the UN the UN was also signing an agreement with me that
they would behave in a responsible manner. That they would carry out the
task that they started.  They haven't done that. Therefore I'm not going
to be part of a cover-up. The United Nations I feel is in breach of
contract. Therefore my contractual obligations to the United Nations are
out the window. I have a higher obligation the United States of America to
protect US national interest so I reported to Congress. But I've done so
in a responsible fashion. I told you today I'm not going to talk about
sources and methods of information. I'm only going to talk about policy
issues and failures of policy.



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