Iraq in the Balance

 (Written Wednesday 19th March 2003) 

Dear Readers:

The United Nations’ Security Council unanimously passed resolution no. 1441, requiring Iraq to provide documentary evidence of its banned chemical, biological, nuclear, and ballistic weapons programmes, including the locations of such weapons. The resolution appears to have the support of all nations, including Barbados. Today we shall examine this resolution.

In order to determine compliance with the resolution, the United Nations (UN) has directed weapons inspectors comprising the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, and the International Atomic Energy Agency, to confirm the accuracy and completeness of the evidence provided by Iraq. The inspectors are then to confirm whether Iraq’s banned weapons have been destroyed or rendered harmless.

It is very difficult to find weapons if they are well hidden in a country the size of Iraq, which is approximately 1000 times larger in area than Barbados. The UN resolution does not require the UN inspectors to search for weapons, but simply to verify that the information provided by Iraq is complete and accurate.

In examining this issue, it is important to state where there is agreement between Iraq and the UN weapons inspectors. The documentary evidence supplied by Iraq is not complete. There is no evidence to support the claim that Iraq had revived their nuclear weapons programme. There is evidence to support that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons. Some of these weapons were used to kill Iranian soldiers, some were used to kill Kurds, and some were destroyed during the Persian Gulf War. There is also agreement that there are still approximately 1,000 tons of chemical agents unaccounted for, as well as quantities of the biological agent Anthrax and the nerve agent VX.

Iraq asserts that they unilaterally destroyed their remaining chemical and biological agents by pouring them into the ground. However, there is no evidence to confirm whether all or any of the agents were actually destroyed. The inspectors have required that Iraq provide convincing evidence to support their assertion. This evidence can come from documentation, or testimony from those involved in the production and destruction of the chemical and biological agents. Iraq has not yet provided the UN inspectors with this evidence. This is the essential issue.

There are many important ancillary issues, some fuelled by fact and some by speculation and rumour. The source of Iraq’s banned weapons, Iraq’s role in the USA’s foreign policy in the Middle Eastern region, other nation’s possession of similar weapons, and the UN’s inconsistent response to dictators in other nations committing atrocities, are important issues. However, they are outside of the scope of the UN resolution 1441.

For 12 years, the inspectors have reported that Iraq had failed to co-operate with them. However, after a mass military build-up outside of Iraq’s border, and the unwavering determination by the US and Britain to disarm Iraq by force if necessary, the UN inspectors have reported that Iraq finally appeared to be co-operating. Iraq has identified the sites where their remaining weapons were supposedly destroyed, and have proposed than an analytical method be used to determine the original quantity from the residues. The inspectors are concerned that such analytical methods are open to misinterpretation and have requested the required documents or testimonies. The inspectors have also attributed Iraq’s recent co-operation to the resolute and visible threat of forcible disarmament.

If the UN inspectors do not receive the documentary or testimonial evidence showing that the chemical and biological agents were destroyed, or if they find that the sites identified by Iraq do not contain residues of all of the remaining weapons, then it would appear is if Iraq is determined not to co-operate with the UN inspectors. It would further appear as if Iraq is intent on continuing to frustrate the efforts of the UN inspectors, and the UN should not tolerate this non-co-operation.

However, if the inspectors report that the identified sites do contain residues of all of the remaining weapons, then the US and British massive military build-up outside of Iraq would have successfully achieved their objective, and they should demobilize. Some of the UN inspectors should continue in a monitoring role for a period of time specified by the UN, and the sanctions imposed on Iraq should be relaxed and eventually phased out.

The UN resolution 1441 was intended to give Iraq one final opportunity to destroy their banned weapons peacefully. The responsibilities for complying with this resolution rest entirely with Iraq. The consequences of Iraq not complying with this resolution may affect us all.

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