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Resolving Iraq

November 8, 2002 at 12:00 AM EDT
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MARGARET WARNER: For more on how this U.N. resolution was adopted, and what it means, we turn to William Luers, retired American diplomat and president of the privately run United Nations Association of the U.S.; Terence Taylor, who was a member of the commission overseeing U.N. weapons inspectors in the early 1990s, and then headed one of the inspection teams. He’s now executive director of the Washington office of London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies; Jim Hoagland, a columnist for The Washington Post; and Ruth Wedgwood, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a professor of international law at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies.

Well, after eight weeks, finally a deal. Bill Luers, decode for us some of the diplomatic speak we heard from the Americans, the French, and the Russians. What did each side give to get this agreement?

WILLIAM LUERS: The United States gave up the issue of regime change, of the implied trigger and basically said that this has — the U.N. Security Council will have an ongoing oversight. It’s important to know that at the beginning of these discussions, the United States was trying to deal with Iraq’s threat. The rest of the world was trying to deal with American power.

And over this two-month period, the U.S. position became clear enough that they took away the fear from most of the other states that the United States was ready immediately to use military force. And that was a significant effect on France and, I think on Russia.

MARGARET WARNER: What would you add to that, Jim Hoagland. I mean, the French and Russians gave, also, did they not?

JIM HOAGLAND: Yes. A successful diplomacy always blurs who won and who lost exactly what. And I think this is a successful outcome, certainly for President Bush who is well positioned to take whatever position he wants on Iraq. One of his basic objectives was to have his hands tied and I think he can argue that this resolution does not tie his hands. He concentrated on substance, on the terms of the inspections, which are really quite tough, and gave up a good bit on procedure, whether or not the United States is prepared to discuss with the Security Council reports of violations. The United States — he made it very clear in the statement today, retains its own judgment, its own course of actions about those violations.

MARGARET WARNER: But, Bill Luers, the U.S. has agreed that at least a report of the violation would come back to the Security Council for discussion.

WILLIAM LUERS: Yes, I think that’s very important, Margaret. The fact is there is another phase that we’ve agreed to that the inspectors have to make their reports, and on the basis of those reports, the Security Council determines whether there has been a material breach. I think it’s important for me at least that this demonstrates that the U.N. works, that when nations work together, they can accomplish together what’s necessary, and that in fact at the end of this moment — at this moment now — you have the major nations of the world demonstrating to Iraq that they’re all behind the action of the United Nations if necessary.

MARGARET WARNER: All right, let me get Terence Taylor in this. As someone who has been through this, how much tougher is this resolution than earlier resolutions under which earlier inspection regimes operated?

TERENCE TAYLOR: Well, I think you need to go right back to Resolution 687, that is, the original cease-fire resolution, which was indeed a very tough one, but there are some improvements under this resolution as now agreed. For example, the provision to have people to be interviewed outside the country if they’re able to persuade people to do that. And there are more — there’s more clarity now over the issue of sensitive sites and so-called presidential sites, because there were U.N. security resolutions in 1998 which made some special arrangements. And all this has been swept away.

So I think Hans Blix and Mohamed El Baradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency have a strong mandate behind them. Having a 15-nil vote behind them gives a lot of power to their elbow. But let me just say this: I think this is an important diplomatic success but the really hard part is to come that will decide matters of peace and war.

MARGARET WARNER: And Ruth Wedgwood, how much tougher is this resolution in the obligations it imposes on Iraq?

RUTH WEDGWOOD: Well, Iraq can’t any longer shelter whatever it chooses in the so-called presidential sites, which were acres wide. So the old memorandum of understanding that Iraq won from the 38th floor of the U.N. in 1998 is dead and gone. There is a no drive zone so they can’t take stuff out the back door which has been looked for in the front door.

I think the most important part of the resolution is what’s not in the resolution. There is nothing in the resolution that gives Hans Blix a monopoly on bringing matters to the attention of the Security Council. Any member of the U.N. can bring matters to the attention of the U.N. Security Council, so if there is national intelligence information that indicates that Saddam is cheating, well, of course we’ll give it to Hans Blix but we also have the right to give it to the Council directly. He can’t sensor reports from member countries, including the U.S.

MARGARET WARNER: What will constitute a violation, Jim Hoagland?

JIM HOAGLAND: Well, that’s going to be the subject of the next big debate, of course. But I think Ruth Wedgwood has usefully underlined the fact that the United States maintains freedom to consider reports that Iraq is in violation. Some of the red lines that the hawks in the administration really wanted in this resolution involve the 30-day deadline for a full and truthful declaration. There is no expectation that Saddam Hussein will make a full and truthful declaration. He never has. I doubt that he ever will. Is this a violation that merits going to war? …That’s the next — well, the first big debate under this resolution, the United States will be quite prepared to see that as a reason to strike.

MARGARET WARNER: Terence Taylor, how do you read the resolution on that point?

TERENCE TAYLOR: I think Jim Hoagland makes a very powerful point there. We have to remember of course under Resolution 687, the original one, the onus is on Iraq to deliver up their weapons of mass destruction program. This is reinforced by the new resolution. But I think the first step that’s going to reveal something to us is their so-called full and final and complete declaration, which as Jim Hoagland said, they haven’t done yet.

But if they come out with what they’ve been saying publicly up until now, they have been saying we have no nuclear weapons program, we have no biological weapons program, have no chemical weapons programs. If they come up with a declaration like that, that just won’t be credible and I don’t think that will be acceptable to Washington, London, and to other capitals, too.

MARGARET WARNER: But, Bill Luers, in the resolution, doesn’t it even say they have to declare all their chemical facilities whether they admit they’re part of a weapons program or not. They can’t say this is just a pharmaceutical plant — that’s why we didn’t tell you. Isn’t it pretty sweeping what they have to declare?

WILLIAM LUERS: That is, and that is going to be one of the areas of concern in the effort to keep all the countries together on how Blix does his work. I mean, I think that what will have to happen immediately is Blix will lay out a program. And as you know, that program will be approved in about 60 days after he starts. So we won’t know how many chemical plants are in there and how we’re going to approach that. My sense is that with so many countries voting for this, with the Arabs meeting this weekend, probably generally endorsing the Syrian position, we placed him in a very difficult position. And I think my sense is he is going to do what he can for a long time to meet the demands.

MARGARET WARNER: Ruth Wedgwood, let’s go back to the point that Jim Hoagland raised at the beginning when he said he does not believe – and Negroponte said the same thing — that this ties the President’s hands. At the same time, the ambassador, Negroponte, said there is no automatic trigger.

How should we look at this question of how much flexibility now the American President has to, on his own decide — or to decide — that military action is the way to go?

RUTH WEDGWOOD: Well, the resolution pledges the U.S. to come back to the Council at least to have a conversation. It’s really what Kofi Annan said in ’98. Talk to your allies but you needn’t necessarily wait for a new resolution. Frankly, the trigger may come as early as 30 days from now because Iraq is supposed to give a complete, full, fair and accurate declaration. If Saddam doesn’t admit he has the 7,000 liters of anthrax that American intelligence says he has, he is already in breach. So there’s no trigger in the sense that the Council gets to have his propers and can lay hands on the matter. But if the Council gets involved in another eight-week debate session of grammar and locutions, there is not going to be any tendency to wait for that and there’s nothing that legally obliges the U.S. to wait for that.

MARGARET WARNER: Terence Taylor, do you read it the same way?

TERNENCE TAYLOR: I do indeed and I think both London and Washington have made it clear that the situation — if Iraq doesn’t comply, they face serious consequences as President Bush said, but Prime Minister Tony Blair was even more explicit in saying they face the use of force. So I think that’s absolutely right. I don’t think there will be too much patience expressed by Washington and London if there is a clear and obvious breach of the obligations.

MARGARET WARNER: We’ve had this whole discussion without talking about Iraq’s reaction, and I know none of you are Iraq experts but you’ve certainly written a lot about Iraq, Jim Hoagland. What is Iraq’s set of options here and how might that play out given their track record?

JIM HOAGLAND: Well, the first obligation they have is to accept the resolution. They have seven days. The clock is already ticking. It is not clear to me that Saddam Hussein will. He probably will, but we must remember that he is fastened on his historical role now – is one of destroying Israel, which he has said repeatedly, and defying the United States.

Here is a resolution passed by the Security Council, unanimously, with Syria neighboring Arab country voting for it, under the pressure of the United States, under the leadership even of a unilateralist American president. George W. Bush has made the United Nations the issue. I think that’s going to be a lot for him to swallow right away. He will probably try to stall.

The conventional wisdom is the United States would want to launch a military attack in January or February because of the weather in the Persian Gulf. He will try to get past that time frame. And he may succeed in doing. I don’t buy the conventional wisdom that we are limited to January and February. I think at the end of the day, it’s highly questionable that Saddam Hussein will accept the terms of this resolution in any way that will prevent the United States from going to war.

MARGARET WARNER: And the time frame, if he wanted to delay, Ruth Wedgwood, is when you add the 30 days to the 45 days that the inspectors actually start and then they have 60 days to report back to the Council, we’re at the end of February, are we not.

RUTH WEDGWOOD: A grand total of 105 days, end of February. I think Saddam will actually purport to accept this. He’ll say I agreed to do it earlier this fall. But the test is going to be whether Hans Blix chooses tough targets initially. There should not be an early set of easy high jumps that Saddam can get over. You should put the rubber on the road right away and test whether Saddam is serious because if he is going to defy this, it is dangerous to wait because what happened last time in ’91 when Foreign Minister Primakov of Russia was allowed to come in to make one last effort to get Saddam to leave Kuwait, that was the moment when Saddam weaponized his biological weapons. So if it is going to be war anyway, it’s better we know sooner than later.

MARGARET WARNER: And, Bill Luers, from reading the Council members, who voted for this, how much patience do you think there is among them for delay tactics? That’s sort of a backhanded way of asking that.

WILLIAM LUERS: Yeah. I think what’s so impressive is how the Bush administration has learned over the last two months, that it can work with these other countries. That’s very important. And I think they’ve learned that they can work with the United States. That’s a huge change from what it was in September. So my hope is that the patience that the United States has learned will combine with the delaying habits of other countries and bring about a unified approach to the final action if it does involve military conflict. And my sense is there’s much more trust today in that Security Council than there was two months ago, and much more than any of us ever imagined, including Saddam Hussein.

MARGARET WARNER: You wanted a quick final word.

JIM HOAGLAND: I agree fully with what Bill Luers has said. I think it is important not to forget that we are here essentially because other countries came to the conclusion that George W. Bush was going to use force anyway and they had to decide whether they wanted to be on board or not.

MARGARET WARNER: All right. Thank you all four very much.