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Weapons Report

December 9, 2002 at 12:00 AM EDT
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MARGARET WARNER: For insight now into how U.N. inspectors will go about analyzing Iraq’s declaration, we turn to David Albright, a former analyst and inspector dealing with Iraq’s nuclear program from 1992 to 1997. He’s now President of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington; and Jean Krasno, deputy director of the U.N. Oral History Project at Yale University. She recently co-authored a book, The United Nations and Iraq: Defanging the Viper, detailing the experiences of the U.N. inspection teams. Welcome to you both. David Albright, first of all, this thing is 12,000 pages. Much was made of that. Does that seem excessive to you, given what information is required? And how do the inspectors go about zeroing in on what they’re really looking for?

DAVID ALBRIGHT: No, it doesn’t seem excessive. I mean, there’s going to be supporting documentation, which will actually probably be much larger. But 12,000 pages for a declaration covering four areas, from nuclear to missile, and including biological and chemical, isn’t actually that much. What you do is you break this thing into pieces. And then you assemble teams and the inspectors will have teams, member states will have teams and then you just go at it. And it may be an individual only reads a couple hundred pages, and then they provide some kind of judgment or analysis of what they’ve read.

MARGARET WARNER: And, Jean Krasno, there’s a lot that Iraq had filed before. How hard is it to sift out the wheat from the chaff here in terms of zeroing in on what’s new?

JEAN KRASNO: Well, actually, at the end of 1998, UNSCOM had prepared a report, which is referred to as the compendium, and this was analysis of everything that had been declared by Iraq, everything that the U.N. had actually discovered, and then how much of that was actually destroyed, and what was remaining, which was, what was unaccounted for. So what we’ll need to do now is the inspectors will have to look at the new declaration that Iraq has just produced, compare that to the report that UNSCOM had put together, and see where the declaration accounts for what was left over at the end of 1998, which included long-range missile fuel, some long-range missiles which were unaccounted for, the VX; some two and a half to three tons of VX agent, plus the precursors, the ingredients for that; other biological weapons and munitions. This is quite a bit to be analyzed, and it’s going to take some time to pull that together.

MARGARET WARNER: All right, David Albright, let hone in now on the nuclear program, and General al-Saadi had this press conference yesterday. He said, as we just heard John Burns report, this whole program came to an end essentially when the war began, the Gulf War destroyed it. How are the inspectors going to figure out from this declaration whether that’s true?

DAVID ALBRIGHT: Well, from what I understand, because it looks like the declaration about the pre ’91 program is the same declaration that they filed in the mid to late 1990s, and so the real issue is what’s happened since ’91. Now, there was a letter from Tariq Aziz actually admitting that the secret nuclear weapons program actually continued, if my memory is right, and it happened after Hussein Kemal defected, Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law, and they blamed it on Hussein Kemal and that Saddam Hussein didn’t know about it. But I think that prior admissions by Iraq about this program are not in this current declaration. And I worry that the Iraqis have not done a very good job of describing some of their covert nuclear weapons activities.

MARGARET WARNER: So in other words you see an inconsistency just between what General al-Saadi said yesterday and what inspectors like yourself working on the nuclear program had gotten from Iraq earlier?

DAVID ALBRIGHT: Yes, that’s my memory. And that Iraq was not very detailed about that program at all. But I remember it as an admission, and General al-Saadi yesterday was taking a very hard line that nothing has happened since 1991.

MARGARET WARNER: Then what would the inspectors be looking more again in all these pages, if they wanted to verify what the U.S. and the British have insisted which is in the last 40 years Iraq has spend a lot of time trying to rebuild the weapons program?

DAVID ALBRIGHT: Well, again, my understanding is the document that Iraq just submitted says there’s no covert nuclear weapons program.

MARGARET WARNER: Right.

DAVID ALBRIGHT: And so it is going to come down to a situation, and it wasn’t what was envisioned by the writers of this recent resolution. But it comes down to the United States and Britain are going to have to produce some evidence. And the evidence can be used in two ways. One of which is how it should be used is to give to it the inspectors to use to uncover banned activities that Iraq has. Another way is to take it to the Security Council and make an argument and hope you have that satellite image like in the Cuban Missile Crisis it’s going to convince everyone.

MARGARET WARNER: Jean Krasno, let’s now talk about the chemical biological, and you referred to that. There, there were a lot of stocks unaccounted for in ’98. Now take this document. How will the inspectors take this document and resolve the question of whether or not this stuff really has been destroyed?

JEAN KRASNO: Well, I wanted to just get back to one other comment that was made, and that was that the nuclear program had been destroyed during the Gulf War. That’s not really true, actually. Of all the nuclear biological and chemical weapons that were eventually destroyed at the end of 1998, only 11 percent of that was actually destroyed during the bombing during the Gulf War. The rest of it, 89 percent, was actually destroyed or rendered harmless by the United Nations and the inspectors, so I want to clear that up, because that’s important. Carrying out a war and bombing to get rid of biological or chemical weapons is actually not very effective or very efficient.

MARGARET WARNER: But I mean, you can use this document, all these thousands of pages, most of them deal with the chemical and missile program, how are they going to go about looking at all these pages and figuring out what happened to all these chemicals? Is this going to ultimately require, in other words, inspections on the ground?

JEAN KRASNO: It’s absolutely going to require inspections on the ground. It’s hard to prove a negative. And so what they’re going to have to do is to combine the information from the report, from the previous information, plus new intelligence contributed to the U.N. by member states, by companies that may have been selling exports to Iraq, and put all of the pieces together in the puzzle in order to get the information together. They’re going to have to look for the paper trail, combine that with the censors, and the samples they’ve been taking. But one thing has to be remembered, that the Iraqis don’t want us to think about. And that is that the inspectors actually never leave because the monitoring program is permanent. So we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

MARGARET WARNER: You’re talking about the cameras and so on that were left in place?

JEAN KRASNO: Yes. And the inspectors have to check those cameras and sensors on a regular basis and everything has to be labeled and nothing can be moved. So it’s an ongoing process. You can say, well, they’ve –.

MARGARET WARNER: Let me just –

JEAN KRASNO: — come clean on a reasonable do you, but then it’s a permanent inspection that goes on forever.

MARGARET WARNER: All right. David Albright, I took your point about you really think the U.S. is going to have to come forward with this intelligence to try to put it together with what’s in here. But for now, I mean, we heard Ari Fleischer talk about, essentially explain why for now the U.S. has not revealed this intelligence. You’ve got separate teams at work, the U.S. has its team, CIA and other experts, and the U.N. inspectors have their team. Which group has the greater expertise to make use of this document?

DAVID ALBRIGHT: Under the current inspection arrangements, certainly the U.S. Government does. I mean, one of the strengths of the past inspection system was that you could draw in people from our foreign nuclear weapons labs, from other places that have special nuclear expertise. So the inspectors are short on that kind of expertise. So I think it’s the analysis done by the United States will be far more important. The advantage inspectors have is they have a million pages of documents or other types of information about the past inspection effort. And so they can add, but finally the U.S. is going to be the elephant and will have to make the real assessment of whether this declaration is accurate and complete, and develop the information that would be used to show that it is not complete.

MARGARET WARNER: And yet, Ms. Krasno, the U.S. Government would rather have the inspectors, if somebody is going to blow the whistle, be the first to blow the whistle. What’s your view on whether the inspector alone are going to be able to take this document and get to the bottom of it?

JEAN KRASNO: Well, I think the inspectors do need the help of member states, anyone who can provide information even if it’s private companies, and put it altogether. But in the past under UNSCOM, before UNMOVIC, actually the U.S. was sharing its intelligence, the satellite imagery, and the U-2 photographs, and other kinds of information. They provided it to the U.N. because actually the U.N. became the experts. They had the pooling of all the information on chemical, biological, nuclear and so forth. So in fact actually the U.N. became this sort of nexus of expertise. But I think the strategy of the U.S. right now is actually useful, because Saddam Hussein needs to be threatened in order to actually get him to comply. And actually not revealing all that we know is a good tactic, because in the past Iraq would only declare what they suspected that either the U.N. or the international community knew about what they had. They would always withhold something. Not knowing what is known is actually extremely good strategy, because then they have to reveal more. They have to guess, as to what might be known, in order to not be caught lying. So I think it’s actually a very good strategy.

MARGARET WARNER: Okay. We have to leave it there. Jean Krasno, David Albright, thank you.

DAVID ALBRIGHT: Thank you.