INSPECTING THE DEAL
February 25, 1998
An eleventh hour agreement brokered by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan may have averted a U.S. military strike against Iraq. But will the deal actually resolve the issue that began the latest showdown, and give U.N. weapons inspectors unfettered access to sites suspected of housing chemical weapons?
CHARLES KRAUSE: When Iraq surrendered to allied forces in 1991, it agreed to give United Nations inspectors access to all facilities the U.N. believed capable of producing weapons of mass destruction. A special United Nations commission called UNSCOM was created to carry out the task. Made up of weapons experts from 21 countries, UNSCOM's mandate is to conduct on-site inspections of suspected biological, chemical, and missile sites in Iraq, then destroy them if weapons of mass destruction are found. UNSCOM's findings are reported directly to the United Nations Security Council, and UNSCOM's director is appointed by the U.N.'s secretary-general.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
February 24, 1998
James Baker and William Perry discuss the deal's impact on U.S. foreign policy.
February 24, 1998
U.S. Ambassador Bill Richardson discusses the U.N. brokered deal with Iraq.
February 23, 1998
Secretary Albright discusses the deal.
February 23, 1998
Four policy experts discuss the latest deal with Iraq.
February 23, 1998
A report from Amman on the impact of the deal on Jordan.
February 20, 1998
A panel of experts examine the crisis from the Iraqi perspective.
February 19, 1998
An exploration of public support for the use of force in Iraq as compared to past conflicts.
February 18, 1998
Four diplomatic veterans discuss the possibility of an attack on Iraq.
February 17, 1998
Analysis of the U.S. military arsenal in the Middle East.
February 16, 1998
How significant a threat does Saddam Hussein's country really pose?
February 11, 1998
Ambassador Richardson discusses the ongoing crisis with Iraq.
February 10, 1998
Members of Congress discuss the U.S. government's support of military action against Iraq.
February 9, 1998
Regional commentators give local perspectives on the growing crisis with Iraq.
February 4, 1998
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright tries to marshal support for a possible attack on Iraq.
January 30, 1998
The U.S. tries rallying support for military action against Iraq.
January 14, 1998
Iraq's U.N. Ambassador, Nizar Hamdoon, defends his country's actions.
January 13, 1998
Amb. Butler discusses the latest disagreement with Iraq.
December 18, 1997
Amb. Butler discusses Iraq's continued defiance of U.N. inspections.
December 1, 1997
Margaret Warner leads a discussion on the proposals to ease the impact of international sanctions on Iraq.
November 25, 1997
Is Saddam Hussein illegally hiding weapons throughout Iraq?
What's the best way to deal with Iraq?
November 20, 1997
U.N. Ambassador Richardson on the possible resolution of the Iraq crisis.
November 17, 1997
Arab perspectives on the Iraqi crisis.
November 14, 1997
Sandy Berger the National Security Adviser, discusses the Iraqi crisis.
November 13, 1997
Newsmaker interview with Deputy PM Aziz who defends his country's expulsion of U.N. weapons inspectors.
November 12, 1997
U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson discusses the Security Council's vote to impose stricter sanctions on Iraq.
November 11, 1997
Four foreign policy experts debate how best to deal with Saddam Hussein.
November 10, 1997
Defense Sec. Cohen discusses the situation with Iraq.
November 6, 1997
The chief U.N. arms inspector discusses Saddam's latest moves.
November 3, 1997
U.N. Ambassador Richardson discusses tensions between the U.S. and Iraq.
October 9, 1997
Sec. Cohen issues a stern warning to Saddam Hussein.
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Swedish Ambassador Rolf Ekeus was the first UNSCOM director. Last year, he was replaced by Australian Ambassador Richard Butler. UNSCOM inspectors have visited hundreds of sites since 1991. When they discovered these drums of chemical and biological agents outside Baghdad, they ordered the entire complex of buildings destroyed. UNSCOM also uses video cameras to monitor factories and laboratories the Iraqis might try to convert to produce weapons in the future. The Clinton administration has said the UNSCOM mission has accomplished many of its goals.
SAMUEL BERGER: Despite Iraq's best efforts, the inspectors have done a remarkably effective job. They have found and destroyed more of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capacity than was destroyed during the entire Gulf War.
UNSCOM inspections: effective, but not effective enough.
CHARLES KRAUSE: But in the report to the Security Council last year, UNSCOM reported that Saddam Hussein still possessed more than 2,000 gallons of the deadly bacteria anthrax; 31,000 chemical weapons; more than 600 tons of material to produce the deadly VX nerve agent; and 4,000 tons of additional material that could be used to produce weapons.
Last fall, Saddam Hussein threatened to expel American members of the UNSCOM inspection teams. He also blocked inspectors from going to what he called "sensitive sites," including eight "presidential palaces." But the United States said the palaces were more like military compounds and demanded access to them.
As the crisis escalated over the past several months, the U.S. and Britain began a massive military build-up in the Gulf, including three aircraft carriers, threatening a major military assault if Saddam did not back down. Only a last-minute diplomatic agreement brokered this weekend by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan saved Iraq from the threatened military reprisals. Signed by Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz and Annan, in the agreement Iraq promises unconditional access to any and all suspected weapons facilities in the country. The accord also provides for a new so-called special group of inspectors, composed of senior diplomats and UNSCOM experts, who will have access to the eight presidential sites. Yesterday, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright assured reporters that UNSCOM will continue to lead all inspection missions.
The effectiveness of the deal lies in the testing.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, Secretary of State: It was very important that there be unfettered, unconditional access, and that UNSCOM had operational control, and that UNSCOM, itself, in no way be diminished, and it--we will have to now--it seems to me from the clarifications that I've gotten from the secretary-general that we have accomplished that. But the truth of the matter is we will not know what we have until this is tested.
CHARLES KRAUSE: To test the agreement Albright called for the inspectors to resume their work as soon as possible.
JIM LEHRER: And to Elizabeth Farnsworth in San Francisco.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: We now get three views from men with extensive experience inspecting Iraq. Rolf Ekeus is chairman of the United Nations Special Commission for Iraq. He held that post from 1991 to 1997. He is now Sweden's ambassador to the United States. Raymond Zilinskas was a U.N. biological weapons inspector in 1994. He worked on setting up the long-term monitoring program that is in effect now. He's currently an associate professor at the University of Maryland's Biotechnology Institute. And Jonathan Tucker was a U.N. biological weapons inspector in 1995. He is now the director of the chemical and the biological weapons non-proliferation project at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Thank you all for being with us. Mr. Ambassador, from what you know about this agreement, will it weaken or strengthen the hand of the inspectors in Iraq?
ROLF EKEUS: I think it's a good arrangement we put up. It was clear it compared with the situation before when the inspectors were blocked, definitely the solution brought home by Sec. Annan, Kofi Annan was positive. It grants the inspectors access any time and anywhere they would like to go, which is decided upon by the UNSCOM chairman, so in a sense, we've come back to the place where we should have been before.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And, Mr. Ambassador, are you concerned at all that the special group, the way it is set up, to have diplomats part of it, will in any way weaken the procedure?
ROLF EKEUS: The special group is a construction which was arranged to help to deal with presidential palaces, and this is an arrangement which I don't think hampers in any serious way the work of the experts because it is--group is to be set up by the secretary-general--that is clear, and not by our UNSCOM chairman, which is a difference. But, on the other side, it is assured that the professional people, the specialists, will be--make up the main team and there will be some additional personnel, diplomats and others, who will accompany the team, they will accompany the team, but fundamentally I think it is adequate arrangement, it is an adequate arrangement.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Tucker, tell us briefly how an inspection you were part of was set up, and how you got to be part of it.
JONATHAN TUCKER: Yes. At the time I was working for the arms control and disarmament agency, and there were requests for experts with some knowledge of biological weapons to go to Iraq, participate in a team to assess Iraq's capabilities in biotechnology, the extent to which they could produce fermentation tanks and other equipment they would need to make biological weapons. The team consisted of experts from a variety of countries, including Russia, France, Switzerland, Canada, and the United States. So it was--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You were called in from here--
JONATHAN TUCKER: Yes.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You fly to Iraq.
JONATHAN TUCKER: No. The team actually met in Bahrain, and there was about three days of briefings and preparation recovering from jet lag, and then we were flown in the military transport to Baghdad, and spent two days visiting facilities in and around Baghdad.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Was there an element of surprise?
"So the Iraqis were generally quite cooperative and cordial. They have genuinely been only confrontational when there have been surprise inspections at sensitive sites where they have something to hide."
JONATHAN TUCKER: These inspections were primarily at declared sites that Iraq had made public. Many of them were dual-use facilities or factories involved in the production of heavy equipment, for example. They were producing a large fermentation tank for a declared dual use facility. So the Iraqis were generally quite cooperative and cordial. They have genuinely been only confrontational when there have been surprise inspections at sensitive sites where they have something to hide.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Now, I know you weren't involved in any of the presidential sites, but from what you know, from the experience you went through, will this new agreement hamper--would it hamper your ability if you had had to go to one of those sites?
JONATHAN TUCKER: I did have some concerns about this new arrangement to create a special group, not specifically for the presidential sites because it's clear that Iraq has received full warning that these sites were going to be inspected, so I would be very surprised if there's anything there. My concern is that this arrangement might establish a precedent for other sensitive sites, for example, sites controlled by the Special Security organization, Special Republican Guard, other security services, where UNSCOM I believe has good evidence that sensitive materials are being hidden, perhaps documents relative to the weapons programs. If there is, for example, a confrontation at one of these sites, the Iraqis attempt to deny access, they may then invoke the special group procedure, even though it was only designed for the presidential sites. And I think there are very serious problems with this procedure if applied generally because it actually circumvents the normal chain of command through UNSCOM and would it--because this group involves the secretary-general going directly to the Security Council instead of the executive chairman of UNSCOM. So, in a sense, it would undermine UNSCOM's authority.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Zilinskas, do you share those concerns, and what about the presence of diplomats, what effect will that have?
RAYMOND ZILINSKAS: Well, I absolutely share Jonathan's opinion on this. I think the problems are two-fold. First of all, the Iraqi classification of so-called sovereign sites included all presidential palaces and all headquarters and ministries, and yet, this agreement only covers eight presidential palaces. So what's going to happen when UNSCOM tries to access some of these other sovereign sites that are not covered? And then a second, as you eluded to, the logistics seems to me a potential for a real nightmare. The agreement calls for senior diplomats to accompany them. Does that mean that we're going to have a bunch of senior diplomats waiting in the wings in Baghdad, or is it going to be a situation where UNSCOM wants to mount an inspection somewhere outside Baghdad, and suddenly they're supposed to fly in a bunch of diplomats from everywhere in the world? I see a very difficult problem coming up here.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What about that, Mr. Ambassador, would it be hard, wouldn't it be hard for a diplomat, for example, let's say a team is going to point A, they say they're going to point A, then they turn and go to point B as a surprise, would that be difficult for a diplomat, do you think?
ROLF EKEUS: It's clear it can be difficult, but--and it is clear that the Iraqi side will get sort of forewarning if the team is accompanied by some senior diplomats. Iraq will know exactly that there must be one of the eight sites in play and give the forewarning. That is obviously a very complex operation problem, which the chairman of UNSCOM has to solve. There are errors that, I think--techniques and modalities which can be developed by them. But also concerning the other concerns raised I think it is clear from the agreement--or so called memorandum of understanding, which was achieved by the secretary-general, that sites which are not presidential sites will follow the established procedures as it is stated in the memorandum, and the established procedures have been very solid. I mean, it was these procedures which led Saddam to start all the fighting and trouble, creating all the trouble with the inspectors in the beginning. So I think there the secretary-general gained a very important concession, or at least managed to bring back the situation to what it should be in his negotiations. So I'm less concerned about that aspect.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Tucker, do you feel that as a former inspector that you've been denigrated by this process? There's been some suggestion, including by the secretary-general, that the inspectors were perhaps less than respectful in what they did. Do you feel that this could weaken the inspectors?
"Saddam has tried for the past five years to circumvent UNSCOM by creating a direct channel to the U.N. secretary-general, and I think by creating this special group he has done just that."
JONATHAN TUCKER: No. I think there's a problem with diplomats who are not familiar with the history of Iraq's weapons program and also the Iraq's determined efforts to deny full understanding of these programs to the inspectors. They engaged in a systematic effort over the past seven years of what's called denial and deception, misleading the inspectors, denying them access to relevant facilities, and I think the diplomats who accompanied these teams may not understand that real firmness and sometimes strength, and which might be interpreted as aggressive behavior, is necessary to gain access to these facilities and persuade the Iraqi authorities that they have to hand over the information that they are required to under international law. So I think this is a potential problem. Another problem is that Saddam has tried for the past five years to circumvent UNSCOM by creating a direct channel to the U.N. secretary-general, and I think by creating this special group he has done just that.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Zilinskas, how do you feel about whether you have been denigrated, your work, by this process and whether that will weaken the inspectors.
RAYMOND ZILINSKAS: I think the same thing that Jonathan just stated, that a good inspector is one who doggedly sticks to doing his assigned or her assigned task, and does it regardless of what resistance met by the Iraqis. To give you a concrete example, in June of 1994, there was a team that went out to do some digging in the Salman Park Peninsula, which was of course known as a biological research facility, and there were trenches that had been used, and this was obvious from aerial photography. When they got there and they pulled a surprise inspection, the Iraqis became very concerned, and the first thing they said, 'This is a burial plot; you can't dig in here because it's sacred to the Islamic religion', and they actually managed to hold up proceedings for about 24 hours, but then the chief inspector, who was very courteous, very good, he just stuck with it, and they dug, and of course, they didn't find anything--no bodies, nothing. So it was obviously an attempt by the Iraqis to deflect UNSCOM for a while. So is that working on their sensitivities? I don't think so, because they lied and they cheated, and they do that pretty regularly.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Ambassador, what has been the effect on the inspecting process of the past four months of crisis?
ROLF EKEUS: It is a serious problem obviously that a declaration has not been able to operate any, I would say, sensitive or difficult inspection because of the political turmoil around this issue. We have to recall that the ordinary routine monitoring is going on fully well, where a couple of inspection teams go out every day seven days a week and carry out their very, very useful work. But these more pointed, these more searching inspections, they of course have been hampered, and the planning has been disturbed by that. But I don't think any fundamental loss has taken place anyhow, and I also have to hasten to add that our inspectors, the UNSCOM inspectors, is a wonderful group of people. I mean, they are scientists and highly professional, and really serious persons, and I cannot understand that any criticism of their behavior could be justified. That is a point I must emphasize.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Tucker, Robin Wright, the correspondent for the L.A. Times, wrote this week that "the U.N. program to find and dismantle Iraq's deadliest arms may now be so badly handicapped that inspectors are unlikely to ever complete their mission." What's your response to that?
JONATHAN TUCKER: Well, I think she pointed out some very real concerns. There has been an effort recently to politicize UNSCOM, which is really a scientific and technical group. It's not a political group. But by bringing in diplomats, there's a proposal by the Russians, for example, to require consensus among all 21 commissioners of UNSCOM before the commission can do its work, I think these political proposals would paralyze the work of the group, which is really a technical job of finding prohibited weapons and eliminating them.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And, Mr. Zilinskas, in the few seconds we have left, do you have anything to add to that?
RAYMOND ZILINSKAS: I agree with that, but I must add that it all depends on the cooperation that the Iraqis will give to UNSCOM. You have to remember that security, the logistics, all this is provided by the Iraqis, themselves, so UNSCOM and the International Atomic Energy Agency, the inspectors can't work without the full cooperation. So this agreement, I have some real concerns about it and doubts about it, I must say it can work if the Iraqis decide to cooperate fully and do what they're supposed to, what they have agreed to, then I think it'll work; otherwise, it won't.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, thank you all very much.