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Man inspecting shells
Politics and Economy:
The Case for Coercive Inspections
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Iraq is surrounded by as many as 300,000 troops. Thousands of precision-guided missiles are aimed at Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. It is, as more than one observer has said this week, a watershed moment for everyone concerned; Saddam Hussein, the fractured United Nations, the President of the United States, the troops at the ready, and the Iraqi civilians.

Jessica Tuchman Mathews has been taking this all in from her offices in the heart of Washington D.C. She is the president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP). The Endowment held a series of discussions on the Iraq situation from late April to late July of 2002. Participants included a former U.S. Navy Rear Admiral and retired Air Force General, several former UNSCOM (United Nations Special Council on Iraq) inspectors, former IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) Iraq Action Team members, scholars and diplomats.

Together they produced the report "Iraq, A New Approach." The document suggests a tactic called "coercive inspections" — "in which a multinational military force created by the UN Security Council would enable international inspections teams to operate effectively in Iraq. The U.S. would forswear unilateral military action against Iraq as long as inspections worked unhindered. This 'comply or else' tactic would place the burden of choosing war squarely on Saddam Hussein."

Key Points in the Coercive Inspections Plan

The authors of "Iraq: A New Approach" state that their plan evolved as a middle approach — standing between inaction and all-out pursuit of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. The authors found previous inspections greatly tilted in the favor of Iraq. Their plan relies on a multinational military threat serious enough to "coerce" compliance by Saddam Hussein. But the authors suggest that the changes in the international climate since September 11 may serve to make such cooperation possible, and necessary.

Core Premises:

According to Ms. Mathews, the coercive inspections plan rests on several key assumptions:

  • Inspections can work. In their first five years, the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM)...achieved substantial successes.

  • Saddam Hussein's overwhelming priority is to stay in power. He will never willingly give up pursuit of WMD (weapons of mass destruction), but he will do so if convinced that the only alternative is his certain destruction and that of his regime.

  • A credible and continuing military threat involving substantial forces on Iraq's borders will be necessary both to get the inspectors back into Iraq and to enable them to do their job.

  • The UNSCOM/IAEA successes also critically depended on unity of purpose within the UN Security Council. No amount of military force will be effective without unwavering political resolve behind it. Effective inspections cannot be reestablished until a way forward is found that the major powers and key regional states can support under the UN Charter.

Negotiating the Inspections:

The CEIP plan depends on the continued international authority of the United Nations Security Council. Perhaps the most difficult element in the path toward creating the new UN resolutions related to this plan lies in this negotiation phase. "The critical element will be that the United States makes clear that it forswears unilateral military action against Iraq for as long as international inspections are working." The U.S. need not forswear a desire for regime change, but hold off on military action once the coercive inspections process is underway. Mathews, in her introduction to the plan terms this posture as a "declaratory policy," similar to the United States' stance on Cuba.

Implementing the Inspections:

If the plan is adopted by the Security Council, a new multinational inspections group, the Inspections Implementation Force (IIF), would be formed. This group would have inspectors and an accompanying military force. If Iraq remained intransigent, the UN could then authorize the "use of all necessary means." The IIF must have four critical features in order to combat the weaknesses of previous UN inspections programs.

  • Adequate time. The inspection process must not be placed under any arbitrary deadline because that would provide Baghdad with an enormous incentive for delay.

  • Experienced personnel. UNMOVIC must not be forced to climb a learning curve as UNSCOM did but must be ready to operate with maximum effectiveness from the outset.

  • Provision for two-way intelligence sharing with national governments. UNSCOM experience proves that provision for intelligence sharing with national governments is indispensable.

  • Ability to track Iraqi procurement activities outside the country. UNSCOM discovered covert transactions between Iraq and more than 500 companies from more than 40 countries between 1993 and 1998. Successful inspections would absolutely depend, therefore, on the team's authority to track procurement efforts both inside and outside Iraq, including at Iraqi embassies abroad.

Detailed Information:

For detailed information on the proposed implementation and the ramifications of the CEIP Coercive Inspections plan please use the following links:

  1. A Military Framework for Coercive Inspections by Charles G. Boyd (General, U.S. Air Force, retired)
  2. Intelligence Support for Weapons Inspectors in Iraq by Rolf Ekeus (Chairman, Stockholm International Peace Institute, former Executive Chairman UNSCOM)
  3. Multilateral Support for a New Regime by Joseph Cirincione (Director, Non-Proliferation Project, CEIP)
  4. Persuading Saddam without Destabilizing the Gulf by Patrick Clawson (Deputy Director, Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  5. Calculations of Iraq's Neighbors by Shibley Telhami (Anar Sadat Professor and Development, University of Maryland, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution)
  6. The Russian Elite and Iraq: An Unexpected Picture by Rose Gottemoeller (Senior Associate, Russian and Eurasian Program, CEIP)
  7. The UNSCOM Record by Stephen Black (Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy, retired)
  8. The IAEA Iraq Action Team Record: Activities and Findings by Garry B. Dillon (IAEA Iraq Action Team member and leader)
  9. New Inspections in Iraq: What Can Be Achieved? by Terence Taylor (President and Executive Director, International Institute for Strategic Studies, former UNSCOM Commissioner and former Chief Inspector in Iraq)
  10. Establishing Noncompliance Standards by David Albright (President, Institute for Science and International Security)
  11. Tracking Iraqi Procurement by Fouad El-Khatib (Visiting Fellow, Institute for International Strategic Studies, former UNSCOM staff member, Chief Inspector and Chief Deputy Inspector on 15 Iraq missions)
  12. The Legal Basis for UN Weapons Inspections by David Cortright (President, Fourth Freedom Forum)

Jessica Tuchman Mathews

In addition to serving as the president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Ms. Mathews is also the founder of the World Resources Institute. She has been a key figure on The National Security Council, the Washington director of The Council on Foreign Relations. She has also worked as a journalist and was a member of the editorial board of THE WASHINGTON POST. Ms. Mathews served as Deputy to the Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs in 1993. In 1997 she authored "Power Shift" for FOREIGN AFFAIRS. Her article, which explores the role of the nation-state in the global cyberspace world, has been described as one of the most influential ever to appear in the 75 years of that formidable journal.

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