And it underscored the fact that, internally, he was going to continue to be a
threat as well. And the Coalition ended up, ironically, several months later,
imposing no fly zone[s], so he couldn't engage in that kind of internal
But because that hadn't been part of the original cease-fire, Saddam Hussein
could still act against his own people. ...
And then came Resolution 687. ...
Resolution 687 was really the centerpiece of the international response to
Saddam Hussein's continued rule in Baghdad. It tried to basically de-fang him
by removing his access to weapons of mass destruction, biological, chemical,
nuclear weapons, and, long-range missiles. It basically said he had to declare
all of [that kind of] weaponry and then allow U.N. weapons inspectors in to
So were our hopes that we could, in a short period of time, destroy those
The hope was that the U.N. weapons inspectors would go in and in the matter of
a number of weeks get a full list, a disclosure, from Baghdad of what it had.
And then, within a matter of months, all of this weaponry would be destroyed.
The fundamental flaw, of course, again, was Saddam Hussein. He knew how to
stall. And he began a process of what was called cheat and retreat. It
allowed him to stall the whole process for year after year, and even at the
end, when U.N. weapons inspectors were forced out of Iraq, they still did not
have that basic list of what Saddam Hussein produced. ...
So there was this unprecedented support--what happens in terms of that
Within a year the United States began to see deep fissures in the coalition
that it had built, with three critical members of the Security Council--China,
Russia and France, all beginning to call for some kind of easing of sanctions
to review the entire process. They all had economics interests that were more
important than the regional security threat.
Russia had a particular interest, because it was owed billions by Saddam
Hussein for weaponry bought in advance of the Gulf War, basically for Iraq's
war with Iran. China and France both saw Iraq as a great place to do business,
and, in fact, Saddam Hussein was very clever in that he almost seduced the
governments with offers of very lucrative deals, both in the reconstruction of
Iraq and in the oil business.
So, they would have preferred what?
China, Russia and France, from a very early stage in the international
diplomacy, would have preferred some kind of compromise that would have allowed
Iraq to re-engage with the international community, some kind of easing of
sanctions. There were various ideas floating, never ever specifically offered,
but they were looking for an arrangement that would allow them to do business
with Baghdad. ...
If Saddam Hussein didn't turn everything over, they were prepared to consider
alternatives that might have allowed him, perhaps, to keep things, perhaps not
to disclose and destroy all the weapons of mass destruction he had. ...
Saddam Hussein did play his one trump card, and that was the suffering of the
Iraqi people. The irony, of course, that it was because he refused to accept
an offer to sell his oil for humanitarian purposes, but he managed to make it
look as if it was the international sanctions imposed on him by the United
Nations that led to the suffering of the Iraqi people.
And as time went on, conditions did get tougher and tougher for them, in part
because he used whatever income he did have for his own regime, for the inner
George Bush, too, in 1992, seems to be less aggressive in backing UNSCOM.
George Bush was under election pressure. I think he also faced the fear that
if Saddam Hussein was toppled, Iraq might fragment into three separate parts,
and that scared many of the allies who'd actually ended up paying for the Gulf
War--Saudi Arabia and Kuwait specifically.
How did Saddam see the struggle with the West? Why didn't he just give up
the weapons and have the sanctions lifted?
... Saddam Hussein felt that without his weapons of mass destruction, he would
not be the preeminent power in the Persian Gulf, which had been his primary
concern since coming to power, in 1979. ...
Before Hussein Kamel's defection, in August of 1995, you write that Saddam
was beating the West in some way, and UNSCOM. How?
In 1995, Saddam Hussein actually appeared to be winning in his strategy of
cheat and retreat. He had actually managed to hide so many of his weapons that
many of the U.N. weapons inspectors thought that he had turned over most of
them, and were prepared to make that kind of recommendation. And it was only
on the defection of his son-in-law and cousin [Kamel] that the international
community realized how much he really still had. The whole crisis actually
might have ended at that point, if it hadn't been for that very ... defection.
What was revealed in Kamel's defection?
Kamel's defection led to two important disclosures. One was the information he
provided Western intelligence agencies. But, secondly, Saddam Hussein knew
that he was about to be caught, and so he took weapons inspectors down to
Kamel's chicken farm, and said that they'd only just discovered these
containers full of documents about weapons of mass destruction. Of course,
feigned his own ignorance, and blamed it all on Kamel.
What changed for Saddam after that?
Well, it became apparent that he had hidden an extraordinary amount of
material, and from that point on UNSCOM was, again, a going concern.
The quantity was staggering. It took the U.N. weapons inspectors months and
months and months just to go through and translate every--and create a
database for what was in those papers. It revealed that Saddam Hussein had
also hidden far more than anyone ever realized he had, to begin with. This
really was the critical turning point of the entire eight years in trying to
deal with Saddam Hussein. It put the U.N. weapons program back on track.
But, then what happens... in the months down the road?
...In 1997, the Clinton Administration decided to put on the table what had
been implied all along, and that is, that Saddam Hussein had to go, that as
long as he was in power in Baghdad, the Emirates, as well as other Iraqi
neighbors, would be threatened... In effect, the Clinton Administration said
there was going to be another, whole new step. This crisis is not going to end
until Saddam Hussein goes.
And it was becoming incredibly costly for the U.S. Twice, the U.S. had to send
additional troops to the region and to maintain a strong military presence.
This was costly, it wasn't very popular with the coalition ... And,
particularly after it lost [its] clandestine, program in Northern Iraq, the
United States had to come up with some alternative. And there was pressure in
Congress to do something more about Saddam Hussein.
And so the Administration addressed both its own concerns in a meeting on
Capitol Hill and decided to pronounce publicly what had always been implied,
and that was that Saddam Hussein had to go
Saddam Hussein was cornered, and so he came back fighting. He did three
things. He made it more difficult for the U.N. weapons inspectors; he engaged
in another round of cheat and retreat, walking away at critical junctures; he
defied the no-fly zone, flying pilgrims to Saudi Arabia; and he tried to widen
the gap between the United States and critical allies on the U.N. Security
Council: China, France and Russia, who were all still interested in those
economic deals with Iraq.
The tougher U.S. position made it tougher for UNSCOM, in a way, because the
assumption, the rules of engagement on the table all along had been, once they
did their job, sanctions would be lifted and the Gulf crisis would officially
be over. And I think the UNSCOM inspectors felt that the U.S. new agenda
basically jeopardized their mission. Why would Iraq cooperate if it realized
that, even after it turned over all its weapons of mass destruction, Saddam
Hussein still [faced sanctions]?
So, did UNSCOM feel undermined or threatened by it?
I think some of the non-American players within UNSCOM felt threatened by the
new U.S. position. Their position had always been that once Saddam Hussein
turned over all his weapons of mass destruction and destroyed them, that then
sanctions would be lifted and the crisis would be over.
In 1998 UNSCOM tried to inspect presidential palaces. and Iraq declared
them off limits. Then Kofi Annan flew to Baghdad and struck a deal...
The reaction to the deal that Kofi Annan struck in Baghdad was pretty
complicated. It basically promised the Iraqis that Kofi would bring up the
issue of sanctions after Saddam Hussein complied. The United States wasn't
happy, because that was in contradiction to its policy of trying to remove
Saddam Hussein. I think the French, the Russians and the Chinese were
delighted with it. I think you find those two bodies of opinion reflected
within UNSCOM. Yes, it was good, because they were allowed to go in and do
their duty again, but the issue of--at what juncture is this crisis over?--was
still kind of in doubt.
Did people have to have a winner in that situation? And was there one? Did
Saddam come out a winner in this?
Saddam Hussein has to consider himself a winner, to a degree, in that conflict,
because Kofi Annan, the Secretary General, traveled to Baghdad. He was
promised that the issue of sanctions would be brought up if he complied, which,
of course, was not what the U.S. had declared. And, of course, he had time to
empty his presidential palaces of any controversial material relating to
weapons of mass destruction.
Is he by now moving from an outcast to a sort of statesmanlike role? How
is he being viewed by now?
This was one of the first times we actually saw Saddam Hussein involved in a
crisis. He was the one negotiating with, or signing the deal with, Kofi Annan,
the U.N. Secretary-General. So he looks more statesmanlike, he looks more like
a head of state who is recognized, and perhaps even accepted, by important
members of the international community.
Does it have larger meaning?
I think Saddam Hussein would have liked to have thought so. I don't think the
United States and Britain thought so.
And how does that deal ultimately affect Saddam's behavior, if it does,
particularly vis-a-vis UNSCOM and the inspections? ... Why did the U.S. finally
strike, and what was its meaning?
The United States finally engaged in a punitive air strike that lasted for four
days [in December 1998]--for a couple of reasons. One was the broader
picture. Over the previous year, the United States had three times threatened
to use force if Saddam Hussein did not comply. U.S. credibility was really on
the line here, but, Saddam Hussein had, of course, engaged in violations. He
blocked weapons inspectors; he destroyed documents that were really critical;
he's supposed to have turned over everything within fifteen days, so that the
U.N. weapons inspectors had an idea of the size of his arsenal.
Two thousand five hundred days later the documents were not only still not
there, but there was strong evidence that he had destroyed them, so that the
U.N. would never have the proper database to ever conclude its mission. And
the third thing he did was to announce that weapons inspectors would never be
able to operate on Friday.
So, there were a number of immediate flashpoints and, then, bigger picture
issues that led to Operation Desert Fox.
And did the coalition change for the first time in many years here?
In late 1998, the coalition was probably more united than at any point in
several years, particularly key Arab members, such as Syria and Egypt. Saddam
Hussein was no longer able to play to the street. He started saying some very
belligerent things about other Arab leaders, that their people should rise up
against them. And so many of his neighbors began seeing him as a threat to
their regimes as well, not just to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
So, that meant--
That led to the so-called Damascus declaration, in which several prominent Arab
states got together and basically said Saddam Hussein really should go. ...
How effective was this strike, Desert Fox? Did it make any difference?
We may look back on Operation Desert Fox as the beginning of the end. This was
a point at which the United States said it was prepared to act, and it has
since acted, almost on a daily basis, depending more on weather than on what
Saddam Hussein does, in trying to create an environment that the military which
surrounds Saddam Hussein will act against him. They're trying to prove that
the cost of keeping him is going to be too high. And the United States and
Britain have basically begun to decimate his air defense system, which is
critical in the security of the state.
And I think the Administration hopes that leading military figures in Iraq will
not want to see the loss of Iraqi military life and the loss of key military
equipment, just to keep Saddam Hussein in power. That's the calculation.
Whether it works is a different issue. This could continue to be open-ended.
But there is a strategy that differs from the first seven years, in place now,
that tries more aggressively to deal with the question of how to remove Saddam
Hussein, how to create an environment that he will be ousted, that others will
act against him, because there's no law that allows an assassination, nor is
there any exile group or any internal opposition group currently capable of
This is really the only way to do it. And so whether you agree with it or not,
there is probably the most cohesive policy in place today than at any time
since the end of the Gulf War.
And where does UNSCOM fit in that current policy then?
UNSCOM, as we know it, as UNSCOM, may be finished. But the original UN
resolution still calls for the dismantlement of all Saddam Hussein's weapons.
So whether it uses another name or not, somebody's got to go in and determine
that he doesn't have these things. And those are likely to be many of the
world's experts in weapons of mass destruction. We've already participated in
Iraq, we already know what he has, maybe under a different name. But the
mission's not over.
... The world will know when it's over by one of two means. Either because
Saddam Hussein is no longer there, or because the United Nations has certified
that sanctions have to be lifted. And that's not likely to happen until you
see some bigger denouement, some bigger event--whether it's the removal of
Saddam Hussein or the elimination of his weapons of mass destruction.
How should we look at this eight-year battle between UNSCOM and Saddam? What do
Iraq, despite the dragged on drama, really may be the most important principal
established in the post-Cold War world. The international community stood up,
an unlikely coalition of more than three dozen countries, and said: Aggression
is not acceptable. You see that playing out today in Kosovo. It's not
consistent, but it is the single precedent established over the past decade,
and probably the most important, when we look at conflict in the 21st
... And yet, how has Hussein suffered, what has he learned?
... Saddam Hussein may not have learned anything. He's one of the world's last
tyrants. But the broader international community got the message: that
aggression is no longer acceptable, and that the way a leader deals with his
people is actually more important than the right to sovereignty, and that the
international community will stand up and act, often when there are particular
interests: oil in Iraq, Kosovo's presence in Europe. But there are important
precedents that I think you will see play an incredibly important role in
international decisions in the 21st century.
So, what's next for UNSCOM? A version of it, you think?
UNSCOM may be finished by the name UNSCOM, but the mission is not over. The
fact is, the original U.N. Resolution calls for the dismantlement of Saddam
Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. Somebody has to go in and verify that
that's been done. And these are the world's greatest experts on weapons of
mass destruction: chemical, biological, nuclear, and ballistic missiles. I
suspect you will see many of the very same people who worked with UNSCOM going
back into Iraq, sometime down the road, to deal with the very same mission--
under a different name, perhaps, but the very same goal.
How real is the reconstitution threat for Saddam and his weapons? Should the
The world has very good reason to worry about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass
destruction, because the issue, over the past seven years, has been not only
destroying what he developed before 1990, but also what he has tried to acquire
and develop since then.
So, we should be worried about that, because?
Saddam Hussein, with weapons of mass destruction, has proven to be one of the
world's most aggressive leaders: eight years of war against Iran, an invasion
of Kuwait, and threats to virtually every other neighbor. That is the one
instrument that allows him to be the preeminent power in the Persian Gulf, the
source of vital oil supplies to the industrialized West.
What has been most misunderstood about Saddam Hussein?
I think there are a couple of things the West misunderstood about Saddam
Hussein. First of all, how wily he is, how he would be able to stall, to cheat
and retreat, and to drag on a mission that was supposed to take a few months,
at most, into more than eight years. I think the U.S. miscalculated,
especially during the early stages of the conflict, by allowing him to retain
rights to fly...his air power, and not understanding the limits in rising up
against [Saddam], be it by the Kurds and the Shi'ite minorities or by the
military that surrounds him.
He is one of the world's last tyrants. He has survived so long because he's
very good at his job. And I think, at the end of the day, we weren't able to
counter his key propaganda, which was the suffering of the Iraqi people due to
the toughest sanctions ever imposed on any nation by the United Nations. And
that gave him an edge in playing to the Arab street, in playing to allies like
China, Russia, and France, who wanted to do business deals with him, and even
Americans, who were prepared to shout down the Secretaries of Defense and State
and the National Security Advisor over the issue of the suffering of the Iraqi
At the end of the day, I think we probably have a policy in place that squeezes
him for the first time, harder than ever before. Quick solutions, absolutely
not. We're still in this for the long haul. But, at the end of the day,
Saddam Hussein's not going to win.
And not winning will mean?
Saddam Hussein may manage to stay in power for several more years, but he is
unacceptable to the international community, and even the Russian and the
French and the Chinese know that, even though they would very much like to do
business deals with his government.
And the broader Islamic world, the Arab world, the third world, basically
understand the limits to aggression, and that there are occasions that the
international community will stand up and say no. That's really the message
the 20th century. We're going out--we fought World War I, World War II, the
Cold War, we took on tyranny, and we took it on again in Iraq, and it was an
incredibly important precedent for the post Cold War world.
And he's likely to be where in five years?
I'm not that stupid.
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