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who killed unscom?: analysis
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SCOTT RITTER A former U.S. Marine intelligence officer, he was lead inspector for UNSCOM's Concealment and Investigations unit. He resigned in late 1998 on the heels of escalating intransigence by Iraq in its dealings with UN inspection teams.

scott ritterWell, there's a large number of players involved here [in killing UNSCOM]. You have Iraq, which was not complying fully with Security Council resolutions. What I mean by fully is they weren't letting UNSCOM complete that last few percentage points to get us up to 100 percent.

So, Iraq is complicit. But that'd been happening for eight years. UNSCOM was alive and well and breathing for seven years. So, you can't say that Iraq killed UNSCOM because Iraq behaved the same way throughout, and UNSCOM still existed.

The Security Council created UNSCOM under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter, and that carries with it a promise to enforce its own law, and the Security Council wasn't enforcing its law, and that helped to perpetuate this cycle of cheat-and-retreat confrontation, and then, backing down.

You could say the Security Council killed UNSCOM, but again, that's a process that's been taking place for years, and UNSCOM was still alive, well, breathing, kicking, doing its job.

Now we come down to the final two players. You have an executive chairman who, for whatever reasons, has become enamored with the support of the United States. You have a United States administration, the Clinton Administration, which, as we've seen with Madeleine Albright's unfortunate statements of 1997, have decided to pervert international law and say that it doesn't matter what Iraq does with disarmament, we're going to keep economic sanctions in place.

Now, these sanctions are becoming harder and harder to defend, on two fronts. One, what good are they doing? Are they having an impact on the target, Saddam Hussein? The answer is no. Who suffers under sanctions? Innocent Iraqi people. Thousands of children under the age of five die every month because of these sanctions, and while the American public might be oblivious to this, believe me, the rest of the world is not, and the longer we continue this program of economic sanctions targeted against Iraq, the more isolated the United States becomes.

But Richard Butler had come to a decision that we couldn't carry out certain activities without the support of the United States. That the United States was somehow our No. 1 backer in the Security Council, and he allowed the United States to start calling the shots. An inspection a little too confrontational, Richard? Why don't we pull the plug on it, buddy, and stop it.

DAVID KAY: He  was the chief nuclear weapons  inspector  for UNSCOM 1991-1992.

I think quite clearly Iraq killed UNSCOM. UNSCOM had to do what it did in the ways that it did it, and ultimately led to the current crisis, because Iraq didn't comply. So fundamentally, the responsibility is Iraq.

When it ultimately came down to it, the second responsibility is the splintering of the Security Council coalition. Once the Council coalition started to fray in 1994, everything that UNSCOM had done became extremely hazardous.

And Ambassador Ekeus has my ultimate respect as a diplomat because he held together UNSCOM on a steady course in the face of a coalition that had fallen apart. Richard Butler [his successor] bore, unfortunately, the responsibility of coming in and trying to do that as the coalition became even more splintered.

So, first it's Iraq. Secondly, it's the failure of the coalition. And ultimately, it was doomed at that point. I never believed from the beginning we would keep an UNSCOM type of aggressive inspection together for eight years, nor did I believe that we would keep sanctions on of the type that we have in Iraq, for eight years.

RICHARD HAASS: He currently is  director of  Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution.

I think the Clinton Administration has made it far, far worse than it ever needed to be. In part, they simply didn't invest in the maintenance of international opposition to Saddam. It's not enough to pick up the phone when Saddam does something and the crisis is at hand. You've got to invest in these relationships so if and when Saddam does something, people are prepared to push back. The Clinton Administration tended not to do that.

They've also either been unwilling to use force in a serious way.-- It's been often feckless. At times they've threatened to use force, then haven't followed through. So we've had the worst of all worlds -- a lot of pin pricks. But every time you use military force, you draw down on your political capital. You draw down on the resolve of this international consensus to confront Saddam. But we weren't getting enough for it.

So it seems to me the Administration has often gotten it exactly wrong. They did some things -- enough to anger or at least alienate a lot of the international community -- but not really enough to either help UNSCOM or to really change what Saddam could and could not do. So I think we've paid a price for our policy.

BARTON GELLMAN: A reporter for The Washington Post, he covered UNSCOM from the beginning and, more recently, wrote several in-depth articles on Scott Ritter and UNSCOM's involvement with western intelligence agencies.

barton gellman[With UNSCOM] you begin to get a picture of just how convoluted, how Byzantine, the politics and operations of this world's first experiment in multi-national intelligence could be.

You are necessarily drawing on the most closely guarded techniques and capabilities of member states. You are bringing a coalition together that has quite different ideas about what UNSCOM should be doing, and suspicions of each other, and secondary agendas which could be served by this interesting device of an agency which gathers all of this kind of information. And it just became a mess.

Ultimately, I think that's what destroyed UNSCOM. UNSCOM as presently constituted, is never going back into Iraq. I think that the era of intrusive, on-demand inspections in Iraq is probably over, as well.

It may be that UNSCOM simply had an impossible mission from the beginning. The French have been saying for awhile -- and I think the American government has come around to this view -- that the only way to disarm a country against its will is to occupy it. We did it after the Second World War with Germany and Japan. Came in, wrote a new constitution for Japan. Expunged everyone that the U.S. wanted to expunge from the Japanese power structure. And started over.

George Bush made a conscious decision not to do that in Iraq. Norm Schwarzkopf had contingency plans for pressing on to Baghdad, toppling the government, and installing a new government. George Bush said, "That's not what we're going to do." They then passed a resolution backed by these overwhelming military forces that said, "You, Iraq, are going to disarm from these special weapons or else." They did not put the ground forces in place to compel that behavior. They thought they could do it with threats and with an oil embargo, and they couldn't.

But what killed UNSCOM is that these rivalries and these overlapping and competing agendas ultimately ate away at it from within.

There is a school of thought out there now that is blaming Butler for UNSCOM's decline. I'm not sure I agree. Fundamentally, he was dealing with a different hand. The biggest thing that changed was that sanctions fatigue and different national agendas set in and UNSCOM support on the Security Council, which was always uneven, declined.

At the very moment that UNSCOM felt the need to use ever more intrusive and controversial methods to find Iraq's weapons, the Security Council was more and more uncomfortable with what UNSCOM was doing. And nobody could have played that hand successfully, in my opinion.

By the end there simply was not the international consensus to do what UNSCOM needed to do to find Iraq's weapons. You had this delicate balance all throughout the last several years, in which the United States and UNSCOM and Britain were desperately trying to hold onto the hammer of military threats to secure Iraqi compliance, and throughout that period they are watching the Security Council support erode.

DR. KHIDIR HAMZA: He was Iraq's Director of Nuclear Weaponization and is the highest- ranking scientist ever to defect from Iraq.

dr. khidir hamzaIn a sense, Ritter, by doing this, almost destroyed now UNSCOM.... These revelations, which he had to share, the international inspection system itself now is in danger, because not many states would be forthcoming in allowing such an inspection system anymore, without calculating the possibility of ... having spies from the big power in charge of the teams.

But UNSCOM, in a sense, had no recourse. I mean, Saddam used his own special security organization to be in charge of the weapons systems -- their safety, their transport, their whatever. So, saving the weapons was given to SSO, the Special Security Organization.

Now, if you spy on the SSO, to try to find where the weapons is, you get some extra information. And this is what happened in many cases. Gradually, you have to get in deeper and deeper into the layers of the Iraqi government, and closer and closer to Saddam, to know what's going on. Because only the people around him know what's going on. So, they have to go to those people.

Now, in getting so deep, you will find many of Iraq's secrets. Now, Iraq is an enemy to the US now. ... And the people who work in these groups have nationalities ... so they would, we'd expect, and they would use spies.-- And that's been classic. I mean, even in old organizations that happened -- infiltration, information that leaks to various states, and information reported directly to the other states. We had that in IAEA. We had two informers in the IAEA, who will report to Iraq directly.

You had Iraqi informers inside the international--

Inspectors, yes, inspectors. They were to report to us directly. ... And they told us many of the inside secrets of the IAEA.

So, that's used. I mean, why everybody is surprised about it, I don't know. But the end result of it, it will undermine the international inspection system, so I don't know what's the point of it right now?

One imagines, if you had informers inside the IAEA, that Iraq was trying to do the same thing with UNSCOM?

... Oh, yes, Kamel employed one of the guys as a secretary to one of the groups, and when he was being debriefed [by UNSCOM after he defected from Iraq], that guy was present there, so Kamel threw him out. He told him, "I employed you, why are you here? You were reporting to me."

... There's nothing new. Everybody uses it. So, the hue and the cry is, I don't know what it's about. Everybody uses this. I'm not trying to say it's alright. It did undermine the international inspections. But why does it have to come now? And why is it made such a big deal right now, with all these revelations? ... Anyway, it ended up almost, now, destroying UNSCOM and putting all the inspection under suspicion and Iraq would be now in a better position to probably dictate who is going to come, on a nationality basis.

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