UNSCOM inspections program in Iraq
Martin S. Indyk,
Assistant Secretary of State
for Near Eastern Affairs
U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee
I welcome this opportunity to be here to discuss United States policy
In recent weeks, there have been a lot of charges leveled at the
Administration, and at the Secretary of State personally, for
supposedly pursuing a "duplicitous" policy towards Iraq. I welcome the
opportunity to set the record straight.
The objective of Operation Desert Storm was to roll back Iraq's brutal
invasion of Kuwait. In that, it succeeded brilliantly due to strong
leadership from President Bush and the courage and skill of coalition
forces, led by the United States. But as President Bush recalls in his
new book, the war did not end like World War II, with the surrender of
the beaten Army and the punishment of the villainous enemy leaders.
Although humiliated and weakened, Saddam Hussein and his military
We have been dealing with the consequences ever since. From the
outset, our goal and that of the UN Security Council has been to deny
Iraq the capacity ever again to threaten international peace and
security. Our tools have included:
-- the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM), which was authorized by the
Security Council: 1) to carry out inspections to verify Iraq's
declared programs for chemical and biological weapons and missiles,
and to seek out what Iraq would not declare; 2) to destroy those
programs or render them harmless, and 3) to monitor Iraq in order to
deter any attempt to revive these programs;
-- inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to
accomplish the same tasks in the nuclear weapons area; and
-- economic sanctions, which create an incentive for Iraq to comply
with weapons inspection and monitoring activities, as well as its
other obligations under Security Council resolutions.
This effort has paid dividends.
Year by year, Iraqi efforts to conceal its weapons of mass destruction
programs have been unmasked. Slowly but surely, the world has learned
more about the extent of Saddam's preparations for biological warfare,
the use of poison gas and the development of nuclear weapons. In the
process, UNSCOM and the IAEA have forced the destruction of more Iraqi
weapons of mass destruction capacity than was destroyed during the
entire Gulf War.
Throughout this period, Iraq has tried and failed to undermine
Security Council unity on the key points of compliance and sanctions.
At the same time, with our allies, we have constrained Iraq's military
options through Operations Southern and Northern Watch and, when
necessary the reinforcement of our military presence in the Gulf. As a
result, the military threat posed by Iraq has been effectively
But that threat has by no means been eliminated.
Despite the best efforts of UNSCOM and the IAEA, Iraq has not
disclosed the full truth about its chemical and biological weapons
programs. UNSCOM believes Iraq is probably concealing SCUD missiles.
And questions remain about Iraq's nuclear programs. As long as Baghdad
is under its present leadership, we must expect that Iraq will
reconstitute its weapons of mass destruction if given the opportunity.
Iraq's goal is to gain relief from sanctions without revealing more
about its weapons programs. To this end, Baghdad has repeatedly probed
for weaknesses in the Security Council's resolve. It has sought to
create divisions among Council members. It has exploited with
breathtaking cynicism the suffering of its own people. It has appealed
to Arab solidarity.
And, most tellingly, it has tried to portray itself as the victim in a
confrontation with a runaway UNSCOM being ordered about by an arrogant
and callous United States. To dramatize this charge, Iraq has halted
cooperation with UNSCOM on three occasions during the past year, most
recently at the beginning of August.
Throughout, we have countered Iraq's outrageous propaganda with plain
truth. We have backed UNSCOM's efforts to expose the contradictions
between Iraqi declarations and the physical and documentary evidence.
We have stressed the importance of full compliance with Security
Council resolutions. We have led the effort -- which Saddam Hussein
resisted for years -- to establish the Oil-for-Food program that is
addressing the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people. And last
spring, we threatened to use force -- as we have on three separate
occasions since the end of the Gulf War -- if Iraq did not permit
UNSCOM inspections to resume. In the face of that threat, it did.
Over the past year, senior Administration officials have probably had
more conversations with our foreign counterparts on these subjects
than any other. In Washington and in capitals abroad, we have
relentlessly advanced the U.S. position that the consequences of Iraqi
noncompliance are unacceptable and that firmness is the only language
Saddam understands. Many governments agree with that, but others have
a different view.
It is worth recalling that the international coalition assembled by
the Bush Administration in 1990 came together to drive Iraq out of
Kuwait, and not for any more far-reaching purpose. As former National
Security Adviser Scowcroft recalls, even before the ground war against
Iraq began, "the political situation was volatile and the coalition
Today, as a result of vigorous diplomacy conducted by two Presidents
and four Secretaries of State, backed by bipartisan leaders in
Congress, there remains an international consensus that Iraq must
comply with UN Security Council resolutions and cooperate with UN
There also remains agreement that sanctions should continue until
these conditions are met, but some on the Security Council would like
to weaken the conditions and weaken UNSCOM to achieve that purpose.
And there never has been, and is not now, a consensus about whether or
in what circumstances force should be used in an effort to compel
Iraqi compliance with the Council's postwar resolutions.
Some countries that supported the use of force to roll back Iraq's
brutal and blatant aggression in 1990 simply feel less threatened
today by a weakened Iraq and do not see failure to comply with UN
inspections as a "bombing" offense.
Others argue that military strikes would backfire because they would
engender sympathy for Iraq while not restoring the effective operation
of UNSCOM or ending Iraq's ability to build chemical and biological
Some governments are content, perhaps for commercial reasons, just to
sit on the sidelines and let the United States assume the full costs
and consequences of dealing with Saddam Hussein.
Some nations, including some historic allies of the United States,
argue that our goal is simply to keep sanctions on Iraq forever, and
that we are not providing Baghdad with any real incentive to
Finally, there exists a perception in parts of the Arab world that the
enforcement of UN Security Council Resolutions reflects a double
standard. We have tried our best to rebut that presumption, but it
This, then, is the diplomatic context within which we must operate if
our goal of eliminating the security threat posed by Iraq is to be
achieved. Aspects of it were mirrored in our discussions here in the
United States about the wisdom of taking military action during a
similar confrontation with Iraq last winter. The widely disparate
advice provided to the Administration by Senators from these two
committees and by others is a symptom of the difficulties involved.
The choices we face are not those of some ideal world in which our
perceptions are universally shared, the American people are united,
all our allies are on board, the road to success is clearly marked and
the consequences of our decisions are fully predictable. Rather, we
face hard choices in the real world, in which every event affects the
next, and the political terrain shifts with each passing day. It is a
world in which the costs and benefits of alternative courses of action
must be considered with deliberation, for they are not obvious. In
fact, it is precisely this complexity which led to the events which
bring us here today.
In recent weeks, some have suggested that the United States has not
done enough to support the work of UNSCOM. It has even been suggested
that we have tried to prevent UNSCOM from discovering the truth about
Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs.
The people who level these charges are undoubtedly well-intentioned.
In particular, we have nothing but respect for Scott Ritter's work. We
are, after all, on the same side. But Mr. Ritter works from a
different set of facts and as Chairman Butler told the New York Times
today, the testimony he gave as to these facts was often inaccurate in
chronology and detail and was therefore misleading. He was given a
mission by the Security Council and, like his UNSCOM colleagues from
many nations, has made diligent efforts to fulfill it.
The Administration has to work on the basis of a broader set of facts.
First is the fact that the United States has been by far the strongest
international backer of UNSCOM. For years, we have provided
indispensable technical help, expert personnel, sophisticated
equipment, vital diplomatic backing and logistics and other support.
Nothing has changed in that regard. For example, in May of this year,
the White House instructed the heads of all relevant U.S. agencies to
issue new directives ensuring that UNSCOM and IAEA inspections would
receive high priority support throughout our government. The Secretary
of State issued that directive to State Department officials on June
On the "diplomatic front, we have taken the lead in rebutting and
disproving Iraq's contentions in disputes with UNSCOM before the
Security Council. We have pushed and pushed and pushed some more to
help UNSCOM break through the smokescreen of lies and deception put
out by the Iraqi regime. Secretaries Albright and Cohen and the rest
of the President's foreign policy team have traveled the world
attempting to keep the heat on Iraq and demanding that it cooperate
with UNSCOM. The suggestion that we urged other governments not to
support UNSCOM turns the truth on its head; it is exactly the opposite
of what we have been doing.
A second fact is that, Iraqi intransigence aside, UNSCOM's inspection
efforts have continued to make important progress.
For example, just this summer, UNSCOM was able for the first time to
conduct inspections of sensitive sites where it found new evidence
that Iraq had lied about the size of its chemical weapons stocks.
A third fact we have to take into account is the importance of
maintaining Security Council and coalition unity in dealing with Iraq.
There is a very hardheaded reason for this. Unless we are prepared
unilaterally to send tens of thousands of American ground troops into
Baghdad to remove Saddam and destroy Iraq's military infrastructure,
we are not going to eliminate by force Iraq's ability to conceal and
possibly reconstitute weapons of mass destruction. If we are not
prepared to take such action, we will have to rely on the help of
others through sanctions, support for inspections, and acceptance of
the need to use military strikes for limited objectives if necessary.
This has an influence on the tactical decisions we make. As I suspect
the veterans among you would agree, there is great value in any
confrontation in being able to choose your own timing and terrain.
Saddam's provocations are designed with political purposes in mind: to
spark a reaction, divide the security Council, isolate the United
States and diminish support for sanctions. Our strategy is to deny
Saddam that opportunity, and to keep the world spotlight not on what
we do, but on what Iraq is failing to do -- which is comply with its
A fourth fact, related to the third, is the importance of maintaining
the integrity and independence of UNSCOM.
The continuation of UNSCOM's work is essential if we are to achieve
our goal, and the world's goal, of moving beyond containment to the
elimination of Iraq's capacity to pose a serious military threat.
Unfortunately, if UNSCOM is to succeed, it must, among others things,
both be and be perceived to be independent.
It is ironic that Scott Ritter, whom we respect, and Saddam Hussein,
whom we deplore, both argue that UNSCOM's independence has been
compromised by the United States. If we were to agree with Scott
Ritter on that point, we would be conceding a very key point to Saddam
Hussein. It may be precisely the opposite of his intention, but Mr.
Ritter's allegations have profoundly undermined the perception that
UNSCOM is independent. And that will make it much harder for UNSCOM to
do its job.
As UNSCOM Chairman Butler has repeatedly affirmed, the United States
has never impinged on UNSCOM's integrity or attempted to dictate its
decisions. But UNSCOM's purpose is to assure that there are no
prohibited weapons in Iraq. So it is not hard for us to work together
towards that common long-term goal. And, make no mistake, the purpose
of every conversation and contact we have had with UNSCOM has been to
move us closer to achieving that goal.
For seven years, through Republican and Democratic Administrations
alike, U.S. policy has not changed. We want Iraqi compliance. This
does not mean our tactics are rigid. If a climber scaling a cliff
finds one route blocked and switches to another, that is not lack of
resolve, nor is it inconsistency, it is common sense.
In pursuing our goal of Iraqi compliance, we have sometimes made
tactical suggestions to UNSCOM about questions of timing and
procedure. This is entirely appropriate and is done by other Council
members, as well, on a regular basis.
Over time, we found that some of our suggestions were accepted, others
were not. Most often, our discussions with UNSCOM have focused on
where more vigorous inspection activity might be productive, on how
Iraqi lies might be exposed, or on when an inspection might best catch
Iraqi efforts at deception by surprise.
No nation has done more to encourage UNSCOM to be thorough, unyielding
and aggressive in its inspections, and no nation has done more to
support UNSCOM's dogged and, at times, dangerous efforts in this
I call to your attention a letter from Chairman Butler to the
Washington Post on August 26 in which UNSCOM's Executive Chairman
writes that: "I have never had any reason to doubt the United States
commitment to the need for Iraq to comply with the decisions of the
Security Council, which are binding in international law, and in
particular, the United States insistence upon the requirements imposed
by those resolutions upon Iraq to the effect that they must be
disarmed of their weapons of mass destruction."
It is also true, that on a few occasions, our advice to UNSCOM was
more cautious. For example, this past January when our military
preparations were incomplete and the Muslim Holy season of Ramadan was
under way, was not the right time for a major confrontation.
I note, in this regard, that Mr. Ritter told this Committee last week
that he had objected to a planned inspection of the Ministry of
Defense because he thought it was "probably heading down a slippery
slope of confrontation which could not be backed up by UNSCOM's
mandate." This was precisely the kind of question we also sometimes
found occasion to raise. Given the importance of Security Council
unity, we have been concerned in recent months that the responsibility
for any resumption of Iraqi non-cooperation fall where it belongs, on
the shoulders of Saddam Hussein, not UNSCOM. We had questions, which
Chairman Butler had answered, about a particular intrusive inspection
planned by UNSCOM in July. But it is important to note that other
intrusive inspections were going on at the same time as we were
raising these questions. And we made clear our support for the
inspections Scott Ritter was to have led in August. The issue became
moot however, when Iraqi officials informed UNSCOM on August 5 that
they were halting any further cooperation. At that point, we believed
it was best to let the onus fall clearly on Saddam Hussein. Chairman
Butler agreed. We also knew that some in the Security Council were
planning to blame UNSCOM for the renewed breakdown in cooperation.
To summarize, if the allegation is that we sought to influence the
pace of UNSCOM inspections, we did. But we did it in order to have the
greatest long-term chance of overcoming Iraqi efforts at deception. If
we hadn't, we would not have been doing our jobs.
If the allegation is that we have undermined the effectiveness and
independence of UNSCOM; the answer is no On the contrary, we have been
the foremost backer of UNSCOM.
If the allegation is that we have retreated from our determination to
achieve our goals in Iraq, the answer is that we have not and will
In the Security Council, even the members who have been most
sympathetic to Iraq's point of view can find no excuse -- or even any
sense -- in Saddam's latest actions.
Accordingly, we are pressing Council members to take the steps
necessary to enforce their Resolutions. Iraq's latest refusal to
cooperate with UNSCOM is a direct challenge to the Council's
authority. As a Council member, the United States is seeking a firm
and principled response.
We recognize that this has put us back on the ladder of potentially
escalating confrontation with Iraq. So be it. We will not accept the
indefinite blockage by Iraq of the inspection activities of UNSCOM and
the IAEA. And we will insist that Iraq live up to its commitment to
cooperate with UNSCOM's monitoring activities.
For all its bluster, Iraq remains within the strategic box Saddam
Hussein's folly created for it seven years ago. As we look ahead, we
will decide how and when to respond to Iraq's actions based on the
threat they pose.to Iraq's neighbors, to regional security and to U.S.
vital interests. Our assessment will include Saddam's capacity to
reconstitute, use, or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction. The
bottom line is that if Iraq tries to break out of its strategic box,
our response will be swift and strong. But we will act on our own
timetable, not Saddam Hussein's.
From the perspective of our own security, we are in a position of
strength. Our ability to project force in the region is significantly
more robust now than it was a year ago. We have added a rapid
reinforcement capability. With our allies, we are maintaining a close
eye on Iraqi troops through the enforcement of Operations Northern and
Southern Watch. The multi-national Maritime Interception Force is
keeping the teeth in UN sanctions, having seized more than 30 vessels
And let us remember that, since 1991, sanctions have deprived Saddam
Hussein's coffers of more than $120 billion. Although it is not an end
in itself, the sanctions regime is what denies Baghdad the resources
it needs to rebuild its military, and its weapons of mass destruction
In closing, let me say in fairness to our critics that the diplomatic
language we have used to describe our policy towards Iraq may have
sometimes lacked clarity. Let me be clear now.
To Saddam Hussein, my message is: Do not miscalculate. Do not misread
our public debates, which are an expression of the freedoms we enjoy
in America, as a sign of fundamental weakness or disunity. We have our
differences. But on the central issues of upholding law and responding
to aggression, the American people are united.
To the Members of the Security Council, my message is that, together,
we must meet our responsibility. We must be firm, united and
determined in our insistence that Iraq meet its obligations and in the
actions we take to back up that insistence. The integrity and
credibility of the Security Council is at stake.
To the American people, I say that we will be true to our principles,
our interests and our character. We are not spoiling for a battle. We
are not eager to put our fighting men and women at risk. We do not
wish to shoulder burdens and assume costs that others, by right,
should share. But we will not allow the scorpion that bit us once to
bite us again. We have not ruled out any options. If Saddam provokes a
fight, he will get one, and he will lose.
Finally to the Iraqi people, let me say that the United States looks
forward to the day when Iraq can rejoin the family of nations as a
responsible and law-abiding member. And to those Iraqis inside and
outside the country who want to build a democratic future for their
nation: I say the United States is on your side.
The new Radio Free Iraq is preparing to broadcast directly to the
Iraqi people. We are gathering information regarding the atrocities
committed by Saddam Hussein to help the Iraqi exile community in its
campaign to bring him to justice.
And we are intensifying our efforts to help Iraqi opposition groups --
whether Arab or Kurd, Shiite or Sunni -- to develop a deeper sense of
common purpose and a more effective strategy for achieving a
democratic and pluralist Iraq.
Obviously, these measures are no panacea. It would not be responsible
to raise false hopes or expectations. But neither can we turn our
backs and resign ourselves to the indefinite continuation of a
belligerent and lawless regime in Baghdad.
America and the world should stay focused on the task President Bush
set with such good reason in the aftermath of the Gulf War: denying
Saddam the capacity to strike again at Iraq's neighbors and the world.
In so doing, we must avoid wishful thinking -- either the naive hope
that Saddam has learned his lesson and can now be trusted, or the
understandable, but unrealistic, hope that Saddam's reign of terror in
Baghdad can quickly and cleanly be brought to a close.
That may not be the ideal situation. But that's the situation with
which we must deal.
And I am confident that we can and will do so in a way that protects
America's vital interests, upholds American principles and reflects
Thank you very much.
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list