The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iraq: AreSanctions Collapsing?

Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Energy and Natural Resources Committee
joint hearing
May 21, 1998

Testimony Delivered by David A. Kay  before the Senate Committee on 
Foreign Relations on May 21, 1998
   The Kofi Annan brokered agreement of February removed, at least 
temporarily, Iraq from the headlines and talk shows. There is no reason, 
however, to believe that defusing a crisis over the inspection rights of 
UNSCOM equates to a long term solution to an Iraq led by Saddam and 
armed with WMD. Indeed the start of any sensible long-term approach to 
Iraq is to realize that the UNSCOM arms inspections are sliding toward 
irrelevance in coping with the puzzle of an enduring Saddam and his 
efforts to protect and expand his capacity to produce weapons of mass 
   UNSCOM's efforts to eliminate Saddam's WMD capacity were based on 
four assumptions, all of which have turned out to be false. These were:
(i) Saddam's rule would not survive the disasters suffered by Iraq as a 
result of its invasion of Kuwait;
(ii) Iraq's WMD capabilities were not extensive nor significantly 
(iii) a post-Saddam Iraq would declare to UNSCOM all of Iraq's WMD 
(iv) UNSCOM would be able to "destroy, remove or render harmless" Iraq's 
WMD capabilities leaving an Iraq that would not have WMD capability as 
an enduring legacy. 
   The reasoning of Bush Administration officials that no regime could 
survive a disaster as compelling as Iraq's defeat in the Gulf War was no 
doubt true for a democratic system.  Saddam's endurance, however, stands 
as yet another stark reminder of the dangers of attempting to understand 
the world on the basis solely of our own values and experience. Saddam's 
Iraq was and is a fierce, totalitarian dictatorship that can survive as 
long as it maintains coercive power over its citizens. Once Saddam's 
survival became a fact then all hope of his voluntarily yielding up the 
very weapons that allow him to hope to dominate the region was lost. 
   What is much less well understood is the impact that the discovery of 
the gigantic scope and indigenous nature of Saddam's weapons program had 
on the prospects of being able to eliminate this program by inspection 
alone. We now know that the Iraqi efforts to build an arsenal of weapons 
of mass destruction:
. spanned more than a decade; 
. cost more than $20 Billion; 
. involved more than 40,000 Iraqis and succeed in mastering all the 
technical and most of the productions steps necessary to acquire a 
devil's armory of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as well as 
the missiles necessary to deliver them over vast distances. 
   Iraq's weapons programs benefited greatly from access to Western 
technology and material, however, by the time of the invasion of Kuwait 
this program had become thoroughly indigenous and for reasons of both 
deception and efficiency was often embedded in civilian, dual-use 
industries. The over-all project code for the Iraqi nuclear weapons 
program was PC-3 - Petrochemical Project 3. 
     The capability to produce weapons of mass destruction cannot be 
eliminated by simply destroying "weapons" facilities. The weapons 
secrets are now Iraqi secrets well understood by a large stratum of 
Iraq's technical elite, and the production capabilities necessary to 
turn these "secrets' into weapons are part and parcel of the domestic 
infrastructure of Iraq which will survive even the most draconian of 
sanctions regimes. Simply put, Iraq is not Libya, but very much like 
post-Versailles Germany in terms of its ability to maintain a weapons 
capability in the teeth of international inspections. Once sanctions are 
eased, or ended, that capability can be expected to become quickly a 
     For seven years, US Iraqi policy has focused essentially on only 
two related issues, maintaining sanctions and keeping UNSCOM's 
inspections going. The hope was that inspections and sanctions would 
keep Saddam's WMD program in check until somehow Saddam would disappear. 
While sanctions and inspections still have considerable value, the Annan 
agreement makes clear that they no longer can define US policy and, in 
fact concentrating on them has masked a series of challenges that the US 
must now face. 
    The most recent crisis with Iraq over sanctions began in October 
1997 and ended with an agreement brokered by the UN Secretary General in 
February-March 1998. This most recent dispute with Iraq has been widely 
portrayed as over the right of the inspectors to immediate, 
unconditional and unrestricted access in their search for Iraq's 
remaining weapons of mass destruction. This formulation of the crisis - 
and it is one that Iraq has succeeded in having widely accepted - is 
fundamentally wrong. Immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access 
has never been more than a means - important, but still a means - to 
achieve the primary objective of the UN inspectors which is defined as 
the "destruction, removal or rendering harmless" of Iraq's prohibited 
weapons of mass destruction and their means of production.
    The consequence of this misconception can be seen in the contrasting 
manner in which the diplomatic nannies that the Secretary General and 
Iraq agreed must accompany the inspectors to designated sensitive sites 
reported on the first series of visits as opposed to the report prepared 
by the inspectors that the diplomats accompanied.
	. The diplomats report concerns itself entirely with issues of 
access and resolving disputes that occurred over access. The tone is 
positive and is well reflected in the statement by the President of the 
Security Council when the Council on 14 May 1998 reviewed the report. 
The President of the Security Council, on behalf of the Council, 
"welcomes the improved access provided to the Special Commission and the 
IAEA by the Government of Iraq following the signature of the Memorandum 
of Understanding by the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq and the Secretary 
General on 23 February' and its subsequent approval by the Council.
	. The head of the inspectors, however, struck a quite different 
tone. For example, "The initial entry to the sites had limited 
objectives, which were achieved. It is important to emphasize that this 
mission was not a search-type mission, nor was it no-notice. Iraq had 
over a month to make whatever preparations it desired..  The mission was 
not intended to be a search for prohibited material and none was found. 
In fact, there was very little equipment, documentation or other 
material in the sites at all. It was clearly apparent that all sites had 
undergone extensive evacuation.. Another potential problem surfaced 
regarding the procedures and stated requirements for the presence of 
senior diplomats at specific locations. Iraq stated that UNSCOM and IAEA 
staff could not enter buildings without a diplomat being present. This 
did not pose a problem during the course of this mission since many 
diplomats were present and it was not a surprise visit. However, it must 
be noted that the procedures do not contain any such requirement and in 
fact allow for the division of the team into sub-teams at the discretion 
of the Head of the Team of Experts. There is no stated requirement for a 
senior diplomat to be present in each sub-team. In the future this may 
be problematic since no-notice visits require quick movement into the 
location often by multiple sub-teams. Assuring the presence of several 
diplomats at all locations will inhibit the possibility of surprise, 
since non-Baghdad-based senior diplomats may then be required."
	. The Chairman of UNSCOM, Ambassador Butler, summed up best the 
consequence of focusing on access and forgetting the reason that access 
is important when he submitted in April his latest semi-annual report on 
the inspections. ".as is evident in the disarmament section of this 
report, a major consequence of the four-month crisis authored by Iraq 
has been that, in contrast with the prior reporting period, virtually no 
progress in verifying disarmament has been able to be reported. If this 
is what Iraq intended by the crisis, then, in large measure, it could be 
said to have been successful. Iraq's heightened policy of disarmament by 
declaration, no matter how vigorously pushed or stridently voiced, 
cannot remove the need for verification as the key means through which 
the credibility of its claim can be established."
	Unfortunately, Ambassador Butler is correct. Iraq has been 
successful. The focus now has shifted to procedure and process. The real 
aim of the inspections, the elimination of Iraq's WMD weapons and 
production capacity and the establishment of a long-term monitoring 
process is sliding away in the face of resolute Iraqi defiance and the 
desire of the Russians and the French for short-term economic gain. We 
should also credit a successful Iraqi propaganda campaign that has gone 
unanswered and has convinced many in the Gulf and in our own country 
that the US is responsible for keeping on economic sanctions that have 
devastated Iraq women and children.
The major problems that now must be confronted include:
The security structure that Secretary Baker crafted to respond to Iraq's 
invasion of Kuwait is no longer viable. Major states in the region, 
certainly including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, are no longer 
willing to let an automatic anti-Saddam reflex define their policy in 
the Gulf. Even states, such as Kuwait and Bahrain, which are much more 
dependent upon the US for their security, are resisting US leadership 
when it threatens military confrontation. Equally important, Iran is no 
longer the marginalized state that it was in 1990-91 and has learned to 
skillfully play each crisis to benefit its long-term goal of removing US 
influence from the Gulf. 
We are left with "allies" that lack sufficient military power to stand 
up to a rearmed Iraq, and that are unwilling to provide the US with the 
political support and operational bases that would allow the US to deal 
with Iraq even in its present weakened state. This same splintering of 
alliance ties can be seen in the non-regional allies that were a key 
part of Gulf coalition structure. The French are no longer willing 
partners, and the Russians can no longer be coerced or bribed into 
silent cooperation.
The US has failed to convince its allies of the dangers to themselves of 
the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the tinderbox Middle 
East. Also we have not yet equipped our own military forces to be able 
to fight and win when faced with such a threat at costs and risks that 
appear tolerable to our own citizens and political leaders. If there 
were ever a psychological campaign that either was not  fought or 
misfired, it has been the US effort to make the states of the Gulf and 
our European and Asian allies understand how much more dangerous the 
future is about to become as Iraq rebuilds its nuclear, chemical and 
biological weapons, the Iranians further accelerate their own efforts 
and the rest of the region scrambles for political and military 
The US military build up in the Gulf between October 1997 and February 
1998 should send shockwaves through both policy makers and Congressional 
leaders who though that some important lessons had been learned as a 
result of the Gulf War. First, the build up took almost five months to 
reach a force level that military commanders seem to think was adequate 
to achieve an admittedly shifting set of political objectives. This was 
almost as long as it took the US to deploy a much larger force to meet 
the invasion of Kuwait. 
True to the warnings of many who said we should never again give an 
opponent that much time to counter our force deployment, Saddam used the 
time to hammer our forces - not with Scuds and chemical weapons but with 
a political campaign that was probably even more effective. Second, the 
US forces that came to do battle brought smarter weapons, but none that 
their commanders seemed to be confident could find or kill chemical and 
biological weapons without risking unacceptable damage to civilians in 
the region. It is hard to escape the conclusion that the much-touted US 
counterproliferation forces are not yet ready to meet the standards that 
they must if they are to be a real threat to proliferators.
   If these are the major problems, what choices are we left with? Few 
and mostly bad in the short run is the simple answer. The easy nostrums 
- support the opposition, containment as we did with the Soviets, or 
even Annan's "I can do business with Saddam" - seem expensive, risky 
and, at best, only partial answers. 
   The best hope of the opposition was in the chaos at the end of the 
Gulf War. This opportunity, however, was lost when the US decided to 
stand aside and let Saddam freely slaughter many brave Iraqis. In the 
seven intervening years US policy toward the opposition has grown to 
resemble nothing so much as the mating ritual of the female Back Widow - 
promising but quickly lethal to the male. I do not believe that it is 
true that supporting forces of democratic change is something that 
Americans are genetically unable to do. It is clear, however, that we 
generally are so inept at it that it is likely to deplete the gene pool 
of promising opponents to tyrants before we are successful. It is 
certainly a policy worth another try, if you can find any of Saddam's 
opponents willing to run the risk of having us support them, but it is 
not a policy that will offer short term successes. 
   Containment has a nice ring and the virtue of a clear success in the 
fall of the Soviet Union. On the other hand, one can only despair that 
those who urge containment of Saddam as an appropriate policy have not 
examined the preconditions of the Cold War case to see if they exist in 
the Gulf. The US maintained for 40 years more than a million troops in 
Europe as part of its effort to contain the Soviets and invested vast 
resources in the social, political and economic reconstruction of Europe 
into a bastion of democratic values. In the Gulf there is no simple 
overriding fear of Saddam that will dominate all politics the way the 
Soviet threat did. For example, the Iranians who have every reason to 
fear the Iraqis will not see a US presence that contains Saddam as 
serving their interest. Many holders of traditional tribal societal and 
fundamentalist religious values will worry more about the threat of 
democratic and modern influences that flow from US presence than they 
will the threat from Iraq. Some of the states in the region are more 
fearful of a rapid democratic modernization of their societies than they 
are of Saddam.
   Political change in Iraq holds the only hope for eliminating Iraq's 
capacity for producing weapons of mass destruction and the equally 
dangerous arms race that is about to ignite across the Gulf. Clearly 
Saddam needs to be held in check, that is contained, while the forces of 
political change are given a chance to work. But a policy that is solely 
one of containment is more likely to ignite the fires of 
anti-Americanism, undermine our allies and embolden Iraq, Iran and 
Russia than it is to accelerate political change. The various opposition 
groups inside and outside Iraq clearly have a role in accelerating 
political change, although I doubt that this will be greatly hastened by 
covert assistance programs. 
  Political change seems most likely to be accelerated by four factors. 
. First, the external world must make it clear that Saddam will not be 
part of the solution. Annan is wrong. We must clearly insist that we 
cannot "do business" with Saddam. There should be no "ifs, ands, buts" 
or escape clauses of deathbed conversions to this policy. If we are less 
than committed to the removal of Saddam as a precondition for the 
reintegration of Iraq into the global system we will have Saddam and 
destroy all opposition groups. 
. Second, a better definition is needed of what post-Saddam Iraq can 
expect in terms of reconstruction and reintegration into the world. Iraq 
has become a land of sorrow and little hope. Saddam bears the ultimate 
responsibility for this fate, but we all share a failure to hold up a 
compelling vision of what the future can be for the Iraqi people. 
. Third, the US must abandon the myth that it helped create that there 
can be a stable Gulf policy apart from a stable Middle East. This myth 
served US interests well during the Cold War, but we forget that it was 
never more than a useful myth. Unless and until the security needs of 
Israel and its neighbors can be reconciled and jointly shared, long-term 
stability in the Gulf will be an unattainable dream. This is not to say 
that the Gulf does not have many problems of its own that require 
resolution, but as long as Arab-Israeli politics remains characterized 
by daily violence and deep distrust, stability in the Gulf will never be 
. Fourth, the US military needs to drive to rapid completion the 
restructuring of its forces and doctrine. In situations that look like 
neither the Cold War of Central Europe nor the idealized situation we 
found in Desert Storm, we must be able to credibly and quickly bring to 
bear decisive military force. Diplomacy is not likely to be strengthened 
by a military force and deployment structure that gives the opponent 
time to raise questions about our own adequacy, even more so when those 
questions start to resonate at home.
. Fifth, U.S. intelligence - and more broadly all of the institutions of 
U.S. national security and foreign policy - must rediscover that oldest 
tool of true covert operations, information operations that aim to shape 
the perceptions of opponents. As in most things, it is fair to say that 
the Chinese first did it and the Greeks first got credit for it, but 
information operations should be a technique at which Americans excel. 
We apparently do when it comes to domestic politics and consumer 
marketing. Our record, however, in foreign operations - and never more 
so than in Iraq after the Gulf War - is sadly wanting. I commend, and 
strongly urge that everyone carefully read, the recent comments of 
Representative Porter J. Goss, Chairman of House intelligence committee, 
on the importance of information operations to the revitalization of 
U.S. intelligence.
   In summary, Mr. Chairman, 
. the effectiveness of UNSCOM inspections have been seriously eroded by 
the agreement reached by the Secretary General earlier this year, with 
the inspection moving toward controlled, pre-announced visits to 
pre-cleared sites;
. Iraq continues to engage in very active denial and deception 
activities and a very successful propaganda campaign to convince the 
world that their population is suffering from an American-led effort to 
impoverish them even though they have fully complied with all requests 
of the United Nations;
. Iraq's fundamental technical capacity to re-establish its WMD program 
remains undiminished.
. Economic sanctions remain the only limitation on Saddam resuming his 
WMD program and their further erosion is a very real prospect.
Iraq is of a class of problems where all the easy answers seem to have 
been in the past and all the near terms options are not answers. But 
that is the future in the Middle East. If it is of any comfort, we 
should all acknowledge there were never any easy answers in the past. 
Unless we take immediate steps to address the issue of obtaining 
fundamental political change in Iraq, we will soon again face a rearmed 
and emboldened Saddam.

Join the mailing list