- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 1, 2002

President Bush has demanded that the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) authorize the forcible removable of Saddam Hussein if the United States cannot be assured, by a date certain, that Iraq is in complete compliance with various Gulf War-related UNSC resolutions.

The UNSC refused similar demands by President Clinton back in 1998. Are they any more likely to do it now? Well, that depends upon what the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Action Team finds when it re-enters Iraq next month.

Following the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in 1990, the UNSC did invoke Chapter VII, Article 42 of the U.N. Charter, authorizing the "coalition of states cooperating with Kuwait" to forcibly eject the Iraqi aggressors. That accomplished, a Kuwaiti-Iraqi cease-fire was obtained, wherein Iraq the aggressor nation agreed to abide by various UNSC resolutions.

Before the Gulf War, it was known that Iraq was in violation of U.N. chemical and biological weapons conventions. But the discovery of Iraq's massive violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was sobering, to put it mildly.

The UNSC can impose sanctions for violations of U.N. conventions, such as the NPT, and may if it can be shown that the violations result in immediate danger to other nations authorize the use of force to remove the danger.

The UNSC did impose economic sanctions on Iraq and directed the IAEA which is responsible for verifying NPT compliance to oversee the destruction of Iraq's clandestine nuclear program.

Here are excerpts from the IAEA Action Team assessment of the Iraqi nuclear weapons program, as of December 1998:

• There were no indications to suggest that Iraq was successful in its attempt to produce nuclear weapons.

• There were no indications to suggest that Iraq had produced more than a few grams of weapons-grade nuclear material through its indigenous processes.

• There were no indications that Iraq otherwise clandestinely acquired weapons-usable material.

• All the "safeguarded" research reactor fuel was verified and fully accounted for by the IAEA and removed from Iraq.

• There were no indications that there remains in Iraq any physical capability for the production of amounts of weapons-usable nuclear material of any practical significance.

Hence, by the end of 1998, Iraq's nuclear infrastructure had been completely destroyed, and continuous real-time monitoring systems were being installed at all NPT-relevant sites in Iraq.

Other U.N. inspectors reported that Iraq's chemical and biological warfare capability had been substantially destroyed.

Upon receiving these "final" reports of arms-destruction, UNSC members Russia and France attempted to get the UNSC sanctions lifted. Mr. Clinton vetoed that. Instead, over the vigorous objections of Russia and France, Mr. Clinton attempted regime change in Iraq from 20,000 feet, a la Bosnia.

Failing, Mr. Clinton belatedly sought UNSC authorization for forcible regime change. Russia and France refused that, but did allow in return for partial lifting of sanctions the establishment of a new regime to monitor Iraqi activities and verify that nuclear and chemical/biological weapons programs are not reconstituted.

Now, most Americans will support a pre-emptive invasion of Iraq if and only if Saddam has nuclear weapons and intends to give them to terrorists. They don't much care whether Saddam beats his wives, or grows "wheat smut" in his basement. It's nukes they care about.

With President Bush holding a gun at his head, Saddam has now agreed to allow all U.N. inspectors immediate and unfettered access to Iraq. The IAEA could be on the job by mid-October.

But, having forced Saddam to admit the IAEA Action Team, Mr. Bush is now attempting to keep it out. He shouldn't.

Here's why. Suppose the IAEA finds that Saddam hasn't jump-started his nuclear weapons program. Our troops can all be home for Christmas. But the IAEA will remain there indefinitely, verifying that Iraq stays in compliance with the NPT, long after the Gulf War sanctions are lifted.

But suppose the IAEA discovers Saddam has restarted his nuclear weapons program. Then the UNSC will almost certainly authorize a U.S.-enforced regime-change in Iraq, and our troops will all be in Baghdad for Christmas.

Either way, Mr. Bush will have put some teeth in the NPT, and the world will thank him for it. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is our last best hope for preventing rogue nations not just Iraq and terrorists not just al Qaeda from nuking you and yours in your jammies.

Gordon Prather was a nuclear physicist at Sandia National Laboratory, a national security adviser to Senator Henry Bellmon, and a Reagan appointee in the Pentagon.

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