- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 18, 2002

It will have a new name and new faces, but the task remains the same for the United Nation's team that will try to find and destroy Saddam Hussein's arsenal of prohibited weapons.
The new name is the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, whose staff of 63 at its New York headquarters has been taking classes on weapons of mass destruction and assembling a database of 30,000 documents.
The inspection commission was created in December 1999 and replaced the U.N. Special Commission, which left Iraq in 1998 after Saddam's security forces blocked its access to various suspected weapons sites.
President Clinton then ordered four days of air strikes, known as Operation Desert Fox. Since then, Iraq has been relatively free to reconstitute and hide its chemical, nuclear and biological weapons programs. Bush administration officials believe that Iraq moved much of its nuclear work underground to escape satellite surveillance and U.S. air strikes. Baghdad shifted work on biological agents to mobile laboratories.
With President Bush threatening military action, Baghdad announced Monday that it will allow weapons monitors back inside the country.
Iraq is believed to harbor thousands of chemical munitions, gallons of biological weapons agents and Scud ballistic missiles. All are prohibited under the 1991 cease-fire agreement by which Iraq agreed "unconditionally" to destroy them.
All the secrecy will make the job for the commission; its chairman, Hans Blix; its staff; and 220 expert consultants all the more difficult.
Mr. Blix filed a report earlier this month with the U.N. Security Council that gives some clue as to how he plans to conduct inspections.
His staff told Iraqi representatives in Vienna, Austria, that the United Nations wants to reopen the Ongoing Monitoring and Verification Center in Baghdad, and open regional offices in Basra and Mosul.
The special commission relied on U.S. intelligence, overhead photographs and surprise visits to document Iraq's arsenal and destroy some of it. Defectors from Iraq's various weapons programs also provided information in the mid-1990s.
Key Bush administration officials, including Vice President Richard B. Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, have said that another round of inspections will not work. They predict Iraq will revert to deception and defiance.
As inspectors bored in on more sites in the late 1990s, special commission teams were repeatedly harassed and blocked by Iraqi agents.
Inspection commission inspectors, if admitted, will seek to find Iraq's prohibited weapons of mass destruction and missiles:
Chemical Iraq has not accounted for 6,000 chemical munitions not used in its war against Iran. The special commission found evidence Iraq had loaded VX nerve agent onto missile warheads and has converted a training aircraft, the L-29, into an unmanned vehicle capable of spraying chemical weapons.
"Since the Gulf war, Baghdad has rebuilt key portions of its industrial and chemical production infrastructure," said Anthony Cordesman, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "Previously, Iraq was known to have produced and stockpiled mustard, tabun, sarin and VX, some of which likely remain hidden."
Biological Iraq admitted in 1996 that it produced offensive biological weapons and owned 30,000 liters of biological weapons agents. The United Nations believes that the stocks are much larger. Iraq admitted that it produced anthrax, botulinum toxins and aflatoxins. It developed bombs and missile warheads to carry those agents. It deployed, but did not use, the weapons in 1991.
Missiles Iraq had 200 to 300 Scud ballistic missiles in 1991. It fired some at Israel and Saudi Arabia. The special commission destroyed others. Iraq says it no longer has Scuds, but the United Nations believes that it has 50 or more.
Nuclear program Iraq has nuclear engineers and weapons designs and lacks only fissile material to make weapons. Experts believe that the country was less than a year from producing atomic bombs before allied air strikes destroyed most of Iraq's above-ground facilities.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, based in Vienna, Austria, will hunt for nuclear components.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide