Voice from the Commonwealth Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts
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While Unscom did manage to destroy tonnes of missiles and chemical and biological weapons, it could not complete the job. Iraqi obfuscations prevented it from ever getting a full picture of the entire weapons production effort.
The commission's replacement, the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (Unmovic), which has not yet been allowed to enter Iraq, will have even less success given its structure and policies.
Unscom was staffed mainly by officials on loan from national governments who did not owe their jobs to the United Nations; Unmovic personnel, on the other hand, are United Nations employees who are likely to be hobbled by the United Nations' notoriously inefficient bureaucracy.
What sort of things will hinder UNSCOM:
At Unmovic, however, no inspector will be allowed to receive intelligence information on a privileged basis, a policy that increases the risk of leaks to the Iraqis.
Unmovic has also declared that it will not allow any information gathered from its inspections to flow back to national intelligence agencies. This eliminates the main incentive for intelligence sources to provide Unmovic with useful information in the first place. Even if it is allowed into Iraq, Unmovic will run up against obstacles at least as formidable as those that stymied Unscom.
Most Unmovic inspectors have little experience in Iraq and even less in handling intelligence information. Compounding this handicap is the fact that Iraq has taken considerable pains to make its weapons programmes mobile. Laboratories, components and materials are ready to hit the road at a moment's notice.
Unmovic is also stuck with a deal the United Nations made in 1998 on ``presidential sites''. Iraq is allowed to designate vast swaths of land (big enough to contain entire factories) that the inspectors can visit only after announcing the visit in advance, disclosing the composition of the inspection team (nuclear or biological experts, for example) and taking along a special group of diplomats. This loophole creates refuges for mobile items and could defeat virtually any inspection effort.
Which brings us to the heart of the matter. Inspections can only do one thing well: verify that a country's declarations about a weapons programme are honest and complete.
It is feasible for inspectors to look at sites and equipment to see whether the official story about their use is accurate. Inspectors can rely on scientific principles, intelligence information and surprise visits to known weapons production sites to test what they are told. It is a different proposition altogether to wander about a country looking for what has been deliberately concealed. That is a task with no end.
For inspectors to do their job, they have to have the truth, which can only come from the Iraqis. As President George W. Bush told the United Nations last week, the world needs an Iraqi government that will stop lying and surrender the weapons programmes. That is not likely to happen as long as Saddam Hussein remains in power.
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