Inspectors' remarks on Iraq

Unrest, Conflicts and WarDefenseNuclear WeaponsIndustrial ProductionNuclear PolicyUnited NationsPolitics

NEW YORK - Hans Blix, executive chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, reported to the United Nations Security Council yesterday on the progress of weapons inspections in Iraq.

Following are excerpts from their reports, from texts provided by the Associated Press and Federal News Service:

Blix: ... Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance, not even today, of the disarmament which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and to live in peace. ...

[This report and earlier ones] do not contend that weapons of mass destruction remain in Iraq, but nor do they exclude that possibility. They point to a lack of evidence and inconsistencies which raise question marks which must be straightened out if weapons dossiers are to be closed and confidence is to arise. They deserve to be taken seriously by Iraq, rather than being brushed aside as evil machinations by the United Nations. ...

Regrettably, the 12,000-page declaration [which Iraq submitted in December], most of which is a reprint of earlier documents, does not seem to contain any new evidence that will eliminate the questions or reduce their number. ...

The nerve agent VX is one of the most toxic ever developed. Iraq has declared that it only produced VX on a pilot scale, just a few tons, and that the quality was poor and the product unstable. Consequently, it was said that the agent was never weaponized. Iraq said that the small quantity of agent remaining after the [Persian] Gulf War was unilaterally destroyed in the summer of 1991.

UNMOVIC, however, has information that conflicts with this account. There are indications that Iraq had worked on the problem of purity and stabilization, and that more had been achieved than has been declared. Indeed, even one of the documents provided by Iraq indicates that the purity of the agent, at least in laboratory production, was higher than declared.

There are also indications that the agent was weaponized. In addition, there are questions to be answered concerning the fate of the VX precursor chemicals, which Iraq states were lost due to bombing in the Gulf War or were unilaterally destroyed by Iraq. ...

[A] document indicates that 13,000 chemical bombs were dropped by the Iraqi Air Force between 1983 and 1998, while Iraq has declared that 19,500 bombs were consumed during this period. Thus, there is a discrepancy of 6,500 bombs. The amount of chemical agent in these bombs would be in the order of about 1,000 tons. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, we must assume that these quantities are now unaccounted for.

The discovery of a number of 122mm chemical rocket warheads in a bunker at the storage depot 170 kilometers southwest of Baghdad was much-publicized. This was a relatively new bunker, and therefore the rockets must have been moved here in the past few years, at a time when Iraq should not have had such munitions. Investigation of these rockets is still proceeding. ...

I might further mention that inspectors have found at another site the laboratory quantity of thiodiglycol, a mustard precursor. ..

Iraq has declared that it produced about 8,500 liters of [anthrax], which, it states, it unilaterally destroyed in the summer of 1991. Iraq has provided little evidence for this production and no convincing evidence for its destruction.

There are strong indications that Iraq produced more anthrax than it declared and that at least some of this was retained after the declared destruction date. It might still exist.

Either it should be found and be destroyed under UNMOVIC supervision, or else convincing evidence should be produced to show that it was indeed destroyed in 1991. ...

The recent inspection find in the private home of a scientist of a box of some 3,000 pages of documents, much of it relating to the laser enrichment of uranium, support a concern that has long existed that documents might be distributed to the homes of private individuals. This interpretation is refuted by the Iraqi side, which claims that research staff sometimes may bring home papers from their workplaces. On our side, we cannot help but think that the case might not be isolated, and that such placements of documents is deliberate to make discovery difficult and to seek to shield documents by placing them in private homes. ...

ElBaradei: ... Over these first two months of inspection, we have made good progress in our knowledge of Iraq's nuclear capabilities, with a total of 139 inspections at some 106 locations to date. ...

In addition to onsite inspection and offsite analysis, IAEA inspectors have employed a variety of tools to accomplish their mission. Taking advantage of the "signature" of radioactive materials, we have resumed the monitoring of Iraq's rivers, canals and lakes to detect the presence of certain radioisotopes. ...

The first two individuals whom the IAEA requested to see privately declined to be interviewed without the presence of an Iraqi Government representative. This has been a restricting factor. ...

No prohibited nuclear activities have been identified during these inspections. A particular issue of focus has been the attempted procurement by Iraq of high-strength aluminum tubes, and the question of whether these tubes, if acquired, could be used for the manufacture of nuclear centrifuges. Iraqi authorities have indicated that their unsuccessful attempts to procure the aluminum tubes related to a program to reverse-engineer conventional rockets.

... From our analysis to date it appears that the aluminum tubes would be consistent with the purpose stated by Iraq and, unless modified, would not be suitable for manufacturing centrifuges; however, we are still investigating this issue. It is clear, however, that the attempt to acquire such tubes is prohibited under Security Council Resolution 687. ...

Over the next several months, inspections will focus ever more closely on follow-up of specific concerns, as we continue to conduct visits to sites and interviews with key Iraqi personnel. ...

In our discussions with Iraqi officials last week in Baghdad, we emphasized the need to shift from passive support, that is, responding as needed to inspectors' requests, to proactive support, that is, voluntarily assisting inspectors by providing documentation, people and other evidence that will assist in filling in the remaining gaps in our information.

... Inspections are time-consuming but, if successful, can ensure disarmament through peaceful means. It is worth recalling that, in our past experience in Iraq, the elimination of its nuclear weapons program was mostly accomplished through intrusive inspections.

It is also worth recalling that the presence of international inspectors in Iraq today continues to serve as an effective deterrent to and insurance against resumption of programs to develop weapons of mass destruction, even as we continue to look for possible past activities.

To conclude, we have to date found no evidence that Iraq has revived its nuclear weapons program since its elimination of the program in 1990s. However, our work is steadily still in midstream, progressing and should be allowed to run its natural course.

With our verification system now in place, barring exceptional circumstances, and provided there is sustained proactive cooperation by Iraq, we should be able within the next few months to provide credible assurance that Iraq has no nuclear weapons program. These few months would be a valuable investment in peace because they could help us avoid a war.

We trust that we will continue to have your support as we make every effort to verify Iraq's nuclear disarmament through peaceful means, and to demonstrate that the inspection process can and does work, as a central feature of the international nuclear arms control regime.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Comments
Loading