Secretary of State
The success happened in Iraq, not a place where the word "success" is often applied, particularly in a U.S. foreign policy context. It happened after the 1991 Persian Gulf War when a combination of sanctions, military pressure and
For political as well as practical reasons, this success went unnoticed and unacknowledged, even by the U.S. intelligence community that helped bring it about. A dozen years later, the second Bush administration invaded Iraq based on the inflated charge that Baghdad still possessed a deadly arsenal. When it turned out there were no WMD in Iraq, the United States was stuck with the painful consequences of its own military action.
Amid the fallout from that misjudgment, few bothered to consider how it came to pass that Iraq had no WMD at the time of the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, though it had definitely used such weapons against Iran and against its own people.
What happened was that a combined international effort, backed by
"Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991," Duelfer reported. "There are no credible indications that Baghdad resumed production of chemical munitions thereafter, a policy ISG attributes to Baghdad's desire to see sanctions lifted, or rendered ineffectual, or its fear of force against it, should WMD be discovered."
On Iraq's nuclear ambitions, the Duelfer report was similarly definitive: "Saddam Hussein ended the
And on biological weapons, Duelfer reported that "in 1991 and 1992, Iraq appears to have destroyed its undeclared stocks."
Note the concentration of activity in 1991. The underlying message is important: Maximum Iraqi compliance coincided with maximum coalition military leverage in Iraq.
Several factors prevented this disarmament success from gaining the recognition it deserved. For the second Bush administration, of course, what the Duelfer report brought to light was more an embarrassment than anything else, disclosing, as it did, the magnitude of the misjudgments before the 2003 invasion.
The first Bush administration, which deserves much of the credit for the U.S. role in disarming Iraq, understandably regarded the regime in Baghdad with deep suspicion, an attitude that continued under President Clinton. Neither
Any caveats that Hussein might possibly have some WMD stashed away played into the hands of the second Bush administration, which maintained a deep distrust of the U.N. as an effective foreign policy tool. To accept U.N. reports that no weapons stocks could be found would mean endorsing the concept of U.N. inspections, something the second Bush administration was loath to do. One of the tragedies of the run-up to the invasion of Iraq is that military threats from the U.S. helped get U.N. inspectors back into Iraq one last time. But the Bush administration simply wasn't interested when they reported they couldn't find any WMD.
Distrust of Hussein, distrust of the U.N. and distrust of the ability of U.S. intelligence to collect all of Iraq's WMD secrets, plus a desire to act unilaterally and flex U.S. muscle in the wake of the
Those engaged in designing a plan to inspect, catalog and secure or destroy Syria's arsenal should know that a blueprint already exists.