Internationalizing the Search for Weapons of Mass Destruction

by David Albright and Corey Hinderstein

March 26, 2003

As military action in Iraq progresses, the US-led coalition has assigned high priority to locating and containing Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their associated production facilities - a priority that will carry over, undiminished, into the post-war period.

Overall, the WMD task is comprised of two phases:

Phase 1: “Search, contain and destroy” - to eradicate all WMD and their production processes.

Phase 2: “Long term monitoring” - to provide continuing assurance that WMD are no longer being produced or otherwise acquired.

The United States currently controls phase 1. Despite reluctance to relinquish control of the post-war component, phase 1 should be progressively internationalized. The UN Security Council should assume responsibility for phase 2.

The United States has deployed mobile laboratories and experts to respond to the discovery of WMD or related assets in Iraq. Ex-inspectors from the United States are being recruited to assist these efforts.

However, in order to be efficient, effective, and above all politically credible, the investigation and monitoring activities should involve experienced ex-inspectors from as many countries as possible, and the technical expertise of the United Nations Monitoring, Inspection, and Verification Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Action Team.

Although technical expertise already exists within the United States, the expertise, and more importantly the field experience, of past and current international inspectors in Iraq’s chemical, biological, nuclear, and missile programs would prove invaluable in a timely effort to comprehensively detect and neutralize these banned weapons programs. In addition, the participation of international inspectors may prove valuable in facing the inevitable scrutiny of the evidence and conclusions of the investigation.

Internationalization would go a long way in creating a system of checks and balances that addresses concerns about a U.S. controlled inspection process. A close relationship between the coalition and UNMOVIC and the IAEA could bolster confidence that the inspectors have not missed any banned facilities or activities.

The experience that international experts would contribute includes extensive familiarity with:

    the identities, personalities and skills of Iraqi scientists and officials; their previously declared involvement in WMD related activities; and their illegal procurement activities, and relationships to Iraqi front companies and their foreign agents; the facilities previously involved in WMD production, their technical capacities and the “cover” missions previously declared by Iraq; WMD program documentation and their related coding and control process.

In addition, these experts have extensive experience in assessing Iraqi statements and documents. They are experienced in determining the credibility and completeness of Iraqi statements.

The only reliable short-term outcome of the war is an Iraq without Saddam Hussein. Consequently, there will be a need to maintain a stabilizing military presence for a period of many months if not years to ensure that the emergent Iraqi government does not retain or develop WMD ambitions.

The US-led coalition is currently expected to retain executive control of the immediate post-war disarmament processes involved in phase 1. However, the coalition may not be able to muster sufficient resources or support for this effort. To receive the resources and the support of the international community, the coalition should establish a special group led by the United States that could draw personnel and national resources from an expanded coalition or members of a UN-supported reconstruction effort. Such a group could be authorized by the Security Council and operate in close liaison with the Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC and the Director General of the IAEA.

As phase 1 progresses, the Security Council needs to be more directly involved in the location and destruction of any banned activities and facilities. The Security Council could assign UNMOVIC and the IAEA Action team to work in cooperation with the coalition military presence in Iraq and any successive coalition or international authority. Under this mandate, UNMOVIC and the IAEA could coordinate, carry out, or validate all disarmament functions under a UN flag.

Once phase 1 of the disarmament process is approaching completion, the Security Council could assume responsibility for on-going monitoring. At this time, UNMOVIC and the IAEA could assume full responsibility for phase 2 - effectively the implementation of their respective plans for ongoing monitoring and verification (OMV) as previously outlined by resolution 715 (1991).

With this goal in mind, UNMOVIC and the IAEA should commence parallel implementation of their respective OMV plans, strengthened, as appropriate, from the lessons learned during phase 1. Because of the importance of these groups, even if they do not participate directly in phase 1, they need to be maintained.

In the longer term, it is anticipated that the nuclear OMV activities could be subsumed by a special “additional protocol” to Iraq’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA with similar arrangements being negotiated with equivalent international bodies in the chemical, biological, and missile arenas.

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