Reestablishing UN Security Council Weapons Inspections in Iraq: Piecing Together a Coherent Picture

by David Albright and Corey Hinderstein

December 2, 1999

ISIS Issue Brief, revision 1

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council, or “P-5,” have been negotiating a “comprehensive” or “omnibus” resolution addressing Iraq’s disarmament obligations and humanitarian concerns for several months. The purpose of this effort is to return weapons inspectors to Iraq, find a formula for suspending import/export sanctions on Iraq if it cooperates with the inspectors, and effectively address essential civilian and humanitarian needs. Almost a year has passed since the bombing of Iraq by the United States and Britain. This bombing campaign marked the end of Security Council inspections by the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) and the IAEA Action Team. The United Kingdom and the Netherlands started an effort early this year to achieve the Security Council’s disarmament objectives in Iraq and to resume weapons inspections. A June 1999 draft of the Anglo-Dutch resolution garnered nine co-sponsors in the Security Council. But Russia, France, and China have opposed the resolution until recently, because previous drafts had unacceptably stringent conditions on the suspension of sanctions and on humanitarian assistance. After several months of negotiating among themselves, much of which occurred outside New York, the P-5 assembled another draft in early November. ISIS acquired a draft, dated November 10, 1999, which was used (along with a June 9 draft) in this memo. Several sections of the November 10 draft remain controversial, and newer drafts or partial text likely exist.

The November 10 draft covers the key issues, including:

    The establishment of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), which replaces the Special Commission. The instruction that UNMOVIC “will undertake the responsibilities mandated to the Special Commission by the Council with regard to the verification of compliance by Iraq with its obligations under paragraphs 8, 9 and 10 of resolution 687” [regarding Iraq’s chemical weapon, biological weapons, and missile programs] and “will establish and operate a reinforced system of on-going monitoring and verification.” The reaffirmation of the “role of the IAEA in addressing compliance by Iraq with its remaining obligations under paragraphs 12 and 13 of resolution 687 [regarding Iraq’s nuclear weapons program].” The decision that “UNMOVIC and the IAEA, not later than 60 days after they have both started work in Iraq, will draw up work programs for the discharge of their mandates, which will include both the implementation of the reinforced system of ongoing monitoring and verification, and the key remaining disarmament tasks to be completed by Iraq.” The tasks required of Iraq “shall be clearly defined and precise” and will “constitute the governing standard of Iraqi compliance.” An allowance that upon receipt of reports from UNMOVIC and the IAEA “that Iraq has cooperated fully with UNMOVIC and the IAEA in particular in fulfilling the work programmes…in all their aspects for a period of 180 days” after the ongoing monitoring and verification system is fully operational, the Security Council would “suspend…for a period of 100 days renewable by the Council, and subject to elaboration of effective financial and other controls…prohibitions against the import of commodities and products originating in Iraq, and prohibitions against the sale or supply to Iraq of civilian commodities and products.” A condition revoking a suspension of import/export sanctions: “If at any time, the Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC or the Director General of the IAEA reports that Iraq is not cooperating fully with UNMOVIC or the IAEA, or if Iraq is in the process of acquiring any prohibited items,” the suspension of sanctions “shall terminate on the fifth working day following the report, unless the Council decides to the contrary.” An authorization for states to “permit the import of any volume of petroleum and petroleum products originating in Iraq” under the conditions of the original oil-for-food resolution, so Iraq can address humanitarian and civilian infrastructure requirements.

The next few weeks will be critical in achieving a consensus resolution. Security Council members openly have recognized that consensus on a resolution is essential to demonstrate the Council’s resolve to have Iraq abide by its obligations. Faced with such resolve, Iraq is more likely to comply with the resolution. The Council aims to create a well-defined path to end many of the sanctions on Iraq; answer remaining questions about Iraq’s pre-Gulf War programs to make nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, and ballistic missiles; and establish on-going monitoring and verification systems in Iraq. ISIS has been following these negotiations as best as it can, given the secrecy that has surrounded them. The following is a set of observations, comments and unresolved issues about the emerging Security Council resolution.

Growing pressure to reach consensus. The Security Council is under pressure to reach agreement in the next few weeks on the revised comprehensive resolution. The reasons for this urgency include:

    In late November, the Security Council extended the oil-for-food program until only December 3, 1999 as a result of disagreements between Russia and the United States. Russia wanted the Security Council to ease restrictions on Iraqi imports of items under the oil-for-food program, and it wanted to make the point that sanctions on Iraq should not continue. The United States refused to go along, insisting that any easing of restrictions on Iraq should occur in the comprehensive resolution; With no agreement on a comprehensive resolution, the United States proposed that the oil-for-food resolution be extended for one week. A vote on the first extension was expected on December 3. Netherlands ambassador who is also head of the sanctions committee said that the one week extension would force the Council members to negotiate seriously; December 16, 1999 is the one year anniversary of the bombing of Iraq and the end of the existing UN Security Council inspection regime. The media and some Security Council members are already questioning what the Council has done to try to resume weapons inspections. Iraq’s recent suspension of oil exports emphasizes the need, recognized in the Security Council, to develop a long-term, comprehensive strategy for dealing with Iraq. Non-permanent members of the Security Council are frustrated with being excluded from the negotiations. There is a growing expectation that the draft will soon be presented to the full Security Council.

Growing support for a resolution. The P-5 appear more willing to reach a consensus, and the nine co-sponsors of the original resolution are satisfied with the current text. The United States now appears more willing to compromise. Until recently, the United States took a hard-line position on outstanding issues. For example, the United States now seems willing to accept a specified disarmament program of work, or a list of key tasks, that Iraq has to address before the lifting of sanctions. In an important breakthrough, France has signaled that it will likely support the resolution. Russia is also believed to be more willing to negotiate a consensus resolution. China is widely expected to follow Russia’s lead on this resolution.

New Executive Chairman and Program of Work. Under the November 10 draft, the Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC would have responsibility for drafting the disarmament program of work, including the key remaining tasks that Iraq must address under its commitments in previous Security Council resolutions covering biological, chemical, and missile programs. Similarly, the Director General of the IAEA would draw up a program of work covering nuclear disarmament. These programs must be drawn up within 60 days after inspection work has resumed in Iraq. Given the authority of the Chairman of UNMOVIC, selecting a chair could be controversial and difficult. Some members of the Security Council are voicing a desire to know who the chairman would be before the resolution is finalized. The November 10 draft states that the Director General of the IAEA reports directly to the Executive Chairman, when reporting to the Council on progress on the key remaining disarmament tasks. This condition is at odds with the traditional reporting arrangements of the IAEA.

Determining an adequate list of tasks and full cooperation. How will the Security Council members be assured that the list of tasks is adequate to ensure Iraqi disarmament? Unless carefully worked out and agreed upon, the tasks may not be sufficiently comprehensive. What interpretations are possible by UNMOVIC, the IAEA, and the Security Council in deciding if Iraq has cooperated fully in fulfilling the specified work programs? Must Iraq complete each and every subsection of each task, or must it make acceptable progress in fulfilling each task?

Subsequent revision of the disarmament tasks. The November 10 draft is unclear whether Iraq would be required to answer questions raised as a result of new information generated through inspections, when those questions are not covered under the adopted disarmament program of work. For example, most on-going monitoring and verification plans would include the ability to ask historical questions. Will Iraq be required to answer such questions posed by inspectors, if they arise from new information?

Relative strength of UNMOVIC. Disagreements exist over how independent the new monitoring agency should be. Should it be independent or part of the Secretariat of the United Nations? UNSCOM was independent and had great autonomy in fulfilling its Security Council mandate.

Maintaining adequate inspections. Prior to the December 1998 bombing, the Action Team and UNSCOM were developing and deploying on-going monitoring and verification (OMV) systems in Iraq under Security Council resolutions. The Security Council must exercise great care that a new resolution does not inadvertently weaken these systems, or provide Iraq with a way to challenge arrangements necessary to conduct adequate inspections. For example, the November 10 draft calls for UNMOVIC to impose a “reinforced system of ongoing monitoring and verification” without defining what “reinforced” means, or why this change is necesssary. The inspectors can fulfil their task, if they employ all of their rights under existing Security Council resolutions. In the same section, UNMOVIC is charged with identifying “additional sites in Iraq to be covered by the reinforced system” of OMV. Could this phrase be interpreted as implying that the reinforced OMV system would apply only to “sites,” and not the whole of Iraq? If OMV is narrowly defined this way, wide-area environmental monitoring in Iraq could be compromised. Could Iraq argue that this clause says that UNMOVIC should identify one last list of sites to be covered by OMV? Such an interpretation would be contrary to other Security Council resolutions that allowed UNSCOM to designate new sites as it saw fit. The powerful and effective “capable sites” inspection initiative could be undermined by any language which implied that ongoing monitoring and verification would be based on a fixed, pre-determined set of sites. The IAEA is not mentioned in this section. Later, however, the resolution instructs the IAEA to implement a “reinforced system of ongoing monitoring and verification.” Does this mean that the IAEA must implement or conduct its OMV system differently than it has done in the past?

Length before sanctions are suspended. In the November 10 draft, the length of time until sanctions could be suspended is at least ten months, and perhaps considerably longer. This figure depends on both specified amounts of time to accomplish certain tasks, such as picking an Executive Chairman, and unspecified time periods to accomplish other objectives, such as having the ongoing monitoring and verification systems fully operational in Iraq. As always, Iraq’s compliance with the terms of the resolution and cooperation with inspectors will also affect the date when sanctions could be suspended. As a result, the actual period until sanctions are suspended could be considerably longer than a year.

Length of suspension of sanctions. The length of suspension of sanctions in the November 10 draft is 100 days, although the media reports that the P-5 have agreed to change this period to 180 days. At the end of this period, the Security Council must vote again to renew the suspension.

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