ISIS Issue Brief

Back to Basics: Achieving Effective Inspections in Iraq

16 September 2002

Corey Hinderstein and David Albright

One straightforward way to create effective inspections is to recapture the rights of inspectors, and the obligations of Iraq, as they existed before the slow degradation of the system in the mid- and late-1990s.

Inspections carried out in the early 1990s under the original United Nations Security Council (UNSC) mandates, particularly UNSC resolutions 687, 707, and 715, were more intrusive and comprehensive than the current UNMOVIC and IAEA Action Team inspection systems. As the Security Council and the international community weigh all of the options for actions in Iraq, it is vital that they have the opportunity to consider all of the tools at their disposal.

There is a pressing need to return to the aggressive, creative spirit of the first Iraq nuclear inspection missions that took place during the Spring and Summer of 1991. At that time, inspectors were more willing to use all of the rights and powers granted them by the Security Council in order to accomplish their task of destroying, removing, or rendering harmless Iraq's nuclear weapons programs. At that time, lack of Iraqi cooperation or transparency was judged a clear violation of the Security Council resolutions governing the inspections.

It is now crucial to implement inspections in Iraq with the full rights and powers granted under Security Council resolutions 687, 707, and 715. This type of inspection system gives the world the best possible chance at detecting or deterring any Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs, particularly nuclear weapons programs. A system of this design would be both politically viable and technically effective.

Some necessary improvements include:

A re-energized and enhanced inspection system gives the Security Council and the inspectors on the ground the best possible chance to succeed in the ultimate objective of achieving Iraqi WMD disarmament. For this system to succeed, however, Iraq must cooperate. No inspection system can succeed if it requires or expects that inspectors need to find a "smoking gun" to prove Iraqi noncompliance. Iraq must cooperate in order for the inspectors to do their job. With adequate cooperation, the inspectors can develop assurance that Iraq is free of WMD. If Iraq does not cooperate, the case for enforcement will be clear.