The US-led coalition is intensifying its efforts to locate and destroy Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their associated production facilities and to find the Iraqis who were involved in making WMD. Determining the fate and extent of Iraqi WMD assets is important politically because these assets were the foundation of the U.S. justification for going to war. More important, controlling these assets is vital to ensure that they do not spread to other countries or terrorist groups.
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on April 9, 2003 that the United States is “asking people to come forward and help in this effort,” while implying that the Pentagon will control this search. A Pentagon-dominated search, however, may only be productive in the short-term and can be expected to conflict with other more pressing Pentagon obligations in Iraq. A more comprehensive, internationalized effort is necessary in the longer term.
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 under the leadership of the State Department. The UN Security Council should assume responsibility for phase 2.
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 US 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:
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 an extended period to ensure that the emergent Iraqi government does not retain WMD capabilities or ambitions. In the short-term, the United States should focus on eliminating WMD capabilities, including removing from Iraq any remaining nuclear materials, such as natural or low enriched uranium.
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. The US side will need to do some restructuring as well, transitioning authority on these issues from the Pentagon to the State Department. The State Department is better suited to conduct the coordination necessary to effectively carry out an internationalized effort.
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.
Despite the optimism, fueled by the downfall of Saddam Hussein, that Iraq will no longer seek WMD, the United States would be wise to be cognizant of the dangerous neighborhood that will surround Iraq. Several years from now, Iraq, whether democratic or not, may seek WMD in response to perceived threats from its neighbors, particularly Iran and Syria. The hunt for WMD and subsequent on-going monitoring must be accomplished effectively with an internationally legitimized, intrusive inspection system that can outlast any US occupation of Iraq. The United States would do a great disservice if it does not put in place an international inspection system that can ensure that any future Iraqi government will be deterred from launching a secret WMD program for fear of prompt detection and swift international reaction.