BRIEFING OF THE SECURITY COUNCIL, 14 FEBRUARY 2003
Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC, Dr. Hans Blix
Since I reported to the Security Council on 27 January, UNMOVIC has had two further weeks of operational and analytical work in New York and active inspections in Iraq. This brings the total period of inspections so far to 11 weeks. Since then, we have also listened on 5 February to the presentation to the Council by the US Secretary of State and the discussion that followed. Lastly, Dr. ElBaradei and I have held another round of talks in Baghdad with our counterparts and with Vice President Ramadan on 8 and 9 February.
Work in Iraq
Let me begin today’s briefing with a short account of the work being performed by UNMOVIC in Iraq.
We have continued to build up our capabilities. The regional office in Mosul is now fully operational at its temporary headquarters. Plans for a regional office at Basra are being developed. Our Hercules L-100 aircraft continues to operate routine flights between Baghdad and Larnaca. The eight helicopters are fully operational. With the resolution of the problems raised by Iraq for the transportation of minders into the no-fly zones, our mobility in these zones has improved. We expect to increase utilization of the helicopters. The number of Iraqi minders during inspections had often reached a ratio as high as five per inspector. During the talks in January in Baghdad, the Iraqi side agreed to keep the ratio to about one to one. The situation has improved.
Since we arrived in Iraq, we have conducted more than 400 inspections covering more than 300 sites. All inspections were performed without notice, and access was almost always provided promptly. In no case have we seen convincing evidence that the Iraqi side knew in advance that the inspectors were coming.
The inspections have taken place throughout Iraq at industrial sites, ammunition depots, research centres, universities, presidential sites, mobile laboratories, private houses, missile production facilities, military camps and agricultural sites. At all sites which had been inspected before 1998, re-baselining activities were performed. This included the identification of the function and contents of each building, new or old, at a site. It also included verification of previously tagged equipment, application of seals and tags, taking samples and discussions with the site personnel regarding past and present activities. At certain sites, ground-penetrating radar was used to look for underground structures or buried equipment.
Through the inspections conducted so far, we have obtained a good knowledge of the industrial and scientific landscape of Iraq, as well as of its missile capability but, as before, we do not know every cave and corner. Inspections are effectively helping to bridge the gap in knowledge that arose due to the absence of inspections between December 1998 and November 2002.
More than 200 chemical and more than 100 biological samples have been collected at different sites. Three-quarters of these have been screened using our own analytical laboratory capabilities at the Baghdad Centre (BOMVIC). The results to date have been consistent with Iraq’s declarations.
We have now commenced the process of destroying approximately 50 litres of mustard gas declared by Iraq that was being kept under UNMOVIC seal at the Muthanna site. One-third of the quantity has already been destroyed. The laboratory quantity of thiodiglycol, a mustard gas precursor, which we found at another site, has also been destroyed.
The total number of staff in Iraq now exceeds 250 from 60 countries. This includes about 100 UNMOVIC inspectors, 15 IAEA inspectors, 50 aircrew, and 65 support staff.
In my 27 January update to the Council, I said that it seemed from our experience that Iraq had decided in principle to provide cooperation on process, most importantly prompt access to all sites and assistance to UNMOVIC in the establishment of the necessary infrastructure. This impression remains, and we note that access to sites has so far been without problems, including those that had never been declared or inspected, as well as to Presidential sites and private residences.
In my last updating, I also said that a decision to cooperate on substance was indispensable in order to bring, through inspection, the disarmament task to completion and to set the monitoring system on a firm course. Such cooperation, as I have noted, requires more than the opening of doors. In the words of resolution 1441 (2002) – it requires immediate, unconditional and active efforts by Iraq to resolve existing questions of disarmament – either by presenting remaining proscribed items and programmes for elimination or by presenting convincing evidence that they have been eliminated. In the current situation, one would expect Iraq to be eager to comply. While we were in Baghdad, we met a delegation from the Government of South Africa. It was there to explain how South Africa gained the confidence of the world in its dismantling of the nuclear weapons programme, by a wholehearted cooperation over two years with IAEA inspectors. I have just learned that Iraq has accepted an offer by South Africa to send a group of experts for further talks.
How much, if any, is left of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and related proscribed items and programmes? So far, UNMOVIC has not found any such weapons, only a small number of empty chemical munitions, which should have been declared and destroyed. Another matter – and one of great significance – is that many proscribed weapons and items are not accounted for. To take an example, a document, which Iraq provided, suggested to us that some 1,000 tonnes of chemical agent were “unaccounted for”. One must not jump to the conclusion that they exist. However, that possibility is also not excluded. If they exist, they should be presented for destruction. If they do not exist, credible evidence to that effect should be presented.
We are fully aware that many governmental intelligence organizations are convinced and assert that proscribed weapons, items and programmes continue to exist. The US Secretary of State presented material in support of this conclusion. Governments have many sources of information that are not available to inspectors. Inspectors, for their part, must base their reports only on evidence, which they can, themselves, examine and present publicly. Without evidence, confidence cannot arise.
In my earlier briefings, I have noted that significant outstanding issues of substance were listed in two Security Council documents from early 1999 (S/1999/94 and S/1999/356) and should be well known to Iraq. I referred, as examples, to the issues of anthrax, the nerve agent VX and long-range missiles, and said that such issues “deserve to be taken seriously by Iraq rather than being brushed aside…”. The declaration submitted by Iraq on 7 December last year, despite its large volume, missed the opportunity to provide the fresh material and evidence needed to respond to the open questions. This is perhaps the most important problem we are facing. Although I can understand that it may not be easy for Iraq in all cases to provide the evidence needed, it is not the task of the inspectors to find it. Iraq itself must squarely tackle this task and avoid belittling the questions.
Work in New York
In my January update to the Council, I referred to the Al Samoud 2 and the Al Fatah missiles, reconstituted casting chambers, construction of a missile engine test stand and the import of rocket engines, which were all declared to UNMOVIC by Iraq. I noted that the Al Samoud 2 and the Al Fatah could very well represent prima facie cases of proscribed missile systems, as they had been tested to ranges exceeding the 150-kilometre limit set by the Security Council. I also noted that Iraq had been requested to cease flight tests of these missiles until UNMOVIC completed a technical review.
Earlier this week, UNMOVIC missile experts met for two days with experts from a number of Member States to discuss these items. The experts concluded unanimously that, based on the data provided by Iraq, the two declared variants of the Al Samoud 2 missile were capable of exceeding 150 kilometres in range. This missile system is therefore proscribed for Iraq pursuant to resolution 687 (1991) and the monitoring plan adopted by resolution 715 (1991).
As for the Al Fatah, the experts found that clarification of the missile data supplied by Iraq was required before the capability of the missile system could be fully assessed.
With respect to the casting chambers, I note the following: UNSCOM ordered and supervised the destruction of the casting chambers, which had been intended for use in the production of the proscribed Badr-2000 missile system. Iraq has declared that it has reconstituted these chambers. The experts have confirmed that the reconstituted casting chambers could still be used to produce motors for missiles capable of ranges significantly greater than 150 kilometres. Accordingly, these chambers remain proscribed.
The experts also studied the data on the missile engine test stand that is nearing completion and have assessed it to be capable of testing missile engines with thrusts greater than that of the SA-2 engine. So far, the test stand has not been associated with a proscribed activity.
On the matter of the 380 SA-2 missile engines imported outside of the export/import mechanism and in contravention of paragraph 24 of resolution 687 (1991), UNMOVIC inspectors were informed by Iraq during an official briefing that these engines were intended for use in the Al Samoud 2 missile system, which has now been assessed to be proscribed. Any such engines configured for use in this missile system would also be proscribed.
I intend to communicate these findings to the Government of Iraq.
Meeting in Baghdad
At the meeting in Baghdad on 8 and 9 February, the Iraqi side addressed some of the important outstanding disarmament issues and gave us a number of papers, e.g. regarding anthrax and growth material, the nerve agent VX and missile production. Experts who were present from our side studied the papers during the evening of 8 February and met with Iraqi experts in the morning of 9 February for further clarifications. Although no new evidence was provided in the papers and no open issues were closed through them or the expert discussions, the presentation of the papers could be indicative of a more active attitude focusing on important open issues.
The Iraqi side suggested that the problem of verifying the quantities of anthrax and two VX-precursors, which had been declared unilaterally destroyed, might be tackled through certain technical and analytical methods. Although our experts are still assessing the suggestions, they are not very hopeful that it could prove possible to assess the quantities of material poured into the ground years ago. Documentary evidence and testimony by staff that dealt with the items still appears to be needed.
Not least against this background, a letter of 12 February from Iraq’s National Monitoring Directorate may be of relevance. It presents a list of 83 names of participants “in the unilateral destruction in the chemical field, which took place in the summer of 1991”. As the absence of adequate evidence of that destruction has been and remains an important reason why quantities of chemicals have been deemed “unaccounted for”, the presentation of a list of persons who can be interviewed about the actions appears useful and pertains to cooperation on substance. I trust that the Iraqi side will put together a similar list of names of persons who participated in the unilateral destruction of other proscribed items, notably in the biological field.
The Iraqi side also informed us that the commission, which had been appointed in the wake of our finding 12 empty chemical weapons warheads, had had its mandate expanded tolook for any still existing proscribeditems. This was welcomed.
A second commission, we learnt, has now been appointed with the task of searching all over Iraq for more documents relevant to the elimination of proscribed items and programmes. It is headed by the former Minister of Oil, General Amer Rashid, and is to have very extensive powers of search in industry, administration and even private houses.
The two commissions could be useful tools to come up with proscribed items to be destroyed and with new documentary evidence. They evidently need to work fast and effectively to convince us, and the world, that it is a serious effort.
The matter of private interviewswas discussed at length during our meeting in Baghdad. The Iraqi side confirmed the commitment, which it made to us on 20 January, to encourage persons asked to accept such interviews, whether in or out of Iraq. So far, we have only had interviews in Baghdad. A number of persons have declined to be interviewed, unless they were allowed to have an official present or were allowed to tape the interview. Three persons that had previously refused interviews on UNMOVIC’s terms, subsequently accepted such interviews just prior to our talks in Baghdad on 8 and 9 February. These interviews proved informative. No further interviews have since been accepted on our terms. I hope this will change. We feel that interviews conducted without any third party present and without tape recording would provide the greatest credibility.
At the recent meeting in Baghdad, as on several earlier occasions, my colleague Dr. ElBaradei and I have urged the Iraqi side to enact legislation implementing the UN prohibitions regarding weapons of mass destruction. This morning we had a message that a Presidential decree has now been issued containing prohibitions with regard to importation and production of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. We have not yet had time to study the details of the text of the decree.
I should like to make some comments on the role of intelligence in connection with inspections in Iraq.
A credible inspection regime requires that Iraq provide full cooperation on “process” – granting immediate access everywhere to inspectors – and on substance, providing full declarations supported by relevant information and material and evidence. However, with the closed society in Iraq of today and the history of inspections there, other sources of information, such as defectors and government intelligence agencies are required to aid the inspection process.
I remember myself how, in 1991, several inspections in Iraq, which were based on information received from a Government, helped to disclose important parts of the nuclear weapons programme. It was realized that an international organization authorized to perform inspections anywhere on the ground could make good use of information obtained from governments with eyes in the sky, ears in the ether, access to defectors, and both eyes and ears on the market for weapons-related material. It was understood that the information residing in the intelligence services of governments could come to very active use in the international effort to prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This remains true and we have by now a good deal of experience in the matter.
International organizations need to analyse such information critically and especially benefit when it comes from more than one source. The intelligence agencies, for their part, must protect their sources and methods. Those who provide such information must know that it will be kept in strict confidence and be known to very few people. UNMOVIC has achieved good working relations with intelligence agencies and the amount of information provided has been gradually increasing. However, we must recognize that there are limitations and that misinterpretations can occur.
Intelligence information has been useful for UNMOVIC. In one case, it led us to a private home where documents mainly relating to laser enrichment of uranium were found. In other cases, intelligence has led to sites where no proscribed items were found. Even in such cases, however, inspection of these sites were useful in proving the absence of such items and in some cases the presence of other items – conventional munitions. It showed that conventional arms are being moved around the country and that movements are not necessarily related to weapons of mass destruction.
The presentation of intelligence information by the US Secretary of State suggested that Iraq had prepared for inspections by cleaning up sites and removing evidence of proscribed weapons programmes. I would like to comment only on one case, which we are familiar with, namely, the trucks identified by analysts as being for chemical decontamination at a munitions depot. This was a declared site, and it was certainly one of the sites Iraq would have expected us to inspect. We have noted that the two satellite images of the site were taken several weeks apart. The reported movement of munitions at the site could just as easily have been a routine activity as a movement of proscribed munitions in anticipation of imminent inspection. Our reservation on this point does not detract from our appreciation of the briefing.
Plans for the immediate future
Yesterday, UNMOVIC informed the Iraqi authorities of its intention to start using the U-2 surveillance aircraft early next week under arrangements similar to those UNSCOM had followed. We are also in the process of working out modalities for the use of the French Mirage aircraft starting late next week and for the drones supplied by the German Government. The offer from Russia of an Antonov aircraft, with night vision capabilities, is a welcome one and is next on our agenda for further improving UNMOVIC’s and IAEA’s technical capabilities. These developments are in line with suggestions made in a non-paper recently circulated by France, suggesting a further strengthening of the inspection capabilities.
It is our intention to examine the possibilities for surveying ground movements, notably by trucks. In the face of persistent intelligence reports for instance about mobile biological weapons production units, such measures could well increase the effectiveness of inspections.
UNMOVIC is still expanding its capabilities, both in terms of numbers of staff and technical resources. On my way to the recent Baghdad meeting, I stopped in Vienna to meet 60 experts, who had just completed our general training course for inspectors. They came from 22 countries, including Arab countries.
UNMOVIC is not infrequently asked how much more time it needs to complete its task in Iraq. The answer depends upon which task one has in mind – the elimination of weapons of mass destruction and related items and programmes, which were prohibited in 1991 – the disarmament task – or the monitoring that no new proscribed activities occur. The latter task, though not often focused upon, is highly significant – and not controversial. It will require monitoring, which is “ongoing”, that is, open-ended until the Council decides otherwise.
By contrast, the task of “disarmament” foreseen in resolution 687 (1991) and the progress on “key remaining disarmament tasks” foreseen in resolution 1284 (1999) as well as the “disarmament obligations”, which Iraq was given a “final opportunity to comply with” under resolution 1441 (2002), were always required to be fulfilled in a shorter time span. Regrettably, the high degree of cooperation required of Iraq for disarmament through inspection was not forthcoming in 1991. Despite the elimination, under UNSCOM and IAEA supervision, of large amounts of weapons, weapons-related items and installations over the years, the task remained incomplete, when inspectors were withdrawn almost 8 years later at the end of 1998.
If Iraq had provided the necessary cooperation in 1991, the phase of disarmament – under resolution 687 (1991) – could have been short and a decade of sanctions could have been avoided. Today, three months after the adoption of resolution 1441 (2002), the period of disarmament through inspection could still be short, if “immediate, active and unconditional cooperation” with UNMOVIC and the IAEA were to be forthcoming.