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Fifth General Training Course for future UNMOVIC Inspectors

Geneva, 18 February to 22 March 2002.
As delivered

Introductory lecture by Dr. Hans Blix, Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC
18 February 2002

At this general training course for future UNMOVIC inspectors there will be detailed lectures about various Iraqi weapons programmes, about the result of past inspections, about the craft and tools of inspection, the rights and duties of inspectors in Iraq and about the history, culture and religions of Iraq. This is all good and necessary. I thought it might be helpful to you if I started the series of lectures on some broader subjects, which are unlikely to be in focus later.

I shall endeavour to put inspection in context, to discuss the general aim and character of weapons inspections sent by international organizations and, of course, the specific character of the inspection mission under Security Council authority in Iraq.

We all want to know that we do something that is meaningful. Our roles are always a limited part of some larger efforts and we want to understand what the larger efforts are about, know something about the purpose, means and methods of the larger efforts. I will tell you about the understanding and the convictions I have come to regarding international weapons inspections, in particular those in Iraq.

The need and purpose of on-site inspections

International weapons inspections have taken place for several decades and there is by now much experience to analyse and draw on. The IAEA was the first international organization to operate on-site inspections, when it began to visit nuclear installations around the world to verify that they were used only for declared peaceful purposes. The OPCW followed a couple of decades later with inspections in the chemical field, building upon the IAEA experience and in some respects taking it forward. Lastly, the Security Council of the United Nations has mandated UNSCOM – now UNMOVIC – and the IAEA to operate the most comprehensive weapons inspection system designed so far. I am sure this is not the end of history. Although we must take note of the recent failure to establish a system of verification and inspection as a part of the ban on production and possession of biological weapons, I for one, am convinced that multilaterally organized weapons inspection is a growth business. Why?

Until the nuclear weapons made their awesome entry in the world, governments were content to prohibit the use of particularly indiscriminate or injurious or horrible weapons—dum-dum bullets, gas and other chemical weapons and bacteriological weapons. Detection of use was mostly not difficult and the risk of retaliation could be expected to deter violations.

The nuclear weapons were so awesome, however, that governments felt a ban on use was not enough, but bans on the production and possession were required. You do not use the weapons you do not have. The Non-Proliferation Treaty was concluded in 1968. States parties not possessing nuclear weapons committed themselves not to acquire them and the five States, which had tested nuclear weapons, were asked to enter into negotiations toward nuclear disarmament.. However, a traditional treaty commitment, a paper commitment, was not considered to be a sufficient guarantee against the acquisition of nuclear weapons. Why not?

Because nuclear weapons might be produced and stored secretly.Accordingly, on- site inspections and verification were seen as required to allow states parties to have confidence that other states parties respected their treaty commitments. The IAEA safeguards system was born. Without much enthusiasm, we must note, a great many countries accepted safeguards verification of their nuclear installations – more precisely on their fissionable material – as a part of their duties under the NPT. As we know, the treaty is not universal but it has become the most widely adhered to arms control agreement.

The discovery in 1991 that Iraq had violated its obligations as a party to the NPT and as a party to a safeguards agreement without being discovered by the IAEA led to the conclusion that the safeguards system as designed and operated had to be strengthened. It also led to some soul searching as to how reliable a verification system can be made and as to the risks that some states parties, while lulling others into unjustified confidence by accepting inspection, could clandestinely develop nuclear weapons. It was generally agreed that cosmetic inspection is worse than none.

The verification system set up by the Security Council for Iraq in 1991 was hailed as the ultimate in on site inspection – with rights of immediate, unlimited and unrestricted access to any site, the use of satellite imagery, intelligence from member states and surveillance through air planes and helicopters, etc. Ten years and thousands of declarations, inspections and reports later it is recognized that UNSCOM’s efforts probably led to the destruction of more weapons of mass destruction than did the Gulf war and that the efforts of the IAEA led to an elimination of Iraq’s nuclear infrastructure. At the same time it is understood that that serious uncertainties remain, least in the nuclear field, most in the biological field. In its Resolution 1284 (1999) the Security Council explicitly refers to “unresolved disarmament issues” and “key remaining disarmament tasks”. Obviously, with every year that passes since 1998, when inspectors left Iraq, the uncertainties grow.

Verification and inspection are opportunities rather than burdens

I mentioned that IAEA safeguards inspections were greeted by parties to the NPT – at least by the non-nuclear weapon states parties – with only moderate enthusiasm. Yet, I should like to argue that on site inspection should be viewed as an opportunity rather than as a burden. If a receiving state genuinely cooperates with the international inspectors and provides the openness and evidence needed, and if the inspectors do their job thoroughly and effectively, the state may be able to achieve something through the inspection, which it cannot easily do by its own declarations, namely, to convince its neighbours and the world that it has no prohibited weapons. South Africa, which had had nuclear weapons and wanted to convince the world that it had eliminated them, realized that it could only do so by wholeheartedly opening up to cooperation with international inspectors and providing them with full evidence. Independent, professional international inspectors in command of the state of the art and enjoying the cooperation of the inspected state, can achieve a credibility from which the state can benefit.

Inspection is not occupation

Seen in this way international inspection should be perceived by a recipient state as help, not as intrusion. I am sure this view will prevail in the long run, provided that international inspections are performed as independent, firm and effective but correct activities. Inspectors from international organizations, whether the IAEA, the OPCW or UNMOVIC, do not come as occupation armies. They may have extensive rights of access to sites and persons, but they are few and unarmed and obviously do not pose any threat to the territorial integrity and political independence of the inspected country. They operate under and are subject to the authority of the governing organs of the respective organization. They come with the consent of the countries, which receive them. The consent is given because the countries see a need to create confidence that they are respecting weapons related obligations which they have assumed and because self made declarations are not enough to achieve this.

Inspection is not espionage

Further, the international inspection authorities are not designed to be mechanisms for espionage. That term signifies – at any rate comprises – the collection of information by illegal means. The international inspection authorities, however, are to use the sources of information and the means of obtaining information, which are authorized by the mandating organizations. This means in the first place declarations by the inspected countries and verification of these declarations and the evidence submitted in support of them, through analysis and on site inspection. To be sure, member states are asked to assist international inspection authorities in various ways, e.g. by satellite imagery, analysis of samples – and also by information based on intelligence. However, the assistance is to be a one-way traffic. The inspection authority is to report to the mandating international organ, not to individual Member States that may provide assistance.

Inspection reports must be accurate

Inspectors are not sent to harass, humiliate or provoke. But nor have they come to be duped. Their reports must state accurately what they have seen and found, nothing less and nothing more. Conclusions must be rigorously based on evidence. Declarations by the inspected party, no matter how much effort has gone into them, do not by themselves constitute evidence but form the normally indispensable starting point for verification. If evidence presented or the conditions for inspection are poor, this must be noted, as it is likely to affect the credibility of and confidence in the declarations. If inspection conditions deteriorate and no longer allow meaningful work, this must also be reported and may lead to the termination of field work.

Purpose of inspection in Iraq

Much of what I have said about the role and character of international inspection generally obviously applies also to inspections under the Security Council authority in Iraq. However, I shall now turn more specifically to that issue and discuss what the UN is seeking to do in Iraq.

Perhaps I might start by spelling out what I am convinced the UN is not seeking to do.The UN is not seeking to punish Iraq for invading Kuwait in 1990, however much that aggression is condemned. Nor has the Security Council been focusing on Iraq in its discussions of terrorism after the events of last September. Council resolutions do not set as a goal to remove the government of Iraq on account of its human rights record, which has been severely criticized by the General Assembly. Even less is it the Security Council’s aim to inflict suffering on the Iraqi people. There is a full awareness that Iraq’s war against Iran, its occupation of Kuwait, the Gulf War and subsequent sanctions have horribly set a prosperous and rich country back. There is an evident wish in the Security Council to complete the transformation of the sanctions, which originally prevented Iraq from selling any oil, into a UN mechanism to prevent the export of military items to Iraq and for the control of export to Iraq of items, which can be used both for military and peaceful purposes.

What motivates the Council, I am convinced, is a strong determination to make sure that Iraq be rid of all weapons of mass destruction and the means of producing and delivering them. This is the principal matter at stake and it is part of a larger concern about the spread of such weapons.Some other matters are also at stake: the authority of the Security Council, which has been seized with the question since 1990. At stake is also the viability and credibility of international inspections to supervise and verify the elimination and absence of proscribed items.

The criticism has sometimes been voiced that double standards are applied when Iraq, alone among the states in the Middle East, is required to rid itself of WMDs. It is certainly true that if any one state in a region possesses one or several types of WMDs, this may constitute an incentive for others in the region to do the same. It is no doubt for this reason that Resolution 687 (1991) endorses the concept of a zone free from weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East and refers to the objective of achieving balanced and comprehensive control of armaments in the region.However, the resolution does not make the eradication of such weapons in Iraq contingent upon the establishment of a zone but sees this eradication rather as representing steps towards that goal. One has to admit that the realization of such a zone is not possible in the current political situation in the Middle East even though all the states in the region favour the concept. It has to await détente. However, this in no way alters the obligation of Iraq.

The situation nearly 11 years after the start of inspections in Iraq

In December 1998, when UNSCOM and IAEA inspectors left Baghdad, the general view was that the infrastructure for the making of nuclear weapons in Iraq had been eliminated and that relatively few question-marks remained in the nuclear dossier. Although UNSCOM had supervised the destruction of a vast amount of proscribed weapons and installations linked to weapons production and although Iraq had presented a vast amount of reports and received a very large number of UNSCOM inspections, many questions remained, especially in the biological area but also in the chemical and missile areas.

After the inspectors left there followed US/UK bombing in the operation Desert Fox. Since that period no UN inspectors have been in Iraq. IAEA inspectors have resumed activities under the IAEA-Iraq nuclear safeguards agreement, but not under the far more stringent inspection regime of Res. 687 (1991). Thus over three years have passed since inspectors covered Iraqi installations extensively. We are obliged to recognize that many things can have happened during the absence of inspectors and that there is concern that Iraq may have resumed the development and production of proscribed items. Without inspections, UNMOVIC seeks somewhat to compensate the absence of the flow of information from that source by using three other sources:satellite imagery, open source material from media and information from governments. It is evident, however, that the more time that passes without effective inspection, the more effort will be needed to bring us back even to the level of knowledge which existed when inspectors left.

From time to time the media report on activities relating to WMDs currently taking place in Iraq. The sources for such reports are usually Iraqi defectors or intelligence agencies. The latter may base their views on various sources, including national reports on procurement and the debriefing of defectors. When critically analyzed, media reports may give the inspecting authority valuable information. However, although UNMOVIC continuously and systematically examine media reports about WMD in Iraq, we rarely comment on them. Our unique task is to perform on site inspections and on that basis to report to the Security Council.

What are the differences between UNSCOM and UNMOVIC?

The UNSCOM train stopped in December 1998. A year later the Security Council in Resolution 1284 (1999) called UNMOVIC into being. What are the differences between the two? The mandate to map Iraq’s programmes for weapons of mass destruction and their delivery and to supervise and ensure their eradication is unchanged and so are the comprehensive rights to perform monitoring, verification and inspection, e.g. the right to immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access to any sites. For the credibility of future inspection it is important that there are no sanctuaries and that access is without any delay that might permit the removal of evidence. In these regards there are no changes. There are, however, some differences between the two organizations. A most important matter is financing.

For the most part UNSCOM depended upon voluntary contributions by governments – of staff, equipment and even money. Most inspectors in Iraq and staff at New York headquarters were made available by member states as ‘gratis personnel’. Their travels to Iraq and per diems were covered by the UN, but they received no salaries from the UN. UNMOVIC is in a different financial situation. It receives 0.8 % of the proceeds of Iraqi oil sales under the Oil for Food Programme. At current oil prices and levels of Iraqi sales the resources thus made available would, we hope, suffice to cover the expenses of UNMOVIC even when it is in full operation.

Of significance is also that, in accordance with the Security Council’s directive, UNMOVIC staff is hired on UN contracts as internztional civil servants subject to Article 100 of the UN Charter, i.e. the article, which requires that “staff shall not seek or receive instructions from any government or any authority external to the Organization.” We have a broad geographic basis for our recruitment of experienced personnel, both as inspectors and as staff at headquarters and we thereby strengthen the UN profile and international legitimacy of UNMOVIC.

A new feature is a College of Commissioners as an advisory body to review the implementation of the relevant resolutions and provide professional advice and guidance to the Executive Chairman, including on significant policy decisions. The College consists of 16 qualified experts appointed in their personal capacity by the Secretary-General. It comprises experts from different parts of the world, including the permanent members of the Security Council. There are observers from the IAEA and OPCW.

Some have wanted to see in this College a mechanism for the control of the Executive Chairman. To be sure the Chairman is obliged to consult the College, (at least for some time) about the reports he submits to the Security Council. However, it is also to be noted that the College is chaired by the Executive Chairman, is advisory and does not vote. So far the College has proved to be a very useful institution, providing outside advice based on great experience.

What is UNMOVIC doing ?

Our ambition has been and remains to place ourselves as far out on the launching pad to inspections as possible without yet taking on board a large number of staff, who cannot be deployed at this time, and without undertaking actions that can wait and that entail major expenses, e.g. the chartering of airplanes and helicopters. Even with these restrictions there is still plenty of work to do to prepare for the launch.


One of the first tasks that were tackled in the building up of UNMOVIC was training. Most UNSCOM staff members had left or were leaving.Some, fortunately, were prepared to stay and have been and remain valuable institutional memories. To be ready for resumed inspections we needed new experts to be trained and to be ready – at least with some notice – to perform their task. As of the autumn of 2000 UNMOVIC had trained some 50 potential inspectors and had a basic readiness. At the end of this course we shall have provided basic training to some 230 experts and advanced training in all three disciplines to a large number of those who have attended the basic training course. We are also providingspecialized training, e.g. for potential chief inspectors. With these numbers of trained potential staff we feel more confident, but training will remain an ongoing activity.

The conduct of inspectors

I am sometimes asked how I think inspectors should conduct themselves. In more elegant language one talks about inspection ‘culture’. Others who will appear before you have much personal experience and can thus discuss the issue with more expertise. Let me nevertheless make some suggestions.

First, there are many types of inspectors in the world – for customs control or tax control or traffic control. They are rarely loved but they had better be respected.

It is important, I think, that inspectors at all times remember what their mission is, and what instructions and rights they have. UNMOVIC inspectors are on duty on behalf of the Security Council, which wants the full mapping of Iraq’s WMD programme and reassurance that it has been or is being eradicated. Their job may thus be to clarify, verify, check the absence of defined items or the peaceful use of other items, or supervise the destruction of yet other items. You will hear much more about this.

It is important, further, for inspectors, especially chief inspectors, to explain very clearly to Iraqi counterparts what they want and make sure that they are clearly understood. In an environment where hardly anyone communicates in his or her own language this is a highly practical matter.There are enough possible grounds for differences without adding some due to misunderstandings.

Inspectors must further remember that they are – inspectors. They are not soldiers. They cannot shoot their way in, nor should they shout. They cannot use force and they must at all times respect instructions regarding safety.If they encounter denials of access, obstruction or defiance, they should explain and argue, e.g. that immediate and unrestricted access is of importance for the credibility of inspections. They can also protest, video tape for evidence and report. They must exercise their judgment in situations which may be difficult. If needed, they can also ask for advice by mobile communications.

If I were to give some adjectives of what I believe would be desirable conduct, I would say

Driving and dynamic – but not angry and aggressive

Firm – but correct

Ingenious – but not deceptive

Somewhat flexible – but not to be pushed around

Calm – but somewhat impatient

Keeping some distance – but not arrogant or pompous

Friendly – but not cozy

Show respect for those you deal with – and demand respect for yourself

A light tone or a joke may sometimes break a nervous atmosphere.

Identification of “unresolved disarmament issues”

The training of staff is not the only line we are pursuing to prepare for our mission. An activity of the same magnitude as that of training has been to try to identify the “unresolved disarmament issues”, which the Security Council has instructed us to address.It is clear, of course, that an important part of our future work in Iraq will consist in monitoring sites and installations to ensure that no new activities are undertaken with a view to developing or producing WMDs. However, our task is no less to clear up remaining questions about the past development and production of such weapons. How many such questions are there? And how serious?

To be sure Iraq submitted to UNSCOM a huge amount of reports. Indeed, there was nothing extraordinary about successive declarations being labeled full, final and complete. Much has been learnt about the Iraqi WMD programmes. Regrettably much remains unknown for lack of evidence or uncertain because of contradictory reports or evidence. A major source of uncertainty is the unilateral destruction of WMDs, which Iraq undertook in 1991 without the presence of UNSCOM and in many cases allegedly without any records. When there is no evidence of what quantities were destroyed, how can we exclude that some were secretly retained? Are any still remaining and still viable?Or, do equipment or facilities to produce them remain? Many such questions are still there. The analysis of reports and data is a time consuming and complex task, engaging a large number of our headquarters staff.

When in the future we are planning inspections to address “unresolved disarmament issues” and “key remaining disarmament tasks”, we must know what questions we want to be answered from the Iraqi side. However, we cannot today list these issues and the questions relating to them in a definitive way, because the basis for our analysis is documentation and data, which go only to the end of 1998, when inspections ceased. To draw a more definitive list of issues and questions we need fresh declarations from Iraq and supplementary fresh data from new inspections the field – rebaselining.Nevertheless, we can – and do – submit the information now available to us to analysis. It is important that this analysis is rigorous and that we have a clear mind about what constitutes evidence. If we were to accept declarations unsupported by evidence, whether about the production or procurement of particular items or about their destruction, we would not be serious and we might be overlooking what in reality are open questions.

Burden of proof

This brings me to an issue that sometimes turns up in the discussion about inspection in Iraq, under the title ‘burden of proof’ and that relates to the question of evidence. It has been argued that Iraq’s declarations about production, imports, destruction or whatever, must be accepted, if they cannot be proved wrong. It is evident that if this argument had prevailed in the past, a great many erroneous declarations by Iraq would have been accepted.To take an obvious example, declarations unsupported by evidence that there was no BW programme and – later – that biological agents had not been weaponized, would have been accepted because UNSCOM was not in a position to prove its strongly held suspicion that they were wrong.

It may well be true, as has been argued, that it is hard for Iraq – as for anybody – to prove that an item does not exist. However, it must be recognized that in its archives Iraq must still have access to most relevant budgetary documents, plans, records, contracts, directives, instructions, accounts, letters of credit, bills of transport, etc. Moreover, Iraq has access to most of the staff who have dealt with this vast documentation and, indeed, with the weapons programmes. In most cases – some would say in all cases – this should enable the Iraqi side to present material supporting, supplementing or correcting the declarations it has made earlier. It should be recognized that the Iraqi side has often exerted laudable effort to do this. But on many issues it has simply claimed there is nothing to show.These are the problematic cases.UNMOVIC, receiving declarations with sometimes scant or contradictory evidence or no supporting material from authorities which have regrettably often been found to understate or mask, cannot go before the Security Council and suggest that the Council should have confidence in Iraq’s declarations simply because they have not been proven wrong.

Under the basic resolution 687 (1991) UNMOVIC is to verify Iraq’s declarations. If adequate evidence in their support is not presented or otherwise available, the declarations cannot be verified. The lack of verification cannot be remedied by some legal presumption. The result is simply and regrettably that UNMOVIC and the Security Council cannot have confidence in the declarations.

It is to be hoped, of course, that if Iraq accepts new inspections it will do its utmost to present credible evidence in support of past or new declarations or, indeed, to present proscribed items to be destroyed, removed or rendered harmless. The problem of implementing the Security Council’s resolutions about Iraq seems currently too often described simply as getting inspections started again, after which a fast track is supposed to lead automatically to the suspension and lifting of sanctions.I think it is necessary to think more on the substance we are dealing with. The Security Council demands that inspections should resume to ensure that all proscribed items, which Iraq had or still has, are eradicated and that no new ones are created. Thus, the focus needs to be on the reliable eradication of proscribed items. This brings me to the subject of the difference between the Security Council resolutions 687 (1991) and 1284 (1999).

The differences between resolutions 687 (1991) and 1284 (1999)

In the spring of 1991 after the Gulf War the cease-fire was sealed by the Security Council through the resolution 687. It laid down, inter alia, that Iraq was to declare all its WMDs and long distance missiles and the means of producing them and UNSCOM and the IAEA were to verify the declarations and supervise the destruction of all proscribed item. Until this was achieved and reported the Security Council would not be in a position to lift the sanctions against imports from Iraq. The leverage seemed enormous and it was expected that the process leading to a lifting of sanctions would be short and that it would be followed simply by ongoing monitoring and verification that no new programmes emerged.

As we know the process has not been finished. While therefore inspections are still demanded and sanctions have not been lifted, since December 1999, when resolution 1284(1999) Iraq has been allowed to sell unlimited quantities of oil andlarge sums have become available to it to pay for imports. Under the resolution, which now is contemplated in the Security Council, Iraq will be enabled to import whatever it pleases except military items and dual use items. The latter will be subject to approval by the Sanctions Committee of the Security Council.

Resolution 1284, which was adopted by the Council in December 1999 after nearly a year of discussions is rather different from the resolution of 1991, although both remain valid and applicable side by side. The 1999 resolution establishes a reinforced system of ongoing monitoring and verification, which combines the two earlier components inspection and monitoring. As they existed side by side already for several years there is not much new in substance. However, the new resolution lays down an alternative exit from the sanctions. These can be suspended, if Iraq is reported to have “cooperated in all respects” with UNMOVIC and the IAEA for a prolonged period and if the cooperation is evidenced by progress in the resolution of key remaining disarmament tasks.This resolution, one might say, marks a lower level of ambition – or hope – than that from 1991. The 1991 resolution calls far a total eradication of proscribed items and allows a full lifting of sanctions. Under the 1999 resolution only a suspension of sanctions is attainable but such suspension does not require a full eradication of proscribed items.It requires “cooperation in all respects” with UNMOVIC and the IAEA. By ‘cooperation’ is meant not only immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access and security of UN staff, but as importantly, progress on key remaining disarmament tasks.

So far Iraq has denounced the newer resolution and characterized it as a trap under which Iraq might never see sanctions lifted. Obviously Iraq is free to aim in the first place at fulfilling the older, more demanding, resolution.

Is an opening in sight?

In the last few months there have been signs of some movement in the stalemate, which has lasted since December 1998, when UNSCOM inspectors left, or, if you wish, since December 1999, when resolution 1284 was adopted.

First of all, last December the Security Council adopted the resolution 1382 (2001). It envisages a streamlining of the system under which Iraq is able to import under the Oil for Food Programme, including a task for UNMOVIC to examine a vast number of proposed contracts to check whether they contain any dual use items identified on a Goods Review List (GRL). The consensus by which this resolution was adopted has raised the hope that the Security Council might again be reunited – and therefore more forceful – on the Iraq issue. Negotiations are under way following up on the resolution.

Secondly, the increasingly strident tone of the United States vis-à-vis Iraq after the terrorist attacks in September 2001 and the increasing demand by other states – including all other permanent members of the Security Council – for Iraq to implement the earlier resolutions, including inspection by UNMOVIC and the IAEA, may have an impact. Recently the Government of Iraq indicated to the Secretary-General of the United Nations through Mr. Amr Moussa, the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, that it was interested in resuming a dialogue without any preconditions. For his part, the Secretary-General of the UN made clear that he was ready to receive a delegation from Iraq and would raise the implementation of UN resolutions, including inspection. It was understood that the Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC would be available for talks about inspection.

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