UN Logo UNMOVIC Header

THE UNMOVIC MISSION

(as delivered)

Lecture by Executive Chairman Hans Blix at the 6th Training Course

Vienna, 7 October 2002

This is the sixth basic training course organized by UNMOVIC for experts who are willing to serve as UN inspectors in Iraq.   While all the five preceding courses have been held with Iraq saying no to UN inspection, this course is held after a recent Iraqi yes.

Exactly a week ago here in Vienna, the Director General of the IAEA, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei and I discussed with an Iraqi delegation a large number of practical arrangements about which we need clarity before we send any inspection staff to Iraq.

It is not that we do not know what rights and duties we have and what obligations Iraq has accepted, but we know from years of experience that implementation in the field can be shaky to put it mildly and interpretations can differ. Hence, we have wanted to ensure that we see eye-to-eye on how we go about our work.   We cannot foresee everything.   The inspectors in the field, the Chief Inspector of every team, the staff at the Baghdad Ongoing Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Centre (BOMVIC), will have to familiarize themselves with the rules, which guide us and they have to exercise their judgement.

Iraq should have good reason to cooperate in all respects.   It has now a new chance to give the world confidence that it is ridding itself from weapons of mass destruction to the extent this is not already done.

If any of these weapons or other proscribed equipment or items or programmes or remnants of them still exist, this is the moment to declare them and destroy or otherwise eradicate them under UNMOVIC or IAEA supervision.   This is the moment not only to open up all doors and archives, but actively to bring forward evidence:   documents, budgets, registers, invoices, reports, transportation lists, etc.   And for witnesses to give testimony.   Iraq is a well-organized country.

Through openness, transparency, Iraq can convince the inspectors.   And, the inspectors, if they are thorough, effective and professional, can convince the Security Council and the world. Inspection is an opportunity not a penalty!

South Africa tried this route successfully.   As the first but hopefully not the last State with a nuclear-weapon capacity, it decided to roll back, to do away with its capacity. How could it convince the world that it had done away with all the bombs?   All the bomb-grade uranium?   All tools? It turned to the IAEA to inspect and verify. And said:   here are all the documents we think you need!   If you want more just tell us!   And here are all the sites we think you should visit. If there are more military or civilian just tell us and we shall take you there.   After very extensive analysis of documents, and visits to many sites and experiences of the South African transparency and cooperation, the IAEA inspection team said: we saw no signs of any remaining weapons programmes. After this thorough investigation and sincere South African cooperation, the world accepted that the weapons programme was terminated.

Although it had not yet produced any nuclear weapons by 1991, Iraq’s WMD programme was extensive and it had uses long-range missiles and chemical weapons.   The UNMOVIC and IAEA inspection, verification programme is, accordingly, very extensive.

Nevertheless, if Iraq were to choose the path that South Africa chose, if it were to show the active and sincere cooperation and transparency, and a willingness to roll back, it would have the same chances as South Africa to gain confidence.

As in the case of South Africa, UNMOVIC and IAEA would never come so far as to say positively:   There is absolutely nothing left.”   We would say:   We have had extensive, genuine and sincere, active cooperation in all respects and we see no signs of remaining WMDs.”   The cooperation need not be with enthusiasm, but it must be without reservations. Nobody loves inspection.   What we expect is that the inspected party feels that effective inspection is in its interest.

It is not possible to examine every square metre in a big country or every basement or every computer programme, or archive, or every truck on the road. There will always be some residue of uncertainty.   Every one of us wants a clean bill of health”, but in the absolute sense, it is neither attainable in medicine nor in WMD inspections.   All that is attainable is a high degree of assurance that there are no malign bugs or bombs hidden anywhere.   This is attainable through very thorough professional inspection and cooperation in all respects by the inspected party.

You are all professionals in the fields of biology, chemistry or missiles.   We want to add something important to your professional equipment: the background of the inspection work in Iraq; the UN framework, the WMD programmes, so far as they have been mapped, the techniques of inspection, knowledge about the history, culture and religion of Iraq.

How should inspectors conduct themselves?

I have said it many times and I will say it to you:   We do not seek to humiliate, harass or provoke.   We want effective, professional inspection and monitoring and it is for us to determine what is humiliating, harassing or provoking.   If Iraq felt we exceeded our rights, it can write to the Security Council, which we serve.   They did so in the past.   But if they do so again without good reason, it will be counterproductive.

At our fifth basic training course, in Geneva, earlier this year, I spoke about how I think inspectors should conduct themselves and I have understood that my listeners found it clarifying. Others, who will appear before you, have much personal experience and can thus discuss the issues with more expertise. Let me nevertheless repeat what I said:

First, there are many types of inspections 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 programmes 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 attempts of denials of access, obstruction or defiance, they should explain and argue, e.g. that immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access is of importance for the credibility of inspections.   They can also protest, videotape for evidence and report. They must exercise their judgement 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 in the field.

Inspection is not espionage

On this point, I can also simply repeat what I said in Geneva:

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, under the mandate of resolution 1284 (1999), the assistance is to be a one-way traffic.   The inspection authority may receive information from anywhere and tell national authorities what it is interested in, but it is to report to the mandating international organ [the SC], not to individual Member States that may provide assistance.

Inspection reports must be accurate

I said a moment ago that inspectors are not sent to harass, humiliate or provoke. But nor do they come to de 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 in 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.

UNMOVIC and the IAEA have their mandates from the Security Council.   There have been no inspections for nearly four years.   If they restart, I am sure the Council will not tolerate any cat and mouse” game and it will expect UNMOVIC to report any such play immediately.   I hope we shall not need to give such reports.  

What I know is that it is for the Council to consider them and decide upon the consequences. Peace or armed action is not our decision.   Ours is a job of professional inspection and factual reporting.

What are we looking for in Iraq?

The original concept resolution 687 (1991) was that Iraq should declare its programmes of WMD, where the stocks of weapons were, the factories, laboratories, etc.   And it was for UNSCOM and the IAEA to verify and ensure and supervise the destruction, removal or rendering harmless of all prohibited items.

This phase was expected to be a relatively short one.   After the eradication process was to come a monitoring process, giving confidence that nothing prohibited was being built, produced or imported.

The Iraqi declarations were a disappointment. Therefore, the inspection and verification phase never finished.   Regrettably, it developed into a long operation that some called hide-and-seek. It went on year after year and meanwhile the economic sanctions wrecked havoc on the Iraqi population until the oil-for-food programme of the UN restored and gradually vastly increased imports.

The concept adopted by the Security Council in December 1999 in resolution 1284 one year after inspections ceased is one of reinforced ongoing monitoring and verification”.   This combines routine monitoring of many known sites with the possibility of extensive and thorough inspections, at any site and surveillance and analytical work. This concept was adopted long before 1999 by the IAEA.   It was confirmed for UNMOVIC through resolution 1284 in 1999.

The process now facing us Iraq and the Security Council would be much facilitated, as I said, if Iraq decided that a new chapter was to be started. If Iraq were to be active not to use the modern term proactive” in creating the conditions in which the world would gain confidence that the WMD programmes

and all proscribed items had been eradicated or were being eradicated,   Iraq could again resume its normal place in the Middle East and among UN Member States.

Intelligence

We see various statements and reports, which express the positive conviction that Iraq retains biological and chemical weapons and missiles of a range over 150 kilometres.  I am sometimes asked what is UNMOVIC’s conclusion. My answer has been that if we had solid evidence that Iraq has weapons or other items which are prohibited, we would report it to the Security Council.   We do not have such solid evidence, but the inspection reports and other evidence we have do not allow us to exclude that weapons and other proscribed items still remain.   If they did, we would not need inspections.   Rather they still raise many questions, show many inconsistencies. Our conclusion is the same as that of the Security Council, which refers in resolution 1284 not to remaining weapons but to unresolved disarmament issues” and demands inspection which may uncover weapons or other proscribed items or produce evidence that excludes the existence of WMD and other proscribed items.

What credibility is there in intelligence reports which affirm the existence of WMD or other proscribed items?   We have no reason to pronounce ourselves on them, unless we have evidence that is relevant.   They may or may not be correct.   Without being asked to assess the evidence they are built on, we cannot pronounce ourselves. yes">   What we can do, however, if we resume inspections, is to seek to verify assertions by various intelligence agencies, whether they are given publicly or confidentially to us.   Of course, where sites have been indicated publicly, it is not likely that they will contain anything proscribed when inspectors arrive.   Where sites have been indicated to us confidentially or suggested to us by overhead surveillance, an inspection leading to a denial of access would be an extremely serious matter.

Access

Access to sites has to be I am now citing the UN resolutions immediate, unconditional and unrestricted”.   Why? If there are restrictions on which sites can be visited, there would be sanctuaries”.   This would reduce the credibility of inspections.   Why unconditionally?   If you were allowed only on condition of not bringing measuring instruments of various kinds, it would throw doubt upon the credibility of the inspection.   And if access were not to be immediate”, it might suggest that relevant material or document or computer diskettes were being concealed.   Again, it would throw doubt upon the credibility of the inspection.

Thus, when Iraq asks for inspection and states at the same time that it has no proscribed items or activities, it should welcome effective immediate, unconditional and unrestricted inspection.   Only such inspections have high credibility.

Evidence and the burden of proof

Let me say some words about evidence and the burden of proof.

As I noted a moment ago, intelligence may be very important, but if it is not sustained by evidence, it remains allegations.   It is our job to try to verify plausible allegations.

At the other end, declarations by Iraq are not evidence.   These, too, may be very important, but they have to be sustained by evidence from the inspection of sites and/or examination of documentary evidence presented or the interviews of people with relevant knowledge.

An issue that turns up not infrequently in the discussion of evidence is where the so-called burden of proof” lies.

Mr. Rumsfeld, the US Secretary of Defense, has rightly observed that the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence”.   In simpler terms:   Even when you do not find anything, you cannot necessarily draw the conclusion that there is nothing.   This is what Iraq has sometimes claimed we must do.   If inspectors cannot prove there exists some proscribed activities or items Iraq submits, they must conclude there are none:   The inspectors have the burden of proof.   Neither UNSCOM nor UNMOVIC has accepted this argument. The case of biological weapons show how wrong it would have been.   The declarations which claimed that biological weapons were not weaponized would have had to be accepted as long as they were not disproved.   Yet, we have learnt how misleading these declarations were.

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 hoped, of course, that if inspections resume, Iraq 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.   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 activities or items are eradicated and that no new ones are created. Thus, the focus needs to be on the reliable eradication of proscribed items on disarmament and evidence that it has occurred or is occurring.

A great deal is at stake in the Iraqi question.   First, the welfare of the Iraqi people, which could have had their living standards restored even in 1992, if there had been from the beginning cooperation to fully eradicate the WMD programme.   Second, there is the issue of proliferation.   If the Security Council were to give up its ambition reliably to eradicate Iraq’s WMD programme, it would send the wrong signal to the world that wants disarmament, not proliferation!   Thirdly, the authority of the Security Council is at stake. If it cannot come to unity and effective action, then the highest world body responsible for security would have failed. During the Cold War, we were used to that.   After President Bush the elder succeeded in 1990 and 1991 to bring the Council together, we had had greater hopes.   Lastly, the institution of international inspection is at stake.   If it does not succeed in the case of Iraq, where it has extremely far-reaching rights and is or should be backed by the Security Council, the conclusion would be that a state determined to defeat inspections can do so.


Back to the Top