Reprinted with permission from the International Herald Tribune, November 13, 2002
Now that the Security Council has sent inspectors back into Iraq with a sweeping new mandate to search everything everywhere, the question is: Can they do the job?
With the Security Council united and Iraq facing a credible threat of war if it obstructs inspections, there is a good chance that the inspectors will be able to disarm Saddam Hussein, but only if the United Nations gives them the resources they need.
Iraq is roughly the size of Spain. The new inspection system, the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), must be ready to cover this huge area with maximum effectiveness from the outset.
To do so, the chief inspector, Hans Blix, should supplement his team of new investigators with experts from the previous efforts. They have irreplaceable, on-the-ground experience.
The beefed-up teams must work quickly to reestablish a baseline by focusing first on the outstanding issues left over from the inspections terminated in 1998 - in particular unresolved questions regarding the production of VX nerve agent, the alleged Iraqi disposal of missile warheads and the extent of the country's biological weapons program. Iraq is likely to be most cooperative earlier in the inspection process, and all efforts should be made to address these outstanding issues as soon as possible.
Iraq has had four unimpeded years to construct new underground sites, build mobile facilities and alter records. To overcome that advantage, inspectors must be equipped with the full range of reconnaissance, surveillance, listening, encryption and photo interpretation capabilities.
The new resolution gives them the right to use such tools; now the United Nations must quickly supply them. We should not nickel and dime these teams but give them the best available equipment, including helicopters, planes, unmanned aerial vehicles, U-2s and access to satellite imagery. Any Iraqi interference with these flights must be seen as a material breach of the resolution.
The United States and other nations are free to provide the inspectors with intelligence data. They should begin doing so immediately. More than 30 governments provided the previous inspectors with intelligence data, but more regular intelligence sharing was limited to fewer than five.
Inspectors need information not available from open sources or commercial satellites and prompt, direct access to defectors. These confidential exchanges would be best managed by someone with an intelligence background who is trusted by those governments that provide the bulk of the intelligence.
Inspectors must be protected on the ground by intelligence and security experts who can secure their offices and living quarters from Iraqi eavesdropping and harassment. The new resolution will send UN security forces in to guard the inspectors, but the force should be bigger and more robust than the previous paltry efforts.
The previous inspection system, UNSCOM, was, from the beginning, subject to aggressive Iraqi efforts against operations in New York and inspectors in the field. UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency must have the necessary technology and management structure to ensure the security of information and communications. The Security Council must regard any evidence of such interference as a direct breach of Iraqi obligations.
The inspectors must also be able to track procurement efforts both inside and outside Iraq, including at Iraqi embassies abroad. This is how in early 1995 inspectors cracked open the secret biological weapons program, months before information from defectors.
UNSCOM achieved a remarkable success with weak technological assets, a small budget and restricted authority. Everything it lacked should be corrected before UNMOVIC returns.
The more robust the inspection regime the greater will be its chances of success. The tougher the initial conditions placed on Iraq, the greater is the likelihood that war can be avoided.
The writer, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, is author of "Deadly Arsenals: Tracking Weapons of Mass Destruction." He contributed this comment to the International Herald Tribune.