The Greatest Threat-
Iraq, Weapons of Mass Destruction And the Global Crisis of Security


Richard Butler

Public Affairs, New York, 2000
annotated by Joachim Gruber



  • The failure to complete the task of disarming Saddam and the politics on which it has rested-including the failure of the Security Council to maintain its own authority-constitutes a serious crisis in global security.
  • Saddam's statements indicate that he sees Iraq as threatened on virtually all sides, particularly by Iran and Israel. He has sought weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to deal with that threat. He has used them against Iran, and, to some extent, Israel. In addition to seizing Kuwait, he has also attacked Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Turkey. Every thoughtful leader in the region assumes he may do so again.
  • Simple terrorist action -easily possible with WMD- would bring us to a virtually unmanageable place, a situation in which angry Americans are baying for blood; the more sober heads at the Pentagon and the White House are trying desperately to figure out how to keep the situation from exploding; and leaders of dozens of other countries-from Russia, China, and France to Syria, Iran, North Korea, and maybe even Cuba- maneuvering to exploit the crisis to their own advantage. It's likely that all of the choices facing the U.S. president (and, for that matter, world leaders at the UN and NATO) would be horrendous, not readily promising peace and justice but, more likely, more death and terror.
  • ....
  • Given Saddam's track record on chemical weapons and their use and his attitude toward the West, particularly the United States, I am going to assume that he might take a decision to support such a terrorist attack. Why, and in particular when, is not fathomable. But let's play out a scenario A hit squad from somewhere in the Middle East travels to New York City carrying a oneliter bottle filled with one of the several chemical weapons agents we have long known Saddam Hussein to be developing. Using a simple sprayer (like one that a gardener or house painter might own), they diffuse the contents into the air over Times Square on a Saturday night or into the main concourse at Grand Central Station at 5:30 P.M. on a weekday evening. Hundreds, maybe thousands of people die agonizing deaths as a result. Because of their own handling of the substance and the strategic concern to maintain ambiguity over

  • 1. A Glimpse of Terror

     .... [a] relatively minor display of the brutal and tyrannical nature of Saddam's regime ... has haunted me. ... [At the end of a day's discussions with the Iraqis] I rose, along with the rest of the UNSCOM (UN Special Commission) team, and prepared for the usual phony, polite, formal leave-taking. Stepping around to the Iraqi side of the conference table, I extended my hand to Aziz [Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister]. He then began the unexpected sideshow. Rather than shake my hand, Aziz signaled to a group of figures barely discernable in a dark corner of the room. Two uniformed men strode up into the light, pulling between them a third man. He was a slight fellow dressed in the typical garb of an Iraqi farmer: an open-necked shirt, rough cotton trousers, and a pair of much-worn sandals. He had the gnarled skin and dark complexion of one long exposed to the harsh Mideast sun, and he wore the black moustache affected by nearly all Iraqi men in imitation of Saddam Hussein. But what struck me most forcibly was his obvious, intense fear. He was hunched as though to shield his body from expected blows, he was trembling all over, and when he glanced at me, I saw in his eyes the look of terror.

        The men in uniform held this man firmly and thrust him toward me. Aziz declared, "Mr. Butler, I want to show you something important. You have accused us of testing biological weapons on human beings. It's an outrageous lie. In particular, you have shown a photograph of the forearm of a person on which there were sores. You said the sores were caused by the testing of weapons. You asked for an explanation. Well, here's your explanation! This man is the man in your photograph. Look at his arm!" Aziz yanked up the left sleeve of the farmer's shirt, exposing an unmarked forearm. "So much for your claims!"

        I felt deep pity for the farmer. Aziz has had his thugs grab you off the street and drag you up here for this charade, I thought. God only knows what you think is happening or fear what will be done to you if the foreigner doesn't like what he sees on your arm, or if in some other unknown way you fail this test. He must have known how cheap a life like his had become in Saddam's Iraq.

    2. Peace as a Career
    Butler, an Australian, describes his educational and professional background.
    3. To Disarm Saddam
    UN Security Council system to disarm Iraq:
    1. UN Security Council demands declaration by Iraq of all illegal weapons within 15 days (full, final and complete disclosure statements).
    2. UNSCOM and IAEA verify declaration (anticipated duration: several months).
    3. Joint Iraq/UN destruction of weapons.
    4. Monitoring dual use facilities (nuclear, biological, chemical).
    Enforcement by UN (sanctions) was necessary because from day one Iraq has refused to cooperate with UN disarmament plan. Oil-for-Food program only partly used by Saddam: he turns sanctions against his own people. Oil-for-Food misused by Iraqi military. Iraq builds up a system of concealment against weapons inspections (as became apparent after the Kamal defection). UNSCOM was forced into digging, probing, questioning, challenging and cross-examining a system designed to obscure, confuse and deceive, Rolf Ekeus (then UNSCOM's director) creates UNSCOM's Concealment Unit. (See also a summary on Iraqi responses to inspections in Jonathan Tucker, Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) of the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS) Monitoring and Verification in a Noncooperative Environment: Lessons from the U.N. Experience in Iraq", Nonproliferation Review, vol. 3, No. 3, 1996)
    4. The Summons
    Butler is appointed UNSCOM executive chairman by Kofi Annan, while not UN employed to support his independence.
    5. What Honeymoon?
    Joint UN/Iraq destruction of 817 of 819 Russian origin SCUD missiles. Iraq refuses to provide credible declarations and evidence on its indigenous production of prohibited missiles (range more than 150 km), unilaterally destroys production equipment and major components, corresponding declaration is proven wrong by UNSCOM. Denial of production of VX nerve gas, then admission of 200 liters, then forced to concede to have produced nearly 3900 liters. Incomplete and totally inconsistent declaration of BW program. Aziz (Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister) admits to have lied on BW program. UNSCOM's inspection team: total number: approximately 1000 people, 250 from US, 150 from Great Britain. Details of UNSCOM 199/203: obstruction by Iraq, questions about "modalities", agreed upon by Rolf Ekeus. Dispute about accessibility of sites. Aziz asks UN Security Council to withdraw US -and later British- inspectors. Threats against UNSCOM personnell.
    6. The Russians Make Their Move
    Role of Russia in UN Security Council: efforts towards lifting of sanctions to enable Iraq to pay its debt to Russia ($ 8 billion pre-war military sales). Primakov's personal payoffs from Iraq.
    7. The Resistance Stiffens
    Obstruction of UNSCOM 227, inspection of Abu Ghraib prison to find prisoners' records removed during period when BW tests might have been executed and prisoners had died. Technical Expert Meetings (TEMs, composed of non UNSCOM professionals) discussed as way out of confrontation with UNSCOM. Aziz declares:
    1. Iraq has no WMD nor the means to produce them.
    2. Iraq has given UNSCOM all relevant materials
    3. There was nothing more to give and there is nothing more.
    4. UNSCOM has refused to accept these facts.
    (compare report by J. Tucker: "Security Council Resolution 687 required Iraq to make "full, final, and complete declarations" in which it listed all of the facilities and activities related to its WMD programs. From the outset, however, Iraq's declarations were incomplete and contained numerous false statements and distortions. When the U.N. agencies eventually uncovered irrefutable evidence of an undeclared site or activity and demanded that Baghdad account for the missing data, the Iraqi authorities typically responded with another partial admission, indicating at each stage that they were making a full disclosure. This pattern of "cheat and retreat" continued throughout the period of baseline inspections. ... The end-result of this process was that Iraq's declarations came increasingly to resemble Western intelligence assessments: in effect, the Iraqis told UNSCOM and the IAEA what they already knew." Jonathan Tucker, Nonproliferation Review, vol. 3, No. 3, 1996)
    Wag the dog: the game with the media, public (world) opinion.
    8. Kofi Annan Goes to Baghdad
    Annan wishes to alleviate tensions with Iraq, to discuss replacement of US, British inspectors. UN survey team to visit sites ("presidential") Iraq has exempted from inspections. Iraq refuses to provide team with list of sites, forcing UNSCOM to prepare it. Technical incompetence of Staffan de Mistura, diplomatic leader of surveying project. Team reports to Annan and Aziz, restricts UNSCOM access to report and documentation appendix. Team's visit -although for strictly technical purpose- came up with political, social and cultural results. In Security Council Russia provides a defense of Iraqi interests, France and China follow.

    Final reports of TEM on warheads:

    Kofi Annan and Saddam Hussein confer in Baghdad, come up with Memorandum of Understanding. "Presidential Sites" completely sanitized (down to the removal of ordinary furniture) prior to inspection by UN "Special Group". Iraq refuses to continued monitoring of these sites, claims the right to change their boundaries.

    Butler's report covering period 10/97 - 4/98:

    Aziz states See also Jonathan Tucker, Nonproliferation Review, vol. 3, No. 3, 1996.
    9. Road Map to Nowhere
    Iraq's negative answer to an attempt by UNSCOM to draw up a list of necessary information to be provided by Iraq (as opposed to sufficient info). China refuses to provide details of its weapons trade with Iraq. UNSCOM 244: Numerical listing found of Iraqi air force's use of chemical munitions, listing contradicts previous Iraqi declarations. VX stabilizer and degradation products found on material from unilaterally destroyed Iraqi SCUD missile warheads.
    10. The Five-Dollar Bet
    Saddam Hussein decides to suspend cooperation with UNSCOM and IAEA, seeks to free nuclear, biological and chemical  WMD program of international monitoring and control. Kofi Annan seeks to place the onus of proof to UNSCOM, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, president of the UN Security Council restores it to Iraq. Scott Ritter resigns, Butler responds to Ritter's public comments.
    11. The Final Deception
    12. Desert Fox and the Twilight of UNSCOM
    13. Son of UNSCOM
    UNMOVIC composed of UN civil servants, political commissars, executive chairman appointed by UN Secretary General and by approval of the UN Security Council. UNMOVIC will be directed to draw up a list of final Iraqi disarmament reqirements (UNMOVIC is required to tell Iraq what weapons it has). No cap on Oil-for-Food, sanctions lifted for 120 days as soon as the new executive chairman reported that he was at work and receiving Iraqi cooperation. Upon each favorable report, sanctions would be lifted for another 120 days. 71 year old Dr. Hans Blix (former head of IAEA) appointed executive chairman.

    Charles Duelfer resigns stating:

      1. original task remains incomplete,
      2. Security Council abolishes UNSCOM without recognition of its work
      3. sustained commitment to credible monitoring and disarmament is difficult, if not impossible in a political, multilateral environment with shifting objectives and priorities.

      Concern over proliferation of WMD:

      1. When a rogue succeeds in facing down the authority of a legitimate lawgiver (UN), the willingness or ability of the lawgiver to enforce the law is brought into doubt.
      2. If Saddam gets away with his weapons program, other states will feel obliged to try the same for reasons of adequate defense.
    14. Conclusion: The Principle of the Exception
    Once economic sanctions against Baghdad are lifted, it is questionable whether the international community can sustain the political will needed to fund and operate the Office of Monitoring and Verification and import-export monitoring programs indefinitely. Therefore Butler encourages


    The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil 
    is for good men to do nothing.
    -Edmund Burke

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