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Jewish World Review Sept. 18, 2002 / 12 Tishrei, 5763

Michael Kelly

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Defiance | "U.N. Inspectors Can Return Unconditionally, Iraq Says," the headline reads. This, to put it mildly, and in the words of an old and apt phrase, shall not stand.

Consider the following darkly comic tale, mostly taken from the Congressional Research Service:

On March 3, 1991, the coalition forces of the Persian Gulf War signed the Safwan accords, ending hostilities in the insane conflict Iraq had forced. On April 3, the United Nations passed Security Council Resolution 687 requiring Iraq to end its weapons-of-mass-destruction programs, recognize Kuwait, account for missing Kuwaitis, return Kuwaiti property and end support for international terrorism. Iraq immediately began a decade-long pattern of defiance, alternating with stalling, tactical capitulation and more defiance. This was particularly so concerning what remains the central issue: the demand that it destroy its weapons of mass destruction and stop developing new ones.

To enforce and conduct inspections, the United Nations created a special commission, UNSCOM, which went to work in April 1991. Almost immediately, Iraq began impeding the inspections. The United Nations responded by passing its first resolution-to-enforce-the-resolution, Resolution 707, on Aug. 15, which ordered Iraq to comply with unfettered inspections of all sites and to make full disclosure of all of its suppliers to its program for weapons of mass destruction. On Oct. 11, the United Nations also passed Resolution 715, which established a long-term monitoring program.

Some success ensued, but Iraq resumed impeding inspections in March 1996. The Security Council responded with Resolution 1060, on June 12, 1996, demanding, again, Iraqi cooperation, which was not forthcoming. So, on June 21, 1997, the august body duly passed Resolution 1115, which threatened noncooperating Iraqi government officials with travel restrictions. This was followed on Oct. 23, 1997, by Resolution 1134, which threatened travel restrictions -- again -- and which banned consideration of lifting the U.N. sanctions against Iraq until April 1998.

On Oct. 29, Iraq barred American inspectors assigned to UNSCOM from conducting any inspections. So, on Nov. 12, 1997, the United Nations went right darned ahead and imposed those mean old travel restrictions. The next day, Iraq expelled all the American inspectors. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution authorizing the use of unilateral U.S. military action if necessary. But the measure died in the Senate, of inattention.

In November 1997, Russia brokered a compromise that allowed UNSCOM to resume some temporary and sharply limited inspections. In February 1998, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan put together a second compromise, by which Iraq agreed to allow inspections with the proviso that it be allowed to protect "presidential sites" from undue indignity. Iraq designated eight large tracts of land (containing more than 1,000 buildings) as "presidential sites." Inspectors could visit these sites only after announcing the visit in advance and informing the Iraqis of the composition of the visiting team -- nuclear, chemical or biological inspectors. In appreciation of this joke, the Clinton administration supported lifting the travel ban on Iraq and resuming sanction reviews.

In August 1998, Iraq barred UNSCOM from inspecting any new facilities. The Senate and House passed a resolution, signed on Aug. 14, declaring Iraq to be in "material breach" of the cease-fire. On Sept. 9, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1194, suspending sanction reviews. On Oct. 30, the council offered Iraq yet another chance to have the sanctions lifted if it complied with inspections, but Iraq spurned the offer and announced the cessation of all cooperation with UNSCOM. A very angry Security Council passed the very fierce Resolution 1205, which called Iraq's action a "flagrant violation" of the February 1998 agreement. A very, very angry President Clinton very, very fiercely threatened airstrikes. On Nov. 14, Iraq agreed to cooperate. President Clinton promptly canceled the airstrikes.

On Dec. 15, 1998, UNSCOM announced that Iraq had refused to hand over key weapons-program documents and was, again, impeding inspections. UNSCOM inspectors withdrew from the country and the United States and Britain bombed Iraqi military and security targets for several days. UNSCOM never went back into Iraq. On Dec. 17, 1999, the Security Council passed Resolution 1284 establishing a new inspection body, UNMOVIC, and offering Iraq the suspension of most sanctions in exchange for a resumption of inspections. In February 2001, Iraq entered into talks with the U.N. secretary general on this basis, "but the talks made little progress."

I'd say the current Iraqi offer can be dispensed with, oh, now.

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