Monday, Feb 17, 2003
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THE IRREFUTABLE CONCLUSION to be drawn, from the second report presented to the United Nations Security Council by those heading the inspection teams mandated to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) capabilities, is that progress is being made towards the attainment of this objective through peaceful means and, therefore, that there is no need for a war to achieve the same. The head of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), Hans Blix, and the chief of the inspection team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohammed ElBaradei, have both been more upbeat in their assessment of Iraqi cooperation now than they were when they presented their first reports on January 27. Mr. ElBaradei, whose teams probe the less contentious issue of Iraq's nuclear weapons programmes of the past, has reported that they had found no evidence that Baghdad had re-started work in this area. While Mr. Blix has been less definitive in regard to the progress his teams have made towards unearthing all aspects of Iraq's programmes for developing chemical and biological weapons and missiles of proscribed range, he appeared to have set aside the judgment he made in the first report that Iraq had not internalised the need for inspections. In his second report, Mr. Blix focussed on the several measures that Iraq had taken to enhance its cooperation with the inspection teams, including prompt and unimpeded access to suspected weapons sites, the drastic reduction of the "minders" appointed to monitor the inspectors, the prompting of scientists and technicians associated with the programmes to present themselves for interviews and greater amenability to the idea of surveillance flights. Mr. Blix also pointedly countered a presentation made by the U. S. earlier this month wherein it had shown data which purportedly proved that Iraq was sanitising weapons sites just before inspection teams arrived by stating that vehicular movement near those sites or other facts of the kind could as easily have an innocent explanation as the sinister. But, while Mr. Blix struck a more optimistic note in his second report than he did in his first, he did not change the basic conclusion that Iraq had yet to satisfy the inspection teams that it had actually destroyed the huge stockpiles of ingredients for chemical and biological weapons which documents proved it had produced in the past.
The reports from the heads of the two inspection commissions show that they have been expanding their activity to cover an increasingly wide area of Iraq and the number of sites visited has also increased significantly. While Mr. Blix's report did underline that Iraq's cooperation with the inspection process has not been up to the required levels, its overall thrust suggests that Baghdad can be, and is being, nudged to move in the desired direction. Such a conclusion lends support to the position taken by France and a majority in the Security Council that an expansion and intensification of the inspection process is not only necessary and viable but will produce results. It also undermines the U.S. argument that Iraq cannot be rid of its WMD potential by any means short of war. There is, however, a need for those countries that have steadily opposed a war to ensure that Iraq abides by its commitment to rid itself of a WMD potential and does not take the cover of the widespread sympathy that it currently enjoys to so prolong the inspection process as to effectively nullify the objective.
While the reports do not provide a sufficient casus belli, it does not appear that Washington will be easily diverted from its intent, or its preparations, to wage war. The U.S. administration has invested too heavily in political, diplomatic and military terms for it to back off without serious loss of face. It would be tempting to believe that the public sentiment, and the protests, against war building rapidly within the U.S. and across the globe will halt the outbreak of hostilities. But Washington has been waxing so belligerent that expectations on these lines could well be belied.
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