The Inspectors Have Failed Us

On February 5 th Colin Powell will present America's case against Iraq to the UN Security Council. His appearance will come a week after Hans Blix and Mohammed al-Baradei--the chiefs of the UN inspectors--demonstrated their inability to fulfill their mandate. Khidhir Hamza, a former advisor to the Iraqi Atomic Energy Organization and former Director of Iraq's Nuclear Weapons Program, explains how and why the UN inspections failed.

Faced with reports of their failure to cooperate with the heads of the two UN inspection teams, the Iraqis have abandoned their description of the inspectors as independent professionals. Amir Rashid, the former head of the Iraqi military industry and an adviser to Saddam Hussein, now openly describes the inspectors as spies.

It was this Iraqi attitude of implacable hostility that, in 1998, forced UN weapons inspectors to leave the country, leading to today's confrontation. In view of that precedent, and what has happened in Iraq since Blix and al-Baradei have filed reports that contain some troubling surprises.

The UN's Resolution 1441 requires Iraqi disarmament in terms of actual weapons of mass destruction and the ability to make them. This is where the inspectors have focused so far. But Resolution 1441 also empowers the inspectors to gather intelligence about Iraq's weapons and weapon-making capabilities through in-depth interviews with Iraqi experts, either inside or outside the country, but certainly without Iraqi-government minders present. To assure the experts that they could talk without fear, the Resolution gave the inspectors the authority to bring entire families out of the country.