Published on Friday, November 21, 2003 by Reuters
Bleak Outlook for US in Iraq Says Blix
STOCKHOLM - "There's a hatred against the United States and you have 130,000 American troops sitting there as a big target," said Hans Blix as he leaned forward to make his point about the future of Iraq and its military occupation.
"The borders, although guarded, are not watertight. Weapons of mass destruction may not be there but conventional weapons are and the U.S. does not have the capacity to guard it all," Blix added. "The outlook is bad."
His time over as chief U.N. weapons inspector, he has a bone to pick with those who took the United States and Britain to war with Iraq on claims that Baghdad could wage quick and terrible destruction.
"This was the basis upon which the war was sold and justified and today I think no one would say Iraq constituted a danger in the Spring of 2003," said the 75-year-old Swede.
First there is a book he is writing, to be called "Weapons of Mass Destruction," which he says will exhume issues and facts that some might prefer to remain buried.
Then there is a new commission against weapons of mass destruction -- paid for by Sweden and supported by international think-tanks -- he is putting together and heading.
He says both projects will bear fruit quickly, but his 70,000 word book should appear first and set the record straight about Iraq, at least from his perspective.
A deal has been signed with publisher Bloomsbury and the manuscript should be finished by the end of the year.
"I was one of those who saw so much of what was happening and I have an obligation to write about that," Blix said. "I have a lot of clarifications. There will be lots of interesting things, yes."
The Hans Blix you meet at the door of his nondescript 1960s downtown apartment is not the Hans Blix who confidently walked the world stage last year. Every day he was caught in a vortex of lights and television cameras, as the world watched and weighed for nuance his every word on whether his inspectors had found in Iraq horrible weapons -- as it lurched toward war.
Then, he was the master diplomat who parried the increasingly strident and irreconcilable expectations of the Americans and Iraqis in a calm and judicial manner.
Now, he comes to the front door in cardigan and carpet slippers, comfortable in a home that is large but not lavish. His beloved carpets, from the Middle East to Russia, collected for years as he traveled the world, line the floors and walls.
The bookshelves contain well-thumbed copies of Hali magazine, the bible for carpet collectors. The picture is of cozy domesticity.
Despite appearances, the former Swedish foreign minister who for 16 years headed the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, remains full of questions and nagging doubts.
He says the politicians, in their haste to go to war, did not lie outright to their people, but they distorted facts, ignored evidence and stretched the truth.
"As a citizen I am indignant at what happened," he said.
He believes the political fortunes of U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair are now tethered to what happens in Iraq.
"It depends on how it goes. If it continues -- more people are killed --- people will ask what got them there in the first place and why they never found weapons of mass destruction," he said.
His tone is measured. The man with a double doctorate from Uppsala and Cambridge universities is known for his cool analysis.
But neither is he afraid to take issue with Washington, repeating his view that despite repeated searches by the Americans, every day makes him more convinced that weapons of mass destruction will never be found in Iraq.
He also says the Americans are wrong to assume that Iran used a civilian energy program to develop a nuclear bomb -- another point of tension with several European countries.
Blix says his new international commission on weapons of mass destruction, announced by Sweden in July, is close to being formed and among the participants will be a leading but as yet unidentified American. The commission will report its findings in 2005 -- but don't expect Blix to be silent in the meantime.
© Copyright 2003 Reuters Ltd.