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Scott Ritter on Iraq by Sean Gonsalves
Published on Tuesday, March 7, 2000 in the Cape Cod Times
Scott Ritter on Iraq
by Sean Gonsalves
 
Last week, I interviewed Scott Ritter, who was part of the United Nations team in charge of dismantling Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Can you tell me about the "threat" that Saddam Hussein poses to the Middle East region, in particular; and the world in general?

"Let's talk about the weapons. In 1991, did Iraq have a viable weapons of mass destruction capability? You're darn right they did. They had a massive chemical weapons program. They had a giant biological weapons program. They had long-range ballistic missiles and they had a nuclear weapons program that was about six months away from having a viable weapon.

"Now after seven years of work by UNSCOM inspectors, there was no more (mass destruction) weapons program. It had been eliminated....When I say eliminated I'm talking about facilities destroyed....

"The weapons stock had been, by and large, accounted for - removed, destroyed or rendered harmless. Means of production had been eliminated, in terms of the factories that can produce this...."There were some areas that we didn't have full accounting for. And this is what plagued UNSCOM. Security Council 687 is an absolute resolution. It requires that Iraq be disarmed 100 percent. It's what they call 'quantitative disarmament.' Iraq will not be found in compliance until it has been disarmed to a 100 percent level. That's the standard set forth by the Security Council and as implementors of the Security Council resolution, the weapons inspectors had no latitude to seek to do anything less than that - 80 percent was not acceptable; 90 percent was not acceptable; only 100 percent was acceptable.

"And this was the Achilles tendon, so to speak, of UNSCOM. Because by the time 1997 came around, Iraq had been qualitatively disarmed. On any meaningful benchmark - in terms of defining Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capability; in terms of assessing whether or not Iraq posed a threat, not only to its immediate neighbors, but the region and the world as a whole - Iraq had been eliminated as such a threat....

"What was Iraq hiding? Documentation primarily - documents that would enable them to reconstitute - at a future date - weapons of mass destruction capability....But all of this is useless...unless Iraq has access to the tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars required to rebuild the industrial infrastructure (necessary) to build these weapons. They didn't have it in 1998. They don't have it today. This paranoia about what Iraq is doing now that there aren't weapons inspectors reflects a lack of understanding of the reality in Iraq.

"The economic sanctions have devastated this nation. The economic sanctions, combined with the effects of the Gulf War, have assured that Iraq operate as a Third World nation in terms of industrial output and capacity. They have invested enormous resources in trying to build a 150-kilometer range ballistic missile called the Al Samoud.

"In 1998 they ran some flight tests of prototypes that they had built of this missile. They fizzled. One didn't get off the stand. The other flipped over on the stand and blew up. The other one got up in the air and then went out of control and blew up. They don't have the ability to produce a short-range ballistic missile yet alone a long-range ballistic missile....

"The other thing to realize is: they are allowed to build this missile. It's not against the law. The law says anything under 150 kilometers they can build and yet people are treating this missile as if it's a threat to regional security....It's a tactical battlefield missile, that's it. Yet, (Congressman Tom) Lantos and others treat this as though it's some sort of latent capability and requires a ballistic missile defense system to guard against it. It's ridiculous. Iraq has no meaningful weapons of mass destruction program today.

"Now, having said that, I firmly believe we have to get weapons inspection back in for the purpose of monitoring...especially if we lift economic sanctions. And I believe that there should be immediate lifting of economic sanctions in return for the resumption of meaningful arms inspections. Iraq would go for that.

What Iraq is not going for is this so-called suspension of sanctions where the Iraqi economy is still controlled by the Security Council and held hostage to the whim of the United States, which has shown itself irresponsible in terms of formulating Iraq policy over the past decade. The United States still has a policy of overthrowing the regime of Saddam Hussein - in total disregard for international law and the provisions of the relevant Security Council resolutions.

"I, for one, believe that a.) Iraq represents a threat to no one, and b.) Iraq will not represent a threat to anyone if we can get weapons inspectors back in. Iraq will accept these inspectors if we agree to the immediate lifting of economic sanctions. The Security Council should re-evaluate Iraq's disarmament obligation from a qualitative standpoint and not a quantitative standpoint."

Sean Gonsalves is a Cape Cod Times staff writer and syndicated columinist. He can be reached via email: sgonsalves@capecodonline.com

Copyright 2000 Cape Cod Times.

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