Additional Questions from TIME's Interview with Hans Blix

  • Share
  • Read Later
TIME: Have you seen any sign that the massive worldwide demonstrations against a war have emboldened Saddam Hussein to drag his heels?

Blix: No, not yet. But we have seen internal legislation that came from Iraq. We had been told that there would be a law going through the national assembly, and the very same morning that I gave my statement we received a decree. It was very short and signed by President Saddam Hussein, and we haven't heard anything since then. We have been asking them, is this the beginning? Are you going to go further with complete legislation, or is this all? If it is all, it's very limited.

TIME: Don't the al-Samoud rockets, which exceed the proscribed range, constitute a material breach?

Blix:The decision whether something is a material breach is for the Security Council to make. We conclude that these modified missiles are a proscribed category because they have the capability of going over 150 kilometers. One short note, however, is that they were not produced clandestinely. They did declare them in the backlog of the semi-annual declarations, and they have been very forthcoming in explaining to us the various parameters. Nevertheless, if they are outside the lines laid down by the Security Council, then of course they are proscribed and must be destroyed.

TIME: If Saddam Hussein had intentions to use weapons of mass destruction, could those intentions be neutralized by inspections and monitoring?

Blix:I think it's difficult for them to establish an infrastructure — an industrial infrastructure that is of any great size. Nuclear is the best example. In 1991, we found that they were building enrichment plants. These were fairly big things and they were destroyed altogether. They were exploded with dynamite. Most people worry about bacteriological weapons. But perhaps it is the least likely weapon to help Saddam further an expansionist policy. For a terrorist policy, yes. But for an expansionist policy, I don't suppose that you go and take Saudi Arabia out with bacteriological weapons. I'm not a military man, but I wouldn't have thought so. Chemical weapons are also not something that you would really win a war with.

Now, I think in the U.S. assessment, it would also take a number of years before they could mount a capacity of their own to enrich uranium. Getting the yellow cake, the raw materials, is not so difficult. But to enrich uranium requires much more. This is what they eventually stumbled on. If they were able to import something on the black market, that's a different story. If they were able to import plutonium or 30 kilograms of enriched uranium, that would be a different story. I think this worries the U.S. But if you take the larger installations, I think one could spot that through the monitoring — if you have the kind of intrusive inspection with the possibility of going anywhere at any time, and the vigilance that this requires from the Security Council.

TIME: When do you next update the Security Council?

Blix:A written report on the first of March. And I will discuss it with the Council the following week.

TIME: Was there anything in Secretary of State Powell's presentation (to the Security Council) that surprised you or alarmed you?

Blix: No, I think it was an excellent presentation.

TIME: The intercepts where he has officials talking to other officials?

Blix: Well, I think several things could be interpreted in different ways, but I'm not going to analyze them.

TIME: Those skeptical of inspections say that only defectors produced breakthroughs in the past.

Blix: That's nonsense. Some people say that the early discoveries in the nuclear field were due to defectors. There were defectors in this sphere, but my recollection is that a major part of it was satellite information at that time. Much of the VX suspicions comes from sampling. Also the first suspicions about Iraq enriching uranium is a nice story which you may not have heard. You may recall that before the Gulf War, the Iraqis took hostages. Some American hostages were taken to Tuwaitha, which was the nuclear research center. Then the hostages were released, and the U.S. took their clothes and on the clothes there was dust. They analyzed it at their laboratories and they said, ah, there's the enrichment.

Moreover, there are lots of other choices. Defectors are valuable, but you have to be very cautious with defectors. Defectors have a natural wish to make themselves interesting and provide things that are sensational. It increases their chances of asylum. The CIA and everybody knows that.

TIME: There's also a very depressing scenario out there: Even if the Iraqis do what you say they should do, which is open up and say, the game's up, here's everything we've got, and everybody can agree that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction have been removed, the moment you leave, the moment the U.S. forces go, they'll just start it back up.

Blix: If there are well-behaved governments in the whole world, that would be desirable. But you can even see designs for nuclear weapons on the internet and chemical weapons, too. But that brings us back to monitoring them. The continuous monitoring of the country. And the less confidence you have in what they're doing, the more monitoring it will take.