The French Suggestion

  • Share
  • Read Later

Chief United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix

With Friday looming as a pivotal briefing of the divided U.N. Security Council by chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix and International Atomic Energy Agency director Mohamed ElBaradei, France has made another effort to throw a roadblock on the path to war.

The following paper was sent to Blix and ElBaradei on Monday, a day before the members of the Security Council, and arrives on the media’s desks even as the U.S. and Britain reportedly are still readying a resolution making their own case that Iraq is in "material breach" of U.N. Resolution 1441. The French paper outlines a strengthened inspections regime that they say is within the current guidelines of Resolution 1441, and is a fleshing-out of France's Foreign Minister’s response last week to Colin Powell's presentation to the Security Council.

Will it work? Blix has said that more Iraqi cooperation, not more U.N. inspectors, is the way to make the inspection regime work as a true disarmament tool. France evidently thinks it may be able to change his mind.

Text of the French Proposal:

The purpose in strengthening the regime is to increase the effectiveness of inspections: they must be more intensive, more carefully targeted, more intrusive. Our approach is based on the need to compel Iraq to cooperate by taking the peaceful approach of intrusive inspections. To do this, it is necessary for the inspections to be carried out to their logical end, with the political, technical and material support of member States. The idea is to make sure that the present system submits the Iraqi authorities to continued pressure, and that they have no choice other than to “cooperate immediately, unconditionally and actively” with the inspectors as required under SCR 1441. The inspections were designed from the outset as a necessary intrusive instrument to ensure the elimination of banned Iraqi programs. Their role has always been conceived as compelling the Iraqis to comply with their obligations.


Strengthening Numbers and Diversifying Personnel

The objectives are to widen the geographic coverage of the country by increasing the number of inspectors in various parts of the territory, intensify the inspections (increasing the number and frequency of inspections), make them more intrusive, and lastly enable the inspectors to deal with sites that are widely spread out. The effectiveness of the inspections in terms of disarmament and containment would be increased. Such measures would make it much more difficult for Iraq to attempt any concealment.

There are about 110 UNMOVIC inspectors and nine IAEA inspectors in Iraq at this time. On average ten teams are in the field every day. So far, roughly half the designated sites have been inspected. If the number of inspectors is doubled (240) or tripled (360), then the number of daily inspections is doubled or tripled also.

Aside from doubling or tripling the number inspectors and inspections teams in the present specialties (chemical, biological, ballistic and nuclear weapons), other types of personnel and experts should be recruited:

- the security unit set up to protect the inspectors’ facilities could be significantly reinforced so as to monitor certain suspicious sites or sites already inspected in cases where UNMOVIC and the IAEA believe it necessary. Such personnel could also intervene in the framework of SCR 1441 which stipulates that the inspectors are authorized to freeze activity at a site, at least at the most extensive sites.

- To probe still further, UNMOVIC and the IAEA need not only arms experts but also experts in customs and accounting, archivists and other experts who can help improve their understanding of the nature of Iraqi proliferation programs on the basis of administrative, budgetary, financial and customs documents and archives, etc. An understanding of these aspects of Iraqi programs could allow UNMOVIC and the IAEA to proceed with more intrusive missions, including in archive centers.

- Administrative and technical support personnel and translators/interpreters to and from Arabic should be increased in proportion.

- Mobile customs teams should be established to check on the nature of goods entering Iraq and make sure there are no prohibited goods (military equipment barred under SCR 687 and dual-use goods included on the GRL and not approved by the 661 committee). Convoys would not be stopped systematically, but UNMOVIC could inspect cargos at will.

- UNMOVIC has a regional office at Mosul and will soon have one in Basra. Given the geographic distribution of the sites to be inspected, these two regional offices can cover the country well enough. An office in the west of the country would be useful nevertheless, particularly to serve as a base for the above-mentioned mobile customs units.

Strengthening Technical Resources

Aerial suveillance in particular must be increased. This would make it possible to conduct systematic sweeps over Iraqi territory and permanently monitor all the sites. Above all, the specific characteristics of each type of aircraft would make it possible to prepare and accompany inspections. They would enable UNMOVIC to promptly identify sites at which movements or changes may have been detected, and to send an inspection team immediately. Aerial reconnaissance would also ensure that once the inspectors have left a site it remains “frozen.” Surveillance at that frequency would reveal any possible efforts at concealment.

The aim is also to facilitate data collection and processing from national intelligence services. UNMOVIC and IAEA officials responsible for collecting such data could be mandated by Mr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei to establish a joint center or bureau, organically attached to both UNMOVIC and the IAEA. The bureau could be located in New York (or Vienna). It would be authorized to request, receive and process data from (1) national intelligence services and (2) information collected by UNMOVIC aerial reconnaissance. The structure should be kept relatively light, made up of five to ten high-level experts, especially photo-analysts. At the same time, the services of member States would be invited to cooperate more closely among themselves and to systematically send information to the UNMOVIC and IAEA coordination center.

Enhancing Methods

The objective is to have UNMOVIC and the IAEA draw up a complete list of unresolved disarmament questions in order of importance. The idea is to have a clear, precise and objective picture of the problems that still have to be clarified. It is not only to identify completely all the remaining outstanding issues but also to evaluate their importance and degree of priority. It is important to push the Iraqis up against a wall and not leave them any way out regarding the questions which they must answer and on which really active cooperation is expected. Such an exercise would also be useful in evaluating the nature of the threat Iraq represents.

The inspections should be organized and planned so as to move forward systematically in elucidating each of the outstanding questions. An order of priority needs to be established, along with a time-frame. A progress-report, or assessment of the lack of progress, in various identified areas should be made at regular intervals.

Placing a Coordinator in Iraq

Mr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei are not in Iraq all the time. It would be particularly useful for them to have a representative in Baghdad who could act as a relay for them and at the same time serve as an interlocutor with the Iraqi authorities on a day-to-day basis. Such a representative could also be responsible for coordinating UNMOVIC and IAEA activities on the spot. On a daily basis he would synthesize the questions and problems and liaise with the Iraqi authorities. He would be responsible for synthesizing the interim progress reports on each question at regular intervals.


Our intention is to implement these proposals in close liaison with UNMOVIC and the IAEA. Naturally, the modes of application of these various proposals should be decided as a priority by Mr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei.

UNMOVIC and the IAEA have sufficient funding in reserve to strengthen the inspections mechanism as envisioned. UNMOVIC has accumulated resources from the two and half years it was in existence before the inspectors returned to Iraq, and during that period its expenditure was far less than its resources. The commission’s account continues to be regularly funded as Iraq continues to export oil (0.8% of oil receipts paid into an escrow account).

With regard to personnel, the UNMOVIC roster lists about 350 experts, including the 110 inspectors already there. Rotations are currently planned every three months. Accordingly it is possible to double the inspection staff immediately by extending the length of stay and immediately mobilizing the rest of the experts on the list. The numbers could be tripled quickly as experts can be selected and trained without delay. Training sessions, by groups of 60, last from three to five weeks.

Regarding technical resources, several countries have announced they are ready to provide immediately additional reconnaissance aircraft. In addition to the U2s, the following are available: Russian Antonov, French Mirage IV and German drones.