Today's date:
Summer 1995

Monitoring Iraq

Rolf Ekeus is executive chairman of the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq. The Commission was set up after the gulf war to verify Iraq's compliance with the UN-imposed prohibition against development of long-range missiles, nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in that country.

BAGHDAD - The existing safeguard system under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is not, in itself, enough to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Though a good confidence-building mechanism between the states that have signed and ratified the NPT with the intention of not acquiring nuclear weapons, the safeguard system is not adequate for detecting efforts by parties to the NPT who, in violation of their obligations, actively and clandestinely try to pursue a nuclear weapons option. A clear example of this is Iraq which, in spite of being a party to the NPT, managed to proceed in secrecy with efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

The chief inadequacy of the NPT is that international inspections under its aegis are primarily focused only upon those facilities which are declared by governments. So far, no international inspection of a non-declared facility has been carried out under the safeguard regime. The experience in Iraq has shown that full transparency- that is, inspections of sensitive nondeclared facilities in addition to those declared-is necessary to verify non-proliferation. As the Chemical Weapons Convention shows, such transparency has also been considered indispensable for the credibility of the control system to ensure non-acquisition of chemical weapons.

In Iraq today, the UN Special Commission on Iraq, together with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has put together a highly sophisticated and state-of-the-art mechanism for monitoring and verification of Iraq's agreement to halt development of ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometers and to prevent the production of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

This mechanism consists of a wide array of monitoring instruments and technologies, from water-sampling to testing radioactivity levels, to chemical sensors and on-site cameras, to short-range aerial surveillance by helicopters and photographic surveillance by high-altitude U-2 reconnaissance airplanes -all providing information to the operations center in Baghdad, managed by the Special Commission and the IAEA. Also, in Baghdad, we have a laboratory where chemical and biological data picked up by the sensors can be immediately analyzed.

All the information gathered by these means is analyzed by experts in each of the weapons categories that are prohibited under the cease-fire agreement.

These experts, permanently posted in Baghdad, also have unrestricted access to every site and location in Iraq that they want to investigate. If prohibited items are found, they will be destroyed. Such access also enables us to ensure that "dual-use" technologies - machine tools, for example, which can be used to fashion a warhead as well as a dentist's chair-are being used solely for legitimate, not prohibited, activities.

Dual-use technologies, machines, machine tools and equipment are tagged and information on them is entered into a data system so that we can continuously monitor their use, even if they are transferred to another location or another production task.

Through such monitoring mechanisms, we discovered earlier this year that Iraq is now in possession of biological cultures that could be used for weapons that spread anthrax or other deadly diseases. While 17 pounds of such cultures could legitimately be used by hospitals in medical research, Iraq cannot account for 17 tons worth, which it now admits having purchased.

Such a quantity of growth media could be used for the production of biological agents for warfare purposes. We will press this issue daily until we have convincing evidence that all these biological items have been accounted for and eliminated.

Iraq, of course, is a special situation due to the imposition of strict monitoring and control as part of the cease-fire agreement between Iraq and the UN-backed coalition in the Gulf War. Few developing states, struggling to get a foothold in the world economy, would voluntarily allow that kind of full and open monitoring of their use of technology unless they get something in return.

While the NPT remains the backbone of international nonproliferation efforts, it is time to look upon further approaches to improve upon nonproliferation efforts. One such approach would be to explore the possibility of advanced countries sharing technology in exchange for full and open international inspections of dual-use facilities and activities using this technology. This offers a win-win situation far better than that which prevails today, where restricted policies make it difficult for developing nations to obtain the technology they need to prosper, yet at the same time fail to curb the development of mass-destruction weapons.

Under a system that trades technology for security, the world would become a safer place, the economies of developing countries would grow and industrialized countries would prosper selling technology. With access to advanced technology for the legitimate needs of economic development, why would any state want to hide the use of that technology (barring certain commercial confidentiality issues) unless it was building prohibited weapons?

Even with its shortcomings, including the inability to access every site for inspection, the agreement worked out between the United States and North Korea is a step down the road in this new approach. The philosophy behind that agreement is precisely that described above-the exchange of security controls for advanced energy production capability, in this case the building of a light-water reactor in North Korea to replace a reactor that could produce weapons-grade nuclear material. In its recent deal with Iran to supply a light-water reactor, Russia seems to have this same approach in mind.

Following this same line of reasoning, the Security Council recently put into place a new export/ import control mechanism for Iraq to monitor sensitive dual-purpose capabilities. All UN member states will be obliged under the new system to notify the UN of exports to Iraq of specifically listed items that could be used in prohibited weaponry so that we can tag them and track their use in Iraq.

Because this system will make the flow of technology imports and their use transparent, it will actually be easier to export technology to Iraq. Thus there will be no need to hold back commercial efforts because of a perceived risk that some exported equipment might end up in a prohibited weapons program. All potentially sensitive items arriving in Iraq will be subject to continuous monitoring. Hence, the items will not be put to prohibited use.

Open trade and open access to technology in exchange for the security of an open look: That is the most effective approach to nonproliferation today's world.

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