Kingdom Parliamentary Proceedings
18 Mar 2003 : Column 760
War Against Iraq
[Relevant document: The Fourth Report from the International Development
Committee, on Preparing for the humanitarian consequences of possible military
action against Iraq (HC444-I).]
The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair):
I beg to move,
That this House notes its decisions of 25th November 2004
and 26th February 2003 to endorse UN Security Council Resolution 1441;
recognises that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and long range missiles,
and its continuing non-compliance with Security Council Resolutions, pose a
threat to international peace and security; notes that in the 130 days since
Resolution 1441 was adopted Iraq has not co-operated actively,
unconditionally and immediately with the weapons inspectors, and has
rejected the final opportunity to comply and is in further material breach
of its obligations under successive mandatory UN Security Council
Resolutions; regrets that despite sustained diplomatic effort by Her
Majesty's Government it has not proved possible to secure a second
Resolution in the UN because one Permanent Member of the Security Council
made plain in public its intention to use its veto whatever the
circumstances; notes the opinion of the Attorney General that, Iraq having
failed to comply and Iraq being at the time of Resolution 1441 and
continuing to be in material breach, the authority to use force under
Resolution 678 has revived and so continues today; believes that the United
Kingdom must uphold the authority of the United Nations as set out in
Resolution 1441 and many Resolutions preceding it, and therefore supports
the decision of Her Majesty's Government that the United Kingdom should use
all means necessary to ensure the disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass
destruction; offers wholehearted support to the men and women of Her
Majesty's Armed Forces now on duty in the Middle East; in the event of
military operations requires that, on an urgent basis, the United Kingdom
should seek a new Security Council Resolution that would affirm Iraq's
territorial integrity, ensure rapid delivery of humanitarian relief, allow
for the earliest possible lifting of UN sanctions, an international
reconstruction programme, and the use of all oil revenues for the benefit of
the Iraqi people and endorse an appropriate post-conflict administration for
Iraq, leading to a representative government which upholds human rights and
the rule of law for all Iraqis; and also welcomes the imminent publication
of the Quartet's roadmap as a significant step to bringing a just and
lasting peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians and for the wider
Middle East region, and endorses the role of Her Majesty's Government in
actively working for peace between Israel and Palestine.
At the outset, I say that it is right that the House debate this issue and
pass judgment. That is the democracy that is our right, but that others
struggle for in vain. Again, I say that I do not disrespect the views in
opposition to mine. This is a tough choice indeed, but it is also a stark one:
to stand British troops down now and turn back, or to hold firm to the course
that we have set. I believe passionately that we must hold firm to that
course. The question most often posed is not "Why does it matter?"
but "Why does it matter so much?" Here we are, the Government, with
their most serious test, their majority at risk, the first Cabinet
resignation over an issue of policy, the main parties internally divided,
people who agree on everything else—
The main parties?
The Prime Minister
: Ah, yes, of course. The Liberal Democrats—unified, as ever, in opportunism
and error. [Interruption.]
The country and the Parliament reflect each other. This is a debate that,
as time has gone on, has become less bitter but no less grave. So why does it
matter so much? Because the outcome of this issue will now determine more than
the fate of the Iraqi regime and more than the future of the Iraqi people who
have been brutalised by Saddam for so long, important though those issues are.
It will determine the way in which Britain and the world confront the central
security threat of the 21st century, the development of the United Nations,
the relationship between Europe and the United States, the relations within
the European Union and the way in which the United States engages with the
rest of the world. So it could hardly be more important. It will determine the
pattern of international politics for the next generation.
First, let us recap the history of Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. In
April 1991, after the Gulf war, Iraq was given 15 days to provide a full and
final declaration of all its weapons of mass destruction. Saddam had used the
weapons against Iran and against his own people, causing thousands of deaths.
He had had plans to use them against allied forces. It became clear, after the
Gulf war, that Iraq's WMD ambitions were far more extensive than had hitherto
been thought. So the issue was identified by the United Nations at that time
as one for urgent remedy. UNSCOM, the weapons inspection team, was set up. It
was expected to complete its task, following the declaration, at the end of
April 1991. The declaration, when it came, was false: a blanket denial of the
programme, other than in a very tentative form. And so the 12-year game began.
The inspectors probed. Finally, in March 1992, Iraq admitted that it had
previously undeclared weapons of mass destruction, but it said that it had
destroyed them. It gave another full and final declaration. Again the
inspectors probed. In October 1994, Iraq stopped co-operating with the weapons
inspectors altogether. Military action was threatened. Inspections resumed. In
March 1996, in an effort to rid Iraq of the inspectors, a further full and
final declaration of WMD was made. By July 1996, however, Iraq was forced to
admit that declaration, too, was false.
In August, it provided yet another full and final declaration. Then, a week
later, Saddam's son-in-law, Hussein Kamal, defected to Jordan. He disclosed a
far more extensive biological weapons programme and, for the first time, said
that Iraq had weaponised the programme—something that Saddam had always
strenuously denied. All this had been happening while the inspectors were in
Kamal also revealed Iraq's crash programme to produce a nuclear weapon in
the 1990s. Iraq was then forced to release documents that showed just how
extensive those programmes were. In November 1996, Jordan intercepted
prohibited components for missiles that could be used for weapons of mass
destruction. Then a further "full and final declaration" was made.
That, too, turned out to be false.
In June 1997, inspectors were barred from specific sites. In September
1997, lo and behold, yet another "full and final declaration" was
made—also false. Meanwhile, the inspectors discovered VX nerve agent
production equipment, the existence of which had always been denied by the
In October 1997, the United States and the United Kingdom threatened military
action if Iraq refused to comply with the inspectors. Finally, under threat of
action in February 1998, Kofi Annan went to Baghdad and negotiated a
memorandum with Saddam to allow inspections to continue. They did continue,
for a few months. In August, co-operation was suspended.
In December, the inspectors left. Their final report is a withering
indictment of Saddam's lies, deception and obstruction, with large quantities
of weapons of mass destruction unaccounted for. Then, in December 1998, the US
and the UK undertook Desert Fox, a targeted bombing campaign to degrade as
much of the Iraqi WMD facility as we could.
In 1999, a new inspection team, UNMOVIC, was set up. Saddam refused to
allow those inspectors even to enter Iraq. So there they stayed, in limbo,
until, after resolution 1441 last November, they were allowed to return.
That is the history—and what is the claim of Saddam today? Why, exactly
the same as before: that he has no weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, we are
asked to believe that after seven years of obstruction and non-compliance,
finally resulting in the inspectors' leaving in 1998—seven years in which he
hid his programme and built it up, even when the inspectors were there in
Iraq—when they had left, he voluntarily decided to do what he had
consistently refused to do under coercion.
When the inspectors left in 1998, they left unaccounted for 10,000 litres
of anthrax; a far-reaching VX nerve agent programme; up to 6,500 chemical
munitions; at least 80 tonnes of mustard gas, and possibly more than 10 times
that amount; unquantifiable amounts of sarin, botulinum toxin and a host of
other biological poisons; and an entire Scud missile programme. We are asked
now seriously to accept that in the last few years—contrary to all history,
contrary to all intelligence—Saddam decided unilaterally to destroy those
weapons. I say that such a claim is palpably absurd.
Resolution 1441 is very clear. It lays down a final opportunity for Saddam to
disarm. It rehearses the fact that he has for years been in material breach of
17 UN resolutions. It says that this time compliance must be full,
unconditional and immediate, the first step being a full and final declaration
of all weapons of mass destruction to be given on 8 December last year.
I will not go through all the events since then, as the House is familiar
with them, but this much is accepted by all members of the UN Security
Council: the 8 December declaration is false. That in itself, incidentally, is
a material breach. Iraq has taken some steps in co-operation, but no one
disputes that it is not
18 Mar 2003 : Column 763
fully co-operating. Iraq continues to deny that it has any weapons of mass
destruction, although no serious intelligence service anywhere in the world
On 7 March, the inspectors published a remarkable document. It is 173 pages
long, and details all the unanswered questions about Iraq's weapons of mass
destruction. It lists 29 different areas in which the inspectors have been
unable to obtain information. On VX, for example, it says:
"Documentation available to UNMOVIC suggests that Iraq
at least had had far reaching plans to weaponise VX".
On mustard gas, it says:
"Mustard constituted an important part . . . of Iraq's
CW arsenal . . . 550 mustard filled shells and up to 450 mustard filled
aerial bombs unaccounted for . . . additional uncertainty"
with respect to over 6,500 aerial bombs,
"corresponding to approximately 1,000 tonnes of agent,
On biological weapons, the inspectors' report states:
"Based on unaccounted for growth media, Iraq's
potential production of anthrax could have been in the range of about 15,000
to 25,000 litres . . . Based on all the available evidence, the strong
presumption is that about 10,000 litres of anthrax was not destroyed and may
On that basis, I simply say to the House that, had we meant what we said in
resolution 1441, the Security Council should have convened and condemned Iraq
as in material breach. What is perfectly clear is that Saddam is playing the
same old games in the same old way. Yes, there are minor concessions, but
there has been no fundamental change of heart or mind.
However, after 7 March, the inspectors said that there was at least some
co-operation, and the world rightly hesitated over war. Let me now describe to
the House what then took place.
We therefore approached a second resolution in this way. As I said, we
could have asked for the second resolution then and there, because it was
justified. Instead, we laid down an ultimatum calling upon Saddam to come into
line with resolution 1441, or be in material breach. That is not an
unreasonable proposition, given the history, but still countries hesitated.
They asked, "How do we judge what is full co-operation?"
So we then worked on a further compromise. We consulted the inspectors and
drew up five tests, based on the document that they published on 7 March.
Those tests included allowing interviews with 30 scientists to be held outside
Iraq, and releasing details of the production of the anthrax, or at least of
the documentation showing what had happened to it. The inspectors added
another test: that Saddam should publicly call on Iraqis to co-operate with
So we constructed this framework: that Saddam should be given a specified
time to fulfil all six tests to show full co-operation; and that, if he did
so, the inspectors could then set out a forward work programme that would
extend over a period of time to make sure that disarmament happened. However,
if Saddam failed to meet those tests to judge compliance, action would follow.
So there were clear benchmarks, plus a clear ultimatum. Again, I defy
anyone to describe that as an unreasonable proposition.
18 Mar 2003 : Column 764
Last Monday, we were getting very close with it. We very nearly had the
majority agreement. If I might, I should particularly like to thank the
President of Chile for the constructive way in which he approached this issue.
Yes, there were debates about the length of the ultimatum, but the basic
construct was gathering support. Then, on Monday night, France said that it
would veto a second resolution, whatever the circumstances. Then France
denounced the six tests. Later that day, Iraq rejected them. Still, we
continued to negotiate, even at that point.
Last Friday, France said that it could not accept any resolution with an
ultimatum in it. On Monday, we made final efforts to secure agreement.
However, the fact is that France remains utterly opposed to anything that lays
down an ultimatum authorising action in the event of non-compliance by Saddam.
Hugh Bayley (City of York):
Will my right hon. Friend give way?
The Prime Minister:
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I took the view that Britain should not
engage in military action without a second resolution, but the decision of
some members of the Security Council to back away from the commitment that
they gave in November to enforce resolution 1441 has made me change my mind.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that France's decision to use the veto against
any further Security Council resolution has, in effect, disarmed the UN
instead of disarming Iraq?
The Prime Minister:
Of course I agree with my hon. Friend. The House should just consider the
position that we were asked to adopt. Those on the Security Council opposed to
us say that they want Saddam to disarm, but they will not countenance any new
resolution that authorises force in the event of non-compliance. That is their
position—no to any ultimatum and no to any resolution that stipulates that
failure to comply will lead to military action. So we must demand that Saddam
disarms, but relinquish any concept of a threat if he does not.
From December 1998 to December 2004, no UN inspector was allowed to inspect
anything in Iraq. For four years, no inspection took place. What changed
Saddam's mind was the threat of force. From December to January, and then from
January through to February, some concessions were made. What changed his
mind? It was the threat of force. What makes him now issue invitations to the
inspectors, discover documents that he said he never had, produce evidence of
weapons supposed to be non-existent, and destroy missiles he said he would
keep? It is the imminence of force. The only persuasive power to which he
responds is 250,000 allied troops on his doorstep. However, when that fact is
so obvious, we are told that any resolution that authorises force in the event
of non-compliance will be vetoed—not just opposed, but vetoed and blocked.
-- 30 --
'Don't sleep in the Subway, Darling...'
Dr. Hussein Al Shahristani, Chairman of the Iraqi Refugee Aid
Once Iraq’s top nuclear
scientist, Shahristani says subway plans drawn up by several international firms were given
to the Iraqi military.
“[Hussein] told his military, ‘Well, we have these designs for the
tunnels, go ahead and do them, but not for metro, for our chem/bio weapons. We
can hide them, move them around.’”
“I’ve spoken to one person who has been in these tunnels,” says
Shahristani, “We believe now it is more than 100 kilometers of very complex
network, multi-layer tunnels.”
Among the weapons Shahristani believes may be hidden in the tunnels are deadly
agents like Sarin, possibly anthrax and also the nerve agent VX. The oily,
sticky VX is what the former chemist’s contacts are telling him Hussein wants
to use to form a chemical belt around Baghdad. “VX… will kill within a few
minutes or a few seconds… The lethal dose of it is one milligram. So nobody
can escape and whoever wants to attack the city has to cross this chemical belt
first and then enter into street fighting,” says Shahristani.
The tunnels may also hide Hussein or provide an escape route for him. “He
actually has a tunnel that can withstand a nuclear blast and if he survives in
the tunnel, he has won the war because, for him, winning the war means surviving
it,” Shahristani says.
Shahristani was tortured and spent 11 years in solitary for refusing to build an
atomic bomb for Hussein. He escaped prison during an Allied bombing raid during
the Gulf War. He hopes to return to his homeland and help rebuild it after the
war he is sure will begin soon.
"My understanding is that Saddam Hussein has some mobile units with preventers to produce biological germs, and
Saddam Hussein has some underground stores to hide what remains of his chemical weapons. And there’s also a network of tunnels, under Baghdad where some of the weapons are kept.
"Originally, they were built to connect the basements of the presidential palaces to the airport, to a number of sensitive sites in the city. And later on, they would develop as a network where the regime can move around freely without being exposed to the people at the surface and also...
"Well, I don’t really know why they haven’t tried to go to these tunnels yet. Of course, it’s not something that people will easily find entrance to, but the inspectors with all the intelligence support that they are supposedly having should have been able to find their way into the tunnel system.
"I think the scientists realize very well that if they say anything that the regime doesn’t want them to say, not only on their lives and their families, but even their extended family, the whole, you know, their neighborhood could be taken away and never to be seen again. I mean, people have seen this happening to their colleagues, and they would not risk their lives and the lives of their families again."
"When I met Saddam Hussein at the Atomic Energy Commission board (in the
late 1970s), it was clear that he was a vicious dictator who would not hesitate
to eliminate anybody who dares to stand up to him, or even disagree with him on
minor issues. He had just executed half of the Revolutionary Command Council and
the Baath leadership that brought him to power.
"By the time Saddam became president
in 1979, it became more and more difficult for a scientist like myself just to
go quietly to his lab and do his peaceful research. There were more security
officers and personnel assigned to our labs. Our movements were observed more
"When I informed Saddam that Iraq was obliged by international
agreements to work only on peaceful nuclear applications, he told me that I was
a good scientist and I should concentrate on my scientific work, and leave
politics to him.
"I did not find him very respectful of scientists, because he was not able to finish his own university education. One day he went to the University of Baghdad school of engineering and told the staff that the Ph.D. theses they were considering were not up to international standards and Iraqi universities should be the best in the world. He said therefore he had decided that no Ph.D. degree would be honored to anybody without his approval of the Ph.D. dissertation. Just to show that he knows more than anybody else.
"I was taken to the Baghdad security headquarters, down to the basement where the torture chambers are, and they started to torture me. This continued for 22 days and nights. They hanged me by my wrists. They used high voltage probes on sensitive parts of my body and beat me continuously. Later, Saddam’s stepbrother came and told me that Saddam was very sorry for what had happened to me and they would like me to go back to my work at the Atomic Energy Commission. He said I was needed to help build an atomic bomb (Shahristani refused). These were his exact words. He said the bomb would give us a long arm with which Iraq would reshape the map of the Middle East. I was kept for over 10 years in solitary confinement.
"Saddam will use any means at his disposal to stay in power. He will try
to take as many Iraqis down with him in a hope that he will stir up the
international conscience to stop the war because of the civilian casualties. I
have information from inside Iraq that Saddam plans to distribute his chemical
weapons in particular in major Shiite towns in southern Iraq. He plans to
remotely detonate them and expose the population to nerve agents and cause very
large scale civilian deaths.
British Foreign Office Briefing - 2 Dec 2004
Edited Transcript of a briefing given by UK Foreign Office Officials and
Dr Hussein Al-Shahristani, London, England, 2 December 2004
Introduction by FCO Official:
The purpose of this briefing is to launch the Foreign Office’s Report on Human Rights in Iraq which the Foreign Secretary announced in his speech to the Atlantic Partnership earlier this morning. Joining us is Dr Hussein al-Shahristani, the Chairman of the Iraqi Refugee Aid Council. Dr Hussein was imprisoned for 11 years by the Iraqi regime and tortured. He escaped from Iraq during the Gulf War.
The easiest and the most straightforward way to introduce the dossier is to use the Foreign Secretary’s own words from the speech he was making this morning on this subject. As the Foreign Secretary pointed out, we have a policy now towards Iraq which is based on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441, the objective of which is the peaceful disarmament of Saddam’s arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, an arsenal he has been prepared to use not only against external enemies, such as Iran, but as a means of oppressing his own people too. It is surely a regime of unique horror which is prepared to kill thousands of its own civilians by poisonous gas, yet what occurred in Halabjah in 1988 is a vivid demonstration of the integral part Saddam’s WMD play in the rule of fear which pervades Iraq today. So by disarming Iraq we not only help those countries in the region which are subject to Iraqi threats and intimidation, we also deprive Saddam of one of his most powerful tools for keeping the Iraqi people living in fear and subjugation.
So today we are publishing this report of the appalling human rights record of Saddam’s regime. It is the most detailed account the Government has ever published on this subject. It includes intelligence material, first hand accounts of Iraqi victims of torture and oppression, reports by NGOs and by the UN Special Rapporteur as well.
The aim is to remind the world that the abuses of the Iraqi regime extend far beyond its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, in violation of its international obligations. The dossier, as you may have seen, makes for harrowing reading with accounts of torture, rape and other horrific human rights abuses. It makes clear these are carried out as part of the deliberate policy of the regime.
The Iraqi people themselves are powerless to speak out about these abuses. Anyone criticizing the President is liable to have his tongue amputated. Only the outside world is free to speak about the barbarity of Saddam Hussein’s regime, which is why we have published our dossier.
DR HUSSEIN AL-SHAHRISTANI:
I have been a witness to Saddam’s violations of human rights in Iraq. I was the Chief Scientist of the Iraqi Atomic Energy Organization until 1979, working on peaceful applications of atomic energy. I was arrested, tortured and kept in solitary confinement for over 11 years for refusing to work on the military nuclear program. However, I was more fortunate than many of my fellow political prisoners in the country. I did not have holes drilled into my bones, as happened in the next torture room. I did not have my limbs cut off by an electric saw. I did not have my eyes gauged out. My three children were brought in to the torture chamber but they were not tortured to death in front of me to force me to make confessions to things I had not done. Women of my family were not brought in and raped in front of me, as happened to many of my colleagues. Torturers did not dissolve my hands in acid. I was not among the hundreds of political prisoners who were taken from prison as guinea-pigs to be used for chemical and biological tests.
They only tortured me for 22 days and nights continuously by hanging me from my hands tied at the back and using a high voltage probe on the sensitive parts of my body and beating me mercilessly. They were very careful not to leave any permanent bodily marks on me because they hope they can break my will and I will agree to go back and work on their military nuclear program.
In a way I was lucky to spend 11 years in solitary confinement because I did not have to see what was going on in the larger prison – the country of Iraq – in which 20 million people were kept captives. I did not have to witness the ceremonies in which mothers were ordered to watch public executions of their sons and then asked to pay the price of the bullets that were used in the executions. I did not have to watch people’s tongues being pulled out and cut off because they dared to criticize Saddam or one of his family members. I did not see young men’s foreheads branded and their ears cut off because they were late for a few days to report to their military duties. I did not see the beautiful southern Iraqi Marshes drained and the reeds burnt and the Marsh Arabs massacred and their old ways of life destroyed. I did not see the beheading of more than 130 women, who were beheaded in public squares in Iraq, and their heads put out for public display.
In many ways I was fortunate to have survived it all to tell the stories of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who are not here to tell their stories. These atrocities have been going on for over two decades while the international community have either silently watched it, or at times even tried to cover it up. Saddam is not a run-of-the-mill dictator; he is exceptional. Weapons of mass destruction at Saddam’s hands are dangerous to the Iraqi people and to mankind.
However, as important as it is to eliminate the weapons of mass destruction, it is more important to protect the people who may be destroyed en masse by these weapons at Saddam’s hands. The international community should be more concerned and committed to implement Security Council resolutions such as 688 to protect the Iraqi people and safeguard their basic human rights at least as much as enforcing resolutions to disarm Saddam.
Dr Hussein, when you have made these charges or presented this evidence to fellow Arabs, to people from Muslim societies, what has their reaction been? Have they not also condemned Saddam Hussein for torturing and killing Arabs?
Yes. We have discussed this evidence with many Arab human rights organizations who take note of it and are interested in what we say, but the Arab masses unfortunately are suffering to one degree or another from human rights abuses in their own countries by their own governments, and for them this is just another Arab dictator who is mistreating his people. But they fail to see, as I said in my presentation, that he is not really a run-of-the-mill dictator, he is exceptional.
I would like to ask a representative of the Foreign Office: isn’t this report simply giving the Government justification for a war in Iraq? And if that is not true, why is it that we haven’t seen reports on Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, or the torture and illegal detention of British prisoners in Saudi Arabia? It seems odd that we should be looking at video footage and reading about events, most of which happened 10 years ago, at this critical time politically. Either we have a consistent human rights policy and ethical foreign policy, or are we just giving ourselves justification really for what many people think is going to be a war in the New Year?
I think we have to start from the position of what is our policy overall to Iraq. Our policy overall towards Iraq, which is now encapsulated in Security Council Resolution 1441, has a very clear objective, and that objective is the disarmament of Iraq through peaceful means through the weapons inspection regime, which we are doing all we can to support at the moment. Now there is a connection between weapons of mass destruction and human rights and that is why we have thought it right to bring to your attention today the evidence in this dossier. There is a connection in at least two respects. The first respect is the historical record where weapons of mass destruction were used, particularly in Northern Iraq, in order to suppress opposition to Saddam Hussein’s regime, and that is a matter of record.
But there is a second sense in which this is important and there is a strong connection, and that is the psychological sense that these weapons are still there and they are available for use against opposition. Indeed if you look at the dossier you will see that we have got, courtesy of Harvard University, a document which sets instructions out for dealing with demonstrations, and part of those instructions for dealing with demonstrations talk about the use of special measures, which are chemical weapons, in order to wipe out the objective of 95% of demonstrators at a demonstration. So there is a past connection on the record between WMD and human rights, and there is a present psychological and government policy record. Now if you look at the overall policy objective, which is about disarmament of WMD, you see you cannot disconnect the human rights performance in Iraq from that and that is why we have thought it right, as part of our overall policy, to draw this to your attention.
For these reasons, we believe Iraq merits special attention, but we don’t overlook other countries. We publish an annual human rights report which includes a wide range of countries, including some of the ones you mentioned. And finally on the date of the material, if you look through the dossier you will find plenty of examples from the last 2–3 years and the last couple of months as well.
Given this dossier and given the evidence you say you have, are you proposing that Saddam Hussein and other senior Iraqi officials should at some stage face a War Crimes Tribunal or trial within Iraq? If not, why not?
We are not saying no to an International War Crimes Tribunal. This is a very complex area of international law. The international community as a whole has really got to agree amongst itself what the right remedy is going to be, and it hasn’t done that yet.
My question is to Dr Hussein. I wonder if you could give us an idea of how you actually managed to get out and what are your most vivid memories of when you were captured and tortured?
During the Desert Storm operations I managed to escape from Aboreb Prison and left Baghdad the same night to the north, to Sirimani (phon) in Iraqi Kurdistan and went into hiding until there was an uprising in which I took part in the city of Sirimani and where Saddam’s forces were allowed to crush the uprising. We had to flee. I fled with more than a million other Iraqis across the borders into Iran and stayed at refugee camps and started my human rights work from that point. My most vivid memory is hearing the screams of very young children being tortured in the neighboring torturing rooms.
Given that these human rights abuses, as you say, have been going on for 20 years, why do you think the British government is producing evidence like this now?
I do share the concern that has been expressed that this should have been noticed and acted upon a long time ago. I am sorry that the international community, including the British government, has not been as active as it should have been in trying to force the regime to stop such violations of human rights. However, later is better than never and I do call upon all other international organizations, governments, the Security Council in particular, to see that the Resolution 688 is actually enforced on the regime and the Iraqi people are protected under this resolution from the abuses of the regime.
You say that you are not putting forward human rights abuses as justification for an invasion. Supposing that Saddam Hussein does comply with the inspectors, weapons of mass destruction are removed, there is no invasion, what then are you going to do about these human rights abuses? You advance the argument that removing weapons of mass destruction is going to be a help, but you don’t need weapons of mass destruction to cut out people’s tongues or brand people’s foreheads.
It is a very good point. If we get to the happy conclusion that we have disarmed Iraq of its WMD successfully through the weapons inspection regime, as you say that will have removed one area where we are concerned about human rights, then we will be treating Iraq as we treat other countries where there are gross violations of human rights: through the annual UN mechanisms, through our own human rights work around the world, and we will be taking opportunities as they arise to put pressure on the Iraqi regime. It has to be said that if the Iraqi regime were to get rid of its WMD it would be a changed regime in the sense that as a minimum its behavior will have changed, so there may be scope for pressing for other changes too.
Recently Saddam has actually released lots of prisoners from Aboreb and other prisons and he is also flirting with some opposition parties. He seems to be doing what people have been asking him to do for many years, obviously under pressure. Do you acknowledge that he is changing and does that reflect at all on this report that he is actually doing some of the things that we have been wanting him to do for 20 years?
There was an amnesty in Iraq last month, they did release thousands of prisoners. The overwhelming majority of these - over 90% - were normal criminals, very, very few of them were political prisoners. Of the more than 10,000 people that were arrested with me during 1979 and 1980 and were kept at Aboreb Prison at the time, only one person has been released. Of the tens of thousands of people that were arrested during the uprising and after the uprising of March 1991, none has been released, including the over 100 religious scholars from Najaf that have been arrested and taken away from Najaf. From among the tens of thousands of political prisoners that were arrested in late 1998, early 1999, during the so-called second uprising when Ayatollah Mohammed Sadeq al-Sadr was assassinated early in 1991, none of those has been released. The only political prisoners, and these are a couple of hundred that were released, were those who were arrested during 2001 and 2004, and perhaps some that were arrested during the year 2000. Of all the political prisoners that were arrested throughout the ‘80s and throughout the ‘90s, only one person has been released.
Dr Hussein, I understood you were head of the nuclear agency in Iraq before you were imprisoned, I imagine that means you know Saddam Hussein personally? How would you describe him as a man relative to your experiences and this report? Did he look like a villain before you went to prison?
Yes. He has always, even in the meetings, made sure that people listened very carefully to what he had to say and anybody who dared to disagree, even on scientific issues, could disappear and never to be seen again. So people were extremely careful not to disagree with him, even at the Atomic Energy Board meetings. I remember for example when he wanted to redirect the research activities at the Atomic Energy from peaceful applications to what he called then strategic applications, and I reminded the Board that Iraq had signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty with the International Atomic Energy Agency and it was our international obligation not to indulge in any non-peaceful applications. I was just told that I was a good scientist, I should monitor my scientific work and never discuss such issues again.
Before dawn on February 13, a U.S. jet dropped two laser-guided bombs on an air-raid shelter in western Baghdad, killing 310 persons, by the official Iraqi count. Later that day, as the city's attention was diverted to extricating and identifying the charred corpses, at least two groups of prisoners escaped from Baghdad's notorious Abu Ghraib prison. Among them was a nuclear chemist who had been behind bars from the day in 1979 when he was seized from his office at the Atomic Energy Commission in Baghdad.
A short man with glasses and a greying beard, Dr. Hussein Shahristani was born in 1942. He talks about his ordeal in precise, soft-spoken English. Like many of the Iraqi refugees I have interviewed about their experiences under Saddam, Shahristani shifts constantly from his own case to the abuses visited on multitudes of others, many of whom are now dead or disappeared. Shahristani knows that, by Iraqi standards, he got off easy.
Few Iraqis would be shocked by the story of Shahristani's arrest and torture by secret service agents, his sham trial in a Revolutionary Court, and his years of solitary confinement. Even fewer believe that Saddam, who has pledged to give Iraq a new constitution and a multi-party system and in May, 1991 abolished the Revolutionary Courts, intends to ease the kind of ruthless repression that led to the scientist's 12-year ordeal.
Unlike most of the thousands of political arrests that occur in Iraq each year, Shahristani's did not go unnoticed in the West. The young director of research at the Atomic Energy Commission in Baghdad had earned a bachelor's degree from Imperial College in London and a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. His wife is Canadian, the former Janet Holtom from London, Ontario. (She met her future husband while working at the Department of Engineering at the University of Toronto.)
Those who inquired about his case, however, did not get very far. Baghdad provided no acknowledgement or explanation of his arrest, and conflicting reports began to emanate from Iraq as to whether the scientist was still alive.
In 1984, the Iraqi ambassador responded to an inquiry about Shahristani from the National Academy of Sciences by claiming that the scientist had long since been pardoned and released. No one heard from Shahristani himself, however, and many who knew him or his name assumed he was dead. Quite recently, an exiled Iraqi writer who follows human rights in his country told me matter-of-factly that Shahristani had been executed long ago.
But Shahristani was not dead. When he escaped from Abu Ghraib in February 1991, he had just passed the mid-point of a 20-year sentence.
His ordeal began on December 3, 1979. Shahristani was in his office that day at the Atomic Energy Commission in Baghdad, when a stranger came to his door and asked to have a word with him. The man, who was wearing civilian clothes, did not give his name, and he was carrying a gun.
After a brief chat, the visitor asked Shahristani to accompany him. When he reached a car that was parked outside, the visitor put handcuffs and a blindfold on him. He was then driven to the headquarters of Iraq's Internal Security agency (Mudiriyat al-Amn al-Aam) in Baghdad. Internal Security, one of Iraq's three principal intelligence agencies, monitors anti-regime activity by Iraqi nationals. Its bureaus are notorious torture centers.
Shahristani was brought before Internal Security's director, Fadhel al-Barrak. His blindfold removed, Shahristani was asked what he knew about the sabotage of nuclear reactor equipment that Iraq had ordered from France. Authorities apparently suspected Israeli involvement. Shahristani was aware of the sabotage; he had been sent to France to inspect the equipment and determine whether it was salvageable. Shahristani told al-Barrak he had no idea who was responsible for the damage.
Al-Barrak then changed the subject and asked the scientist if he knew a certain person. No, Shahristani told him, he did not recognize the name. Al-Barrak summoned a man into the room. The man said he knew Shahristani, and that he had heard him express disapproval of the widespread arrests of Shi'ites taking place at the time. Shahristani, a Shi'ite, is an observant Moslem, but he denied any connection with his accuser, or with any organized movement or party.
Still suspicious, Al-Barrak ordered an interrogation. At this point, the civility ceased. Internal Security agents placed a blindfold over Shahristani's eyes again, led him from the office, and then pushed him down a flight of stairs to the basement.
Thus began 22 days of torture.
Shahristani was brought to a room and stripped of his clothes. He was made to stand on a chair while his hands were cuffed behind his back and tied to a rope looped through a hook in the ceiling. The chair was then kicked away, leaving Shahristani hanging by his arms.
"At first you think that you can stand it," recalls Shahristani, who weighed about 130 pounds at the time. "But then you start losing your ability to hold yourself up. The pain in your shoulders is unbelievable." Like countless other torture victims in Iraq, Shahristani was then subjected to low-current electric shocks to his genitals. The pain, he says, proved secondary to what he felt in his arms.
Shahristani could make out the faces of his interrogators, about waist-high, through a crack in his blindfold. They were al-Barrak himself, whose role was to probe the accusations about Israeli spy connections and the sabotage of the equipment, and Fadhel al-Zirqani, who specialized in interrogating religious personalities.
Interrogation sessions lasted 30 to 60 minutes. Each time, Shahristani was blindfolded and hung by his wrists. The questioning was sometimes stopped when the interrogators noticed a chilly sweat forming on his body. Shahristani recalls, "They would say, 'the sign (al-alaama) has come -- take him down.' The cold sweat is a danger signal for them. Apparently, they did not want me to die."
Between interrogation sessions, Shahristani was left to lie on the floor of a solitary cell for five or six hours, sometimes longer. One time, after they dumped him in a corridor, "I heard a guard say to an officer that he would tie me up. The officer replied, 'Don't bother. He can't move.' The officer was right."
After three weeks of interrogation, Shahristani confessed only to possessing a leaflet critical of the roundup of Shi'ites. He told his interrogators that the leaflet, printed in Britain, had been given to him by two friends.
Shahristani now suspects that his interrogators did not really believe he was a Zionist spy or a Shi'ite activist, but decided to lock him up anyway because of the general repression against Shi'ites at the time. After interrogation, Shahristani was transferred to a crowded cell, still barred from contacting his family or a lawyer.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Shahristani learned of his arrest from a colleague at the Atomic Energy Commission. While desperate to learn her husband's status, she was introduced to a man claiming to have security connections. The man told her that if she gave him 15,000 dinars (officially worth U.S. $48,000) he could ensure that the death penalty would be averted. She did.
On February 11, 1980, officers blindfolded and handcuffed Shahristani, his two friends who had given him the leaflet, and a fourth man he did not know. The four were brought to Baghdad's Revolutionary Court.
Before Saddam abolished them on May 20, 1991, Iraq's Revolutionary Courts were foremost among the special courts that try political and security cases. Their verdicts were not subject to review, although they could be appealed to the president of the Republic.
Shahristani's trial lasted one hour. The panel consisted of a judge, and two uniformed men who, the scientist recalls, slept through much of the session.
None of the defendants had an opportunity to present a defense, although they were able to reply to questions put to them. Some of the judge's questions focused on whether Shahristani was of Iranian ancestry. Iraqi Shi'ites who, like Shahristani, have Iranian-sounding surnames had been targeted for mass deportation in the 1970s.
The scientist indignantly responded to questions about his supposedly Iranian origin by saying he had the papers to show that his ancestors could claim 300 years in Iraq, and challenged the judge to trace back his own lineage. The judge retorted that the defendant was a Zionist spy. Shahristani shot back that as a pro-Palestinian student in Canada he had received a threatening letter from a Zionist organization -- a letter he presumed the Internal Security agents had found during their search of his home.
Shahristani's arguments failed. The judge found him guilty of possessing a subversive leaflet, and thereby committing an anti-Ba'ath act in violation of Article 175 of the Penal Code. Before announcing the sentence, the judge called on a man seated in the courtroom to speak in Shahristani's defense. The man pleaded for leniency for Shahristani, saying he had served his country well in his research and as a mentor of young Iraqi scientists. When the man, apparently Shahristani's court- appointed lawyer, finished his plea, the judge announced a 20- year sentence.
From the courtroom, Shahristani was brought to Abu Ghraib prison, Iraq's central penitentiary. Built by British contractors in the 1960s, Abu Ghraib is a virtual city within a city, occupying a large area West of Baghdad.
The political section of Abu Ghraib is divided into "open" and "closed" wings. The closed wing houses only Shi'ites. The open wing holds all other varieties of real or suspected activists: Communists, Muslim Brothers, Kurdish nationalists, Christians, Turkomans, and tharthaars. (Tharthaar, Arabic for "chatterbox," denotes those who do not watch their tongues in a country where criticism of the state is not tolerated. Persons guilty of a grave insult to the president of the Republic or any of its leading institutions may face the death penalty, according to a 1986 decree.)
Shahristani was placed in the closed wing, so named because its inmates -- at least until 1989 -- were permitted no visitors or outside contact. Nearly all inmates of the closed wing were convicted in Revolutionary Court, and were serving sentences ranging from seven years to life.
Shahristani's first stay at Abu Ghraib lasted only three months. On May 20, 1980, he was handcuffed and blindfolded, and then driven to al-Hakimiyya, a Mukhabarat jail in Baghdad. (The Mukhabarat is the security arm of the Ba'ath party, responsible for intelligence, counter-intelligence and watching over Iraq's other security agencies.)
At al-Hakimiyya, Shahristani shared a dark, reeking, two-by- three meter cell with some 20 men. After about 40 days without being questioned, Shahristani was informed that Barzan al-Takriti, Saddam's half-brother and the head of the Mukhabarat, wished to see him. The scientist was driven to a private house, apparently in Baghdad, where he was able to take his first shower since his imprisonment.
After a couple of days, Barzan and Abderrazzaq al-Hashemi, head of the Atomic Energy Commission and later Ambassador to France, paid him a visit. Chairs were brought for Barzan and for Shahristani. Al-Hashemi remained standing, as is the custom for all present whenever Barzan speaks.
"Your country needs you at the Atomic Energy Commission," Barzan began. "The program cannot proceed without you."
"What exactly do you want me to do?" Shahristani asked.
Barzan replied that developing atomic weapons would give Iraq a "long arm" in shaping the geopolitical structure of the region. "I mean developing weapons that allow us to have our say in the destiny of the region."
Shahristani told them frankly that he did not have the knowledge needed to help with the program. Al-Hashemi scoffed. They knew his abilities. Barzan added, "In my view, a person who is not willing to serve his country does not deserve to live."
Shahristani said later, "Anyone who looked at my work would know I could not help in a program of a military nature. But at that point I was afraid that if I refused to cooperate I'd be executed. So I said to him, 'please tell me exactly what you want me to do and I'll tell you whether I can do it.'"
Shahristani recalls, "Barzan turned to Abderrazzaq and said, 'Tell him what projects you want him to work on.' Fortunately, Abderrazzaq was a very incompetent scientist. He himself didn't have a clear idea what projects to start for this purpose. He said he wanted me to start on the extraction of uranium from Iraqi phosphates, which makes no sense, since uranium could be bought freely on the open market. There is no need to extract it from phosphates. So I said I'd try my best."
Barzan and al-Hashemi left, and Shahristani remained under guard, barred from leaving the room or from contacting anyone outside.
Barzan was to drop by twice more for discussions.
After Iraq invaded Iran on September 22, 1980, Shahristani was apparently forgotten. He remained locked in the house, with little more than a few books and the occasional company of his bored guards. He could neither send nor receive letters, but every few months authorities took him somewhere else to see his wife and children.
In June 1981, a Mukhabarat official came and informed Shahristani that Israeli jets had just destroyed the French-built Osirak nuclear reactor. The official said the government was thinking of asking Shahristani to assess the damage and recommend a course of action. The man left and the matter was never raised again.
In December 1982, Shahristani was transferred back to Abu Ghraib prison, and it became his home for the next seven years. Shahristani was locked in solitary confinement around the clock. There was a toilet in his cell, and guards brought his meals twice a day. The guards had instructions not to speak to him, only to nod or shake their heads.
Gradually he developed a daily routine: prayer, an hour of exercise, and an hour of reading the Koran, the only book he was permitted. Later, after a guard secretly gave him a pencil and paper, he spent hours playing with numbers and devising and solving mathematical puzzles.
After a few months, authorities informed Shahristani he could have visitors. From then on he saw his wife and children for up to one hour on the 12th of each month, always in the presence of a Mukhabarat officer.
In 1986, Shahristani's hopes were raised by reports that he was to be included in a presidential pardon. But again -- nothing happened. He had to wait four more years before his status was to change. One day in 1990, the door to his cell was opened and Shahristani was told he could mingle with the other prisoners in the closed wing.
His first task was to discover what had happened to the inmates he had known when he was in the wing a decade before. He found almost no alumni of the earlier group. As the current prisoners told him, large numbers of Shi'ite prisoners had disappeared in the early 1980s. With the war against Iran underway, the authorities began removing inmates in wajbaat of 50 to 100. Wajba (plural, wajbaat), in all Arabic-speaking countries except Iraq, signifies meal. In the Iraqi dialect, it has a special meaning: a batch of people who are rounded up to be executed or disappeared.
The prisoners in Abu Ghraib told Shahristani that none of the inmates taken in wajbaat had come back. They assumed that those who had been removed had either been shot and buried in secret graves, or transferred to secret prisons. Other Iraqi prisons had reportedly been partially emptied by wajbaat during the first two years of the Iran-Iraq war.
Shahristani discovered that his two friends who had been tried with him ten years earlier had been taken from Abu Ghraib in a wajba in December1980 that came to be known as wajba thawi al-kafa'at (the batch of professional people) because it was composed of inmates who had advanced degrees. Nothing further was heard from them.
A couple of months after the end of Shahristani's solitary confinement, Iraq invaded Kuwait, and the United Nations imposed an economic embargo on Iraq. The occupation of Kuwait and the countdown to war taxed the security agencies that ran the political section of Abu Ghraib. Their administration was disrupted further when the bombing campaign started. Power and phone lines were cut periodically, gasoline ran short, and security officials were no doubt preoccupied by the devastating strikes against strategic targets, and in some cases, the neighborhoods where they lived.
Some prisoners saw in the disarray of war their best chance to break out. During a family visit, Shahristani managed to tip off his wife that he might try to escape, and told her to prepare to flee the country. On February 13, Shahristani seized the opportunity. Out of concern for prisoners and relatives who remain in Iraq, Shahristani refuses to divulge the details of his escape, or of his family's flight abroad to join him.
Although in solitary confinement much of the time, Shahristani was able to provide a vivid picture of the overcrowding and gratuitous cruelty of the staff in the closed section of Abu Ghraib.
Cells measure approximately four meters by four meters and hold an average of 40 persons. There are no beds; prisoners sleep on blankets on the floor, and must do so in shifts because there is not room enough for everyone to lie down at the same time.
Until the late 1980s the crowding was exacerbated by the fact that prisoners were confined to their cells around the clock. They were given no time outdoors, no family visits, no work programs, courses, or organized activities. They were allowed no books, Korans, private radios, televisions, or mail. Their only reading material was an occasional issue of al- Thawra, the Ba'ath daily.
If prisoners left their cells it was almost always because they were going to be beaten. Each day, security authorities would tour the wing and select prisoners, take them into empty rooms and beat them with clubs.
Other than when they were clubbed, inmates were able to leave their cells only if they died or developed tuberculosis -- which was epidemic -- and began coughing up blood. Anemia, ulcers and liver ailments were also common. Medical care was almost nonexistent: the prison "doctor" was an inmate in the wing who was trained as a pharmacist. He was permitted to visit ailing prisoners, but was given little more than aspirin to treat them with.
Meals were monotonous and of poor quality, but prisoners were more preoccupied with their water supply. A guard brought a hose to the door of the cell once a day, and prisoners filled a can that would have to last them all day. Each received less than one liter for drinking and washing. Showers were out of the question.
Conditions in the closed wing took a turn for the better sometime in 1987, when the doors to the cells were opened every day, and prisoners allowed for the first time to mix together in the corridors. A few even were able to receive visits, through bribes or Ba'athist family connections.
Shahristani believes that this progress was tied to Iraq's improving relations with the West, and a desire to avoid adverse publicity about prison conditions. The head of Internal Security is said to have visited the prison at the time and claimed to prisoners that he had been unaware of conditions in the section.
These concessions set the stage for a revolt in 1989 that led to some dramatic improvements. One afternoon during the Moslem holy month of Ramadan, prisoners in the corridor refused to return to their cells at the usual time. When guards tried to club the prisoners back into their cells, the prisoners resisted with their bare hands. The guards summoned Internal Security officials to the scene, who threatened to open fire if the inmates refused to back down.
The men were prepared to die. Addressing the officials, they said they were not against Saddam, the Ba'ath or the Internal Security agency. All they demanded was to be treated as humans. They wanted family visits, recreational time in the courtyard -- which prisoners in the other sections enjoyed -- and the delivery of the meal rations to which they were entitled.
To the inmates' amazement, the authorities agreed to the demands. Prisoners began receiving their families monthly in tents that were set up in the courtyard. Relatives were allowed to bring the prisoners soap, window fans, and money for purchases at the canteen and to bribe the guards. Prisoners were permitted to receive copies of the Koran, some books published by the Ministry of Information, and managed to smuggle in other reading material. Beatings greatly diminished and a modest amount of medical attention became available. The cells were equipped with running water, so that inmates could shower.
Prisoners were able to spend more time outside their cells, lounging in the corridors or in the courtyard. They could discuss politics discreetly, but were forbidden to organize study groups as political prisoners in many countries are permitted to do.
The closed section of Abu Ghraib remains a dreadful place by any standard except that of its former self. It provides less than one square meter of cell space per prisoner. All basic services are either minimal or nonexistent, and no organized activities are available to the inmates, who are all serving long sentences. Note that Iraq is a far wealthier country than most that incarcerate people in such dismal conditions.
The Gulf war and its aftermath have exposed many of the horrifying details of Iraq's prison system, most notably the secret prisons that were discovered by Kurdish and Shi'ite rebels when they temporarily wrested cities from government control in March, 1991. In Duhok, al-Najaf, Suleimaniyya, Basra and other cities, Iraqis who had disappeared long ago were freed from underground cells. Some of them, the British press reported, had seen no sunlight or visitors for years and remembered little besides their names and that the president of Iraq was Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr. (Bakr was replaced by Saddam in July 1979.)
When Shahristani escaped from Abu Ghraib in February, he brought with him a list of all 1,350 inmates in the closed section, hoping to pass the information on to their relatives.
Asked to explain why the men in Iraq's security establishment torture and kill so cruelly and methodically, Shahristani does not serve up Arendtian profundities about the banality of evil. After pausing for a moment, he observes that Iraqis in this line of work form their own stratum of society, a stratum bonded together by a sense of fear. "These security people are convinced that the prisoners would do the same to them. They told their prisoners, sometimes, I'm being kind to you. I know for sure if you were in my place you would have done worse to me."
During the uprising in March 1991, Saddam's victims justified these fears. As Kurds and Shi'ites seized control of the cities of northern and southern Iraq, they murdered hundreds, if not thousands, of Iraqis they suspected of working for security agencies. "The rebels behaved with a barbarity learned from their own rulers," a Financial Times correspondent reported from southern Iraq on May 17, 1991
Despite the bloodletting of the uprising, Shahristani is optimistic about the prospects for democracy in a post-Saddam Iraq. "The Iraqi people, after the years of oppression under Saddam and two major wars are mature enough to decide that there can be no salvation without a proper democratic system in which the minorities are respected. The leaders of Iraq's opposition groups share this ideal. Even some who may not be very democratic at heart realize there is no other way for the country."
Shahristani believes that Saddam's rule, ultimately, will end. The defeat in the Gulf war and the long sanctions have made the situation so desperate, he said, that "even the army generals realize there can be no solution as long as Saddam remains in power."
While pleased that the sanctions are undermining Saddam's domestic support, Shahristani worries about the extreme hardship they are causing the Iraqi people. He has put off his search for an academic post in the Gulf states in order to coordinate a relief effort in Iran that has been smuggling food and medicine to Iraqi civilians by canoe across the marshes on the Iraqi-Iranian border.
Shahristani also sends human rights monitors equipped with video cameras into Iraq. Some of their footage has been shown on major television networks. He himself has remained on the Iranian side of the border, providing logistical support, venturing occasionally into Iraq.
Speech of chief weapons inspector Hans Blix to the U.N. Security Council
Monday, January 27, 2003; 11:57 AM
Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, the resolution adopted by the Security
Council on Iraq in November of last year asks UNMOVIC and the IAEA to,
quote-unquote, "update the council 60 days after the resumption of
inspections." This is today.
The updating, it seems, forms part of an assessment by the council and its
members of the results so far of the inspections and of their role as a means to
achieve verifiable disarmament in Iraq. As this is an open meeting of the
council, it may be appropriate briefly to provide some background for a better
understanding of where we stand today. With your permission, I should do so. I
begin by recalling that inspections as a part of a disarmament process in Iraq
started in 1991, immediately after the Gulf War. They went on for eight years,
until 1998 when inspectors were withdrawn. Therefore, for nearly four years,
there were no inspectors. They were resumed only at end of November last year.
While the fundamental aim of inspections in Iraq has always been to verify
disarmament, the successive resolutions adopted by the council over the years
had varied somewhat in emphasis and approach. In 1991, Resolution 687 adopted
unanimously as a part of the cease-fire after the Gulf War had five major
elements; the three first related to disarmament. They called for declarations
by Iraq of its programs of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles;
verification of the declarations through UNSCOM and the IAEA; supervision by
these organizations of the destruction or the elimination of proscribed programs
and items.After the completion of the disarmament, the council would have the
authority to proceed to a lifting of the sanctions and the inspecting
organizations would move to long-term, ongoing monitoring and verification.
Resolution 687 in 1991, like the subsequent resolutions I shall refer to,
required cooperation by Iraq, but such was often withheld or given grudgingly.
Unlike South Africa, which decided on its own to eliminate its nuclear weapons
and welcomed the inspection as a means of creating confidence in its
disarmament, Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance, not even
today, of the disarmament which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry
out to win the confidence of the world and to live in peace.
As we know, the twin operation declare and verify, which was prescribed in
Resolution 687, too often turned into a game of hide and seek. Rather than just
verify in declarations and supporting evidence, the two inspecting organizations
found themselves engaged in efforts to map the weapons programs and to search
for evidence through inspections, interviews, seminars, inquiries with suppliers
and intelligence organizations.
As a result, the disarmament phase was not completed in the short time
expected. Sanctions remained and took a severe toll until Iraq accepted the
oil-for-food program, and the gradual development of that program mitigated the
affects of the sanctions. The implementation of Resolution 687, nevertheless
brought about considerable disarmament results. It has been recognized that more
weapons of mass destruction were destroyed under this resolution than were
destroyed during the Gulf War. Large quantities of chemical weapons were
destroyed under UNSCOM supervision before 1994. While Iraq claims, with little
evidence, that it destroyed all biological weapons unilaterally in 1991, it is
certain that UNSCOM destroyed large biological weapons production facilities in
1996. The large nuclear infrastructure was destroyed and the fissionable (ph)
material was removed from Iraq by the IAEA.
One of three important questions before us today is, how much might remain
undeclared and intact from before 1991 and possibly thereafter?
The second question is, what, if anything, was illegally produced or procured
after 1998 when the inspectors left.
And the third question is, how it can be prevented that any weapons of mass
destruction be produced or procured in the future?
In December 1999, after one year without inspections in Iraq, Resolution 1284
was adopted by the council, with four abstentions. Supplementing the basic
resolutions of 1991 and the following years, it provided Iraq with a somewhat
less ambitious approach.
In return for cooperation in all respects for a specified period of time,
including progress in the resolution of key remaining disarmament tasks, it
opened the possibility not for the lifting, but the suspension of sanctions.
For nearly three years, Iraq refused to accept any inspections by UNMOVIC. It
was only after appeals by the secretary general and Arab states and pressure by
the United States and other member states that Iraq declared on 16 September
last year that it would again accept inspections without conditions. Resolution
1441 was adopted on 8 November last year and emphatically reaffirmed the demand
on Iraq to cooperate. It required this cooperation to be immediate,
unconditional and active. The resolution contained many provisions which we
welcome as enhancing and strengthening the inspection regime. The unanimity by
which it was adopted sent a powerful signal that the council was of one mind in
creating a last opportunity for peaceful disarmament in Iraq through inspection.
UNMOVIC shares the sense of urgency felt by the council to use inspection as
a path to attain, within a reasonable time, verifiable disarmament of Iraq.
Under the resolutions I have cited, it would be followed by monitoring for such
time as the council feels would be required.
The resolutions also point to a zone free of weapons of mass destruction as
the ultimate goal. As a subsidiary body of the council, UNMOVIC is fully aware
of and appreciates the close attention which this council devotes to the
inspections in Iraq. While today's updating is foreseen in Resolution 1441, the
council can and does call for additional briefings whenever it wishes. One was
held on the 19th of January, and a further such briefing is tentatively set for
the 14th of February.
I turn now, Mr. President, to the key requirement of cooperation and Iraq's
response to it. Cooperation might be said to relate to both substance and
process. It would appear from our experience so far that Iraq has decided in
principle to provide cooperation on process, notably access. A similar decision
is indispensable to provide cooperation on substance in order to bring the
disarmament task to completion through the peaceful process of inspection and to
bring the monitoring task on a firm course.
An initial minor step would be to adopt the long overdue legislation required
by the resolutions. I shall deal first with cooperation on process. In this
regard, it has regard to the procedures, mechanisms, infrastructure and
practical arrangements to pursue inspections and seek verifiable disarmament.
While the inspection is not built on the premise of confidence, but may lead to
confidence if it is successful, there must nevertheless be a measure of mutual
confidence from the very beginning in running the operation of inspection. Iraq
has, on the whole, cooperated rather well so far with UNMOVIC in this field.
The most important point to make is that access has been provided to all
sites we have wanted to inspect. And with one exception, it has been problems.
We have further had a great help in building up the infrastructure of our office
in Baghdad and the field office in Mosul.
Arrangements and services for our plane and our helicopters have been good.
The environment has been workable. Our inspections have included universities,
military bases, presidential sites and private residences. Inspections have also
taken place on Fridays, the Muslim day of rest, on Christmas Day and New Year's
Day. These inspections have been conducted in the same manner as all other
inspections. We seek to be both effective and correct.
In this updating, I'm bound, however, to register some problems. The first
are related to two kinds of air operations. While we now have the technical
capability to send a U-2 plane placed at our disposal for aerial imagery and for
surveillance during inspections and have informed Iraq that we plan to do so,
Iraq has refused to guarantee its safety unless a number of conditions are
fulfilled.As these conditions went beyond what is stipulated in Resolution 1441
and what was practiced by UNSCOM and Iraq in the past, we note that Iraq is not
so far complying with our requests. I hope this attitude will change.
Another air operation problem, which was so during our recent talks in
Baghdad, concerned the use of helicopters flying into the no-fly zones. Iraq had
insisted on sending helicopters of their own to accompany ours. This would have
raised a safety problem. The matter was solved by an offer on our part to take
the accompanying Iraqi minders in our helicopters to the sites, an arrangement
that had been practiced by UNSCOM in the past.
I'm obliged to note some recent disturbing incidents and harassment. For
instance, for some time farfetched allegations have been made publicly that
questions posed by inspectors were of an intelligence character. While I might
not defend every question that inspectors might have asked, Iraq knows that they
do not serve intelligence purposes and Iraq should not say so.
On a number of occasions, demonstrations have taken place in front of our
offices and at inspection sites. The other day, a site-seeing excursion by five
inspectors to a mosque was followed by an unwarranted public outburst.
Inspectors went without U.N. insignia and were welcomed in the kind manner that
is characteristic of the normal Iraqi attitude to foreigners. They took off
their shoes and were taken around. They asked perfectly innocent questions and
parted with the invitation to come again.
Shortly thereafter, we received protests from the Iraqi authorities about an
unannounced inspection and about questions not relevant to weapons of mass
destruction. Indeed, they were not. Demonstrations and outbursts of this kind
are unlikely to occur in Iraq with initiative or encouragement from the
authorities. We must ask ourselves what the motives may be for these events.
They do not facilitate an already difficult job, in which we try to be
effective, professional, and at the same time correct. Where our Iraqi
counterparties have some complaint, they can take it up in a calmer and less
The substantive cooperation required relates above all to the obligation of
Iraq to declare all programs of weapons of mass destruction and either to
present items and activities for elimination or else to provide evidence
supporting the conclusions that nothing proscribed remains. Paragraph 9 of
Resolution 1441 states that this cooperation shall be, quote/unquote,
"active." It is not enough to open doors. Inspection is not a game of
catch as catch can. Rather, as I noted, it is a process of verification for the
purpose of creating confidence. It is not built upon the premise of trust.
Rather, it is designed to lead to trust, if there is both openness to the
inspectors and action to present them with items to destroy or credible evidence
about the absence of any such items.
On 7th of December, 2004, Iraq submitted a declaration of some 12,000 pages
in response to paragraph 3 of Resolution 1441, and within the time stipulated by
the Security Council. In the fields of missiles and biotechnology, the
declaration contains a good deal of new material and information covering the
period from 1998 and onward. This is welcome.
One might have expected that in preparing the declaration Iraq would have
tried to respond to, clarify and submit supporting evidence regarding the many
open disarmament issues which the Iraqi side should be familiar with from the
UNSCOM documents 9994 and the so-called Almarim (ph) report of March 1999. These
are questions which UNMOVIC, governments and independent commentators have often
While UNMOVIC has been preparing its own list of current unresolved
disarmament issues and key remaining disarmament tasks in response to
requirements in the Resolution 1284, we find the issues listed in the two
reports I mentioned as unresolved professionally justified.
These reports do not contend that weapons of mass destruction remain in Iraq,
but nor do they exclude that possibility. They point to a lack of evidence and
inconsistencies which raise question marks which must be straightened out if
weapons dossiers are to be closed and confidence is to arise. They deserve to be
taken seriously by Iraq, rather than being brushed aside as evil machinations of
UNSCOM. Regrettably, the 12,000-page declaration, most of which is a reprint of
earlier documents, does not seem to contain any new evidence that will eliminate
the questions or reduce their number. Even Iraq's letter sent in response to our
recent discussions in Baghdad to the president of the Security Council on 24th
of January does not lead us to the resolution of these issues.
I shall only give some examples of issues and questions that need to be
answered, and I turn first to the sector of chemical weapons.
The nerve agent VX is one of the most toxic ever developed. Iraq has declared
that it only produced VX on a pilot scale, just a few tons, and that the quality
was poor and the product unstable. Consequently, it was said that the agent was
never weaponized. Iraq said that the small quantity of agent remaining after the
Gulf War was unilaterally destroyed in the summer of 1991. UNMOVIC, however, has
information that conflicts with this account. There are indications that Iraq
had worked on the problem of purity and stabilization and that more had been
achieved than has been declared. Indeed, even one of the documents provided by
Iraq indicates that the purity of the agent, at least in laboratory production,
was higher than declared.There are also indications that the agent was
weaponized. In addition, there are questions to be answered concerning the fate
of the VX precursor chemicals, which Iraq states were lost during bombing in the
Gulf War or were unilaterally destroyed by Iraq.
I would now like to turn to the so-called air force document that I have
discussed with the council before. This document was originally found by an
UNSCOM inspector in a safe in Iraqi air force headquarters in 1998, and taken
from her (ph) by Iraqi minders. It gives an account of the expenditure of bombs,
including chemical bombs by Iraq in the Iraq-Iran War. I'm encouraged by the
fact that Iraq has now provided this document to UNMOVIC. The document indicates
that 13,000 chemical bombs were dropped by the Iraqi air force between 1983 and
1998; while Iraq has declared that 19,500 bombs were consumed during this
period. Thus, there is a discrepancy of 6,500 bombs. The amount of chemical
agent in these bombs would be in the order of about 1,000 tons. In the absence
of evidence to the contrary, we must assumed that these quantities are now
The discovery of a number of 122-millimeter chemical rocket warheads in a
bunker at the storage depot, 170 kilometers southwest of Baghdad, was much
publicized. This was a relatively new bunker, and therefore the rockets must
have been moved here in the past few years at a time when Iraq should not have
had such munitions. The investigation of these rockets is still proceeding.
Iraq states that they were overlooked from 1991 from a batch of some 2,000
that were stored there during the Gulf War. This could be the case. They could
also be the tip of a submerged iceberg. The discovery of a few rockets does not
resolve, but rather points to the issue of several thousand of chemical rockets
that are unaccounted for. The finding of the rockets shows that Iraq needs to
make more effort to ensure that its declaration is currently accurate. During my
recent discussions in Baghdad, Iraq declared that it would make new efforts in
this regard and has set up a committee of investigation. Since then, it has
reported that it has found four chemical rockets at a storage depot in al-Haji
I might further mention that inspectors have found at another site a
laboratory quantity of thiodylykol (ph), a mustard gas precursor.While
addressing chemical issues, I should mention a matter which I reported on 19th
of December last year concerning equipment at a civilian chemical plant at
al-Fallujah. Iraq has declared that it had repaired chemical processing
equipment previously destroyed under UNSCOM supervision and had installed it at
Fallujah for the production of chlorine and phenols. We have inspected this
equipment and are conducting a detailed technical evaluation of it. On
completion, we will decide whether this and other equipment that has been
recovered by Iraq should be destroyed.
I turn to biological weapons. I mention the issue of anthrax to the council
on previous occasions, and I come back to it as it is an important one. Iraq has
declared that it produced about 8,500 liters of this biological warfare agent,
which it states it unilaterally destroyed in the summer of 1991.
Iraq has provided little evidence for this production and no convincing
evidence for its destruction.There are strong indications that Iraq produced
more anthrax than it declared and that at least some of this was retained over
the declared destruction date. It might still exist.
Either it should be found and be destroyed under UNMOVIC supervision or else
convincing evidence should be produced to show that it was indeed destroyed in
1991.As I reported to the council on the 19th of December last year, Iraq did
not declare a significant quantity, some 650 kilos or bacterial growth media,
which was acknowledged as reported in Iraq's submission to the Almarim (ph)
panel in February 1999. As a part of its 7 December, 2004, declaration Iraq
resubmitted the Almarim (ph) panel document but they table showing this
particular import of media was not included. The absence of this table would
appear to be deliberate, as the pages of the resubmitted document were
renumbered. In the letter of 24th of January this year to the president of the
Security Council, Iraq's foreign minister stated that, I quote, "All
imported quantities of growth media were declared," unquote. This is not
evidence. I note that the quantity of media involved would suffice to produce,
for example, about 5,000 liters of concentrated anthrax.
I turn, Mr. President, now to the missile sector. There remain significant
questions as to whether Iraq retained Scud-type missiles after the Gulf War.
Iraq declared the consumption of a number of Scud missiles as targets in the
development of an anti-ballistic missile defense system during the 1980s, yet no
technical information has been produced about that program or data on the
consumption of the missiles.There has been a range of developments in the
missile field during the past four years, presented by Iraq in the declaration
as non-proscribed activities. We are trying to gather a clear understanding of
them through inspections and on-site discussions.
Two projects in particular stand out. They are the development of a
liquid-fueled missile named Al-Samud II (ph) and a solid propellant missile
called Al-Fatam (ph). Both missiles have been tested to arrange in excess of the
permitted range of 150 kilometers, with the Al-Samud II (ph) being tested to a
maximum of 183 kilometers and the Al-Fatam (ph) to 161 kilometers. Some of both
types of missiles have already been provided to the Iraqi armed forces, even
though it is stated that they're still undergoing development.
The Al-Samud's (ph) diameter was increased from an earlier version to the
president 760 millimeters. This modification was made despite a 1994 letter from
the executive chairman of UNSCOM directing Iraq to limit its missile diameters
to less than 600 millimeter. Furthermore, a November 1997 letter from the
executive chairman of UNSCOM to Iraq prohibited the use of engines from certain
surface-to-air missiles for the use in ballistic missiles.
During my recent meeting in Baghdad, we were briefed on these two programs.
We were told that the final range for both systems would be less than the
permitted maximum of 150 kilometers.These missiles might well represent prima
facie cases of proscribed systems. The test ranges in excess of 150 kilometers
are significant, but some further technical considerations need to be made
before we reach a conclusion on this issue. In the meantime, we have asked Iraq
to cease flight tests of both missiles.
In addition, Iraq has refurbished its missile production infrastructure. In
particular, Iraq reconstituted a number of casting chambers which had previously
been destroyed under UNSCOM's supervision. They had been used in the production
of solid fuel missiles. Whatever missile system these chambers are intended for,
they could produce motors for missiles capable of ranges significantly greater
than 150 kilometers.
Also associated with these missiles and related developments is the import
which has been taking place during the last two years of a number of items
despite the sanctions, including as late as December 2004. Foremost among these
is import of 300 rockets engines which may be used for the Al-Samud II (ph).
Iraq has also declared the recent import of chemicals used in propellants,
test instrumentation and guidance and control system. These items may well be
for proscribed purposes; that is yet to be determined. What is clear is that
they were illegally brought into Iraq; that is, Iraq or some company in Iraq
circumvented the restrictions imposed by various resolutions.
Mr. President, I have touched upon some of the disarmament issues that remain
open and that need to be answered if dossiers are to be closed and confidence is
to arise. Which are the means at the disposal of Iraq to answer these questions?
I have pointed to some during my presentation of the issues, let me be a little
more systematic. Our Iraqi counterparts are fond of saying that there are no
proscribed items and if no evidence is presented to the contrary, they should
have the benefit of the doubt; be presumed innocent.
UNMOVIC, for its part, is not presuming that there are proscribed items and
activities in Iraq. But nor is it, or I think anyone else, after the inspections
between 1991 and '98 presuming the opposite, that no such items and activities
exist in Iraq. Presumptions do not solve the problem; evidence and full
transparency may help.
Let me be specific. Information provided by member-states tells us about the
movement and concealment of missiles and chemical weapons and mobile units for
biological weapons production. We shall certainly follow-up any credible leads
given to us and report what we might find, as well as any denial of access.
So far, we have reported on the recent find of a small number of empty
122-millimeter warheads for chemical weapons. Iraq declared that it appointed a
commission of inquiry to look for more. Fine. Why not extend the search to other
items? Declare what may be found and destroy it under our supervision.
When we have urged our Iraqi counterparts to present more evidence, we have
all too often met the response that there are no more documents. All existing
relevant documents have presented, we are told. All documents relating to the
biological weapons program were destroyed together with the weapons.
However, Iraq has all the archives of the government and its various
departments, institutions and mechanisms. It should have budgetary documents,
requests for funds and reports and how they have been used. They should also
have letters of credit and bills of lading, reports and production and losses of
In response to a recent UNMOVIC request for a number of specific documents,
the only new documents Iraq provided was a ledger of 1,093 pages which Iraq
stated included all imports from 1983 to 1990 by the Technical and Scientific
Importation Division, the importing authority for the biological weapons
programs. Potentially, it might help to clear some open issues. The recent
inspection find in the private home of a scientist of a box of some 3,000 pages
of documents, much of it relating to the lacing (ph) enrichment of uranium,
support a concern that has long existed that documents might be distributed to
the homes of private individuals.
This interpretation is refuted by the Iraqi side which claims that research
staff sometimes may bring papers from their work places. On our side, we cannot
help but think that the case might not be isolated and that such placements of
documents is deliberate to make discovery difficult and to seek to shield
documents by placing them in private homes.
Any further sign of the concealment of documents will be serious. The Iraqi
side committed itself at our recent talks to encourage persons to accept access
also to private sites. There can be no sanctuaries for proscribed items,
activities or documents. A denial of prompt access to any site will be very
serious matter. When Iraq claims that tangible evidence in the form of documents
is not available, it ought, at least, to find individuals, engineers, scientists
and managers (ph) to testify about their experience. Large weapons programs are
moved and managed by people. Interviews with individuals who may have worked in
programs in the past may fill blank spots in our knowledge and understanding.
It could also be useful to learn that they are now employed in peaceful
sectors. These are the reasons why UNMOVIC ask for a list of such persons in
accordance with Resolution 1441. Some 400 names for all biological and chemical
weapons programs, as well as their missile programs, were provided by the Iraqi
side. This can be compared to over 3,500 names of people associated with those
past weapons programs that UNSCOM either interviewed in the 1990s or knew from
documents and other sources. At my recent meeting in Baghdad, the Iraqis have
committed themselves to supplementing the list, and some 80 additional names
have been provided.
In the past, much valuable information came from interviews. There are also
cases in which the interviewee was clearly intimidated by the presence of an
interruption (ph) by Iraq officials.This was the background to Resolution 1441's
provision for a right for UNMOVIC and the IAEA to hold private interviews, I
quote, "in the mode or the location" of our choice in Baghdad or even
abroad. Today, 11 individuals were asked for interviews in Baghdad by us. The
replies have been that the individual would only speak at Iraq's Monitoring
Directorate or at any rate in the presence of an Iraq official.
This could be due to a wish on the part of the invited to have evidence that
they have not said anything that the authorities did not wish them to say. At
our recent talks in Baghdad, the Iraqi side committed itself to encourage
persons to accept interviews in private, that is to say alone with us. Despite
this, the pattern has not changed.
However, we hope that with further encouragement from the authorities,
knowledgeable individuals will accept private interviews in Baghdad or abroad.
Mr. President, I must not conclude this update without some notes on the growing
capability of UNMOVIC. In the past two months, UNMOVIC has built up its
capabilities in Iraq from nothing to 260 staff members from 60 countries. This
includes approximately 100 UNMOVIC inspectors, 60 air operations staff, as well
as security personnel, communication, translation and interpretation staff,
medical support and other services at our Baghdad office and also (ph) Mosul
All serve the United Nations and report to no one else. Furthermore, I'll
roster of inspectors will continue to grow as our training program continues.
Even at this moment, we have a training course in session in Vienna. At the end
of that course, we should have a roster of about 350 qualified experts from
which todraw inspectors. The team supplied by the Swiss government is
refurbishing our office in Baghdad which had been empty for four years. The
government in New Zealand has contributed both a medical team and a
communications team. The German government will contribute unmanned aerial
vehicles for surveillance and a group of specialists to operate them for us
within Iraq. And the government of Cyprus has kindly allowed us to set up a
field office in Larnaca.
All of these contributions have an assistance in quickly starting up our
inspections and enhancing our capabilities, so has help from the U.N. in New
York and from sister organizations in Baghdad.
In the past two months, during which we have built up our presence in Iraq,
we have conducted about 300 inspections to more than 230 different sitesthat had
not been inspected before.
By the end of December, UNMOVIC began using helicopters, both for the
transport of inspectors and for actual inspection work. We now have eight
helicopters. They have already proved invaluable in helping to freeze large
sites by observing the movement of traffic in and around the area. Setting up
the field office in Mosul has facilitated rapid inspections of sites in northern
Iraq. We plan to establish soon a second field office in the Basra area where we
have already inspected a number of sites.
Mr. President, we now have an inspection apparatus that permits us to send
multiple inspections teams every day all over Iraq by road or by air. Let me end
by simply noting that that capability, which has been built up in a short time
and which is now operating, is at the disposal of the Security Council.