Iraqi WMD Threat Grows, Detection Difficult
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2002 U.N. Security Council weapons inspectors would face a tough job if they return to Saddam Hussein's Iraq, according to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
It's enormously important to know what Hussein's doing, Rumsfeld said Feb. 24 on CBS Face the Nation, but U.N. inspectors will have a harder time than ever detecting evidence of the Iraqis' weapons of mass destruction program.
After the Gulf War in 1991, U.N.-mandated sanctions called for Iraq to surrender its weapons of mass destruction and to submit to U.N. inspections. Much has changed in the intervening years, Rumsfeld said.
The Iraqis refused to cooperate fully with the inspectors and since 1998 haven't allowed inspectors into the country. Rumsfeld said Iraqi officials have advanced their weapons of mass destruction program and they've had more time to go underground. They've acquired dual-use technologies and developed greater degrees of mobility, he said.
Rumsfeld noted President Bush recently called Iraq one of three nations forming an "axis of evil" that threatens U.S. interests. The other two are Iran and North Korea. The secretary said Bush focused world opinion on how those countries treat their people and their neighbors and the dangers they pose as a source of weapons of mass destruction.
"I think it was a very useful thing to do," Rumsfeld remarked.
In the wake of last year's Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, U.S. administration officials called for the United Nations to reinstitute inspections.
Rumsfeld said that under the best of circumstances, U.N. inspectors would have a tough time in Iraq, where the repressive ruling regime has had years to "hide things, deny things and create mobility where they can actually keep things moving ahead of any inspectors."
"They are very accomplished liars as to what's going on," the secretary said. "You could put inspectors all over that place and it would be very difficult to find anything." In the past, U.N. inspectors were successful in part because defectors told them what to look for, "not because they actually found something," he noted. "I'm saying today, the situation is vastly more difficult."
Many more inspectors would be needed and their regime would have to be much more intrusive than before, Rumsfeld said. The Iraqis could not control when inspectors could arrive, where they could go and what they could do, he said, "and the Iraqis aren't going to agree to something like that."
It remains to be seen what U.N. officials ultimately decide and what the Iraqis agree to, he said.
"We have to be very honest with ourselves about what we could accomplish," the secretary said. "I just am saying in all directness, is that we have to go into this with our eyes wide open. It would take a very intrusive regime for us to have any confidence that it would work."