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Sign the Pledge of Resistance against an attack on Iraq

26 September 2002

WAR PLAN IRAQ Update Number 1

Dossier Lies: Airbrushing History

One of the most significant distortions in the Governments dossier on Iraqs weapons was the misrepresentation of the inspection of sensitive sites in Iraq. The US is currently trying to provoke Iraq into withdrawing its offer to allow inspectors back in, by fashioning a new UN resolution that tears up long-standing agreements between UN weapons inspectors and Iraq. The dossier writes these agreements out of history:

In December 1997, Richard Butler reported to the UN Security Council that Iraq had created a new category of sites, presidential and sovereign, from which it claimed that UNSCOM inspectors would henceforth be barred. [True, but misleading.] The terms of the ceasefire in 1991 foresaw no such limitation. However, Iraq consistently refused to allow UNSCOM inspectors access to any of these eight Presidential sites. (Dossier, p. 34)


It is true that Iraq resisted inspection of sensitive sites. But, in fact, there was a series of agreements between UNSCOM and Baghdad between 1996 and 1998, which enabled UN weapons inspectors to visit these disputed sites.

) In June 1996, Rolf Ekeus, then head of UNSCOM, agreed with the Iraqis that only FOUR weapons inspectors would enter designated sensitive sites.

2) In Dec. 1997, Richard Butler, the new head of UNSCOM, negotiated a new agreement, whereby at larger sensitive sites such as sprawling military bases, more inspectors could enter if the size of the site warranted it, as decided on a case by case basis.

3) In Feb. 1998, Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, agreed new procedures for inspecting eight identified presidential palaces. Inspectors would be accompanied by foreign diplomats to safeguard Iraqs sovereignty.

(Sources: Richard Butler, Saddam Defiant: The Threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Crisis of Global Security, London; Ekeus: p. 96; Butler: p. 125; Annan: p. 155)

So, in Dec. 1997, while Iraq did stop cooperation on presidential sites, as Richard Butler reported to the UN; at the same time the UNSCOM chief concluded an agreement with Iraq that allowed MORE weapons inspectors into sensitive sites such as intelligence agencies and ministries than had previously been allowed.


The Government says that Iraq consistently refused to allow UNSCOM inspectors access to any of these eight Presidential sites. This is the reverse of the truth.

The sensitive and presidential sites inspection process developed by Ekeus, Butler and Annan enabled UNSCOM to inspect the presidential palaces after the Feb. 1998 Memorandum of Understanding: Our inspections of the Presidential sites were eventually conducted over a period of ten days, and on April 15 [1998], a report on these entries (in the UN vernacular) was presented to the Security Council. (Richard Butler, Saddam Defiant, p. 164)


The significance of all this is that the United States, shocked and dismayed by Iraqs agreement to re-admit UN weapons inspectors, is trying to derail the inspection process before it even starts, by ripping up the existing agreements, and demanding anyone, any time, anywhere inspection rights.

The Independent's Rupert Cornwell recently referred to what is emerging as the key issue of the Iraq crisisUS insistence that United Nations inspectors cannot return until the UN has passed a stern new resolution spelling out the consequences if Baghdad fails to cooperate. In a thinly-veiled threat, the Secretary of State, Colin Powell regarded as the spokesman of the moderates within the Bush administrationbluntly told a Congressional committee that the US would prevent the inspectors return unless they were armed with a resolution spelling out the consequences if Iraq did not grant them full and unfettered access to all suspect sites. (21 Sept., p. 11)

Colin Powell told the Congressional committee, There is standing authority for the inspection team but there are weaknesses in that authority which make the current regime unacceptable. And we need a new resolution to clean that up and put new conditions on the Iraqis so that there is no wriggling out . . . if somebody tried to move the [inspectors] team in right now, we would find ways to thwart that. (Telegraph, 21 Sept., p. 20)

Paragraph 11 of Security Council Resolution 1284 says that UNMOVIC, the new UN weapons inspection agency, inherits all the existing arrangements and agreements between UNSCOM and the Government of Iraq. This includes the Agreements for the Modalities of Sensitive Sites Inspection from 1996 and 1997, and the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the inspection of presidential/residential sites negotiated by Kofi Annan in Feb. 1998. Note: the UN Security Council itself adopted the presidential sites MOU.

or now, for example, Mr Blix [head of UNMOVIC] is assuming that special arrangements reached in the past between Iraq and the UN over access to presidential and other sensitive sites would be carried over. Although agreed in memoranda of understanding that are not part of UN resolutions, UN decision 1284 which created UNMOVIC stipulated that previous special arrangements would be adopted by the agency. (Roula Khalaf, FT, 19 Sept.)

We understand the MOU [memorandum of understanding] to still be valid, said UNMOVIC spokesperson Ewen Buchanan. Roula Khalaf comments, This is not what the US has in mind. A senior US official said no conditions, including those relating to presidential sites, would be acceptable. This is a high barrier... inspections have to be truly unconditional, said the official. (FT, 19 Sept.)


The letter read out to the UN General Assembly accepting the return of UN weapons inspectors said that Baghdad was ready to discuss the practical arrangements necessary for the immediate resumption of inspections. In this context, the Government of the Republic of Iraq reiterates the importance of the commitment of all Members States of the Security Council and the United Nations to respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of Iraq, as stipulated in the relevant Security Council resolutions and Article (11) of the Charter of the United Nations. (Times, 18 Sept., p. 13)

Colin Powell responded, Saddam is already walking back, he is already stepping away from the without conditions statement made on Monday. (Sunday Telegraph, 22 Sept., p. 29) This was the impression given by virtually all the British newspaper coverage. Tim Trevan, former UNSCOM inspector, and a man who knows better, referred to this section of the Iraq letter as code for no inspections of palaces or government ministry buildings. (Guardian, 18 Sept., p. 5)

From the chronology in Tim Trevan, Saddams Secrets: The Hunt for Iraqs Hidden Weapons (London, 1999): 19-22 June 1996 Rolf Ekeus visits Baghdad, and agrees with Iraq a joint programme of action to conclude investigations into Iraqs past programmes, and establishes inspection modalities for sensitive sites in order to take into account Iraqs legitimate security concerns whilst allowing UNSCOM the access necessary for its inspection activities. (p. 411) 4 Apr. 1998: Access to the presidential sites is obtained. (p. 414)

Incidentally, the sentences in the Government dossier referring to Dec. 1997 (see above) have been lifted directly from Trevans book (p. 364). Its a pity the Joint Intelligence Committee didnt check the chronology section at the end of the book, or read Richard Butlers account of these events.


As was predicted at the start of the year by a US intelligence official, the White House will not take yes for an answer. (Guardian, 14 Feb., p. 1) The US is intent on developing a UN resolution so provocative that Iraq will withdraw from inspections, opening the way for war. Ripping up the agreements is part of this.

Another idea is for inspectors to be accompanied by a multinational military arm strong enough to force immediate entry into any site at any time, described by a senior British Government official as an interesting idea, a perfectly valid approach. (FT, 19 Sept., p. 6)


Chemical weapons can be developed easily using equipment in many Iraqi factories. However, according to UNSCOM, Only the proper combination of different pieces of equipment in a particular configuration gives to . . . these pieces of equipment the status of a CW production facility. (Quoted in Scott Ritter, Redefining Iraqs Obligations, Arms Control Today, June 2000)

Before UNSCOM was withdrawn on US instructions (see R. Butler, Saddam Defiant, p. 224), the inspectors had video cameras in over 150 sites ensuring that dual-use equipment was not being used for the development of weapons of mass destruction was not being used for prohibited purposes. Ongoing Monitoring and Verification is the only way to freeze Iraqs weapons programmes with any degree of confidence. That should be the priority for all who are concerned by Iraqs suspected weapons of mass destruction


Contrary to media reports, the sensitive sites agreements ALLOW inspections, they do not bar them. The existing agreements would enable inspectors to check the claims of defectors about new weapons facilities. If the agreements are ripped up, there will be NO inspections of ANY sites. That is precisely the intention of the Bush Administration. We must expose and counter these lies, and fight against the new conditions. Defend the weapons inspectors. Prevent the war.

NOTE: In the first draft of this briefing, the impression was given that Iraq had not refused inspections of presidential sites in December 1997. This was inaccurate. Iraq did make such an announcement (later reversed, as we have seen).

This error in no way affects the central issue: that the Government deliberately misled MPs and the public by failing to mention the inspections of the presidential sites leading up to the 15 April 1998 report to the Security Council, and giving the impression that Iraq completely refused all inspections of the 'sovereign' 'presidential/residential' sites.


War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Why We Shouldnt Launch Another War Against Iraq
by Milan Rai

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'Timely and important'. Hilary Wainwright

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For more analysis on the UK Government's dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, view the Counter-Dossier on the Labour Against the War website.

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