Instead of war ...
Steven Zunes
September 2002

The best way to stop the potential of Iraq developing weapons of mass destruction would be through resuming United Nations inspections, which--despite episodes of Iraqi noncooperation and harassment--were largely successful. It was Washington's ill-considered decision to misuse the inspection teams for unrelated spying operations* and the decision to engage in an intense four-day bombing campaign against Iraq that led Saddam Hussein to cease his cooperation completely in December 1998.

Since then, the United States has not offered any incentives for Iraq to allow inspections to resume. From the outset, Washington made it clear that even total cooperation with UNSCOM would not lead to an end to the devastating international sanctions against Iraq. As a result, Saddam Hussein may be refusing to allow UN inspectors to return not because he has something to hide but because he has nothing to gain by cooperating. Offering an end to or a substantial liberalization of nonmilitary sanctions in return for unfettered access by UN inspection teams would probably be the best way to regain access for the inspectors.

Unfortunately, Bush administration officials are apparently no longer even interested in renewing UN inspections, dismissing out of hand Iraq's recently announced willingness to consider their return. This raises questions as to whether the potential Iraqi possession of weapons of mass destruction is really a genuine concern of American officials or merely an excuse to go to war.

A number of observers, including Scott Ritter--who had criticized the Clinton administration for not pushing the Iraqi regime harder on its initial refusals to allow inspections into some of the government's inner sanctums--believe that the Bush administration is sabotaging United Nations efforts to reopen inspections. For example, Ritter told the Los Angeles Times that the recent decision to engage in covert operations to assassinate Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi leaders "effectively kills any chance of inspectors returning to Iraq" because "the Iraqis will never trust an inspection regime that has already shown itself susceptible to infiltration and manipulation by intelligence services hostile to Iraq."

There is also no reason why the current emphasis on deterrence will not continue to work. Iraq was able to build up its initial raw components, equipment, and technologies for the development of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons through imports, much of which came from the United States...

Excerpted from "Seven Fallacies of U.S. Plans to Invade Iraq," August 2002 Foreign Policy in Focus policy report. Available at the Common Dreams website.
Stephen Zunes ( is Middle East editor of Foreign Policy in Focus.

* See "U.S. Spied on Iraq Under U.N. Cover, Officials Now Say," New York Times, Thursday, January 7, 1999.

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