If you read the Sunday papers and watched the political talk shows, you may have gotten the impression that a war with Iraq will occur sometime after the November elections, either with the support of the UN Security Council or without it. It is almost certainly the case that inspectors will soon be headed for Iraq and once they begin inspecting, the case for war will dissolve completely. The reason is that the new inspection regime will be completely under the control of the United Nations, with more than 200 inspectors hired by Hans Blix, the UNMOVIC director, and paid out of UN funds. The “cat and mouse” games which got so much publicity in the earlier UNSCOM inspection years, 1991-98, can largely be explained by the fact that the inspectors were hired by the United States and other interested nations and donated to the UN inspection pool. From the very beginning, it was always the policy of the United States government to keep the inspections going indefinitely, hoping to bring about a regime change in Baghdad.
That meant “cat and mouse” provocations, especially in 1998, when Richard Butler was in charge of UNSCOM. Butler permitted the inspectors supplied by the United States to go their own way in provoking the Iraqis, to the point where the government refused to allow a large contingent into the Ba’ath Party headquarters after a small contingent went in and found nothing. That refusal was used by Butler to complain of an egregious violation of the UN mandate. Scott Ritter, who had been leading UNSCOM inspections before Butler arrived in 1998, described what happened in a recent interview:
Under orders from the United States, [Butler] withdrew the inspections teams. He did this in direct violation of a promise he had given to the other members of the Security Council: that he would never again withdraw inspectors unilaterally, that if they were to be withdrawn, he would go through rthe Security Council, inform them, and get their permission. The inspectors work for the Council. But Richard Butler took a telephone call from Peter Burleigh, deputy U.S. ambassador, executed his marching orders, withdrew the inspectors, and two days later the bombing campaign started, using Richard Butler’s report to the Security Council as justification – his report saying, of course, that the inspectors weren’t being allowed to do their jobs by the Iraqis.
Once this becomes clear, it is easy to see why the Pentagon warriors are so eager to keep Hans Blix and his team out of Iraq, as they know he will find nothing interesting. It also explains why Scott Ritter has been so aggressive in his opposition to war against Iraq and a return of the inspectors under Blix -- knowing Saddam’s government is likely to get a good report card. Ritter argues Iraq has been qualitatively disarmed since 1997, meaning he can’t do its neighbors harm with what it has, and could not have reconstituted what UNSCOM destroyed before Butler arrived in ‘98. The UN debate begins Wednesday. It should be clear by the weekend that Blix and his team will be on their way by the end of the month. This means no war in the next several months, which means no war at all.