BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Persian Pashto Turkish French
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Middle East  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Monday, 18 November, 2002, 11:37 GMT
Analysis: Inspectors back in Iraq
UK Government picture - Iraqi bombs allegedly used to deliver chemical weapons
Weapons inspections will be rigorous and intrusive

United Nations weapons inspectors are back in Iraq for the first time since January 1998.

Backed by a tough new Security Council resolution, 1441, these inspections are being cast as Iraq's last chance to disarm or somehow prove it has disarmed.

Anything but full compliance by Iraq with inspections that are expected to be more rigorous and intrusive than any in the past may trigger a United States-led war to depose Saddam Hussein.


We are like police officers whose task is to find a murderer among a million people. The chances are not good, but if you are professional you can succeed

Jacques Baute
IAEA chief inspector
Hans Blix, the head of the UN monitoring, verification and inspection commission (Unmovic), is leading the forward team. He plans two days of talks with Iraqi officials.

The first arrivals will set up offices and living quarters for an inspection team that will number about 80 when it is in full flow.

For the first time, inspectors will be setting up branches in Mosul and Basra.

The first actual weapons inspectors are due to arrive on Monday 25 November.

The inspectors will be backed up in New York by 200 or so personnel ready to take over.

Accompanying Mr Blix is Jacques Baute, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency's inspection team.

"We are like police officers whose task is to find a murderer among a million people," is how Mr Baute recently described the mission ahead.

"The chances are not good, but if you are professional you can succeed."

Tough new rules

During eight years of Unscom inspections, between 1991 and 1998, Iraq blatantly obstructed and deceived inspectors.

Inspectors have some reason to be optimistic they will get greater co-operation from Iraq this time.

They have the firm and unanimous backing of the UN Security Council and tough new powers.

Picture distributed by the UK Government
An alleged chemical weapons plant at Tarmiya
Inspectors now have the right to "immediate, unrestricted and unconditional access" to any site, including all of the Iraqi leader's presidential palaces.

For the first time, weapons inspectors will be able to take witnesses and their families out of Iraq so that they can give evidence without fear of reprisals.

The demand for a "currently accurate, full and complete" declaration of Iraq's suspected weapons of mass destruction and the capacity to build them is also key. This must be handed over by 8 December.

Any "false statements or omissions" in Iraq's declaration, as well as any interference with or threats to the inspectors at work, will be considered a further "material breach".

And in the background, of course, there is the threat of "serious consequence" to make Iraqi officials co-operate.

Open in new window : Iraq spotlight
Click to see maps of Iraq's suspected weapons sites

Mr Baute has said that the teams do not have a finite number of sites to search and monitor.

"I can't say that there are 100 sites that are very important and another 300 more that are significant. For us it doesn't matter. We have a mandate to search the whole country."


On the surface this is the big one. But, I have been in this situation on several occasions before when we have supposedly been embarking on Iraq's last chance, on the 'trigger mission', but it has seldom turned out that way

Chris Cobb-Smith
Former Unscom inspector
The main sites that inspectors are likely to visit have a long history. There are roughly 20 main sites.

For example, there are three sites at Fallujah, west of Baghdad, believed to be at the heart of Iraq's chemical weapons programme. They were destroyed in the 1991 Gulf War but rebuilt, with UN permission, for what Iraq describes a civilian purposes.

The US says that weapons of mass destruction are being produced here.

Tarmiya, north of Baghdad, has been identified by previous weapons inspectors as a vast uranium enrichment plant capable of producing weapons-grade nuclear material. The UK Government says a chemical weapons research centre is now located here.

Perhaps more important than these well-known sites may be the approach inspectors take to what might be dual-use equipment.

Inspectors are believed to have a comprehensive idea of Iraq's imports since 1998. A lot of their work is expected to be aimed at checking that the imports are being used for their declared civilian purposes.

Under pressure

Apart from the technical difficulties of carrying out the inspections themselves, Unmovic is going to be under a great deal of scrutiny - particularly from Washington.

Inspectors at work in Iraq in 1998
Inspectors are expecting far greater co-operation from Iraqi officials that in the past
Administration hawks, led by Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, appear unconvinced that weapons inspections, however tough, will be effective in disarming Iraq.

Nor has the US relinquished the ambition of removing Saddam Hussein from power.

In this bigger picture, the weapons inspections can be seen as a formality that must be gone through before the US, and perhaps the United Kingdom, send troops into Iraq.

Trigger for war?

If at any time the weapons inspectors declare Iraq to be in "material breach" of resolution 1441, the US and UK are likely to seize on this as a trigger for a military campaign.

The US has said that these will be "zero tolerance" inspections and that a material breach of the resolution will mean, sooner or later, war.

But if Washington is hoping to retain support from anyone other than Britain for action against Iraq, it will have to take the question of war back to the Security Council.

The inspections themselves are unlikely to give any quick answers.

And it will be very difficult for inspectors to prove definitively that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction.

Far more likely is a report that says the inspectors destroyed all that they found or found nothing.

Former Unscom weapons inspector Chris Cobb-Smith told BBC News Online: "On the surface this is the big one.

"But, I have been in this situation on several occasions before when we have supposedly been embarking on Iraq's last chance, on the 'trigger mission', but it has seldom turned out that way."


Key stories

Analysis

CLICKABLE GUIDE

BBC WORLD SERVICE

AUDIO VIDEO

TALKING POINT
See also:

15 Nov 02 | Middle East
09 Nov 02 | Middle East
12 Nov 02 | Middle East
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Middle East stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Middle East stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes