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Iraq: Frequently Asked Questions
A guide to the main issues about weapons inspections
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By OLIVER MOORE, Globe and Mail Update
  
  
Wednesday, November 20, 2002

What has Iraq agreed to do?
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441 calls for a full and open declaration by Iraq of all of its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs and stockpiles. Baghdad has until Dec. 8 to produce this declaration. In the meantime, chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix is expected to begin the search for weapons on Nov. 27. He is to report to the Security Council within 60 days on the state of the Iraqi mission. If, at any point before that date, he feels he is being lied to, manipulated or obstructed, he is to report immediately to the Security Council.

Would that mean war?
Not necessarily, but probably. The resolution doesn't spell out what military action the UN would take if Iraq reneges on its responsibilities. Instead, the resolution calls for a new round of Security Council talks. The White House, though, has made clear that it would not wait for these deliberations.

Why the U.S. rush?
After last year's attacks on New York and Washington, U.S. President George W. Bush has hardened his position on emerging threats and made clear his determination to deal with them before they damage the United States. Iraqi weather patterns are also high in the minds of military planners. The desert will begin to heat up by March and summer temperatures can reach average highs of almost 50 degrees Celsius. The heat makes it almost impossible to wage war in chemical-protection suits. As well, April is typically the start of Iraq's windy season with sandstorms that could impede or stall an invading army.

Are these the same inspectors who were in Iraq before?
The old UN mission (UNSCOM) was disbanded in December 1999 and was replaced by UNMOVIC, which is funded by money raised from the limited sales of oil from Iraq.

Iraq had justified its non-compliance with UNSCOM by accusing the U.S. of sending spies on the weapons inspection team. The allegations were backed up by one UNSCOM inspector but were denied by then-chief inspector Richard Butler. Whatever the truth of those allegations, Mr. Blix has made clear that he will not tolerate spies on his mission, promising to expel those who try to "have two hats."

What tools are they bringing with them?
The UN team is reportedly unwilling to rely on the Iraqis for any key equipment. This means they have to bring everything from helicopters to vacuum cleaners. They will also have access to a few specialized tools that may help them find the needle in the Iraqi haystack:

  • data from spy satellites
  • alloy detectors capable of finding materials with nuclear applications
  • HANAA, a handheld device which can detect anthrax or plague
  • ground-penetrating radar that will help find buried materials
  • tamper-proof digital cameras that will be left in some sites to send regular images out of Baghdad via satellite.
  • Do the inspectors know what they are looking for?
    Not entirely. The last UN mission to Iraq ended four years ago and, satellite images and defectors' intelligence notwithstanding, western spy agencies have an imperfect idea of what is going on in Iraq. Inspectors are not going in blind, though, and reportedly have more than 700 sites on their list. Some of these will be inspected for the first time since previous inspections were restricted from some places, notably presidential palaces. The current inspection mission has the authority to inspect any site it chooses and interview any scientist it desires.

    What will Saddam Hussein do if the U.S. invades and threatens his rule?
    No one knows. However, many analysts predict that he will lash out with any chemical weapons he may have. CIA psychiatrist and political psychologist Jerrold Post told The Guardian in mid-November that Mr. Hussein's sense of grandeur is tied up in his alleged arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, and that he cannot give them up. "Big boys have big toys," is how Dr. Post put it. "Without the weapons he's nothing." In response, U.S. war planners have reportedly crafted plans to rapidly secure the western area of Iraq, the area most likely to be used by Hussein to lob missiles at Israel. The U.S. strategists are also planning a psychological-warfare campaign against Iraqi military officers. The message will be blunt: don't fight and die for a losing cause and don't risk war-crimes prosecution by using banned weapons.


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