Timeline IRAQ:
Challenges & Lessons Learned from Nuclear Inspections

by Jacques Baute

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Conclusions & Credibility: The Coherent Picture Emerges 1995-98

An important event occurred in August 1995 through the departure from Iraq of General Hussein Kamel - the Iraqi President's son-in-law and former supervisor of all WMD programmes. Iraq pre-empted his expected revelations by coming forward with additional declarations. In particular, Iraq provided details on its attempt to recover HEU from reactor fuel and handed over large quantities of documents related to the centrifuge enrichment and weaponisation areas. Additionally, the counterpart demonstrated a level of transparency that was unseen until that point in time. Because we had fully understood Iraq's documentation procedures, we completed our collection of original Iraqi documents by convincing the counterpart that providing the missing original reports was inescapable. They gained access to all relevant Iraqi personnel, while, prior to August 1995, Iraq had tended to give us access only to a "spokesperson" in the relevant technical areas.

Follow-up on Iraq's most damaging concealment action - the unilateral destruction of equipment and documents in the summer of 1991 - was implemented. This led to a campaign of digging in the desert to recover and take inventory of what had been hidden. Member States, or, more specifically, those communities in Member States that worked closely on the "Iraq case", also became more supportive. They had finally realised that the IAEA inspection team was strong in its technical approach, reliable in handling sensitive information, and that the IAEA had become the most knowledgeable organisation on Iraq's past programme and remaining capabilities. A tremendous amount of information of all kinds began to flow to us, allowing the team to become confident that, as all sources of credible information were being consistent, we had reached an accurate understanding of Iraq's nuclear past programme and remaining capabilities.

The lesson to be learned from that period is the following: It is possible for a nuclear verification body to provide the international community with an accurate estimate of the past and present situation provided that:

Although, accuracy can never be 100%, by the end of the 1990s the world had a clear "coherent picture" of what was Iraq's nuclear programme. It was documented in comprehensive reports to the UN Security Council.

Unfortunately, one of the key problems, in retrospect, was that the Agency's approach and results remained unpublicised. In 1997-1998, only UNSCOM, and its problematic relations with Iraq, was reported in the media. In view of this lack of publicity, along with the fact that four years had passed during which, in capitals, many of the staff dealing with the Iraq file had moved on, it was hardly surprising that, by 2002, many people, including policy makers, were more inclined to consider worrisome declarations on major television networks than thorough but rather lacklustre, technical reports to the Security Council. The promoters of the "inspections do not work" line could easily surf on the majority's short and selective memory.

The key lesson for the Agency was that it should not only successfully fulfil its mandate, but also make better use of the media to convey its achievements to the public and decision makers.

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