In 1990, under President HW Bush per the Reagan Corollary to the Carter Doctrine, the United States became the chief enforcer of the UNSC resolutions for Iraq beginning with the UNSCR 660 demand for Saddam Hussein to cease his aggression with Kuwait. The US-led military enforcement of the UNSC resolutions crossed the war threshold with the Gulf War in 1991 per Public Law 102-1 pursuant to UNSC Resolution 678 "acting under Chapter VII of the Charter".
The Gulf War was only suspended by a ceasefire with strict conditions for Iraq. The conditional ceasefire basically was a Hague IV armistice. The Congressional authorization for the Gulf War also authorized enforcement of the Gulf War ceasefire. To resolve the Iraqi threat established with the Gulf War, the international community agreed that the entire burden was on Iraq as the probationary party to prove compliance with the UNSCR 660-series resolutions and cure the presumption of guilt on Iraq's WMD stocks, materials, programs, delivery systems, intentions, etc., as well as a host of other armament and non-weapons issues.
Iraq's ceasefire obligations under the UNSCR 660-series resolutions embodied the spectrum of essential international norms in response to the spectrum of Saddam's malfeasance that caused the Gulf War and its aftermath. The Gulf War ceasefire "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441) set the diagnostic measurements-cum-prescriptive measures that defined Iraq's outstanding threat and its solution. The measures were designed to assure the international community that Iraq was compliant and disarmed so that the "Government of Iraq" could be trusted to the standard necessary to satisfy "the need to be assured of Iraq's peaceful intentions in the light of its unlawful invasion and occupation of Kuwait [and] ... to secure peace and security in the area" (UNSCR 687).
The initial expectation was Iraq's disarmament obligations would be satisfied within a year and, indeed, the obvious and known stocks of Iraqi WMD were eliminated within the 1st years after the Gulf War. But due to the successive wars instigated by Iraq and the continued malfeasant behavior of Saddam, the ceasefire following the Gulf War was conditioned upon a strict standard of compliance that demanded Iraq rehabilitate its behavior to a degree that would eliminate the doubts of a cautious international community led by the US.
The Iraq Survey Group (ISG) summed up Saddam's ambition:
Saddam’s rationale for the possession of WMD derived from a need for survival and domination. This included a mixture of individual, ethnic, and nationalistic pride as well as national security concerns particularly regarding Iran. Saddam wanted personal greatness, a powerful Iraq that could project influence on the world stage, and a succession that guaranteed both. ... WMD was one of the means to these interrelated ends.With Saddam Hussein in charge, we had to be sure.
However, after Iraq agreed to the ceasefire and the Gulf War military threat was withdrawn, Saddam defied the compliance and disarmament process and set about undermining the whole disarmament system.
Despite the elimination of the obvious and known stocks of Iraq's WMD, the continued Iraqi denial and deception against the inspections meant Iraq failed to sufficiently account for its proscribed weapons and comply with the standard of disarmament imposed by the UN. The threat posed by a noncompliant Saddam was based less on what we knew about Iraq's weapons and intentions, but rather what we didn't know about them. Iraq's proscribed items and activities that could be demonstrated in hand were not Saddam's main WMD-related threat because the violations that could be demonstrated could be corrected as mandated. Rather, Saddam's main WMD-related threat was Iraq's proscribed items and activities that were unaccounted for due to Iraq's "denial and deception operations" (ISG).
Meanwhile, the "systematic, widespread and extremely grave violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law by the Government of Iraq, resulting in an all-pervasive repression and oppression sustained by broad-based discrimination and widespread terror" (UN Commission on Human Rights) in Iraq following the Gulf War immediately generated humanitarian requirements with UNSCR 688 that expanded the standard of compliance imposed on Iraq to prove its rehabilitation. Saddam's regime was not a secular bulwark, as it is often erroneously represented by mission opponents. Saddam had undertaken the sectarian radicalization of Iraqi society since the Iran-Iraq War.
UN Security Council Resolution 688 (1991) mandated Iraq to immediately end the repression of Iraq's civilian population:
1. Condemns the repression of the Iraqi civilian population in many parts of Iraq, including most recently in Kurdish populated areas, the consequences of which threaten international peace and security in the region;
2. Demands that Iraq, as a contribution to remove the threat to international peace and security in the region, immediately end this repression and express the hope in the same context that an open dialogue will take place to ensure that the human and political rights of all Iraqi citizens are respected;
3. Insists that Iraq allow immediate access by international humanitarian organizations to all those in need of assistance in all parts of Iraq and to make available all necessary facilities for their operations;
6. Appeals to all Member States and to all humanitarian organizations to contribute to these humanitarian relief efforts;
7. Demands that Iraq cooperate with the Secretary-General to these ends;
IR realism had been the guiding principle of our cautious, comparatively favorable view of Iraq of the two combatants in the Iran-Iraq War. It also had been the guiding principle that led us to intervene when Iraq brutally occupied Kuwait but then stop short of the logical and normal conclusion of regime change in order to retain Saddam as a check on Iran. We wanted Iraq to check Iran and avoid the risks of regime change. But we needed to address the spectrum of dangerous behavior and threat of Saddam’s regime with the comprehensive scope of the Gulf War ceasefire.
The conflicting objectives with Saddam quickly proved to be an impossible balancing act. Iraq was noncompliant from the start of the ceasefire:
During the first few inspections (June-July 1991), it became clear that the inspectors were more serious and intrusive than Baghdad expected of the United Nations. Baghdad was still surrounded by a huge array of military force that was fully capable of invading. Baghdad nevertheless initially chose to conceal WMD capabilities with a goal of preserving future WMD options. Indeed, Iraq used CW against Shia within its own borders just two months earlier.At the same time that President HW Bush justified stopping short of Iraqi regime change in the Gulf War, he also oriented the US-led enforcement of UNSCR 688 towards Iraqi regime change. By May 1991 at the latest, the HW Bush administration actively pursued a policy of Iraqi regime change that the Clinton administration carried forward and Congress later codified with the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998.
Baghdad was found blatantly cheating. The immediate consequence during this period was that the UN Security Council, including the United States, did not restart the recently ended conflict but did pass a new resolution on 15 August 1991 (UNSCR 707) demanding more access and more intrusive rights for UN inspectors. The message was thus mixed. The UN Security Council could agree on demands but not on enforcement. What was the impression received by Saddam? He was clearly refusing cooperation with the UN resolutions. Saddam crushed internal dissent, including the use of chemical weapons, just as he did in the late 1980s. Yet, military force was not used against him. However, more intrusive legal strictures were imposed. Saddam identified the envelope of limits around him. [ISG]
On January 19, 1993, in his last comprehensive update on Iraq's compliance to Congress per Public Law 102-1, President HW Bush reported, "Since my last report on November 16, 1992, Iraq has repeatedly ignored and violated its international obligations under U.N. Security Council Resolutions."
In October 1994, a large Iraqi military deployment to the Iraq-Kuwait border compelled Operation Vigilant Warrior and UNSCR 949. Other notable military encounters during this period include air strikes in January 1993 in response to Iraqi incursions into Kuwait, deployment and use of anti-aircraft missiles against patrolling US aircraft, and obstruction of UN weapons inspections, missile strikes in response to the June 1993 attempted assassination of President HW Bush in Kuwait, and Operation Desert Strike in response to the August 1996 Iraqi seizure of Irbil, which effectively broke the US-backed Iraqi threat to the Saddam regime.
Then in August 1995, WMD stocks and program elements Iraq had hidden from inspectors were revealed due to a high-level defection. Although the defector (Saddam's son-in-law, General Hussein Kamel al-Majid) claimed they were the last stockpiles, the hitherto successful deception by itself underscored the burden of proof imposed on Iraq. Even had Iraq been actually cleansed of WMD after the 1995 revelation, Iraq's uncovered deception demonstrated the intent to harbor NBC capability and resist the verification and compliance process necessary to validate Iraq's rehabilitation.
Speaking on behalf of the Administration on March 26, 1997, Secretary of State Albright provided a comprehensive summation of the updated Clinton 2nd-term policy on Iraq with a sharpened focus on the noncompliant behavior of Saddam's regime, distinct from its demonstrable possession of weapons. The trigger for enforcement was Iraq's continued failure to meet the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441), which qualified as proof that Saddam's regime was a "clear and present danger to the stability of the Persian Gulf and the safety of people everywhere".
President Clinton tied the "clear and present danger" of Iraq to the behavior of Saddam's regime and only indirectly to Iraq's weapons. The regime change mandate in the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 (Public Law 105-338) was based on the premise that the issue was Saddam's regime.
The humanitarian requirements imposed upon Saddam's regime were strict. The primary threat of Iraq was the presumed guilt, intentions, and defiance of Saddam's regime regarding WMD and other matters, apart from Iraq's actual or demonstrable possession of WMD. Therefore, the standard for Iraq's compliance was based not on US and UN demonstration of Iraqi WMD, which was impossible to do reliably due to Iraq's effective resistance to both the inspections and foreign intelligence efforts to assist the inspections, but based instead on the noncompliant behavior of Saddam's regime as judged by the standard set by the UNSC resolutions enforced by US law.
As non-military enforcement measures proved inadequate to compel Saddam, it soon was apparent that Saddam's cooperation, let alone compliance required a credible military threat. President Clinton, as chief enforcer of the UNSC resolutions for Iraq, shouldered the responsibility of supplying the credible military threat necessary to compel Saddam's cooperation. However, limited military enforcement measures also proved inadequate to compel Saddam's compliance, and the US-led military enforcement progressed until the penultimate military enforcement step of the Operation Desert Fox bombing campaign was passed in 1998.
President Clinton set the stage for Operation Iraqi Freedom with Operation Desert Fox by practically clearing the penultimate enforcement step and establishing the law and policy grounds for regime change. The Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 followed the established executive policy by codifying the solution for the threat of Saddam’s noncompliance was US-assisted regime change per section 3 followed by US-led peace operations per section 7 to “bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations” (P.L. 105-235). After the ODF bombing campaign failed to move Saddam to comply and disarm, the only remaining military enforcement measure was the threat of a ground campaign, which President Bush exercised in 2002.
The casus belli in the legal authority for Operation Desert Fox was Iraq's material breach of its obligations under the UNSC resolutions. The material breach was not based on what the US and UN knew Iraq possessed, but rather it was based on what they did not know as a result of Iraq's failure to provide a complete account and Saddam's denial and deception that prevented them from knowing. President Clinton carried his argument for military enforcement with Iraq from Operation Desert Fox through his support of President Bush's decision for Operation Iraqi Freedom, until Clinton's public support for Bush became politically untenable.
President Clinton was conscious that the US-led enforcement of the Gulf War ceasefire's "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441) was the defining international enforcement of the post-Cold War. From Iraq's invasion of Kuwait at the outset of the UNSCR 660 series, Saddam proved repeatedly that the "spiral" model of defusing conflict encouraged his malfeasance. For the duration of the Gulf War ceasefire enforcement with the Saddam regime, only firm application of credible threat with the "deterrence" model could draw out even a limited measure of Iraq's mandated compliance.
As President Bush explained his determination to use force to Congress, "Diplomatic efforts have not affected Iraq's conduct positively. Any temporary changes in Iraq's approach that have occurred over the years have been in response to the threat of use of force."
Holding Iraq to the terms of the UNSCR 660-series resolutions mattered beyond pacifying Saddam. Due to the historical context, threats and interests at stake, comprehensive spectrum of the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441), model enforcement procedure, and US-led UN-based structure, the UNSCR 660-series compliance enforcement was tantamount to the flagship and litmus test of the US-led post-Cold War liberal international order. The world was judging whether American leadership possessed the resolute integrity required to effectively enforce norms and mandates with rogue actors like Iraq, Iran, and north Korea.
In his remarks to Pentagon personnel on February 17, 1998, Clinton warned against the broader consequences of tolerating Saddam's noncompliance:
If we fail to respond today, Saddam and all those who would follow in his footsteps will be emboldened tomorrow by the knowledge that they can act with impunity, even in the face of a clear message from the United Nations Security Council and clear evidence of a weapons of mass destruction program.However, by the middle-to-late 1990s, in spite of Saddam's belligerence and persistent noncompliance, UN Security Council permanent members Russia, China, and France had turned against the strict US-led enforcement of the Gulf War ceasefire. While acknowledging Iraq's noncompliance, they sought to disable the military threat that was necessary to drive Saddam to comply. Their advocacy for Iraq was motivated by dedication to a multi-polar realist rather than US-led liberal world order, separate grievance with US-led international enforcement, a desire to avoid brinkmanship with Iraq, and Saddam's bribery with the Oil For Food scandal. The Iraq Survey Group found Russia, China, France, and other mission opponents were complicit rearming Saddam in violation of the UNSCR 687 arms embargo.
The Regime Finance and Procurement section of the Iraq Survey Group Duelfer report, Iraq's Suppliers at Iraq Watch, and IIC's Report on the Manipulation of the Oil-for-Food Programme detail the nearly complete extent that Iraq had defeated the sanctions and 'containment' regime with illicit diplomatic and economic means. This excerpt from the Transmittal Message of the ISG Duelfer report describes the international consensus that was critical for the Gulf War ceasefire enforcement had fallen apart:
From Baghdad the long struggle to outlast the containment policy of the United States imposed through the UN sanctions seemed tantalizingly close. There was considerable commitment and involvement on the part of states like Russia and Syria, who had developed economic and political stakes in the success of the Regime. From Baghdad’s perspective, they had firm allies, and it appeared the United States was in retreat. The United Nations mechanism to implement the Oil For Food program was being corrupted and undermined. The collapse or removal of sanctions was foreseeable. This goal, always foremost in Saddam’s eyes, was within reach.To disarm the looming confrontation with the Saddam regime as the 1990s wore on with Saddam intransigent, opponents sought to remove the mandate on Iraq to "prove a negative" by erasing the baseline WMD status for Iraq that was the foundational premise of the Gulf War ceasefire disarmament process. In other words, they characterized the demand on Iraq as showing it was not armed as estimated as opposed to proving it had disarmed as mandated. They argued the Saddam regime should no longer be required to provide the full and verified declaration needed to account for Iraq's entire WMD-related program as mandated by UNSCR 687. Instead, they sought to replace the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441) with the lower burden of showing the apparent absence of WMD stocks with no further obligation to account for proscribed items and activities. Practically, their position meant anything Saddam could manage to hide from the inspections should be overlooked and tolerated. Opponents of the US-led enforcement in effect adopted the standard of compliance preferred by Saddam Hussein and his allies, by which Iraq would have satisfied its disarmament obligations by 1994 - in other words, before General Hussein Kamel al-Majid revealed Saddam's hidden WMD stocks in 1995.
On the other side, the US continued to enforce the UN mandates for disarming and rehabilitating Iraq to a strict standard of compliance with the goal of reintegrating a pacific Iraq in the international community. In August 1998, Congress passed Public Law 105-235 (Iraqi Breach of International Obligations), which set the judgement condition of breach that was necessary for military enforcement and established Iraq's noncompliance as a "vital" national security interest:
Whereas Iraq’s continuing weapons of mass destruction programs threaten vital United States interests and international peace and security: Now, therefore, be itPresident Clinton's efforts to disarm Saddam peaked in December 1998. Despite the reinforced mandate of UNSCRs 1154, 1194, and 1205, Iraq remained steadfastly noncompliant with the UNSCOM inspections, which failed under a divided, dysfunctional UN Security Council exploited by Saddam. UNSCOM confirmed the Saddam regime's material breach of UNSCR 687. In response, the US and UK bombed Iraqi infrastructure and suspected weapons sites in Operation Desert Fox.
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Government of Iraq is in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations, and therefore the President is urged to take appropriate action, in accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws of the United States, to bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations.
In 1999, the UN Security Council confirmed Iraq was noncompliant with the UNSCR 660 series, including UNSCRs 687 and 688. With the Gulf War ceasefire-mandated disarmament process degraded to a dangerous, costly, vilified, and eroding ad hoc 'containment', UNMOVIC replaced UNSCOM. In 2001, terrorists successfully attacked the US on 9/11. By then, the sanctions-based 'containment' of Iraq had evidently collapsed. In 2002, the UN Security Council formally declared Iraq "has been and remains in material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions", including Saddam's terrorism in breach of UNSCR 687, and aggressively moved to reintroduce weapons inspectors into Iraq under the UN mandate of UNSCR 1441 and US enforcement authority of Public Law 107-243 with the standard of "full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions with its obligations under resolution 687 (1991) and other relevant resolutions" (UNSCR 1441). UNSCR 1441 mandated Iraq to abide by an "enhanced inspection regime" formulated to counter Iraq's denial and deception practices, which had foiled UNSCOM, or else face "serious consequences" for committing "further material breach" on top of Iraq's "continued violations of its obligations".
On top of the basic established fact of Saddam's UNSCR 687-proscribed armament, the intelligence on Saddam's WMD was weighed with the indicators - corroborated by the Iraq Survey Group - of Iraq "rebuilding his [Saddam's] military-industrial complex", "increasing its access to dual-use items and materials", "creating numerous military research and development projects", "procurement programs supporting Iraq’s WMD programs", and "concealment and deception activities" (ISG). The decisive indicators were the UNMOVIC findings of "about 100 unresolved disarmament issues" that dispositively confirmed Saddam did not disarm as mandated.
In 2002-2003, however, the split in the UN Security Council between Saddam's accomplices and the Gulf War ceasefire enforcers had carried over from Operation Desert Fox in 1998. Opponents of the US-led enforcement of the UN mandates, Russia chief among them, continued to oppose the strict standard of compliance for Iraq by which President Clinton had defined the casus belli of Operation Desert Fox. They believed that compromising the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441) and negotiating with Saddam to end the 'containment' was the way to peace, whereas the threatened introduction of ground troops and regime change to enforce the UNSC resolutions, including the "enhanced inspection regime" of UNSCR 1441, was unacceptable short of 'smoking gun' proof of an imminent threat by Iraq.
At the outset of the UNSCR 1441 inspections, UNMOVIC director Hans Blix added to the confusion by ambiguously expressing rejection of a presumption of guilt for Iraq, framing the US and Iraq positions as equivalent, and even expressing sympathy for Iraq's argument that foreign intelligence efforts to aid the inspections were a violation of Iraqi sovereignty. OIF opponents typically cite Blix's February 14, 2003 update briefing that followed Blix's scathing January 27, 2003 update briefing and preceded the March 6, 2003 UNMOVIC Clusters document. Blix was clear in his February briefing that Saddam was noncompliant; in spite of that, Blix employed subtly misleading wording that enemy propagandists exploited to obfuscate the disarmament mandates and falsely assert UNMOVIC's role was to search for WMD to disarm (as opposed to verify Iraq had disarmed as mandated), UN inspectors assessed no WMD, Iraq was sufficiently cooperating, and the timeframe for the Saddam regime to comply was open-ended.
However, Blix contradicted his softer and at times misleading stated view of the disarmament mandates by also strictly upholding the burden of proof and "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441) in Saddam's "final opportunity to comply with its [Iraq's] disarmament obligations under ... an enhanced inspection regime with the aim of bringing to full and verified completion the disarmament process established by resolution 687 (1991) and subsequent resolutions of the Council" (UNSCR 1441). The foundational premise of the disarmament process in the Gulf War ceasefire was the established fact of Saddam's intent and possession of UNSCR 687-proscribed armament. Iraq's guilt of proscribed armament was presumed until cured by the required proof that Iraq had disarmed in conformity with the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" mandated by UNSCR 687. Iraq's burden of proof was inseparable from the presumption of guilt for Iraq: the burden of proof to fully comply with the mandates of the UNSCR 660-series resolutions, including the disarmament mandates of UNSCR 687, was placed on Saddam in order to cure Iraq's guilt, including proscribed armament.
On March 7, 2003, the UNSCR 1441 inspections concluded with UNMOVIC's confirmation to the UN Security Council that in Saddam's "final opportunity to comply" with "full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions with its obligations" (UNSCR 1441), Iraq remained guilty of breaching the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441) for disarmament mandated by UNSCR 687. By procedure, Hans Blix's UNMOVIC findings pursuant to UNSCR 1441 triggered enforcement with Operation Iraqi Freedom like Richard Butler's UNSCOM findings pursuant to UNSCR 1205 had triggered Operation Desert Fox in 1998.
However, after the UNSCR 1441 inspections, Blix further inflamed the already charged politics by obfuscating the operative enforcement procedure and "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441). Blix suggested (then later asserted) the UN inspectors' role was to seek out and demonstrate Iraq's WMD, which plainly contradicted the mandated verification role of the UN weapons inspections wherein the "onus [was] clearly on Iraq" (UNMOVIC) to prove the mandated disarmament. Saddam did not provide the mandated cooperation required for "full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions with its obligations" (UNSCR 1441). Yet faced with Iraq's "concealment and deception activities" (ISG), Blix wanted to shift the burden of proof from Iraq proving the mandated disarmament with the "enhanced inspection regime" (UNSCR 1441) to UN inspectors sussing out the state of Iraq's WMD with an ambiguous improvised reduced standard while tacitly stripped of the "enhanced inspection regime" that relied on the time-sensitive threat of regime change. Blix contradicted the foundational premise of the UNSCR 687 disarmament process by intimating Saddam's evidential failure to prove the mandated disarmament did not mean Saddam was guilty of proscribed armament, despite that Saddam's guilt of UNSCR 687-proscribed armament was established by UNSCOM and presumed until cured by the required proof of Iraq's compliance. (I have yet to understand, what did Blix presume UNMOVIC was disarming if he didn't presume Iraq was armed?) Blix contradicted the operative procedure for the compliance-based enforcement by asserting OIF was caused by a lack of "critical thinking" (Blix) with the pre-war intelligence estimates, obscuring that the estimates - while they factored UNMOVIC's findings - were not an element of the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441). In fact, by procedure, Blix established OIF's casus belli with the UNMOVIC verification of Iraq's "continued violations of its obligations" (UNSCR 1441) that confirmed the Saddam regime "has been and remains in material breach of its obligations" (UNSCR 1441).
Meanwhile in 2002-2003, the US-led enforcement of Saddam's "final opportunity to comply" (UNSCR 1441) remained the same as the original position of the Gulf War ceasefire enforcement. If Iraq did not disarm as mandated, that meant Iraq remained a threat in violation of UNSCR 687 - "Recognizing the threat Iraq’s non-compliance with Council resolutions and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles poses to international peace and security" (UNSCR 1441). Regardless of the effectiveness of the intelligence versus Saddam's "denial and deception operations" (ISG), Iraq's guilt of proscribed armament was presumed until Iraq proved the mandated compliance in accordance with the same UNSC resolutions that mandated UNMOVIC's role for Iraq's "final opportunity to comply" (UNSCR 1441) - i.e., "Decides that Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions, including resolution 687 (1991), in particular through Iraq’s failure to cooperate with United Nations inspectors and the IAEA, and to complete the actions required under paragraphs 8 to 13 of resolution 687 (1991)" (UNSCR 1441).
Undaunted by the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441), opponents persistently misrepresented the grounds for intervention in the fierce political battle over the confrontation with Iraq. They blamed the US, instead of Saddam, for the continued probationary status and 'containment' of Iraq. They accused President Bush of invading Iraq based on specious claims that Saddam was behind the 9/11 attacks and Iraq possessed nuclear weapons, despite that Bush claimed neither Saddam was behind the 9/11 attacks nor Iraq possessed nuclear weapons. Opponents also mischaracterized or ignored Iraq's non-weapons obligations, such as the terrorism mandates of UNSCR 687 and humanitarian mandates of UNSCR 688.
In order to make their case against war correlate with the situation on the ground shaped by Saddam's denial and deception, opponents asserted a standard of compliance for Iraq in the public discourse that was fundamentally revised from the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441) that was actually mandated by the Gulf War ceasefire. The false premise shifted the burden of proof away from Iraq proving it had disarmed as mandated by the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441) and onto the US proving Iraq was armed matching the pre-war intelligence estimates. The disarmament obligations for Iraq were mischaracterized as merely to allow the inspections, while the UN inspectors' role was mischaracterized as searching for proof that Iraqi possession matched pre-war intelligence estimates.
In fact, the UN inspectors' role was not to search for WMD in Iraq. Rather, the Saddam regime was required to provide to the UN inspectors a "full and verified" (UNSCR 1441) "declaration of the locations, amounts and types of all items specified" (UNSCR 687) that accounted for Iraq's entire WMD-related program and "yield" (UNSCR 687) all of it to the UN inspectors for elimination "under international supervision" (UNSCR 687). UNSCR 1441 mandated that Iraq "cooperate immediately, unconditionally, and actively with UNMOVIC and the IAEA" in order to "comply fully" with UNSCR 687 and related resolutions. UNMOVIC's role was to test Saddam's compliance by verifying whether Iraq met its burden to "immediately, unconditionally, and actively" prove "full and verified" compliance with its disarmament obligations.
UN Security Council Resolution 687 (1991) set the basic standard of compliance for disarmament and other mandates:
8. Decides that Iraq shall unconditionally accept the destruction, removal, or rendering harmless, under international supervision, of:
(a) All chemical and biological weapons and all stocks of agents and all related subsystems and components and all research, development, support and manufacturing facilities;
(b) All ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometres and related major parts, and repair and production facilities;
9. Decides, for the implementation of paragraph 8 above, the following:
(a) Iraq shall submit to the Secretary-General, within fifteen days of the adoption of the present resolution, a declaration of the locations, amounts and types of all items specified in paragraph 8 and agree to urgent, on-site inspection as specified below;
(b) The Secretary-General, in consultation with the appropriate Governments and, where appropriate, with the Director-General of the World Health Organization, within forty-five days of the passage of the present resolution, shall develop, and submit to the Council for approval, a plan calling for the completion of the following acts within forty-five days of such approval:
(i) The forming of a Special Commission, which shall carry out immediate on-site inspection of Iraq's biological, chemical and missile capabilities, based on Iraq's declarations and the designation of any additional locations by the Special Commission itself;
(ii) The yielding by Iraq of possession to the Special Commission for destruction, removal or rendering harmless, taking into account the requirements of public safety, of all items specified under paragraph 8 (a) above, including items at the additional locations designated by the Special Commission under paragraph 9 (b) (i) above and the destruction by Iraq, under the supervision of the Special Commission, of all its missile capabilities, including launchers, as specified under paragraph 8 (b) above;
... 10. Decides that Iraq shall unconditionally undertake not to use, develop, construct or acquire any of the items specified in paragraphs 8 and 9 above ...
Despite the clear directives of the UNSC resolutions, opponents persisted, inapposite of the UN mandates, that the purpose of the inspections was to search for WMD in order to demonstrate whether Iraqi possession matched the pre-war intelligence estimates. Yet the standard of compliance for Iraq was not based on what the US could demonstrate about Iraqi WMD stocks and programs nor the pre-war intelligence. With the spectrum of disarmament mandates and proven success of Saddam's "concealment and deception activities" (ISG), which included hidden stocks, a large covert procurement program, and undeclared chemical and biological laboratories, Iraq's noncompliance with the UNSC resolutions was determined by necessity with measures other than demonstrated possession, e.g., the UNSCOM Butler report and UNMOVIC Clusters document. The operative role of the intelligence was to assist the UN inspectors determine whether Iraq disarmed as mandated.
Meanwhile, President Bush continued to enforce the same mandated "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441) that Presidents HW Bush and Clinton had enforced under US law. The UNMOVIC compliance test for Iraq mandated by UNSCR 1441 judged the behavior of Saddam's regime according to UNSCR 687. Iraq was obligated under the UNSC resolutions to replace the international community's ignorance about its weapons with sufficient knowledge that Iraq had disarmed to the mandated standard, i.e., "full and verified completion [of] the disarmament process" (UNSCR 1441). Iraq's compliance with the UNSC resolutions, as tested by the UN inspectors, demonstrated whether Iraq was withholding the requisite knowledge about its weapons. In fact, the UN inspections formed the basis for many key assessments in the pre-war intelligence estimates. The "clear and present danger to the stability of the Persian Gulf and the safety of people everywhere" (Clinton) was imputed from demonstration of Iraq’s noncompliance with the UNSC resolutions, not from demonstrated Iraqi possession of WMD stocks.
As President Bush stated in his January 2003 State of the Union address, consistent with UNSCR 687, "The 108 U.N. inspectors ... were not sent to conduct a scavenger hunt for hidden materials across a country the size of California. The job of the inspectors is to verify that Iraq's regime is disarming. It is up to Iraq to show exactly where it is hiding its banned weapons, lay those weapons out for the world to see, and destroy them as directed. Nothing like this has happened."
The 173-page UNMOVIC Clusters document (“Unresolved Disarmament Issues Iraq’s Proscribed Weapons Programmes 6 March 2003″) confirmed Iraq's breach of the disarmament mandates of UNSCR 687:
UNMOVIC evaluated and assessed this material as it has became [sic] available and ... produced an internal working document covering about 100 unresolved disarmament issues ... UNMOVIC must verify the absence of any new activities or proscribed items, new or retained. The onus is clearly on Iraq to provide the requisite information or devise other ways in which UNMOVIC can gain confidence that Iraq’s declarations are correct and comprehensive.The Iraq Survey Group Duelfer report corroborated UNMOVIC's finding that Iraq violated the disarmament mandates of UNSCR 687:
... As earlier mentioned, after the defection of Lieutenant-General Hussein Kamal in August 1995, Iraq provided new chemical, biological and missile declarations. And on 7 December 2002, Iraq provided a further declaration that in essence repeated the information in the earlier declarations.
Little of the detail in these declarations, such as production quantities, dates of events and unilateral destruction activities, can be confirmed. Such information is critical to an assessment of the status of disarmament. Furthermore, in some instances, UNMOVIC has information that conflicts with the information in the declaration.
... Iraq declared that all bulk agent, including anthrax, remaining after the filling of weapons, had been stored at Al Hakam and was unilaterally destroyed there in July and August 1991. Laboratory analysis of samples collected by UNSCOM detected live anthrax at Iraq’s declared disposal site. However, UNSCOM considered that the evidence was insufficient to support Iraq’s statements on the quantity of anthrax destroyed and where or when it was destroyed.
... Iraq’s declaration that it produced 8,425 litres of anthrax in 1990 is supported by a 1990 Al Hakam annual report, which UNSCOM found to be a credible document. However, there is evidence that contradicts Iraq’s assertion that total production for all years, was limited to 8,445 litres.
... UNMOVIC has credible information that the total quantity of BW agent in bombs, warheads and in bulk at the time of the Gulf War was 7,000 litres more than declared by Iraq.
... The findings of fragments of munitions were insufficient to confirm other aspects of Iraq’s account of its unilateral destruction of BW [biological weapon] munitions, particularly with respect to the numbers declared by Iraq. Furthermore, there is some information that suggests that some BW warheads were destroyed later than declared by Iraq, the implication being that, if warheads were retained, then there may have been corresponding missiles to launch them. With respect to stockpiles of bulk agent stated to have been destroyed, there is evidence to suggest that these was [sic] not destroyed as declared by Iraq.
The procurement programs supporting Iraq’s WMD programs and prohibited conventional military equipment purchases were financed via a supplemental budget process that occurred outside of the publicized national and defense budgets.The as-of-Gulf-War chemical weapons collected and chemical-weapon injuries suffered by coalition forces, according to the New York Times, provided additional corroboration that Iraq breached the disarmament mandates of UNSCR 687.
... Through an investigation of the history of Iraq’s bulk BW agent stocks, it has become evident to ISG that officials were involved in concealment and deception activities.
• ISG judges that Iraq failed to comply with UNSCRs up to OIF by failing to disclose accurate production totals for B. anthracis and probably other BW agents and for not providing the true details of its alleged 1991 disposal of stocks of bulk BW agent.... The pace of ongoing missile programs accelerated, and the Regime authorized its scientists to design missiles with ranges in excess of 150 km that, if developed, would have been clear violations of UNSCR 687.
• Officials within the BW program knowingly continued this deception right up to OIF and beyond, only revealing some details well after the conflict.
... • Huwaysh instructed MIC [military-industrial complex] general directors to conceal sensitive material and documents from UN inspectors. This was done to prevent inspectors from discovering numerous purchases of illicit conventional weapons and military equipment from firms in Russia, Belarus, and the Former Republic of Yugoslavia.
... From 1999 until he was deposed in April 2003, Saddam’s conventional weapons and WMD-related procurement programs steadily grew in scale, variety, and efficiency.
For Presidents Clinton and Bush, the inspections tested and sufficiently confirmed Iraq's material breach of the ceasefire. President Clinton bombed Iraq with the UNSCOM Butler report confirmation of Iraqi noncompliance based on 3 weeks of inspections in Saddam's "final chance" (Clinton). President Bush invaded Iraq with the UNMOVIC Clusters document confirmation of Iraqi noncompliance based on nearly 4 months of inspections in Saddam's "final opportunity to comply" (UNSCR 1441).
On March 3, 1999, Clinton explained to Congress the decision for ODF followed Iraq's noncompliance with the disarmament standard mandated by UNSCR 687:
As stated in my December 18 report, on December 16, United States and British forces launched military strikes on Iraq (Operation Desert Fox) to degrade Iraq's capacity to develop and deliver weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and to degrade its ability to threaten its neighbors. The decision to use force was made after U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) Executive Chairman Richard Butler reported to the U.N. Secretary General on December 14, that Iraq was not cooperating fully with the Commission and that it was "not able to conduct the substantive disarmament work mandated to it by the Security Council."On July 12, 2007, Bush clarified the decision for OIF followed Saddam's choice not to comply with "disclose, disarm" as mandated by UNSCR 1441 pursuant to UNSCR 687:
Actually, I was hoping to solve the Iraqi issue diplomatically. That's why I went to the United Nations and worked with the United Nations Security Council, which unanimously passed a resolution that said disclose, disarm or face serious consequences. That was the message, the clear message to Saddam Hussein. He chose the course. It was his decision to make. Obviously, it was a difficult decision for me to make, to send our brave troops, along with coalition troops, into Iraq.However, where President Clinton's rhetoric had been carefully consistent with the law and policy standard for enforcement, based on Iraq's failure to prove compliance and disarmament as mandated, President Bush fell into the opponents' rhetorical trap. While properly citing Iraq's failure to prove the disarmament mandated by the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441), Bush officials also improperly characterized the pre-war intelligence as "evidence" of Iraqi WMD stockpiles and programs (i.e., what we knew and could demonstrate) despite that Bush ordered Operation Iraqi Freedom following the same law and policy standard, based on the UN mandates, by which Clinton had ordered Operation Desert Fox (i.e., Saddam's evident noncompliance with Iraq's failure to provide the requisite knowledge of disarmament). Enemy propagandists seized on Bush's presentation error to switch the burden of proof from Iraq to the US in the public discourse.
President Bush should be faulted for confusing the public and empowering opponents by making a public argument that deviated from the operative enforcement procedure. Rather than confusing the case against Saddam in the public discourse with a tacked-on inapposite claim of affirmative knowledge, President Bush should have rested his public justification for enforcement on President Clinton's established apposite bar of deficient knowledge of Iraq's mandated disarmament, i.e., the "about 100 unresolved disarmament issues" found by UNMOVIC under the UNSCR 1441 "enhanced inspection regime".
Nonetheless, notwithstanding the presentation error, President Bush publicly affirmed and faithfully followed the policy course of enforcing the UNSC resolutions under US law that had been established with the Gulf War ceasefire and progressed throughout his father's and President Clinton's enforcement with Iraq. In Saddam's "final opportunity to comply" with "full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions with its obligations" (UNSCR 1441), Iraq's "material breach" (UNSCR 1441) of the Gulf War ceasefire WMD mandates was established by UNSCOM, decided by the UN Security Council, confirmed by UNMOVIC to trigger the decision for OIF, and corroborated post hoc by the Iraq Survey Group. For President Bush in 2003, just as for President Clinton in 1998, Saddam's continued intransigence and defiance with the complicity of sitting members of the Security Council foreclosed reliance on further diplomatic efforts to enforce all relevant UNSC resolutions regarding Iraq. President Bush's decision on Iraq, under the Public Law 107-243 mandate to "enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq", carried forward the same standard of compliance, disarmament, and rehabilitation for Iraq with essentially the same legal basis for enforcement with Operation Iraqi Freedom that President Clinton had exercised with Operation Desert Fox.
The vitriolic disagreements over Operation Iraqi Freedom were caused by opponents who misrepresented the grounds for the intervention that enforced Iraq's "final opportunity to comply" (UNSCR 1441). They sought to make peace with Saddam by deviating from the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441) mandated by the Gulf War ceasefire UNSC resolutions in order to change the issue from the noncompliant behavior of Saddam's regime to demonstrable WMD, ignore some key obligations (e.g., UNSCR 688) entirely, match the standard of compliance to Saddam's strategy to defeat the UNSC resolutions, and eliminate the baseline WMD status for Iraq. Opponents ignored that UNMOVIC and the Iraq Survey Group confirmed then corroborated "Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions, including resolution 687" (UNSCR 1441). Most significantly, the burden of proof in the public discourse was shifted from Iraq proving it had disarmed as mandated by UNSCRs 687 and 1441 to the US proving Iraqi possession matched the pre-war intelligence estimates.
This is the counter to the criticism that President Bush did not allow enough time for the UNMOVIC inspections – specifically as used by President Clinton to retreat from his endorsement of President Bush's Iraq enforcement:
Contrary to Clinton's later criticism, UNMOVIC concluded the UNSCR 1441 inspection period on March 7, 2003 with the presentation of the Clusters document to the UN Security Council.
UNSCR 1441 "instruct[ed] UNMOVIC and request[ed] the IAEA to resume inspections no later than 45 days following adoption of this resolution and to update the Council 60 days thereafter". UNSCR 1441 was adopted on November 8, 2002. November 8, 2002 + 105 days = February 21, 2003. Alternatively, UNMOVIC resumed inspections in Iraq on November 27, 2002. November 27, 2002 + 60 days = January 26, 2003. On March 7, 2003, UNMOVIC presented the Clusters document to the UNSC 119 days following the adoption of UNSCR 1441 and 100 days following the resumption of inspections. The reporting date for UNMOVIC and IAEA was effectively the deadline for Saddam because the determination for enforcement was keyed in on evaluation of Iraq's "continued violations of its obligations" (UNSCR 1441) based on the assessments provided by the UNSCR 1441 inspections.
UNMOVIC was in Iraq for nearly 4 months (27NOV02 – 18MAR03) before the start of OIF. With Hans Blix's update to the UN Security Council on January 27, 2003, it was evident to Blix and President Bush that Iraq remained noncompliant.
Blix's January 27th update was scathing about Iraq's response to UNMOVIC, that Saddam had essentially carried forward Iraq's intransigence and defiance from the UNSCOM inspections. Per UNSCR 1441, the reporting date for UNMOVIC and IAEA was January 26, 2003. That meant Blix's January 27th update was sufficient to conclude that Iraq had failed its "final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations" (UNSCR 1441) and triggered the "serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations" (UNSCR 1441).
The day after Blix's report, President Bush could have used the 2003 State of the Union address to announce a determination to use force to "bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations" (P.L. 105-235). Instead, he opted to extend Saddam's "final opportunity to comply" (UNSCR 1441) and stress the urgency for Iraq to comply and disarm as mandated.
But granted a month-plus extension to comply and disarm following Blix's January 27th update, Saddam chose instead to fall back on the "tactics of delay and deception" (Clinton) that he had used against President Clinton's enforcement of the disarmament process leading up to Operation Desert Fox. The March 6, 2003 UNMOVIC Clusters document reported "about 100 unresolved disarmament issues" in breach of UNSCR 687.
Why did Bush conclude UNMOVIC had discharged its mandate under UNSCR 1441 with Hans Blix’s March 2003 report when Blix was requesting an indefinite number of additional months in Iraq for UNMOVIC?
Because Bush understood the UNSCR 1441 inspection period was the "final opportunity" (UNSCR 1441) for Saddam’s regime to pass its compliance test with "full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions with its obligations under resolution 687 (1991) and other relevant resolutions" (UNSCR 1441). By the time Operation Iraqi Freedom began, Saddam had been given almost 12 years to satisfy the terms of the Gulf War ceasefire that Iraq had agreed to abide by in 1991.
UNMOVIC reports throughout the UNSCR 1441 inspection period demonstrated that Iraq remained noncompliant with the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441) for disarmament mandated by UNSCR 687 (1991) and reinforced by UNSCR 1441. UNSCR 1441 mandated that Iraq "cooperate immediately, unconditionally, and actively with UNMOVIC and the IAEA" under an "enhanced inspection regime" in order to "comply fully" with UNSCR 687 and related resolutions, and once again, Iraq had failed to fully, immediately, unconditionally, and actively cooperate with the UN inspections and account for its weapons as mandated. The Saddam regime failed to satisfy even the baseline-setting step of the declare/yield/eliminate-under-international-supervision disarmament process, a verified total declaration that accounted for Iraq's entire WMD-related program, which UNSCR 687 mandated Iraq to provide within 15 days - in 1991:
UNMOVIC evaluated and assessed this material as it has became [sic] available and ... produced an internal working document covering about 100 unresolved disarmament issues ... grouped into 29 “clusters” and presented by discipline: missiles, munitions, chemical and biological.In other words, instead of "full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions with its obligations ... bringing to full and verified completion the disarmament process established by resolution 687" (UNSCR 1441), Iraq's declarations for the UNSCR 1441 inspections "in essence repeated" (UNMOVIC) their deficiency of "information [that] is critical to an assessment of the status of disarmament" (UNMOVIC) from the UNSCR 1205 inspections that had triggered Operation Desert Fox in 1998.
... As earlier mentioned, after the defection of Lieutenant-General Hussein Kamal in August 1995, Iraq provided new chemical, biological and missile declarations. And on 7 December 2002, Iraq provided a further declaration that in essence repeated the information in the earlier declarations.
Little of the detail in these declarations, such as production quantities, dates of events and unilateral destruction activities, can be confirmed. Such information is critical to an assessment of the status of disarmament. Furthermore, in some instances, UNMOVIC has information that conflicts with the information in the declaration. ... These uncertainties and consequent outstanding issues are discussed in the section on Clusters of Unresolved Disarmament Issues.
Here's how the head of the Iraq Survey Group, Charles Duelfer, characterized the UNMOVIC findings:
It’s worth recalling that the UN weapons inspectors also found it impossible to give Saddam a clean bill of health [and] ... their work formed the basis for many key assessments. And the weapons inspectors were certainly unconvinced that Saddam had come clean. In fact, they delineated the areas where Saddam had not provided verifiable accounts of his WMD activities. And the substantial gaps in his story were more readily explained by “hidden WMD” than he innocently “forgot how much he had or where it went.”Iraq's noncompliance in its "final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations" (UNSCR 1441), along with Saddam's non-weapons violations, was the casus belli for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
At the conclusion of the UNSCR 1441 inspection period, for the sake of salvaging the vital leverage of the international community united against Saddam's intransigence, the US and UK first tried to negotiate another UNSCR ultimatum that preserved the integrity of UNSCR 1441's strict "final" compliance test and the threat that enabled it. But Saddam and his accomplices on the UNSC disallowed it.
Instead, with the urging of Saddam's accomplices, Blix reacted to Saddam's failure to pass the UNMOVIC compliance test in his "final opportunity to comply" (UNSCR 1441) by pressing for an indefinite period of additional months to change the UNMOVIC mission from "afford Iraq, by this resolution, a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations under ... an enhanced inspection regime ... to ensure full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions with its obligations" (UNSCR 1441) and try again. Blix proposed to drop the "enhanced inspection regime" mandated by UNSCR 1441 and, instead, "draw up, for approval by the Council, a work programme for the discharge of their mandates, which will include both the implementation of the reinforced system of ongoing monitoring and verification, and the key remaining disarmament tasks to be completed by Iraq pursuant to its obligations to comply with the disarmament requirements of resolution 687 (1991) and other related resolutions, which constitute the governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1284).
President Bush, as chief enforcer, and UNMOVIC chairman Blix, as chief inspector, were at odds regarding the ultimate purpose of the UNSCR 1441 inspections: whether they were a "final opportunity to comply" (UNSCR 1441) or merely a step to "draw up ... a work programme" (UNSCR 1284).
For Bush, Saddam had defied the "work programme" mandated by UNSCR 687 for 12 years already, including the 4-month-long "work programme" in Saddam's "final opportunity to comply" with the "enhanced inspection regime" mandated by UNSCR 1441. When Saddam's deficient cooperation continued with UNMOVIC with the complicity of UNSC members, Bush understood any feasible "work programme" to disarm Iraq to the mandated standard would only be reliable with a regime change. Iraq's denial and deception undermined the reliability of UNMOVIC's findings as a thorough account of Iraq's proscribed activity. Its basic declarations were untrustworthy. Iraq provided UNMOVIC no reliable basis "to draw up ... a work programme ... to comply with the disarmament requirements of resolution 687 (1991) and other related resolutions".
It's murky on what basis Blix believed Saddam would disarm with "full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions with its obligations under ... the governing standard of Iraqi compliance ... bringing to full and verified completion the disarmament process established by resolution 687 (1991) and subsequent resolutions of the Council" (UNSCR 1441) if the US, UK, and UN backed down when Saddam called the ceasefire enforcers' bluff on the last remaining enforcement measure in his "final opportunity to comply" (UNSCR 1441) after nearly twelve years of steadfast Iraqi noncompliance.
The hard line set by the UNSCR 1441 "final opportunity to comply" with "full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions with its obligations" accounted for Saddam's recidivist pattern of signaling cooperation in the face of American force and then subverting the disarmament process. In spite of that, Blix invited Saddam to "devise other ways" as an alternative to "provide the requisite information" (UNMOVIC) in order to certify Iraq's compliance with UNSCR 687 and related resolutions.
Blix opened the door to lowering the bar for Saddam with an ad hoc standard of proof, easing the "onus" (UNMOVIC) on Iraq to provide a "full and verified" (UNSCR 1441) account of its entire WMD-related program, increasing the onus on the UN inspectors to demonstrate Iraqi possession, and reducing the scope of disarmament requirements, which would have fundamentally altered the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" set by UNSCRs 687 and 1441. In effect, Blix's alternative "work programme" would have meant throwing out the disarmament process for Iraq that had been mandated for 12 years.
Moreover, Blix's purview was limited to testing Iraq's compliance with its weapons obligations, whereas Bush was the chief enforcer of all the Gulf War ceasefire mandates with the duty to "ensure that Iraq abandons its strategy of delay, evasion and noncompliance and promptly and strictly complies with all relevant Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq" (P.L. 107-243). Clinton’s later criticism of Bush implies that Clinton disagrees with Bush’s view of UNMOVIC and instead supports Blix’s view of UNMOVIC’s ultimate purpose in 2002-2003. However, President Bush’s understanding of UNMOVIC followed President Clinton’s precedent as chief enforcer with UNSCOM.
As a former chief enforcer of Iraq's ceasefire obligations, Clinton understood the reasons Bush had set a time limit for Saddam to prove Iraq was in compliance. At the Pentagon on February 17, 1998, President Clinton explained the timeframe for a UNSCR 687 compliance test, "Saddam Hussein agreed to declare within 15 days ... way back in 1991 ... his nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them; to make a total declaration":
Remember, as a condition of the cease-fire after the Gulf War, the United Nations demanded -- not the United States, the United Nations demanded -- and Saddam Hussein agreed to declare within 15 days -- this is way back in 1991 -- within 15 days his nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them; to make a total declaration. That's what he promised to do.Throughout Clinton's presidency, rather than provide the mandated "total declaration" (Clinton) of his WMD program, Saddam had repeatedly frustrated Clinton by challenging American authority, signaling cooperation when Clinton responded with a show of force, and then resuming Iraq's subversion of the UNSCOM inspections, all the while undermining the whole disarmament system and openly flouting the non-weapons mandates. Clinton finally drew a hard line for Saddam leading up to Operation Desert Fox that Bush carried forward to Operation Iraqi Freedom:
Now, instead of playing by the very rules he agreed to at the end of the Gulf War, Saddam has spent the better part of the past decade trying to cheat on this solemn commitment. Consider just some of the facts. Iraq repeatedly made false declarations about the weapons that it had left in its possession after the Gulf War. When UNSCOM would then uncover evidence that gave lie to those declarations, Iraq would simply amend the reports. For example, Iraq revised its nuclear declarations four times within just 14 months, and it has submitted six different biological warfare declarations, each of which has been rejected by UNSCOM.
There can be no delusion or diminishment of the integrity of the inspection system that UNSCOM has put in place. Now, those terms are nothing more or less than the essence of what he [Saddam] agreed to at the end of the Gulf War.
The Security Council many times since has reiterated this standard. If he accepts them, force will not be necessary. If he refuses or continues to evade his obligation through more tactics of delay and deception, he, and he alone, will be to blame for the consequences.
Now, let's imagine the future. What if he fails to comply and we fail to act, or we take some ambiguous third route which gives him yet more opportunities to develop this program of weapons of mass destruction and continue to press for the release of the sanctions and continue to ignore the solemn commitments that he made? Well, he will conclude that the international community has lost its will. He will then conclude that he can go right on and do more to rebuild an arsenal of devastating destruction. And some day, some way, I guarantee you, he'll use the arsenal.
A short while ago [on November 5, 1998], the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution [UNSCR 1205] condemning Iraq's intransigence and insisting it immediately resume full cooperation with the weapons inspectors -- no ifs, no ands, no buts about it. It is long past time for Iraq to meet its obligations to the world. After the Gulf War, the international community demanded and Iraq agreed to declare and destroy all of its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons capability and the missiles to deliver them, and to meet other U.N. Security Council resolutions. ... Now, the better part of a decade later, Iraq continues to shirk its clear obligations. Iraq has no one to blame but itself -- and the people of Iraq have no one to blame but Saddam Hussein -- for the position Iraq finds itself in today. Iraq could have ended its isolation long ago by simply complying with the will of the world. The burden is on Iraq to get back in compliance and meet its obligations -- immediately.Subsequently, Clinton decided to bomb Iraq with Operation Desert Fox in December 1998 based on a 3-week compliance test by UNSCOM. Clinton's announcement of Operation Desert Fox on December 16, 1998 reflected the deadline for Saddam to comply:
Now over the past three weeks, the UN weapons inspectors have carried out their plan for testing Iraq’s cooperation. The testing period ended this weekend, and last night, UNSCOM’s chairman, Richard Butler, reported the results to UN Secretary-General Annan.In December 1998, not only did Clinton deem 3 weeks were sufficient for UNSCOM to confirm Iraq was noncompliant, he underscored that following through on the military threat was vital to enforce the UN mandates, and determined Iraq's noncompliance compelled Operation Desert Fox as soon as possible in order to disallow Saddam "more time to disperse his forces and protect his weapons”.
... If we turn our backs on his defiance, the credibility of U.S. power as a check against Saddam will be destroyed. We will not only have allowed Saddam to shatter the inspections system that controls his weapons of mass destruction program; we also will have fatally undercut the fear of force that stops Saddam from acting to gain domination in the region.
... If we had delayed for even a matter of days from Chairman Butler’s report, we would have given Saddam more time to disperse his forces and protect his weapons.
Clinton contradicts his own precedent with Operation Desert Fox by later criticizing Bush for not granting the indefinite additional months' delay requested by Hans Blix for an obligation that Iraq should have fulfilled within 15 days in 1991, after UNMOVIC had already exceeded the inspection period mandated by UNSCR 1441 to produce the Clusters document. Yet in 2002-2003, Bush recognized Saddam's "tactics of delay and deception" warned by Clinton and understood UNMOVIC's function to be a UNSCR 687 compliance test that triggered enforcement in the same way that Clinton understood UNSCOM's function in 1998. Bush's determination used the same standard for enforcement with Iraq that Clinton used when Clinton had determined as President that "Iraq has abused its final chance" and rapid military action was necessary as soon as Iraq was demonstrated to be noncompliant with the UNSCOM Butler report.
As a former Commander-in-Chief who also had threatened and used force with Iraq, Clinton understood or should have understood Saddam's "tactics of delay and deception" (Clinton) and the temporal and other practical limitations of the OIF invasion force that provided the credible threat of regime change to enforce the hard line that was necessary to compel even the deficient cooperation from Saddam during the UNSCR 1441 inspection period. I suspect Bush's faithful continuity with Clinton's Iraq enforcement and reasonable decision-making as Commander-in-Chief are why Clinton supported Bush and endorsed Operation Iraqi Freedom in the first place - until Clinton succumbed to partisan political pressure and belatedly turned on his successor and the mission.
As for the Blix alternative, it was flawed on its face for two reasons: Hans Blix's unreasonable presumption of an indefinitely sustained credible military threat of regime change and the unreliability of Blix's ad hoc replacement standard of compliance in the face of Saddam's "denial and deception operations" (ISG).
Blix acknowledges that the credible military threat presented by the build-up of the OIF invasion force was necessary to compel Saddam's cooperation. Blix also acknowledges that once the force build-up surpassed a certain mass, it could no longer be sustained thereafter as an indefinite presence. In other words, Blix understood that once the OIF invasion force had ripened to the ready condition to deploy, the credible military threat of regime change that enabled the UNSCR 1441 inspections would need to be used on schedule or lost altogether. The effective deadline for the UNSCR 1441 "final opportunity to comply" was a practical necessity as well as a response to Saddam's "tactics of delay and deception" (Clinton). To gloss over this fatal flaw in his proposed alternative, Blix observed that Iraq had begun to show signs of cooperation at about the 50,000 point of the troop build-up, so he claimed that freezing the size at 50,000 indefinitely would ensure an indefinite Iraqi cooperation. However, 50,000 was not by itself a sufficient size to pose a credible military threat of regime change. The Blix alternative relies on the unreasonable assumption that Iraq was compelled to begin cooperation with UNMOVIC by the subthreatening size of 50,000 rather than the passing of the 50,000 point on the developing trajectory of the force build-up towards the UNSCR 1441 deadline. Blix, perhaps deliberately, conflated the context and signal communicated by 50,000 with the number itself.
Blix also ignores that even at the UNSCR 1441 deadline under threat of the mature OIF invasion force poised to attack, Iraq's "token effort to comply" (ISG) matched the pattern of feints with UNSCOM and failed to meet the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441): "the Iraqis never intended to meet the spirit of the UNSC’s resolutions. Outward acts of compliance belied a covert desire to resume WMD activities" (ISG).
The strict standard of compliance imposed by UNSCR 1441 and enforced with P.L. 107-243 responded to the grave stakes in light of Saddam's history, especially his track record of intransigent denial and deception in defiance of Iraq's disarmament obligations between the Gulf War and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Regarding Saddam's "tactics of delay and deception" (Clinton), the chief American representative to the UN during the 1998 confrontation with Iraq, Governor Bill Richardson warned, "I'm very concerned ... My experience with the Iraqis is if you give them an inch, they take a mile."
Prime Minister Blair shared Governor Richardson's experience with the Iraqis in 1998. Blair's response to the Chilcot report reflects the concerted strategy by Saddam and his accomplices in 2003 to undermine the capacitating threat necessary to leverage Saddam's mandated cooperation in Iraq's "final opportunity to comply" (UNSCR 1441) like they had in 1998:
Finally and only under threat of military action, Saddam permitted Inspectors to return.Yet while relying on the unreasonable presumption of an indefinitely sustained credible military threat of regime change to underlay a "reinforced system of ongoing monitoring and verification" over an indefinitely extended trial period - despite Saddam's accomplices undermining the capacitating threat and the failure of the OIF invasion force itself to compel the requisite Iraqi cooperation for the UNSCR 1441 inspections - Blix also implied a willingness to tacitly comply with Saddam's undermining strategy by reducing the scope of disarmament requirements, relaxing the theretofore strict "obligation of Iraq to declare all programmes of weapons of mass destruction" (Blix), and shifting the onus onto the UN inspectors to demonstrate Iraqi possession, which would have fundamentally altered the ceasefire disarmament process. The alternative proposals revolved around replacing the “governing standard of Iraqi compliance” and “enhanced inspection regime” mandated by UNSCRs 687 and 1441 with a narrowed range of proscription and a tacit tolerance for anything Saddam would not account for but could also hide.
His cooperation was neither full nor immediate – see the report of the Inspectors to the UN in January 2003 and that of 7 March 2003.
However, by then, there was substantial disagreement in the Security Council. America wanted action. President Putin and the leadership of France did not.
In a final attempt to bridge the division I agreed with the Inspectors a set of 6 tests, based on Saddam’s non-compliance, with which he had to comply immediately, which included things like interviews with those responsible for his programme and which up to then had been refused except in country where obviously they could be subject to intimidation.
This was drawn up in a resolution accompanied by an ultimatum that non-compliance would result in military action.
So I had again secured American agreement to a new resolution setting tests for Saddam; which if he had passed would have avoided military action.
But the USA understandably insisted that in the event of continued failure, the UN had to be clear that action would follow.
This approach was rejected by Saddam.
[A]s at 18 March 2003, there was gridlock at the UN. In resolution 1441, it had been agreed to give Saddam one final opportunity to comply. It was accepted that he had not done so.
In that case, according to 1441, action should have been agreed.
It was not because by then, politically, there was an impasse.
The undermining of the UN was in fact the refusal to follow through on 1441. And with the subsequent statement from President Putin and the President of France that they would veto any new resolution authorising action in the event of non-compliance, it was clearly not possible to get a majority of the UN to agree a new resolution. As the then President of Chile explained, there was no point since any decision by a majority would be vetoed.
President Bush recognized the reiteration of Saddam's "tactics of delay and deception" (Clinton). The "ambiguous third route" (Clinton) offered by the improvised Blix alternative was impractical in its military requirements, elided the unreliability of Iraq's basic declarations and UNMOVIC's short coverage due to Iraq's "denial and deception operations" (ISG), and risked a lowered standard of compliance that could not be trusted to resolve the Saddam regime's "clear and present danger to the stability of the Persian Gulf and the safety of people everywhere" (Clinton).
In other words, President Clinton's assessment of the UNSCOM inspections preceding Operation Desert Fox applied to the UNMOVIC inspections preceding Operation Iraqi Freedom:
Saddam's deception has defeated their effectiveness. Instead of the inspectors disarming Saddam, Saddam has disarmed the inspectors.Blix has implied that with a grant of an indefinitely extended trial period, he would have found Saddam in compliance by loosely "devis[ing] other ways in which UNMOVIC can gain confidence that Iraq’s declarations are correct and comprehensive" (UNMOVIC). But lowering the bar from "provide the requisite information" (UNMOVIC) to "devise other ways" meant deviating from the standard of compliance mandated in the UNSC resolutions with a lower ad hoc standard of proof. With Saddam in charge, we had to be sure.
The ISG Duelfer report confirms Saddam did not intend to comply with the mandated standard and strongly suggests Blix's proposed alternative would have failed to make Iraq compliant and disarmed. On January 28, 2004, David Kay, who preceded Charles Duelfer as head of the Iraq Survey Group, reported to the Senate Armed Services Committee:
In my judgment, based on the work that has been done to this point of the Iraq Survey Group, and in fact, that I reported to you in October, Iraq was in clear violation of the terms of [U.N.] Resolution 1441. Resolution 1441 required that Iraq report all of its activities -- one last chance to come clean about what it had. We have discovered hundreds of cases, based on both documents, physical evidence and the testimony of Iraqis, of activities that were prohibited under the initial U.N. Resolution 687 and that should have been reported under 1441, with Iraqi testimony that not only did they not tell the U.N. about this, they were instructed not to do it and they hid material.The Iraq Survey Group found Iraq was noncompliant on process as well as on substance as Saddam's "denial and deception operations" (ISG) had continued through the UNSCR 1441 inspections:
The Regime made a token effort to comply with the disarmament process, but the Iraqis never intended to meet the spirit of the UNSC’s resolutions. Outward acts of compliance belied a covert desire to resume WMD activities.The regime change did not curtail the UNMOVIC mission in Iraq. UNMOVIC and IAEA concluded their mission in 2007 with UNSCR 1762.
Saddam had direct command of the Iraqi intelligence services and the armed forces, including direct authority over plans and operations of both. ... The IIS ran a large covert procurement program, undeclared chemical laboratories, and supported denial and deception operations.
Also known as “Al Munzhumah,” M23 [Directorate of Military Industries] provided security for all MIC and IAEC sites, and it assisted teh Natioal [sic] Monitoring Directorate (NMD) with purging MIC facilities of documents to be safeguarded from the UN. ... M23 officers also were involved in NMD document concealment and destruction efforts. ... some were given to M23 agent ‘Ayad Qatan Talab, the director of M23/6/1 Counter-Espionage Section, to keep in a lockbox. These documents have not yet been recovered.
Huwaysh instructed MIC [military-industrial complex] general directors to conceal sensitive material and documents from UN inspectors. This was done to prevent inspectors from discovering numerous purchases of illicit conventional weapons and military equipment from firms in Russia, Belarus, and the Former Republic of Yugoslavia.
From 1999 until he was deposed in April 2003, Saddam’s conventional weapons and WMD-related procurement programs steadily grew in scale, variety, and efficiency.
Since Operation Iraqi Freedom, two scientists from Iraq’s pre-1991 nuclear weapons program have emerged to provide ISG with uranium enrichment technology and components, which they kept hidden from inspectors. ... ISG has uncovered two instances in which scientists linked to Iraq’s pre-1991 uranium enrichment programs kept documentation and technology in anticipation of renewing these efforts—actions that they contend were officially sanctioned.
Through an investigation of the history of Iraq’s bulk BW agent stocks, it has become evident to ISG that officials were involved in concealment and deception activities.
• ISG judges that Iraq failed to comply with UNSCRs up to OIF by failing to disclose accurate production totals for B. anthracis and probably other BW agents and for not providing the true details of its alleged 1991 disposal of stocks of bulk BW agent.
• Officials within the BW program knowingly continued this deception right up to OIF and beyond, only revealing some details well after the conflict.
08SEP12: My comment at the Belmont Club in response to criticism of the CIA's record on Iraqi WMD. In a better world, the CIA would have provided more predictively precise intel on Iraq to President Bush and, before him, President Clinton. However, the CIA should not have been placed in the position where an affirmative claim of specific armament based on CIA intel was tacked onto President Bush’s compliance-based case for Operation Iraqi Freedom. The UNSCR 687 disarmament process was not designed to assess the pre-war intelligence estimates. Clinton is open that he did not know the precise state of Iraq’s specific armament for Operation Desert Fox. Since Saddam's guilt of proscribed armament was established and presumed for the UNSCR 687 disarmament process with the burden of proof on Iraq, the President didn't need to know that in order to enforce UNSCR 687. As we’ve since learned, the predictive precision of Bush's knowledge of Iraq's specific armament at the decision point of OIF was no better than Clinton's for ODF. ... But here's the key: Pursuant to UNSCR 687, Iraq – not the CIA – was obligated to prove the total and verified knowledge that Iraq’s WMD stocks, programs, and intentions were completely and permanently disarmed. Therefore, President Clinton’s compliance-based case for Operation Desert Fox that was carried forward by President Bush was based on Saddam’s failure to come into compliance and make us know Iraq had disarmed as mandated. Iraq’s noncompliant behavior constituted material breach of the UNSC resolutions, which was demonstrable without an affirmative claim based on CIA intel. In fact, per its operative ancillary role in the Gulf War ceasefire enforcement assisting the UN inspections, the pre-war intelligence correctly indicated Saddam was breaching the UNSCR 687 disarmament (and terrorism) mandates. In other words, Bush’s case presentation for Operation Iraqi Freedom should have followed Clinton’s case presentation precedent for Operation Desert Fox.
19MAR13: My thoughts on the 10th year anniversary of the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom are here.
15JUL14: My FAQ-style explanation of Operation Iraqi Freedom is here.