WMD in Iraq: Evidence and Implications

January 9th, 2004 - by admin

by Carneigie Endowment for International Peace –


WMD in Iraq: Evidence and Implications

• Two-Page Summary
• Key Findings and Summary of Recomendations
• Chapter 1: Introduction
• Chapter 2: Iraq’s WMD Capabilities
• Chapter 3: Findings and Recommendations
• Supplementary Report Materials

o Download Full Text (PDF)

o View presentation from event

The following is taken from Iraq: What Next, a report published by the Carnegie Endowment detailing concerns over Iraq’s weapons capabilities and assessing the status of inspections. The report is available in its entirely below.

Failure would be an Iraq with weapons of mass destruction in the possession of a hostile regime, and the United States and/or the Security Council discredited and powerless to reverse this situation.

Success as defined by the Security Council and accepted by the broader international community would be an Iraq verifiably free of weapons of mass destruction. Notwithstanding the heinous nature of the Iraqi regime, Security Council Resolution 1441 clearly states its aim in paragraph 2 as “bringing to full and verified completion the disarmament process.” The resolution does not address the regime’s removal.

Success could come about as the result of voluntary Iraqi action that is verified to UNMOVIC’s satisfaction, or as the result of hidden Iraqi weapons being discovered and thereafter destroyed by UNMOVIC. Both of these outcomes are envisioned under Security Council Resolution 1441. There would be no need for the elaborate rights and resources accorded to UNMOVIC if complete Iraqi cooperation-in effect, voluntary surrender of its WMD and related programs-could be realistically expected.

A Third Possibility would be an Iraq disarmed as the result of a U.S.-led invasion and post-war process of occupation, inspections, and disarmament. Though this variant has not yet been endorsed by the international community, depending on the degree to which others judge the reasons for launching a war to be compelling, it might be obtained. If the United States were to begin a war without such an endorsement, the costs and risks of both the war and its aftermath would escalate steeply. Even if carried out through a coalition, a war would be seen in the region as an American war and would almost certainly bring many new recruits to the ranks of anti-American terrorists. Though the military outcome would be a victory, it could come at an enormous near- and long-term cost.

Realistic variants of failure include an inspection process that yields no clear outcome-either that Iraq has been verifiably disarmed, or that it possesses weapons of mass destruction. Some permanent members of the UN Security Council would likely conclude from this nebulous denouement that military pressure on Iraq should be scaled back and sanctions should be relieved. The United States would strongly disagree on both counts.

Another variant of failure would be regime change in Iraq (by coup or outside hands), withdrawal of international disarmament inspectors, and a subsequent decision by the new Iraqi government to retain or acquire some WMD capability as a deterrent against another such attack or against other threats in a dangerous neighborhood.

One could argue further that it would be a failure if a military action prompted an otherwise contained Saddam Hussein to unleash chemical or biological weapons against Israel and/or U.S. forces, prompting Israel and/or the United States to use nuclear weapons in response. Beyond the humanitarian consequences, and even assuming the defeat of Saddam and disarmament of Iraq, this use of nuclear weapons against a Muslim people would cause lasting political and moral upset in the international system. The United States (and Israel) would find it exceedingly difficult to manage the ensuing backlash.

Initially, the aim of U.S. policy was to prevent an imminent threat of attack by Iraq against the U.S. and allied forces, territory, and friends. That goal has, for now, been achieved. Saddam Hussein is effectively incarcerated and under watch by a force that could respond immediately and devastatingly to any aggression. Inside Iraq, the inspection teams preclude any significant advance in WMD capabilities. The status quo is safe for the American people.

If, as President Bush has stated and the UN Security Council has determined, the current aim is to achieve and verify Iraq’s compliance with its obligations to disarm itself of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and long-range missiles, then the intended process has not yet been completed. Indeed, it has barely begun. Inspections have neither failed nor succeeded, and much more time is required to reach either outcome. This is not due to delay by Iraq or to a less than all-out effort by the inspection teams. The tight deadlines in Resolution 1441 were meant to jumpstart a process, not to define its extent.

The crucial issue before the United States at this moment then is on what grounds it would terminate inspections in midcourse in favor of an immediate invasion. Iraq’s failure to produce a complete declaration does constitute a material breach of Resolution 1441. The question, however, is whether it constitutes a wise, compelling, and necessary casus belli. We believe that it does not. Only if the administration’s true aim is to remove the current government of Iraq as a matter of principle would a turn to war at this moment make sense. If that is the case, of course the inspection and disarmament process now underway is irrelevant.

Given the immense costs and risks of war, all of which rise sharply without broad international support, inspections should continue until they are obstructed (which should trigger their immediate end, followed by invasion) or succeed. This requires the United States, and the international community as a whole, to keep intense pressure on Iraq. U.S. forces will have to-and can-continue their deployment until Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction and missile capabilities have been verifiably disarmed. There is an economic and human cost to this deployment that is a tiny fraction of the costs in both dimensions that would be incurred by a war.

Jessica T. Mathews is president of the Carnegie Endowment and George Perkovich is vice president for studies. Joseph Cirincione is a senior associate and director of the Carnegie Non-Proliferation Project.

Additional Resources:

• “Iraq: What Next?” report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, January 2003

• Complete Resources on the Crisis in Iraq

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. All Rights Reserved.
1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW – Washington DC 20036-2103 Phone: (202) 483-7600 | Fax: 483-1840 |
Contact: info@ceip.org