US seeking arms clash with Iraq, says ex-inspectorBy Kim Sengupta, 28 June 2000, The Independent
The new UN commission for arms inspection in Iraq is likely to be used to trigger a confrontation with President Saddam Hussein in the run-up to the American presidential elections in November, a former UN inspector claimed yesterday.
Scott Ritter said it was commonly recognised in Washington and New York that the new mission has no realistic chance of being allowed into Iraq while sanctions and air strikes by American and Britain continues. This, he maintained, would be used by Washington as an example of non-compliance to the UN, leading the way to an escalation of bombing, without the Security Council being asked to vote on the matter.
The former US Marine intelligence colonel left his post with Unscom in August 1998, after complaining that information covertly gathered by the UN was turned over to the US by the team's chief,Richard Butler, and used in the bombing campaign Operation Desert Fox.
In an interview with The Independent Mr Ritter, who was in London to address the inaugural meeting of the Great Britain Iraq Society, said: "The new commission, Unmovic, will not be allowed into Iraq in August, three months away from the election. You have got a Vice-President, Al Gore, trailing behind in the polls and what better way to appear tough and switch attention away to a so-called foreign threat. The UN Security Council did not vote on Desert Fox and we can expect the same thing to happen again. The US would not like to take unilateral action, it needs Britain to give it in appearance of something multilateral. And sadly, when the US says jump, Tony Blair asks 'how high?'
"The ironic thing is that the longer the inspectors stay away from Iraq, the more time the hardliners there have to rebuild their weaponry. The intelligence services of the US, Britain and Israel realise, but there is nothing they can do while the US Administration wants to keep Iraq as the whipping boy they can wheel out at times of domestic difficulties.
"Both Republicans and Democrats accept the current policy on Iraq is a mess. But it seems little will be done this side of the election."
Mr Ritter says his strident criticism has led to the US government launching a FBI investigation into allegations that he had supplied intelligence to the Israelis. He said: "That started in 1996 and is still going on. It has cost me $120,000 in legal fees so far.
"After endless requests the FBI finally agreed to meet me last month. I am not demeaning their investigation, it is a very serious issue, but I have nothing to hide."