Excerpts from the Israeli newspaper Ha´aretz. It´s a News article published in its Internet edition, August 2nd, 2000. Underlines have been added by Radio Islam, and "[...]" indicates passages deleted from the original text:
Neighbors Going through the motions of sanctioning Iraq
By Zvi Bar'el
This Saturday, a surprising visitor arrived in Baghdad. Scott Ritter, the most famous supervisor in the UN monitoring team investigating Iraq's arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, arrived, this time equipped with a movie camera. Ritter plans to film a documentary in Iraq about nuclear, chemical and biological sites and the huge damage the sanctions have caused Iraqi citizens. An Iraqi businessman, Shaker Alhafaji, who now lives abroad, is financing the film production and has already opened a bank account for it with $400,000. He will also accompany Ritter throughout the entire filming. In an interview with the Washington Post, Ritter said he plans to show the dark side of the war and attempt to rid Iraq of its title of "the bad guy" of the Middle East. Today is the tenth anniversary of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Many of those involved in the invasion and in the Gulf War, which started around six months later, have switched careers, left their jobs, published books, moved to research institutes or died. Saddam Hussein is still in the same place. He continues to run Iraq and the relationship between him and the world seems as if it is as it has always been. Occasionally, television stations feature brief reports on life in Iraq; but the international press has almost totally lost interest in what is happening in Iraq and news coverage in the Arab countries focuses primarily on the political aspect and Iraq's attempts to obtain the help of Arab countries in its struggle to have the sanctions lifted. A UN report does indeed indicate that since the war, the infant mortality rate in Iraq has doubled, and Iraq reports that over a million and a quarter people have died of illness and starvation as a result of the sanctions, but these reports do not impress the decision makers. The sanctions which were originally intended to pressure Saddam to change his policy and later fed the illusion that through them it would be possible to spark public pressure in Iraq that would bring down the regime, have over the years become a tool of revenge and symbol of unfulfilled political aspirations.
Operation 'Cup of Tea'
Ritter's appearance in Baghdad, perhaps more than anything else, symbolizes the uselessness of the anti-Iraq policy. Ritter became famous when he loudly resigned from his post as a supervisor because he felt the UN and the United States were not determined enough and might therefore cause Saddam to resume development of his non-conventional weapons. In a series of interviews and lectures that he began immediately after his resignation, Ritter related that decisions and orders that he received from his overseers expressed weakness, loss of direction and almost a lack of desire to actually achieve the goals of the UN monitoring.
He disclosed the huge obstacles that Saddam's officials and soldiers placed in front of the UN monitoring team. Ritter demanded more forceful supervision and was one of the most creative minds trying to get around Saddam's obstruction techniques. At the same time, he also revealed the link between the UN supervisors and American intelligence and accused his superior, the head of the observer delegation, Richard Butler, of installing monitoring devices meant to relay information about what was happening at the sites directly to American intelligence. Butler vehemently denied the existence of any such link.
The CIA was not alone in its contacts with the delegation of UN supervisors. According to Ritter's statements in an interview with the New Yorker, Israel took upon itself the task of analyzing aerial photos taken by an American spy satellite that was used by the UN delegation. Later on, Ritter wrote that "I started asking (the Israelis) more specific questions and they put me in touch with their analysts. Now it was no longer just a matter of analyzing photos. I was receiving access to the Israeli intelligence community." A bulletin of nuclear science reported that Israel had in effect set up a cooperation unit, referred to as "the green headquarters," headed by Yaakov Amidror, which worked across from the headquarters of the UN supervisory delegation in New York. These offices, Ritter's remarks indicate, planned several operations together, including the last operation in Romania, known as Operation Cup of Tea, which was meant to prevent the acquisition of components in Romania.
Ritter was unable to obtain hard evidence that could prove the UN delegation's claim that Iraq was continuing its illegal activities to develop long-range missiles. The reason is apparently that Israel refused to divulge some of the information in order not to harm its sources and reveal its methods of operation. At a certain point, Ritter was suspected of relaying confidential American information to Israel and CIA investigators were even on the verge of charging him with spying for Israel. Ritter relates that he felt that the head of the CIA's Middle East desk started treating him as a competitor because of his close ties with Israel.
This week, prior to his arrival in Iraq, Ritter said that Butler's attacks on Iraq and his charges that it was supposedly developing new weapons systems were unfounded. Iraq, Ritter stated, does not have the ability to develop such weapons in its current circumstances. The film he is about to produce is meant to prove these claims.
However, in the last two years, it turns out that the sanctions have not been doing their job. Since the supervision stopped unofficially, when Saddam did not allow supervisors to do their jobs, and since they left Iraq over a year and a half ago, there has in effect been no supervision of suspected sites in Iraq and there are no findings to prove or disprove the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Richard Butler, who visited Israel three weeks ago, did, however, determine that Iraq is developing long-range missiles, but he could not present any proof of this. Scott Ritter, in contrast to Butler, several days ago said that Butler was exaggerating in his remarks about Iraqi capabilities. Ritter now suggests that instead of checking the past and Iraq's inventory of weapons, it would be better to look into Iraq's future capability and impose a supervisory system that will prevent future development of weapons of mass destruction. Such a system, Ritter believes, would lead to cooperation with Iraq and thereby bring about an end to the era of sanctions that did not achieve their goal. In essence, the current situation is that the sanctions are in effect even though there is no supervision and at the moment, there is no way of forcing Saddam to accept the supervision.
"Before the sanctions and the supervisory delegations, it was possible to know more about what Iraq had," says an Israeli intelligence official. "Today Iraq is a closed fortress, and most of the statements about its military capability are based on speculation. But it is tough to find any significant personality who would want to lift the sanctions on Iraq. It seems to me that whoever imposed them hasn't yet let go of the illusion that it will be possible to get rid of Saddam with them."
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