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Context of 'Early December 2002: White House Orders Plan to Forcibly Interrogate Iraqi Scientists; UN Says Plan Would Undermine Inspections'

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Chief UN inspector Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, send a letter to the Iraqi government, which lists conclusions they had drawn from the October 1 meeting with Iraqi arms officials (see October 1, 2002). The letter asks that Iraqi officials respond with a letter confirming these conclusions. But the inspectors’ letter actually includes additional conditions not discussed during the October 1 meeting, such as the right of inspectors to conduct interviews and choose “the mode and location” for them as well as the right for UN member states to fly U-2 spy planes over Iraq. [Reuters, 10/12/2002]
Iraqi Response 'Another Example of Evasion' - Iraqi officials respond to the request on October 11 with a letter signed by Amir Hammudi al-Saadi, an adviser to Saddam Hussein. The letter agrees only to the conditions that were agreed upon during the October 1 meeting. [New York Times, 10/12/2002; Reuters, 10/12/2002; New York Times, 10/12/2002] The Bush administration seizes on the Iraqi response, calling it another example of evasion. “We are not surprised that once again the Iraqis want to delay and deceive.… We’ve had 16 resolutions and 11 years of playing this game, and it’s time the Security Council takes action,” says Richard Grenell, spokesman for US Ambassador John Negroponte. [New York Times, 10/12/2002]
Threat from White House - When Blix and ElBaradei discuss the issue with Vice President Cheney, he will threaten to ‘discredit’ them if they do not support the US position (see October 11, 2002).

Entity Tags: Mohamed ElBaradei, George W. Bush, Amir Hammudi al-Saadi, Hans Blix, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

A team of 26 UN inspectors arrive in Baghdad. On the tarmac of Saddam Hussein International Airport, UNMOVIC Weapons Inspection Chief Hans Blix tells reporters, “We have come here for one single reason and that is because the world wants to have assurances that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The situation is tense at the moment, but there is a new opportunity and we are here to provide inspection which is credible… We hope we can all take that opportunity together…. There is a new opportunity and we hope that opportunity will be well-utilized so that we can get out of sanctions. And in the long term, we will have a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.” Hans Blix and Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohamed ElBaradei then head to Baghdad where they meet with Iraqi Gen. Amir al-Saadi and Hussam Mohammed Amin, the head of the Iraqi National Monitoring Directorate. [CNN, 11/19/2002; Guardian, 11/29/2002]

Entity Tags: Hans Blix, Hussam Mohammad Amin, Amir Hammudi al-Saadi, United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, Mohamed ElBaradei

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

The White House orders the CIA, the Defense Department, and the State Department to develop an aggressive plan for UN weapons inspectors that would require Iraqi scientists to appear for questioning. “An intense argument is under way… on almost all of the details of a protection program,” reports the New York Times. “Some American officials want the United Nations team to be aggressive in identifying scientists and demanding that they leave the country, perhaps without the scientists’ permission.” The UN would either issue subpoenas to the scientists or the UN would “lure” the scientists with offers of asylum in another country. If it is decided that subpoenas are to be used, Iraqi scientists would be required to “appear on a certain date and time at a place outside of Iraq… [and] Baghdad would be held responsible for seeing that they appear,” reports The Washington Post. Officials leak to the press that the Bush administration views the plan as the most likely way to provoke resistance from Baghdad. One official tells The Washington Post that if Iraqis “don’t produce those people, I would say that’s a demonstration of noncompliance and noncooperation.” The Washington Post reports that the inspections agencies, some allied governments, and UN officials are not pleased with the idea. They warn “that attempts to short-circuit the inspection process with a quickly conceived operation that could involve hundreds of Iraqis and their families could endanger lives while undermining both the inspections themselves and ongoing US intelligence operations in Iraq.” [New York Times, 12/6/2002; Washington Post, 12/12/2002; Washington Post, 12/13/2002] Hans Blix, who strongly disapproves of the recommendation, argues that the United Nations cannot abduct people against their will. “Do you really think any Iraqis are going to go for it?” he asks. “I mean how big is a family, do you take just the wife and children and parents? What about the extended family—the cousins? Do you leave them behind? And what if we’re stopped on the way to the airport?” [Guardian, 12/7/2002] The next day he reaffirms his position, saying, “We are in nobody’s pocket.… We are not going to abduct anybody and we are not serving as a defection agency.” [United Press International, 12/6/2002; London Times, 12/7/2002; New York Times, 12/7/2002] His view is “backed by most of the United Nations hierarchy and the State Department in Washington,” reports the New York Times. The Times quotes one US official, who disagrees with the idea: “Taking someone against their will is contrary to the whole United Nations concept. You’d fracture the UN consensus.” [New York Times, 12/6/2002] Iraqi General Amir Saadi argues that the proposal is problematic under international law and expresses concern that Hans Blix would be pressured into providing a copy of Iraq’s list of scientists to US intelligence. “This is a confidential list,” he says. “Will he make it public? Will he give it to other countries?” [Washington Post, 12/20/2002]

Entity Tags: Amir Hammudi al-Saadi, Hans Blix

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

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