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Former U.N. Weapons Inspector Discusses Iraq

Aired November 13, 2002 - 13:19   ET


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: With Iraq formally accepting the return of U.N. weapons inspectors, an advance team of those inspectors expected to arrive in Baghdad on Monday. David Albright worked as a U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq, and he's in Washington now. He joins us live.
Thank you, sir, for being with us.


SAVIDGE: What's your reaction to Iraq saying all right, essentially, bring it on?

ALBRIGHT: It's expected. And one hopes that they mean it when they say they'll cooperate.

SAVIDGE: Was there anything troubling in the statement maybe you heard there about how they may cooperate?

ALBRIGHT: Well, you have to be worried of what they were up to with this little charade in the parliament. I mean, you know, are they trying to send a signal that maybe Iraqis on the grass root level will interfere with the inspections? I mean, you always have to worry. But it's very important that the international community continue to insist that Iraq cooperate fully and that lack of cooperation is going to be viewed as noncompliance.

SAVIDGE: A lot has been made, saying this is a tough resolution, that it arms the weapons inspectors, it supports them, backs them up. Is it really that tough? Do you see that it's a major help for them?

ALBRIGHT: It's a much better resolution. The most important thing about the resolution is that it demonstrates that the international community is willing to enforce its resolutions. That was the biggest problem that developed in the mid and late 1990s. And so I think that's a very big step forward. In a sense, we've returned to kind of the attitudes of 1991, when the inspection process started. Now, there's also some tools in the new resolution that help, being able to interview Iraqis without security minders, the ability of inspectors to take Iraqis outside of Iraq with their families, reestablishing a right to go anywhere, anytime. I mean, these are all very important tools.

SAVIDGE: One of the questions that is always brought up is how can, say, a team of about 30 inspectors canvas an entire nation, a nation that will probably be trying to hide things, and get the job done and find what they're looking for? ALBRIGHT: That is not actually the purpose of inspections. I mean, finally, what you're trying to do in an ideal world is that Iraq declares, fully and completely, what it has, and the inspectors are trying to verify, is that declaration accurate? And is it complete? And so, you're not trying to go out and find, in a sense, a needle in a haystack. What you're trying to do is use other information that you may get from member states, from your own analytical results, from other sources, and just say look, you know, we think you have something hidden here. And you prove that with an inspection team. And then you've shown that they're in violation. So, I mean, you're not trying to basically go out and find every site that they may have hidden from you. You're just trying to go out and say, look, we think you're not cooperating. That's the first order of business. Over a much longer period of time, you're trying to say, look we're developing confidence through various means that you are cooperating and in compliance.

SAVIDGE: One of the areas that has been a point of contention in the past were the many palaces that Mr. Hussein has. Has it changed as far as access this time around? And do you believe those palaces are being used for something other than for the ruler?

ALBRIGHT: The new resolution reestablishes the right of the inspectors to go to those palaces. In 1991, they were given that right and the right was eroded over time. And so it's very important that the inspectors can go anywhere, that, in essence, there's no place that things can be hidden. In practical terms, I doubt that anything is there. Those palaces have received so much public attention that Iraq would certainly have moved out anything of importance. So -- but still, it's important to be able to go places. I'll tell you one area that hasn't been discussed much but certainly is going to be contentious, is the right to go into mosques. That's a real tough one.


ALBRIGHT: But still, you cannot allow Iraq to have free zones where it feels it can do things.

SAVIDGE: Since you've been there, if there is to be a problem for the weapons inspectors, where do you think it will be and when do you think it will come up?

ALBRIGHT: Well, Iraq always surprises me. I think the thing I would look at very closely, initially, is the declaration. And then I would make strong demands to the member states that they give me information that -- intelligence information that's actionable, that's detailed enough that you can develop a line of questions that you can pursue with the Iraqis and information about where they think hidden weapons are located or where those weapons were produced. I mean, and with monitoring technology, you can detect very small traces of, let's say, biological agents or nuclear materials. So even if the Iraqis have moved things out of those facilities, you may still find evidence.

SAVIDGE: It remains to be seen, doesn't it? David Albright. Go ahead, I'm sorry. I don't mean to interrupt.

ALBRIGHT: No, it's going to be very important for the inspectors to be very aggressive, while respecting the Iraqis as human beings, but it's going to be extremely important that the inspectors are very forceful about how they do these inspections. Because finally, one of the major issues now is that can we trust these inspectors? I mean, you know, you're already hearing statements from the Pentagon that perhaps the inspectors will not do a good enough job, that they'll be tricked. My experience is that the inspectors can do a very good job and can recognize lies, can recognize when they're being denied or slowed down getting into facilities. I think that the job of the inspector will be to say, look, we aren't getting the cooperation we need. We're not getting told the truth. And that the international community is going to have to realize that that is noncooperation and it is noncompliance. And that, in essence, Iraq has to prove that it's going to fulfill the obligations of the Security Council.

SAVIDGE: David Albright, we thank you. You've been there as a weapons inspector, thanks for being with us. We appreciate it.


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