1. B. Gilman Introduces Bill to Support Opposition to Saddam, 29th September
  2. Robert Kagan, “A Way to Oust Saddam,” Weekly Standard, 28th September
  3. Iraqi Work Toward A-Bomb, Washington Post, 30th September
  4. Israeli Tips Aided UNSCOM, Washington Post, 29th September
  5. Scott Ritter Interview, Haaretz, 29th September
  6. Outgoing Aid Co-ordinator Blasts Sanctions, BBC, 30th September

This is the 57th day without weapons inspections in Iraq. The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrrorism, Technology and Government Information will hold a hearing on the question of the six Iraqi opposition members, evacuated by the US Gov’t after Saddam’s Aug 96 assault on Irbil, and presently detained in California. The hearing will be Oct 5, 2:00 PM, Dirksen Bldg, Room 226.

The NYT, today, reported that Foreign Minister, Mohammed al-Sahaf, took a hard line in his speech yesterday to the UNGA. He denounced UNSCOM and said Iraq had complied with UNSCR 687. He also said sanctions were “tantamount to internationally proscribed acts of genocide.” He also seemed to assume Iraq could have the “comprehensive review,” provided for in UNSCR 1194, before allowing weapons inspections to resume.

USIS, yesterday, in “Iraq Liberation Bill Introduced into Congress,” reported on the “bipartisan support shown for [the] removal of Saddam Hussein.” Rep. Benjamin Gilman [R, NY], introducing the “Iraq Liberation Act of 1998” [HR 4655], Sept 29, explained that “the purpose of this legislation is to finally and irrevocably commit the United States to the removal from power of the regime headed by Saddam Hussein.

… If this man remains in power, Iraq will remain a clear and present danger to the United States and our allies. We heard as much from the Chief UN weapons inspector, Scott Ritter, and we have heard as much from the Administration.”

Robert Kagan, in The Weekly Standard, Sept 28, underscored the Iraqi threat, as detailed by Ritter and suggested by the long break in weapons inspections. “The Clinton administration clearly has no idea how to handle this imminent and devastating threat to American interests…. The unstated but de facto policy of the administration is now this slender hope: if and when Saddam builds his weapons of mass destruction, the United States will still be able to deter him from aggression against his neighbors. This must be comforting to the folks in Jerusalem, Riyadh, and Kuwait City, as well as to anyone else who cares about American credibility and Middle East peace. It has long been clear that the only way to rid the world of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction is to rid Iraq of Saddam. Last week, Paul Wolfowitz, a defense official in the Bush administration, laid out in testimony before Congress a thoughtful and coherent strategy to accomplish that goal. The Wolfowitz plan calls for the establishment of a ‘liberated zone’ in southern Iraq… The zone would be a safe haven for the opponents of Saddam’s regime. They could rally and organize, establish a provisional government there, gain international recognition, and set up a credible alternative to Saddam’s dictatorship…. Arab officials have told Wolfowitz that the effect on Saddam’s regime would be ‘devastating.’ Wolfowitz predicts that the creation of such a zone would lead to the ‘unraveling of the regime.'” [see “Iraq News,” Sept 17 for Wolfowitz’ testimony]. Kagan stressed that the US should be prepared to back up the Iraqi opponents of Saddam with its own force.

The extremity of the Saddam menace was highlighted by yesterday’s Wash Post report on Iraq’s nuclear program. In 1996 and 1997, UNSCOM told US officials that it had credible intelligence indicating that Iraq had built and retained several implosion devices that lacked only enriched uranium cores to make 20-kiloton nuclear weapons.

David Steinmann, who just finished four years as president of JINSA [Jewish Institute for Nat’l Security Affairs] and now serves as Chairman of JINSA’s Board of Advisers, commenting on the story, noted “the now recognizable reaction of the Clinton Administration: 1) we didn’t get the information; 2) OK, we got it, but it’s not so credible; 3) OK, it may be credible, so 4) let’s investigate and smear the source of the information (Scott Ritter) instead of investigating the validity of the information and the danger it poses to the US and Iraq’s neighbors (this last point isn’t mentioned in this article but has been in previous pieces by the same journalist).”

Indeed, while the information about Iraq’s nuclear program is new in its detail, it has long been known in its generality. It came to light as a result of Hussein Kamil’s Aug 95 defection and was first reported by Paul Leventhal and Edwin Lyman, Nov 2, 1995 in the IHT, “Who Says Iraq Isn’t Making a Bomb.” Also, Mike Eisenstadt, of The Washington Institute, which sporadically reports on the Iraq threat, wrote “Still Not Bomb-Proof,” in the Wash Post, Feb 26 96.

And in Dec 95, a month after the assassination of Itzhak Rabin, Israeli Prime Minister, Shimon Peres, and Foreign Minister, Ehud Barak, visited Washington. Both raised the danger of an Iraqi nuclear breakthrough, but Barak did so in exceptionally strong terms. Evidently, they were rebuffed by the Clinton administration. Still, a key question is why no Israeli official spoke out subsequently. That is especially puzzling, given the Wash Post, Sept 29, and Haaretz, Sept 29, reporting on the close relations that developed between Israel and UNSCOM from Jul 95 onwards, which presumably kept at least some Israelis aware of the Saddam menace and the US failure to address it.

Finally, another attack on the administration’s Iraq policy came from a quite different direction. Dennis Halliday recently resigned his position as co-ordinator for UN aid in Iraq. As the BBC reported yesterday, Halliday denounced sanctions as “a totally bankrupt concept.” He explained that sanctions caused Iraqis to die, while they eroded the fabric of society, contributing to divorce, prostitution, and crime.

When the Bush administration announced, in May 91, that it would not agree to lift sanctions while Saddam remained in power, it did so in the context of a policy aiming to overthrow Saddam. That is the policy that Congress is seeking to restore. Sanctions were not intended to remain in place the rest of Saddam’s natural life. It was only the Clinton administration, looking to its own convenience, which came up with the idea. But the policy is cruel, as well as ineffectual, and the two together are a particularly dangerous combination.

I. Benjamin Gilman Introduces Bill to Support Opposition to Saddam

News from the House International Relations Committee Benjamin A. Gilman, Chairman Sept 29, 1998; Jerry Lipson, Communications Director (202) 225-5021. Gilman Introduces Bill to Support Democratic Opposition against Saddam Hussein

WASHINGTON – International Relations Committee Chairman Benjamin A. Gilman (20th-NY) has introduced legislation providing support for a democratic opposition to replace Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Gilman’s bill, the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 (HR 4655), calls on the President to designate groups that are committed to a democratic Iraq and authorizes up to $97 million in military assistance and $2 million for opposition broadcasting operations inside Iraq. Following is Gilman’s statement that accompanied introduction of his bill:

“As the title suggests, the purpose of this legislation is to finally and irrevocably commit the United States to the removal from power of the regime headed by Saddam Hussein.

“For almost eight years now, since the end of Operation Desert Storm, we waited for Saddam Hussein’s regime to live up to its international obligations: to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction under international inspections, to stop threatening Iraq’s neighbors, and stop menacing Iraq’s Kurdish and Shi’ite minorities.

“After dozens of U.N. Security Council resolutions, and compromise after compromise, we have too little to show. Our patience was misinterpreted by Saddam Hussein as weakness. Regrettably, America’s friends in the Middle East believe our policy lacked seriousness. The time has come to let Saddam know-to let the whole world know-that the United States will not tolerate this regime’s continued grip on power.

“We must abandon the fiction that there can be peace and security in the Persian Gulf region with Saddam Hussein’s regime still in power. Simply put, Saddam must go. This is not a simple task. Even when the international community was unified and the United States was energized, solutions were few and far between.

“Some suggest that our nation should go to war and rid the Persian Gulf of the threat posed by Saddam. We may yet be compelled to do so, but before we put American lives at risk in that far away land, we have a duty to explore the alternatives. One alternative is to assist freedom-loving Iraqis.

“Consider the people of Iraq who have no say in their future. Because of Saddam Hussein, they tolerated years of deprivation. At the hands of this man and his Republican Guards, tens of thousands of people were massacred. The people of Iraq are sick and tired of suffering; they have been willing to take up arms against Saddam Hussein, and they are willing to do so again.

“The Iraq Liberation Act is not a complete recipe for Saddam’s removal, but it contains some key ingredients. This bill calls on the president to designate a group or groups committed to a democratic Iraq. For the designated group or groups, it authorizes the President to provide up to $97 million in military assistance, to be drawn down from the stocks of the Department of Defense. In addition, it authorizes the provision of $2 million for opposition radio and television broadcasting inside Iraq

“These authorities, combined with other actions Congress already has taken, will contribute to a comprehensive policy of promoting democracy in Iraq. Earlier this year, the Congress appropriated $10 million to support pro-democracy groups, assist their organization, found Radio Free Iraq under the aegis of Radio Free Europe, and build a war-crimes case against Saddam Hussein. A further $10 million is contained in the Senate version of the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill that will soon go to conference.

“The Iraq Liberation Act marks an important step forward in our fight against Saddam Hussein. We must not fool ourselves: The man is the problem. If this man remains in power, Iraq will remain a clear and present danger to the United States and our allies. We heard as much from the Chief U.N. weapons inspector, Scott Ritter, and we have heard as much from the Administration.

“This bill will not tie the President’s hands. It does not mandate the actual delivery of military assistance. The only requirement it contains is that the President designate a group or groups as eligible to receive the assistance we are authorizing. I would hope, however, that the President will use the authority we are offering him begin to help the people of Iraq liberate themselves.”

II. A Way to Oust Saddam

The Weekly Standard September 28, 1998 A Way To Oust Saddam By Robert Kagan (Robert Kagan is a contributing editor)

SEVEN MONTHS AFTER the Clinton administration backed down from its confrontation with Saddam Hussein, the disastrous consequences of that retreat are on full display. Whether or not Saddam makes good on his threat to throw out the U.N. weapons inspectors, he has now enjoyed almost two months without U.N. inspections. What does the administration believe he’s been doing with all the free time?

Former weapons inspector Scott Ritter has been warning Congress that the day is not far off–maybe a matter of a few months–when Saddam will suddenly present the United States and the world with a horrifying fait accompli: He will have his weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them. If that day comes, no sanctions, no threat of sanctions, no angry U.N. resolutions, and no threat of “force” will be of any use. Saddam’s new weapons would dramatically shift the strategic balance in the Middle East, putting at severe risk the safety of Israel, of moderate Arab states, and of the energy resources on which the United States and its allies depend.

The Clinton administration clearly has no idea how to handle this imminent and devastating threat to American interests. Clinton officials want Americans to believe that winning votes in the U.N. Security Council constitutes a policy for dealing with the Saddam menace. They dismiss Scott Ritter as “clueless.”

But this Clintonian charade is a mammoth deception that will cause real damage in the world. The unstated but de facto policy of the administration is now this slender hope: If and when Saddam builds his weapons of mass destruction, the United States will still be able to deter him from aggression against his neighbors. This must be mighty comforting to the folks in Jerusalem, Riyadh, and Kuwait City, as well as to anyone else who cares about American credibility and Middle East peace.

It has long been clear that the only way to rid the world of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction is to rid Iraq of Saddam. Last week, Paul Wolfowitz, a defense official in the Bush administration, laid out in testimony before Congress a thoughtful and coherent strategy to accomplish that goal.

The Wolfowitz plan calls for the establishment of a “liberated zone” in southern Iraq much like the zone the Bush administration created in the north of the country in 1991. The zone would be a safe haven for opponents of Saddam’s regime. They could rally and organize, establish a provisional government there, gain international recognition, and set up a credible alternative to Saddam’s dictatorship. Control of the southern zone would give Saddam’s opponents a staging area to which discontented Iraqi army units could defect, as well as access to the country’s largest oil field. Arab officials have told Wolfowitz that the effect on Saddam’s regime would be “devastating.” Wolfowitz predicts that the creation of such a zone would lead to “the unraveling of the regime.”

Unlike some of the ideas circulating on Capitol Hill, which suppose that Saddam will be toppled without any military action, the Wolfowitz plan rests on a guarantee of military support to protect the opposition within the liberated zone. If, as would be likely, Saddam sent his tanks to wipe out this new threat to his regime, the United States would have to be ready to defend the Iraqi opposition with overwhelming force. The United States could not again stand by while an uprising was crushed by Saddam.

Some on the Hill have been looking for an easy way out of the Iraq crisis, hoping that a few million dollars for the Iraqi opposition will by itself take care of the problem. But any serious effort to oust Saddam must also be backed by U.S. military might.

Republicans and Democrats on the Hill should advance the Wolfowitz plan in two ways. They should continue pressing the administration to support the Iraqi opposition–with money, weapons, and political recognition. And they should now pass a resolution authorizing the president to use force against Iraq as part of a strategy of removing Saddam from power.

The administration has proven itself incapable of carrying out a credible policy against Saddam. There is a real alternative to the present charade. Congress ought to let Americans know that.

III. Iraqi Work Toward A-Bomb

Iraqi Work Toward A-Bomb Reported U.S. Was Told of ‘Implosion Devices’ By Barton Gellman Wednesday, September 30, 1998; Page A01

United Nations arms inspectors reported twice to the United States, in 1996 and 1997, that they had credible intelligence indicating that Iraq built and has maintained three or four “implosion devices” that lack only cores of enriched uranium to make 20-kiloton nuclear weapons, according to U.S. government and U.N. sources.

American intelligence assessments, U.S. officials said yesterday, concur on the credibility of the reports but have not fully corroborated them. If Iraq has in fact managed to manufacture such devices–in essence, the shells of nuclear weapons without the atomic cores–it is substantially closer than previously known to joining the world’s nuclear powers.

There is no known evidence that the Baghdad government has acquired plutonium or highly enriched uranium, without which its weapons design cannot be completed. Many experts, including those in the U.S. government, regard the nuclear supply problem as a higher hurdle for aspiring weapons builders than fabrication of the shell of precision- shaped conventional charges that would be used to detonate the fissile material.

But the existence of weapons shells would be a milestone for Iraq and raise new questions about the policies and public assessments of the Clinton administration and the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is responsible for investigating any evidence that Iraq is violating a ban on its nuclear weapons program. Since 1996, the Vienna-based panel has reported regularly to the U.N. Security Council that it has found “no indication of prohibited equipment, materials or activities.”

A cache of undiscovered implosion devices would also illuminate the stakes involved in Iraq’s refusal since Aug. 3 to permit U.N. inspectors to mount new searches for banned materials. U.S. officials acknowledged that there is little prospect of discovering and destroying such devices without the active program of surprise inspections that has now been terminated.

Reports of the implosion devices were first aired publicly by Scott Ritter, a former Marine who has been critical of U.S. government policy since he resigned from the U.N. Special Commission, or UNSCOM, in August. After Ritter testified about the devices to Senate and House committees on Sept. 4 and Sept. 15, senior U.S. policy-makers said the government had never received such a report from UNSCOM and did not regard the claims as credible.

Both those assertions are contradicted by evidence emerging this week. In interviews and in documents made available to The Washington Post, U.S. government and United Nations sources confirmed that Ritter passed the intelligence orally to the Central Intelligence Agency’s Nonproliferation Center in 1996 and in writing in May 1997 to an interagency group supporting the weapons inspectors.

Some senior administration officials disputed yesterday that there is any reason to regard the UNSCOM intelligence as credible. But those U.S. officials most responsible for assessing the reports said in interviews that they believed the findings are plausible.

“It is credible that they [Iraqi designers] have all the parts to put together,” one of the officials said yesterday. “Do I think there might be parts out there that could provide the basis to put together several weapons? Yeah.”

Ritter’s original information, according to accounts he gave the U.S. government, was compiled from three Iraqi defectors. Ritter later told the IAEA, according to other sourc es, that the defector information came to UNSCOM by way of a “northern European” country.

It was not clear from the defectors, sources said, whether the devices would meet Iraq’s design goal of fitting inside the 88- centimeter (roughly 34-inch) warhead of a Scud missile. At 20 kilotons, the expected yield of the devices would be greater than that of the first atomic bomb, a 13-kiloton device dropped by the United States on Hiroshima in 1945.

The defectors’ credibility was enhanced by their detailed descriptions of the methods used by Iraq’s Special Security Organization to hide the weapons components, and because their story matched intelligence known only to a handful of Westerners at the time, sources said. Details included the use of a fleet of Mercedes trucks to shuttle the weapons among hiding places. The trucks had distinctive markings: White cabins with red stripes, a red diesel tank and wheel rims, and Ministry of Trade license plates numbered between 30,000 and 87,000.

Ritter said one defector sketched a map by hand depicting seven depots for those trucks. A subsequent review of surveillance imagery obtained by U-2 spy planes found five of them.

Further bolstering UNSCOM’s confidence in one of the defectors, Ritter said, was his identification of a concealment operations center in the Al Fao Building on Palestine Street in Baghdad. Inspectors later confirmed in a no-notice inspection in March 1996 that Iraq used the center to control several locations for concealing materials, Ritter said, but “the Iraqis had evacuated it in early January.”

About a year after the first report, UNSCOM summarized it in a briefing paper for a conference on Iraq held in Washington on May 19 and 20, 1997, with the U.S. and British governments, sources said. “It is assessed that Iraq has retained critical components relating to the most recent weapons design, which has not to date been turned over to the IAEA,” UNSCOM wrote in the briefing paper, which was classified upon receipt by the U.S. government. “These components may comprise several complete weapons minus the HEU [highly enriched uranium] core.”

The briefing paper also noted UNSCOM’s assessment that Iraq is hiding “undeclared feedstocks of UF6,” or uranium hexafluoride, a precursor to enriched uranium. The commission suspects, according to the memo, that Iraq maintains a secret enrichment capacity and secret machine tools to shape components of a bomb.

An American official familiar with that written account said the May 1997 report did not raise fresh alarms about Iraq’s nuclear program because its central emphasis was on Iraq’s deception program, not the substance of what was being hidden.

“The thrust of this report was on concealment, so when he put [nuclear weapons assessments] in it wasn’t, ‘Attention: They have this,’ “the official said. “It was one sentence.”

Senior administration officials also argued this week that the report is not significant even if true. “The hardest part of getting a nuclear weapon is the fissile material,” said one official. “Not that the science is easy, not that the problems of arming and fusing are easy, but they are easier than the problem of getting the fissile material and putting it together in the right way.”

Independent analysts, while agreeing on the central importance of a plutonium or enriched uranium supply, said the existence of working implosion devices would mean that it could take only days or weeks for Iraq to build working weapons if it managed to buy enriched uranium from a rogue supplier.

“It’s a question of how much reaction time you have,” said Paul Leventhal, president of the Nuclear Control Institute, a policy lobby. He added that the essential questions now are, “Could Iraq obtain [enriched uranium] on the black market, and could they already have obtained it?”

The existence of implosion devices in Iraq would revise the conclusions of recent reports by the IAEA, which is an uneasy collaborator with UNSCOM. Last October, the IAEA reported that active inspections were nearing the point of “diminishing returns,” a finding that led Russia, France and China to suggest closing the Security Council’s “nuclear file” on Iraq, in effect certifying that Baghdad had no capacity to build an atomic bomb.

In a confidential response to Ritter’s report this month, sources said Gary Dillon, chief of the IAEA Action Team on Iraq, described it as “unsubstantiated” and said it has “no credibility.” Dillon did not respond to several telephone messages requesting an interview.

Ritter rebutted that description in an interview. “I was never authorized by the executive chairman to tell [Dillon] the full extent of the information we had,” he said.

UNSCOM spokesman Ewen Buchanan said he would not discuss the substance of the case. Previously, the IAEA has acknowledged gaps in its information about Iraq. In a confidential report on Aug. 19, 1997, the Action Team wrote that it could not verify how much the Baghdad government had accomplished in its efforts to devise a working nuclear weapons design. After the 1995 defection of Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel, for example, Iraq had turned over technical drawings on the use of precision-shaped charges known as “explosive lenses,” interlocking hexagonal blocks of explosives, designed to detonate inward and crush enriched uranium to a critically dense mass.

The IAEA could not assess the final progress on the weapons design, the Action Team wrote, because “the chart clearly illustrates several drawings are missing.” Iraq, the IAEA wrote, at first denied it had built molds for manufacture of explosive lenses, then admitted it had but said it “can’t find” the molds. Similarly, it first denied ever casting an explosive lens, then admitted it “had cast one 120mm cylindrical charge and it was tested for ‘velocity and pressure,'” the report said.

The United States has underestimated Iraq’s nuclear weapons program in the past. In 1991, at the start of the Persian Gulf War, the consensus intelligence estimate was that Iraq was 10 years from a working weapon. A senior official who took part in that estimate said the U.S. government was unaware of Iraq’s effort to enrich uranium using electromagnetic devices called calutrons, and did not know of the existence of the principal Iraqi weapons design center at Al Atheer.

“There were a lot of holes,” the former official said. “We were not aware of that facility, and it survived the bombing.”

IV. Israeli Tips Aided UNSCOM

For more than four years, United Nations arms inspectors have obtained many of their best leads on forbidden Iraqi weapons through a secretive and diplomatically risky channel from the Israeli government, according to knowledgeable sources in the United States, Israel and the United Nations.

After a wary start born of Israel’s long isolation at the world body, Israel began providing the U.N. Special Commission with increasingly detailed and sensitive intelligence on its Arab adversary, which launched 40 Scud missiles at Haifa and Tel Aviv during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Among its most important contributions, from the U.N. panel’s point of view, were significant leads on the existence of a biological weapons program and the first concrete evidence that Iraq had a systematic campaign of deception to conceal weapons programs it was legally obliged to declare and dismantle.

The two-way exchange of information, which included meetings with the director and deputy director of Israeli military intelligence, eventually involved Israeli analysis of aerial photography taken by American U-2 surveillance planes, provision of raw reports from defectors and other human sources, and Israeli processing of other forms of information obtained by the special commission, known as UNSCOM.

According to three officials with direct knowledge of the relationship, Israel had become by July 1995 the most important single contributor among the dozens of U.N. member states that have supplied information to UNSCOM since its creation in April 1991. The United States, by all accounts, remained a major supplier of information, as well as UNSCOM’s most important material and political backer. But the arrival of fresh Israeli intelligence after most U.S. tips were exploited made for what one official called “this great big candy store of nice goodies.”

There is no evidence that Israel directed UNSCOM’s activity in any way, or that the U.N. panel gave information improperly or for Israel’s national benefit. But Israel and UNSCOM have protected the operation among their most sensitive secrets, fearing that Iraq would use it to feed propaganda attacks that already featured accusations of a Zionist conspiracy behind the commission’s work.

Even without evidence, those charges have resonated among intellectuals and in the government-controlled media in much of the Arab world, including pro-Western Persian Gulf states on which the American-backed U.N. panel has relied for practical and diplomatic support.

Ewen Buchanan, the spokesman for UNSCOM, said yesterday that the U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding Iraq’s disarmament call upon all member states to assist the panel “in discharging its mandate,” and more than 40 countries have “helped us in the form of experts, information, equipment, finance and in-kind help like laboratory analysis or helicopters.”

“As a general principle,” he added, “we will not confirm or deny our dealings with particular states.”

Israel’s U.N. ambassador, Dore Gold, consulted with superiors when asked about the cooperation. When he telephoned back, he said he could say only that “I cannot give any official Israeli response.”

Those willing to speak about the relationship, from UNSCOM’s point of view, said the commission had no choice but to seek assistance from foreign intelligence agencies once the extent of Iraq’s concealment efforts became clear. Israel had the means and motive to assist the disarmament panel, they said, but other adversaries of Iraq — including Iran and some neighboring Arab states — did so as well.

“I think it’s perfectly valid we had contact with the Israelis,” said Tim Trevan, a Briton who until 1995 was political adviser to Rolf Ekeus, UNSCOM’s executive chairman until last year. “There’s nothing to be ashamed about with that contact.”

Trevan, according to other sources, made the first chance link between the commission and the Jewish state. Ekeus had dispatched him to a January 1994 academic conference on disarmament in Delphi, Greece. There he sat in the audience as David Ivri, then director general of Israel’s Defense Ministry, made disparaging comments about UNSCOM and hinted it was not finding all of Iraq’s hidden weapon programs.

After Trevan stood up to criticize Ivri — arguing that Israel should “put up or shut up,” as one participant recalled — another Israeli pulled him aside and introduced him to Brig. Gen. Yakov Amidror, who was then deputy director of Israel’s Military Intelligence organization, known by its Hebrew acronym as Aman. Three months later, in April 1994, Amidror flew secretly to New York for a meeting with Ekeus, said sources with firsthand knowledge.

Scott Ritter, the U.N. inspector who resigned in protest last month, was a central conduit in the unfolding relationship, by his own account and those of others familiar with the details. Other UNSCOM staff members who traveled to the Aman headquarters in Tel Aviv’s Kirya complex included Frenchman Didier Louis, German Norbert Reinecke and Russian Nikita Smidovich.

The Clinton administration, which was aware of the relationship in detail, generally supported Israel’s aid to UNSCOM, but worried about the political difficulties that might be caused by public disclosure. Even so, the first public hint of the relationship came in a leak from the U.S. government aimed at discrediting Ritter, disclosing that he was under FBI investigation for his intelligence contacts with Israel.

Sources said that investigation remains open, and the FBI declined to comment. Current and former U.S. government officials at the policymaking level and current and former UNSCOM officials said, without dissent, that Ritter’s exchange of information with Israel was approved by his superiors at the commission and, in principle, by the United States.

But some of those officials said there were concerns about Ritter’s links with Israel that fell short of criminal suspicion. Ritter on several occasions brought canisters of U-2 film for processing in Israel, and from time to time allowed Israeli technicians to make copies, sources said.

There is apparently an unresolved legal question about the ownership of that U-2 imagery, which is normally classified secret in the United States. Washington had lent the aircraft and its product to UNSCOM. The imagery was stamped with the notation, “REL UNSCOM/IAEA ONLY,” meaning that it could be released to the special commission and to the International Atomic Energy Agency. U.S. government sources said the CIA’s general counsel wrote to the Justice Department, in the context of the Ritter investigation, that the release to UNSCOM was legally equivalent to declassification for purposes of U.S. espionage law.

Four independent sources with firsthand knowledge said that Ritter and his colleagues worked with the explicit consent of Ekeus, the Swedish diplomat who was UNSCOM’s first executive chairman, and of Richard Butler, Ekeus’s Australian successor. The U.N. panel was aware that Israel — like other cooperating nations, not least the United States — derived valuable military information from the relationship, but UNSCOM insisted it would provide only such information to Israel as would enable Israeli analysts to assist UNSCOM.

UNSCOM gave Israel U-2 photographs, for example, so that Israel could apply its own intelligence databases to the structures depicted, allowing the U.N. panel to combine information from many sources for a fuller picture. Those familiar with the relationship insist that UNSCOM never “traded” information in return for Israeli help. Still, the relationship eventually raised alarms among some in the U.S. government. Israel received so much American-shot imagery of Iraqi strategic facilities from UNSCOM, officials said, that the United States worried it could be held responsible in part if Israel used the pictures to select targets or flight routes for a strike on Iraq’s nonconventional weapons.

There was no doubt that Israel had strong incentives. In 1981, as a French-built nuclear reactor neared completion, Israeli warplanes launched a preemptive strike to destroy the facility at Osirak. Nine years later, a few months before invading Kuwait, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein threatened publicly to “burn half of Israel” in what was taken to be a reference to chemical weapons.

Asked whether his cooperation with Israel validated long-standing Iraqi charges that he was an agent of Israeli intelligence, Ritter said he was not “America’s spy or Israel’s spy or anyone else’s spy,” but an inspector working on explicit authority of his superiors.

“That’s a diversion,” Ritter said. “It’s typical Iraqi tactics. The commission wouldn’t have had to undertake these extraordinary measures if Iraq had been forthcoming.”

The commission went to Israel, he said, because it was not getting as much help as it wanted from Washington and London on the most sensitive forms of information-gathering and was looking for another source “with an open mind, with a proven track record of success.”

In September 1994, Israel gave UNSCOM its first major contribution — a detailed allegation that the Special Security Organization, run by Saddam Hussein’s younger son Qusay, was organizing the deception and concealment operation. The tip included physical descriptions of trucks and depots used to move forbidden materials and documents around the country, sources said.

Later, Israeli information helped provide what sources described as a key to unlocking a biological weapons program Iraq had long denied: Israel passed along the tip that Oxoid, a company in Basingstoke, England, had sold Iraq 40 tons of a biological growth medium that the Baghdad government could not account for.

In October and December 1994, Ritter led delegations to Tel Aviv for a meeting with Maj. Gen. Uri Saguy, then the chief of Israeli military intelligence, and panels of analysts from other Israeli agencies.

Thereafter, Saguy dispatched analysts on a regular basis to New York for meetings with Ritter and his colleagues in hotel basements and out-of-the-way bars. Sometimes Amidror, Saguy’s deputy, traveled personally.

V. Scott Ritter Interview

The jeep was already sitting waiting on the dune. Standing next to the jeep was a man, well equiped for the afternoon heat and the humidity, with a bottle of water and a walkie-talkie. Every few minutes, he raised his eyes skyward to look out for inspectors.It wasn’t easy for the jeep to escape the prying eyes of the inspector in the light plane above. The inspector, waiting for developments, ordered the pilot to double back and fly over the spot again.

The scenario was predictable. A jeep arrives at the sand dunes near Yavne and waits, on a look-out for inspectors, police, or any other official who is likely to frustrate his assignment – stealing sand.

As soon as the driver gives the all-clear on his mobile telephone, a caravan of trucks will pull up, and a tractor will load as much sand as possible, as quickly as possible. This series of events will be repeated several times, until the end of the day’s “work.” An inspector, high above in his Cessna, informs a colleague on the ground what is going on. If he does not arrive in time to block off the trucks’ exit from the site, the stolen sand will find its way on the market.

This is how it works nearly every day. Commercial quantities of sand are being stolen by what the Israel Lands Authority (ILA) is calling “organized sand bandits.” These groups are well-known to the authorities. The supervisory branch of the ILA has a list of thieves operating in various regions of the country.

The ILA estimates that around 20 percent of Israel’s annual sand usage is supplied by the sand bandits. The stolen sand is earmarked for the construction and paving industries, which together, use some 13 million tons of sand per year. The thieves operating today have developed a well-organized method of operation.

They are well equiped with walkie-talkies and vehicles suited to the terrain. The supervisory branch has recently identified legitimate companies (with the company name embossed on the trucks) from the north of the country, which made the trip to the center of the country in search of free sand.

The fact that the country’s legitimate sand reserves for construction are expected to be depleted within a year has opened the market for thieves intent on avoiding taxes. The price of stolen sand is the same as legal sand, say sources at the ILA – a clear profit for the thieves.

The air-borne enforcement activities began a few years ago. The ILA sends out a light plane every few days, with an inspector on board. His task is to locate, among the golden dunes, scrap iron, and piles of garbage, anything that moves. Eagle-eyed, the inspector photographs any vehicle involved in stealing sand. He is contact with an inspector on the ground and can summon the Green Patrol to undertake a chase. All of this activity is designed to make the sand stealers’ lives that much harder – but it hasn’t managed to put an end to the thievery.

The abandoned sand dunes near Ashkelon may look like a perfect lovers lane to spend some time alone, but beware; the dunes are not as deserted as they appear. Couples may not not be aware of the activity going on just a hundred meters from their romantic spot among the dunes. From his bird’s eye view in the Cessna, the inspector can make out more than one interesting activity.

Next to the Ashkelon garbage dump, a truck is waiting beside a pile of garbage. To the untrained eye, it looks like an innocent truck emptying its contents. Nearby is a tractor, a permanent companion in these banditry operations, for loading sand.

Every time the Cessna passes over head, all activity ceases for a few minutes. The thieves know the procedure: they wait for the plane to pass and then check if there are any vehicles approaching the area. The inspector informs his colleague on the ground of the activity, and within seconds another ILA inspector sets off to block the truck’s exit.

One way the thieves prevent other vehicles entering the area is to pile mounds of sand on the road leading to site, which gives them more time to escape if necessary.

On one occasion, a supervisor found himself driving toward a tractor that was piling sand onto a truck. The driver of the tractor threatened to dump his shovel-load onto the inspector, while the truck driver used the delay to flee the scene.

Over the past 12 months, the traffic police has joined the fight against the sand bandits.

A few days ago, a traffic police car blocked off the entrance to the sand dunes near Kibbutz Nitzanim for over a week. At a nearby area rich with sand, there were dozens of reported thefts before the police blockade. In the aftermath of the blockade, an ILA plane reported that the area was clear of thieves.

At the North Yavne Industrial Zone, the ILA was forced to replenish the sand supply, after a two-meter deep area was completely cleaned out. The area is a plot of land which the ILA had put on the market. But the replenished sand was then promptly stolen.

The national map of thefts shows that very few incidents have been recorded around Or Akiva, while the Givat Olga area appears to be favorite site for the sand bandits. Rishon Lezion has ceased to be prone to thefts, since the local municipality very strictly enforces the law.

The Palmachim region is still very popular, partly because it is so difficult to police and partly because it is close to the main market in central Israel, thereby reducing transportation costs. At the Shikma Reservoir, the thefts have caused serious damage to the nature reserve and a similar danger exists in Dimona, Ashdod and the Yavne area.

The demand for sand remained unchanged from year to year, but in the last two years a recession in the construction industry has brought about a 10 percent deline in annual demand.

Nonetheless, the procedure to receive official permission to mine for sand is considered long, compared with the demands of the market. This only serves to increase the power of the thieves, creating a situation in which the ILA is not issuing new permits (or renewing old ones) for mining sand, because of instructions from the attorney-general. The activity of “Sol-Nitzan” in the Nitzanim region is being cut back, because of the price war with the sand bandits.

In the areas of Zevulun, Givat Olga, Netanya, and north Ashkelon, the thefts have spread to privately-owned lands. The sand gangs operating from the Ashdod area have become so prosperous that they have started to operate in their own neighborhoods.

Even when the trucks and tractors are caught, the work does not drop. Thieves in these areas work often around the clock.

Veteran sand and gravel miners began operating even before the establishment of the state, starting along the coast and moving eastward.

Now, the attorney-general, the legal advisors at the ministry of national infrastructures, representatives from the ILA, and officials from the interior ministry are working on a new set of rules and regulations for legal sand mining.

Until they reach their agreement, the sand bandits will continue making their living and the sand dunes are, in effect, gold mines.

VI. Outgoing Aid Co-Ordinator Blasts Sanctions

The outgoing co-ordinator of the UN oil-for-food deal in Iraq, Denis Halliday, has launched a scathing attack on the policy of sanctions, branding them “a totally bankrupt concept”. In his surprise remarks, Denis Halliday, said his 13-month stint had taught him the “damage and futility” of sanctions.

“It doesn’t impact on governance effectively and instead it damages the innocent people of the country,” he told Reuters news agency.

“It probably strengthens the leadership and further weakens the people of the country.”

Mr Halliday, who has resigned after more than 30 years with the United

Nations, leaves his post in Baghdad on Wednesday. He was co-ordinator of the programme that allows Iraq to sell limited amounts of oil to buy food, medicine and other supplies.

He said maintaining the crippling trade embargo imposed on Iraq for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait was incompatible with the UN charter as well as UN conventions on human rights and the rights of the child.

But Mr Halliday believed UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan favoured a fresh look at sanctions as a means of influencing states to change their policies-in Iraq’s case making it scrap its weapons of mass destruction, and long-range missiles.

“I’m beginning to see a change in the thinking of the United Nations, the secretary-general, many of the member states, who have realised through Iraq in particular that sanctions are a failure and the price you extract for sanctions is unacceptably high.” His comments follow criticism recently by a top UN weapons inspector, Scott Ritter, of the US and UK for failing to take a tougher line over the inspections.

Mr Halliday said disarmament was a legitimate aim, but took issue with the “open-ended” and politicised nature of weapons searches in Iraq. “There is an awful incompatibility here, which I can’t quite deal with myself. I just note that I feel extremely uncomfortable flying the UN flag, being part of the UN system here,” he added.

Mr Halliday said it was correct to draw attention to the “4,000 to 5,000 children dying unnecessarily every month due to the impact of sanctions because of the breakdown of water and sanitation, inadequate diet and the bad internal health situation”.

But he said sanctions were biting into the fabric of Iraqi society in other, less visible ways. He cited the disruption of family life caused by the departure overseas of two to three million Iraqi professionals. He said sanctions had increased divorces and reduced the number of marriages because young couples could not afford to wed. “It has also produced a new level of crime, street children, possibly even an increase in prostitution,” he said.

“This is a town where people used to leave the key in the front door, leave their cars unlocked, where crime was almost unknown. We have, through the sanctions, really disrupted this quality of life, the standard of behaviour that was common in Iraq before.” Mr Halliday argued that the “alienation and isolation of the younger Iraqi generation of leadership” did not bode well for the future.

He said many senior government figures had been trained in the West and exposed to the outside world. Their children had stayed at home through the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, the 1991 Gulf War and now sanctions. “They don’t have a great deal of exposure to travel, even to reading materials, television, never mind technological change,” he said.

“I think these people are going to have a real problem in terms of how to deal with the world in the near future.”…

Laurie Mylroie can be contacted by e-mail on: sam11@erols.com