The WMD Side of the Sanctions Debate


Leaving aside the Duelfer Report's implications on should-we-or-shouldn't-have-we, there is plenty to chew on in terms of what was Saddam thinking? From the executive summary:

Saddam's primary goal from 1991 to 2003 was to have UN sanctions lifted, while maintaining the security of the Regime. He sought to balance the need to cooperate with UN inspections—to gain support for lifting sanctions—with his intention to preserve Iraq's intellectual capital for WMD with a minimum of foreign intrusiveness and loss of face. Indeed, this remained the goal to the end of the Regime, as the starting of any WMD program, conspicuous or otherwise, risked undoing the progress achieved in eroding sanctions and jeopardizing a political end to the embargo and international monitoring.

Bold from the original. If, as the report has indicated, Saddam's weapons programs were basically kaput since 1991, why not allow inspectors to come in and see that, apply their stamp of approval, and get the oil revenues flowing ASAP, rather than waiting until 1997? And, why didn't he resume weapons programs after 1998, considering that the oil-for-food billions were flowing, and the weapons inspectors had been successfully kicked out of the country?

Maybe these questions are answered deeper into the report (which I haven't read yet), but I think we can come to some preliminary conclusions: 1) Clinton sure screwed up by allowing the inspectors to be kicked out after '98, 2) Saddam sure screwed up in general; and 3) the sanctions/inspection combo sure worked better than most people (including me) thought, when measured solely by its intent to degrade Saddam's weapons programs. All of which (and much more) is interesting to think about, as the sanctions debate re-rears its head regarding Iran.