Global Policy Forum

Interview With Hans Blix:


By Ernesto Ekaizer

El Pais
April 9, 2003

Hans Blix is seated in the parlor of his house, an average apartment of class situated in the center of the Swedish capital. This lawyer of 75 years, former official of the Department of Swedish External Affairs, has come to visit his family and, also, to have a medical checkup and visit his wife returning from his United Nations post, held since the year 2000 when he was named president of the Commission of the United Nations of Security, Verification and Inspection (Unmovic).

In a smooth way, with a wife and two children who have declared their opposition to the war, Blix indicates that the objective to destroy the presumed weapons of mass destruction "has been relegated to fourth place" by United States and the United Kingdom. "The American Government lost patience when the Government of Iraq began to collaborate actively with us as we asked", recalls Blix, evoking the first days of March of this year passed, when the Americans and British decided that there was no longer a place for the task of the inspectors.

Question. What about the matter of the weapons of mass destruction that Iraq supposedly possessed Iraq?

Answer. I believe that now, you will find that the matter of weapons of mass destruction has been relegated, I would say, to fourth place by which United States and the United Kingdom are determining the war in Iraq. Today for the present, change of the dictatorial state of Saddam Hussein is the main objective.

Q. Up to now, 19 days after the invasion, there has been no trace of biological and chemical weapons. The American special forces state that this is because they are stored in Baghdad. Do you believe this?

A. United States as well as the United Kingdom always told us that Iraq possessed those weapons. We never accepted this statement as an established fact. Establishing this was exactly what our work consisted of. Sadly, both Governments were seen to be very impatient in the first days of March. And they did not leave us to finish the task. A few months were need for us to determine if the Iraqi possessed the arms the Americans and British insisted they had. I am very curious to know if they are really going to find them. I believe that no one has more interest in this than I.

Q. The reason, the American military experts say, is that Saddam Hussein stored them in Baghdad. Did the information that the intelligence services provided you about their investigations refer only to Baghdad?

A. No, the American intelligence services gave us information on possible weapons of mass destruction in various parts of the country.

Q. For example, the southern zone of Iraq?

A. I cannot answer in detail.

Q. Or in the north region?

A. Your question is too precise for me to answer. But if what you want to know is whether the information referred only to Baghdad, I am telling you that it did not. We were given data from other parts of Iraq, and as is already known, we found nothing that had to do with weapons of mass destruction. We visited these sites, and found nothing.

Q. In his presentation before the Security Council, last February 5, the American secretary of state Colin Powell, insisted that mobile laboratories existed to manufacture those arms. It is supposed that they would be disseminated in several parts of Iraq.

A. This would be a logical thing. Perhaps if they existed, we would have found some.

Q. Up to what point was the inspection involved in a relationship with the U.S. intelligence services and those of the United Kingdom?

A. This is an interesting point. When they named me president of Unmovic, I made it clear that we were going to create an independent body of inspectors. That I did.

Q. In 1998 when the former inspector, Richard Butler, decided to withdraw the inspection team from Iraq. Wasn't it because the American intelligence agents were accompanying the inspectors of the UN Disarmament Agency (Unscom)?

A. In fact, I was in the International Atomic Energy Agency then. But there was that problem. The intelligence agents seemed to be collecting data that later were used to attack Iraqi military objectives. Therefore, when I was charged with the inspection effort, it was necessary to clarify the point: we would be an independent body. We would be able to receive information from the intelligence services. But this process would be a one way street. The intelligence services would contribute their data. And we would perform the verification of that data. I always told them that we were not going to rewardthem with new data collected by us. The greatest prize for those intelligence services and their Governments would be for us to find those weapons of mass destruction, not to stop speaking with them. For example, to give them an idea whether the sources that had provided the information were valid or not. But that was all. This attitude did not please them. Our conduct was justified. Consider the case of the production of contracts for a presumed Iraqi purchase of enriched uranium from Ní­ger. This was a crude lie. All false. And the information was provided to the International Atomic Energy Agency (OIEA) by the U.S. intelligence services. Speaking of the matter of the mobile laboratories, in attempting to verify the data that was passed on to us by the Americans, we only found some trucks dedicated to the processing and control of seeds. The idea of the mobile laboratories, I believe, came from the experience of the Soviets. They had worked with those types of laboratories. The accusation was not that they were manufacturing those inconceivable things, but tests were needed. We did not find the laboratories.

Q. Did you do everything possible to determine the existence of those arms??

A. I have a tranquil conscience. I regret not to have had the months that were needed to confirm whether the biological and chemical weapons existed or not. But the Americans began to express their impatience by the first of March. It seems that as soon as the hot weather arrived in Iraq, the attacks were unleashed. However, when you asked them, the Americans wouldnt allow any more time for the inspections. When on January 27, I denounced Iraq in the Security Council of the UN for not cooperating in an immediate, complete and unconditional way to fulfill the terms of resolution 1441, the American Government, including the hawks, applauded me. However, it was a great paradox, because from then on, the Government of Iraq began to cooperate actively. And then the Americans began to criticize me.

Q. When you speak of active cooperation, are you referring to the destruction of a portion of the Al Samud missles?

A. The destruction of those missiles was the Iraqi government's answer to my ultimatum. I am referring to other things as well. The Iraqis gave us the names of many technicians and scientists who had participated in the development of biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction in 1991. This was fundamental, because at first, for example, they only provided us samples of land where anthrax had presumably been buried. But, of course, it was difficult to draw conclusions by just examining a piece of land. You would never know what quantities of anthrax had been buried. In conclusion, the Iraqis had not complied with the demand to give us the immediate data that was needed, as was evident in resolution 1441, but by the end of January they began to give us significant data, before the 200.000 British and American soldiers were deployed in the Persian Gulf. We needed some months to work on it.

Q. Was the Bush Administration really interested in the inspections? It seems that they were not going to use them, since there is very concrete evidence that the invasion was planned considerably in advance?

A. There is evidence that this war was planned far in advance. That, at times, caused doubts regarding the attitude that they Americans maintained before the inspections. But I remember that President Bush called myself and Mohammed al-Baradei, the Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency to the White House in October 2002. Vice-president Richard Cheney, Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense, were with him. That told us that support for the process of inspection had begun. In that moment I did not see impatience. Of course, I knew that inside the Bush Administration there were people who were skeptical, and already working with the idea of regime change. But at that time I believed that there was some margin for the action of the inspectors.

Q. When did you begin to feel that you would have little more to do?

A. I think that I felt that, as I have just said, when the Iraqis began to work more actively to fulfill of the terms of resolution 1.441, after I denounced their lack of cooperation on , January 27. Seeing the impatience of the Americans I had the sensation that the situation was exhausted. And when, by March 7, the British said that they were willing to relax the initial ultimatum set for March 17 by only for four or five days, I knew that was the end.

Q. Do you believe that there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

A. I am the first one interested in knowing it. I believe that the Americans began the war believing that they existed. Now, I believe less in that possibility. But, I do not know. Nevertheless, when one sees the things that the United States tried to do to show that the Iraqis had nuclear arms, such as the non-existent contract with Ní­ger that I have already mentioned, one does have many questions. Who imagine that they would resort to such an invention? For this reason, we were always very cautious.

Q. What is the meaning of this war for you?

A. I do not know. There are people who say that this is a petroleum war. The petroleum is there. But I think that the fundamental thing is September 11, 2001--the attacks against the Twin towers and the Pentagon. That changed all perspectives. I believe that the idea of a war of "counter proliferation" of weapons of mass destruction had been in the air for a very long time. We can look back to the Cuban missile crisis in the sixties. That was a clear event designed to contain proliferation. Then you may recall the Israeli attack against the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981. And, later, the attacks against Libya and Sudan and, more recently, when the Clinton Administration ordered the attacks in Sudan. But there is no doubt that September 11 converted what they could do on a piecemeal basis into a central objective It was first realized in Afghanistan. Then came the theory of the axis of evil. And now, Iraq.

Q. But what you call "counter proliferation" has sent a contrary sign. Iraq did not have nuclear arms and has been attacked. If you try to acquire these sorts of arms, don't you suppose that they will come after you? What do you think?

A. The United States maintains that the war with Iraq was a way of sending a sign to other countries to preclude their acquisition of weapons of mass destruction. But people saw it otherwise. We have, for example, the statement from the Government of North Korea. They say that, if you let the inspectors enter, as they did in Iraq, you will end up being attacked. The problem is important. If a country has the perception that its security is assured, it will not have the need to think about weapons of mass destruction. That guarantee of security is the first line of defense against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Q. The former British minister Robin Cook, when he resigned before the British Parliament, said that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction to the extent that it would constitute a world threat.

A. The principal idea of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction since the Geneva Protocol of 1925, was the prohibition of their use. After World War II we developed the concept of non-possession. And from that point the system of inspections arises. In 1991, under the pressure of attack, Iraq declared that it had chemical and biological weapons. And therefore, to prevent their being used, the inspection process was established. Now, they are less threatening, as some of their neighbors, such as Iran and Syria have said time and again in the last months. Those neighbors said that they did not feel threatened. The case of Iran is important because this country already suffered attacks with chemical weapons on the part of Iraq in the war of the eighties. Perhaps Kuwait felt threatened. But I do not believe that Saddam Hussein would dare attempt a new adventure in Kuwait. Here I fear that we are returning to the same point: September 11, 2001. The U.S. conclusion is that any country that can have weapons of mass destruction is a threat. And this is even more true if the United States considers that country to be a nation of rabble.

Q. What will happen if weapons of mass destruction fail to appear or if what is found is not a real threat?

A. Good, we will have freed the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein and the weapons of mass destruction that possibly might have been produced in the future in Iraq. However, this exacted a a very high price in human lives and destruction of a country. We could have reached the objective of controlling the presumed threat through the inspections. To achieve it, the state of Saddam Hussein would have followed our lead. I believe that there are more risks with a war. Returning to North Korea, this country no longer speaks of pacts of non-aggression. What it wants is to possess nuclear arms to fend off others until that moment when they wish to attack someone else.

Q. Will the inspectors return to Iraq?

A. It is possible that the allies, United States and the United Kingdom, would like for the inspectors to the situation in Iraq if they find something. Also they can request the independent control of the UN inspectors for a longer period. In my case, the contract that I have with the UN expires June 30, 2003.

Translated by William O. Beeman

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FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.