A thorough report released last week by the London based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) confirmed that Iraq does not possess any nuclear weapons and is years away from being able to produce the fissile material necessary to make a nuclear weapon.
Some commentators have portrayed the report entitled “Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction: A Net Assessment,” as providing justification for the Bush administration’s call for an invasion of Iraq. In actuality, however, the report provides no evidence that Iraq’s nuclear weapons program warrants a military attack.
The study did conclude that the pursuit and retention of weapons of mass destruction is the core objective of the Hussein regime, and that the regime has persistently resisted unfettered U.N. inspections. The authors noted that even if Iraq was to allow inspectors to return, it would require time and experience for the U.N. Monitoring Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) to develop and refine the successful inspection techniques. These conclusions, though disconcerting, fall far short of the support that the Bush administration has been seeking to justify invading Iraq.
Several nonmilitary options exist through which the administration could derail Iraq’s proliferation attempts without the severe costs of a direct invasion. Such efforts include reducing and securing fissile materials, working towards a fissile material cut off treaty, and providing Iraq with clear commitments to lifting sanctions if Iraq allows inspectors to return.
Even if such nonproliferation efforts were to fail and Iraq was to obtain nuclear weapons in the future, pre-emptive strikes based on the premise of such possession would still violate international legal norms and US policy precedent. To be in line with international law the administration would have to be able to prove that an attack by Iraq was imminent, such as in July 1991 when Iraq moved their troops to the border with Kuwait and made diplomatic moves indicating the likelihood of attack. Also, the United States would have to receive UN approval for any use of force.
The IISS has made it clear that the international community must develop a strategy to deal with Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs and to prevent further proliferation. However, the recent report should not be interpreted as adding any substantive support to the Bush administration’s case for war against Iraq.
Visit the IISS website at: http://www.iiss.org.