WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com)–Whether or not international experts now in Iraq resume their search for weapons of mass destruction with low-key and non-confrontational trips to sites visited in the past by earlier groups of inspectors, or if they quickly order the most intrusive inspections possible, those inspections themselves are not likely to resolve the U.S.-Baghdad confrontation.

In fact, Pres. George W. Bush only agreed to pursue the course involving United Nations-mandated inspections because he hoped Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would recognize the forces mounting against him and voluntarily flee the country, according to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

“The reason the president decided to go into the United Nations and accept the reality that inspections might not work was that he concluded war is the last choice, not the first choice, and that Saddam Hussein might see the seriousness of purpose and resolution on the part of the international community as a sign that the game was up and that it was time for him to leave the country and go somewhere else with his family and friends,” Mr. Rumsfeld told syndicated columnist Robert Novak on CNN Nov. 23.


Swedish diplomat Hans Blix–the chief UN weapons inspector who was ordered into the country by Security Council resolution 1441 adopted unanimously on Nov. 7–has indicated that his staff will start slowly, re-examining weapons monitoring equipment left behind in 1998 by his predecessors and that he will seek to avoid unnecessary confrontations with the Iraqi government.

Iraqi officials, on the other hand, believe that the resolution and the return of weapons inspectors merely provide the U.S. with a pretext to attack their country.

“Considering any omission by Iraq as a material breach means that there is premeditation in targeting Iraq under any futile justification. É This is based on the imaginary presumption that there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq É (which) Iraq has forcefully rejected and the U.S. and Britain did not present a single proof to back up,” Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri said in a Nov. 23 letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. The official Iraqi News Agency published the letter. Experts in this country agree.

“They’re looking for an excuse in the belief that knocking off Iraq will bring peace to the Middle East, and it won’t, I don’t think,” Edward Peck, president of Foreign Services International and former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, told The Final Call. “We had a situation in which (National Security Adviser) Condoleezza Rice said to the BBC: ‘We have to get rid of him because of human rights.’ Somebody else said, ‘We have to get rid of him because of anthrax.’ Somebody else said, ‘No, because of 9/11.’ Somebody else said, ‘Because of relations with al Qaeda.’ Someone said, ‘Because of weapons of mass destruction,’ ” Mr. Peck continued.

“What (the Bush administration) wants to do is get rid of Saddam Hussein. Because then, after that, peace and freedom breaks into bloom all over the Middle East. Maybe. Maybe not.”

The U.S. decision to go to war or not may have more to do with huge, proven oil reserves in Iraq–second only to those in neighboring Saudi Arabia–and domestic politics than with what the weapons inspectors find or don’t find.

“U.S. decision making regarding whether or not to go to war, has little or nothing to do with what they find,” Phyllis Bennis, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) said in an interview.

“Richard Perle (head of Sec. Rumsfeld’s influential Defense Policy Board) gave a speech to a group of British Members of Parliament where he said essentially: a clean bill of health from the inspectors is not good enough, will not be a bar to war,” Ms. Bennis continued. “So it’s very clear, their decision is driven by the exigencies of oil and empires and domestic politics, not by what the inspectors find or don’t find.”

From 1991 to 1998, UN teams destroyed large amounts of chemical and biological weapons and longer-range missiles forbidden to Iraq by UN resolutions after the Gulf War. They also dismantled Iraq’s nuclear weapons program before it could build a bomb. The inspections were suspended over disputes about UN access to Iraqi sites and Iraqi charges America used the UN operation to spy.

Those inspections and the destruction to the country’s military and civilian infrastructure have rendered Iraq impotent, said Mr. Peck.

“Iraq is powerless and helpless, and unimportant, and insignificant, and nobody is really worried about it except America,” he said. Nobody in the Middle East, including Israel, he said, thinks Iraq is a threat.

What Arab countries see as a threat, he said, “is what might happen if the United States does what it keeps talking about doing,” namely going to war in order to bring down the current government in Baghdad, which could de-stabilize the entire region.

Despite the clear threat to the Iraqi government from the “gun pointed to their head” if they do not cooperate with the weapons inspectors, the U.S. has made it clear that even if Baghdad does declare any weapons, “the (U.S.) may go to war anyway,” said Ms. Bennis.