UNMOVIC Lessons Learned

Since verification and inspections will likely continue to be a topic of discussion for the foreseeable future, I thought UNMOVIC’s “21st quarterly report”:http://www.un.org/Depts/unmovic/new/documents/quarterly_reports/s-2005-351.pdf might be of interest. It contains an appendix describing some “lessons learned” from UNMOVIC and UNSCOM’s experiences in Iraq.

There are no international verification schemes for either biological weapons or missiles, but UNMOVIC has encouraging lessons for monitoring both.

Here are some excerpts.

Regarding the ever-contentious issue of BW verification, UNMOVIC concludes that states cannot hide BW programs under a comprehensive inspections regime:

The account of international verification in the period from 1991 to 1995 exemplifies that even the most clandestine biological warfare programme, such as the one in Iraq, cannot be hidden in its entirety from a comprehensive inspection regime.

It also shows the complexity of the determination of past biological warfare activities and provides lessons that are important to consider in cases when concealment policies and practices are actively employed. Prior to the arrival of international inspectors, Iraq cleaned all sites involved in the production of biological warfare agents, removed evidence of past activities, including relevant documents and records, reconfigured equipment, decontaminated and renovated buildings and structures and prepared convincing cover stories.

The report _does_ acknowledge that UNMOVIC inspectors initially missed a dual-use facility that was producing BW, until Iraq came clean in 1995. UNMOVIC suggests extensive sampling and analysis, combined with documents, records and staff interviews, could defeat such chicanery:

Unlike Al Hakam, which was built as a dedicated biological warfare facility, the foot-and-mouth disease vaccine plant at Al Dawrah was constructed as a legitimate turnkey facility by a foreign company in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The plant was designed for the production of vaccine for three foot-and-mouth disease strains endemic to Iraq. United Nations inspectors, who visited the plant from September 1991 to 1995, identified capabilities existing at the facility to produce biological warfare agents, but concluded that the site was a legitimate facility since no modifications to its original design had been made by Iraq. No evidence of its involvement in Iraq’s biological warfare programme was found until Iraq declared its past involvement in 1995. Sampling at this facility was not performed prior to 1995.

23. The most important lesson learned with regard to the experience of the foot-and- mouth disease vaccine plant is that Iraq indeed carried out large-scale production of a biological warfare agent at a legitimate civilian facility. Conversion of a legitimate facility for biological warfare purposes is difficult to detect, especially when such activities take place only for a short period of time, and when the site requires only very minor adjustments for the production of a biological warfare agent. Similar experience was gained regarding another legitimate facility at Fudaliyah also utilized by Iraq’s biological warfare programme.

24. It was also found that if a deception campaign is actively pursued, the probability of finding hard evidence of activities related to biological warfare is minimized. The major technical tool that could have helped to identify such facilities is extensive sampling and analysis. Other verification methods, such as the evaluation of documents and records and interviews with staff, are also important, but could be influenced by deception efforts.

The report also discusses UNMOVIC’s efforts to ensure that Iraq kept its missiles within UN-permitted ranges, first describing persistent problems in determining missile range/payload capabilities:

bq. It is well understood that the range of a missile is affected by the payload. However, a payload may vary depending on military requirements. Thus, it is more complicated to establish the possible maximum range of a missile system under development or at the modification stage, since the results of flight tests woulddepend on multiple parameters, such as fuel load, payload and engine shut-off (burn time), that could be changed at a later stage and could thus affect the range value. Therefore, range alone is an insufficient criterion to make a judgment on a missile under development.

UNMOVIC also suggests that technical limits placed on ballistic missiles, when verified by inspectors, constrained Iraq’s ability to develop proscribed missiles:

Additional technical parameters applied in the course of ongoing monitoring and verification, that could be practicably verified with a minimal degree of ambiguity, have proven to be effective tools that prevented Iraq from developing proscribed missiles in the presence of international inspectors.

10. These parameters included a 600-millimetre limit for the diameter of the airframe of all liquid propellant missiles, the prohibition of any modifications of SA-2 missiles relevant to their conversion into a surface-to-surface mode, the prohibition of tests of SA-2 engines with shut-off valves or modified for extendedflight duration and the prohibition of the use of original or modified parts and components of SA-2 missiles for use in a surface-to-surface role. While Iraq did not formally accept these restrictions, it refrained from the production of missile systems that would violate them in the presence of international inspectors until December 1998, when inspectors withdrew from Iraq.

11. After 1991, Iraq retained capabilities to develop indigenously or modify missiles with a range close to 150 kilometres and, due to the nature of missile technology, was technically able to produce missiles that could exceed the prohibited range. However, it did not do so while under ongoing monitoring and verification. The record of ongoing monitoring and verification in the missile area shows that monitoring goals can be achieved through an enhanced verification system comprising on-site inspections, static and flight test observation, use of remote cameras, documents and computer search, tagging of missile hardware in combination with an export/import monitoring mechanism and restrictions on the reuse of missile parts and components from other permitted-range missiles. The absence of international inspectors, the accessibility of critical foreign missile parts and components, and accumulated experience from past missile projects werecrucial contributing factors in the resumption of proscribed missile activities by Iraq in the period from 1999 to 2002.

UNMOVIC also describes the conclusions of an international group of experts who were tasked with revising the UN’s ongoing BW monitoring and verification plan in Iraq. It’s worth reading if only to get a sense of what some BW verification experts are currently thinking.

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