A view of a dual-use chlorine production plant under monitoring by UNSCOM. in 1995. File photo UN746119 courtesy of UNSCOM.

Some long-term effects of UNSCOM: People are important, or, therein lies much of the problem

By Charles A. Duelfer, July 21, 2021


A view of a dual-use chlorine production plant under monitoring by UNSCOM. in 1995. File photo UN746119 courtesy of UNSCOM.

On April 12, 2003, in the presence of international journalists, Amir al-Saadi turned himself in to coalition forces in Iraq. He was on the list of “high-value” Iraqi targets (people) to be captured. There was a list of 52 individuals, each matched on a deck of cards according to their perceived importance in the run up to the war. Saddam was the ace of spades. Dr. al-Saadi was the 7 of diamonds.[1]

al-Saadi was one of the top managers of the former weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program and a key interlocutor with UN weapons inspectors—both UNSCOM and its successor, the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC). When he turned himself in, he said publicly to the press that Iraq did not have WMD and the truth would bear him out. At that moment, I realized that the likelihood Saddam had retained significant WMD was extremely low. Al-Saadi was in a good position to know the truth. Why would he lie in light of the American occupation of all of Iraq?


[1] In fact, there was a longer and evolving list as well. But the card trick (performed in precious wars as well) limited to 52. The logic and information supporting the composition and ranking of individuals on this list echoed the same weakness as the overall assessments of Iraq WMD. Under the assumption that Iraq had WMD, several individuals who had been involved in the program were listed. Unfortunately, once on the list, and once captured, it was extremely difficult to be released.  Especially once the coalition provisional authority relinquished sovereignty in June 2004.

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine shows, nuclear threats are real, present, and dangerous

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