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.

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

By Charles A. Duelfer | July 21, 2021



[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.

[2] For a discussion of the role of Abed Hamid Mahmud, see Duelfer Hide and Seek, chapter 19 pp. 363-384   2009

[3] In fact, residual old chemical weapons rounds left over from the massive production in the 1980’s continued to turn up.  Iraq made over 100,000 chemical weapons rounds during the Iran-Iraq war.  Iraqi chaos during that war and the ensuing 1991 war diminished precise accounting for virtually anything. UNSCOM conclusions that Iraq declarations of chemical weapons were incomplete/unverifiable were correct, but the errors could be judged as insignificant for military purposes. However, errant residual rounds posed a risk to unwitting US military personnel or others who inadvertently encountered them. More troubling was the risk that terrorists could get their hands on them. See New York Times reporting

[4] See, Duelfer, Hide and Seek, chapter 20 on Saddam p. 406-7. The chapter includes many interesting/enlightening aspects of Saddam.  For a more academic treatment of misperceptions, see Duelfer/Dyson article in International Security Vol. 36 Issue 1,

[5] See Madeleine Albright’s speech at Georgetown University of March 26, 1997 ( Also, a year later on October 31, 1998, at the height of UNSCOM controversy in Baghdad and the Security Council, President Bill Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act providing US aid to Iraq opposition groups.

[6] See Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq’s WMD, with Addendums (Duelfer Report)  The body of the report and annexes contain detailed descriptions of the Mukhabarat, the payments via the UN Oil for Food allocations to very senior foreign leaders (listed), illicit procurements in various countries, etc.)

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