The many lessons to be drawn from the search for Iraqi WMD

By Terence Taylor | July 21, 2021

A member of the UN Special Commission inspection team uses a chemical air monitor in April, 1992, to detect leakage from a CS-filled 120mm mortar shell at Fallujah Chemical Proving Ground, as part of the effort to verify Iraq's compliance with the order to destroy its chemical munitions and weapons of mass destruction. File photo UN7772056 courtesy of UNSCOM

The many lessons to be drawn from the search for Iraqi WMD

By Terence Taylor | July 21, 2021



First, with regard to the Iraqis, generally, along with my colleagues I managed to establish a working relationship. We found it necessary to respect, as far as possible, the difficult situation faced by our Iraqi counterparts in the laboratories and other facilities we visited. They had their instructions to follow and were under the watchful eyes of the ‘minders’ from the Iraqi security apparatus as much as we were. However, the consequences for those on the Iraqi side for making mistakes were far more serious than for us. It is not an exaggeration to say that their lives were on the line. I still have contact with some Iraqis who were with the National Monitoring Directorate and other organizations. Their insights would be an important addition to complete the list of lessons to be learned.

Second, during most of my time with the commission, I was blessed by having the skilled leadership of Rolf Ekéus, the executive chair of the commission and a former Swedish ambassador to the United States, and invaluable advice and guidance from his staff in New York. I salute the dedicated professionalism and conduct of those from the international community who made up the teams that I had the privilege to lead. Any successes we had would not have been possible without their readiness to adapt to unusual and demanding situations and apply their scientific and technical skills with unfailing determination.

I dedicate this article to the late David Kelly who was my scientific mentor and friend for nearly 20 years. His advice was invaluable to my work in disarmament and non-proliferation negotiations, as well as in inspections in various settings.


Albright M. 1997. “Preserving Principle and Safeguarding Stability: United State Policy Toward Iraq,” March 26. US Department of State.

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