UNSCOM spying confirmed
In December, a former high profile member of UNSCOM — the UN "weapons inspection" teams in Iraq — accused UNSCOM boss Richard Butler of having "allowed the United States to manipulate the work of UNSCOM in such a fashion as to justify an air strike". Scott Ritter, who resigned from UNSCOM in August over the conduct of weapons inspections, said that so-called "inspection sites" weren't chosen for disarmament reasons but "rather to be provocative in nature so that Iraq would respond in a predictable fashion. "That response would be used as a justification for military action", he said. The US and Britain conducted four nights of attacks on Iraqi targets in mid-December, justifying their actions by claiming that Iraq had breached UN Security Council resolutions that required it to co-operate with UNSCOM inspectors. At the beginning of January, the Washington Post revealed that United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan had proof that UNSCOM helped collect sensitive Iraqi communications for the United States. The paper quoted sources close to Annan as saying he was convinced that the United States used the eavesdropping operation to penetrate the security network protecting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. An unnamed Annan advisor was quoted as saying "the Secretary-General has become aware of the fact that UNSCOM directly facilitated the creation of an intelligence collection system for the United States in violation of its mandate. "The United Nations cannot be party to an operation to overthrow one of its member states. In the most fundamental way, that is what's wrong with the UNSCOM operation." Butler denied the claims which were based on classified US information and maintains he has acted strictly in accordance with the terms of the UN mandate on Iraqi disarmament. Guardian readers who read Jane Howarth's report from Iraq in Guardian issue 937, late last year, will know how much credence to give that claim. A Clinton aide, speaking on conditions of anonymity, told the Post that Saddam Hussein's personal security apparatus and that which "conceals weapons of mass destruction" were one and the same and that it was impossible to distinguish between them. But, although the US-British attack served once again to demonstrate their ability to inflict death and destruction at will, the move failed to impose Washington's will on the region or in the UN. Resistance to US policy has in fact been visibly strengthened by what is seen as the USA's irresponsible abuse of its power, for the furtherance of its own ends. Ritter's and Annan's revelations have strengthened calls in the Security Council for a total revision of the UNSCOM regime — which Iraq in any case says will never be allowed to return there — and have reinforced Iraqi demands for the removal of Butler, whom Baghdad has long accused of spying for the CIA. Russia, China and France have called for a revised UNSCOM mandate with a view to easing or even lifting entirely the crippling blockade which has led to the deaths of over a million Iraqis since 1990 through lack of food and medicines. And the Iraqi Government has told the Security Council that American and British personnel involved in supervising the "oil-for-food" operation would no longer be welcome as the Government could not guarantee their safety in the face on the mounting anger of the people following the latest US-British air attacks.