The United States edited out more than 8000 crucial pages of Iraq’s 11,800-page dossier on weapons, before passing on a sanitised version to the 10 non-permanent members of the United Nations security council.
The full extent of Washington’s complete control over who sees what in the crucial Iraqi dossier calls into question the allegations made by US Secretary of State Colin Powell that ‘omissions’ in the document constituted a ‘material breach’ of the latest UN resolution on Iraq.
Last week, Secretary General of the UN Kofi Annan accepted that it was ‘unfortunate’ that his organisation had allowed the US to take the only complete dossier and edit it. He admitted ‘the approach and style were wrong’ and Norway, a member of the security council, says it is being treated like a ‘second-class country’.
Although Powell called the Iraqi dossier a ‘catalogue of recycled information and flagrant omissions’, the non-permanent members of the security council will have no way of testing the US claims for themselves. This will be crucial if the US and the UK go back to the security council seeking explicit authorisation for war on Iraq if breaches of resolution 1441 are confirmed when the weapons inspectors — this weekend investigating 10 sites in Iraq, including an oil refinery south of Baghdad — deliver their report to the UN next month.
A UN source in New York said: ‘The questions being asked are valid. What did the US take out? And if weapons inspectors are supposed to be checking against the dossier’s content, how can any future claim be verified. In effect the US is saying trust us, and there are many who just will not.’
Current and former UN diplomats are said to be livid at what some have called the ‘theft’ of the Iraqi document by the US. Hans von Sponeck, the former assistant general secretary of the UN and the UN’s humanitarian co- ordinator in Iraq until 2000, said: ‘This is an outrageous attempt by the US to mislead.’
Although the five permanent members of the security council — the US, the UK, France, China and Russia — have had access to the complete version, there was agreement that the US be allowed to edit the dossier on the ground that its contents were ‘risky’ in terms of security on weapons proliferation.
Yesterday, US President George W Bush announced that a planned trip to several African countries, scheduled for January, had been cancelled. As he gave the go-ahead to double the current 50,000 US troops deployed in the Gulf by early January, he used his weekly radio address to say that ‘the men and women in the [US] military, many of whom will spend Christmas at posts and bases far from home’ were the only thing that stood between ‘Americans and grave danger’.
An equally pessimistic view of the immediate future came from the Vatican. Pope John Paul II promised the Catholic church would not cease to have its voice heard and would offer prayers ‘in the face of this horizon bathed in blood’.
Despite the prayers, the US military isn’t expecting peace. Yesterday, General Richard Myers, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, was asked if US forces were ready if called upon immediately. General Myers simply said: ‘You bet.’
The language coming from Baghdad was equally gung ho. The Iraqi newspaper Babel, owned by Saddam Hussein’s eldest son Uday, likened US and UK political leaders to ruthless Mongol conquerors of the past.
Courtesy Raja Mattar