As the United Nations debates the best way to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction, a key question is how to achieve full Iraqi compliance with U.N. demands, without resorting to invasion. Some experts are urging the use of a U.N.-sanctioned inspection team, backed up by considerable military power.
The United Nations Security Council is preparing to send weapons inspectors back to Baghdad, but the Bush administration is convinced such a move will not work if conducted under the same rules that governed the inspections during the 1990s.
U.N. inspectors left Iraq in 1998 and have not been allowed back since then.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says, if the rules do not change, inspectors once again will face delay, obstruction and anything but the cooperation of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. "The Iraqi regime is infamous for its ploys, its stalling tactics, its demands on inspectors, sometimes at the point of a gun, and its general and consistent defiance of the mandate of the United Nations Security Council," he said. "There is absolutely no reason to expect that Iraq has changed, that this latest effort of theirs to welcome inspectors without conditions is not just another ploy."
The United States is deciding on the wording of a new resolution for the Security Council that is expected to set specific benchmarks and a short timeline for judging whether Iraq is cooperating in the effort to eliminate chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
Iraq says if a new resolution is passed it will void Bagdad's recent offer to re-admit the inspectors.
One solution that has been suggested is so-called "coercive inspections" and a new report by a private research organization in Washington, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has a new proposal along those lines. The Carnegie Endowment says renewed inspections could be successful, and war avoided, if the inspection teams were backed by a powerful multi-national military force.
The organization's president, Jessica Mathews, says under such circumstances, Saddam Hussein would have to "comply or else."
"The 'or else,' of course, in 'comply or else inspections' is overthrow of the regime, optimally under U.N. auspices or in the worst case politically, by the United States," she said. "But in either case the burden then becomes clearly placed on the shoulders of Saddam Hussein to choose whether the option is, in compliance or war."
Another author of the proposal, retired U.S. Air Force General Charles Boyd, envisions an American-led multi-national force consisting of about 50,000 soldiers, backed by considerable armor and air power.
The force would be strong enough to not only provide security for the inspectors, but also ensure they could see any site any time, including those previously designated off-limits by the Iraqi government.
General Boyd says that while assembling such a force would be difficult, it is preferable to an all-out war, because it greatly reduces the chances Saddam Hussein will use weapons of mass destruction against invading troops or other countries like Israel. "It is complex," said General Boyd. "It is difficult and there is no doctrine manual that tells you how to do it. It only becomes attractive when it is compared with the complexity involved in assembling an invasion force for the purpose of regime change and one on the border of a nation in possession of weapons of mass destruction."
A critical component of the proposal calls for the cooperation of Arab nations around Iraq to allow the inspections force to base men and equipment in their countries.
The Deputy Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Patrick Clawson, says Iraq's neighbors will accept such a force if it is presented as the only alternative to war. "If it is made clear that the alternative to this kind of proposal is a war for regime change, then it should be quite possible to persuade Iraq's neighbors that this is a much better alternative than regime change," he said. "Each of Iraq's neighbors is uncomfortable with the idea of a regime change campaign, even Kuwait."
The president of the Carnegie Endowment, Jessica Mathews, says the plan for coercive inspections has been presented to senior White House officials who have shown what she says is "intense interest."
Ms. Mathews points out the plan has also been presented to top officials at the United Nations and briefings will be held around the world in cities including London, Paris and Moscow.