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VOA Interview with David Kay - 2002-11-27


David A. Kay, is a Senior Fellow at the Potomac Institute with a concentration on counterterrorism and homeland security issues. Dr. Kay is most noted as the UN's former Chief Nuclear Weapons Inspector, leading numerous inspections into Iraq following the end of the Gulf War to determine Iraqi nuclear weapons production capability.

MR. BORGIDA
Now joining us is David Kay, Senior Fellow at the Potomac Institute here in Washington. Dr. Kay is the former U.N. Chief Nuclear Weapons Inspector in Iraq. Thank you so much for joining us. Again, Dr. Kay, we appreciate it.

DR. KAY
Happy to be with you, David.

MR. BORGIDA
Now, the choice of these two sites this first day, anything significant about that?

DR. KAY
Well, I think the most significant thing is you're not likely to find surprises at either site. They are close to Baghdad. You have a team that is relatively inexperienced, and you want them to understand and feel comfortable in working in Iraq. You take them to sites where the U.N. has been many times before.

There is a reason for going there, monitoring equipment needs to be evaluated and perhaps replaced, but it is not a high-pressure involvement. It is an ideal way to slide a team into getting used to working in Baghdad.

MR. BORGIDA
Let's talk about the first sentence that you uttered, a relatively inexperienced team. To the layman, one might wonder and ask a fellow layman, why, under such important circumstances, is this a relatively inexperienced team inside Iraq now, with so much at stake?

DR. KAY
Well, this was a political choice that the U.N., Hans Blix and the Secretary-General made. You recall, the previous inspection effort collapsed, with a lot of enmity, a lot of Iraqi accusations.

They decided, by and large, not to use any inspectors that had been involved in UNSCOM. And that meant you had to use newbies, people you brought on and you gave some training, but no experience in Iraq, and really no experience in arms control inspections.

MR. BORGIDA
So, what are they going through right now, Dr. Kay? They are seeing Iraq, some of them, for the first time. They are being trailed, we presume, at times by Iraqi minders, as it were. What are they going through on the ground now? You've been there.

DR. KAY
It is a high-pressure involvement. As you saw, there are a lot of Iraqi security officials around them. There are actually more journalists this time, probably, than security officials. That puts pressure.

There was an air raid siren that went off during their first inspection today. There is just a lot of adjustments to go through.

Plus they have had the security briefings, which told them, your hotel room is probably bugged, the meeting room in the hotel is bugged, it is really not safe for you to wander around the city when you are not working. Essentially, you're on a 24-hour assignment with little freedom to move around. It is a high-stress involvement.

MR. BORGIDA
And the Iraqis so far are indicating that all is going along okay in the first day or so. But would you expect that to continue? You've got new inspectors and Iraqis who have been through this before. Is it possible that they could go to one building and things would be removed and so forth? Give us a sense of the gamesmanship that might be going on in the days ahead.

DR. KAY
Well, I'm sure the Iraqis will do everything possible to avoid an open confrontation. It totally depends on whether you have information that leads you to a site that has something the Iraqis do not want you to find. That is where you are likely to have confrontations. And that is the unknown factor here. Hans Blix has spoken of having 700 sites and requesting information from member states. Now, if some of that information leads the team to a site and the Iraqis do not suspect that they will go to that site, that is why surprise inspections are very important.

MR. BORGIDA
There has been some speculation in news reports that these initial sites could be softer sites, they are not going to push the envelope, as it were, too hard in the first few days. What do you make of that?

DR. KAY
Well, given the resources they have, remember, they only have 17 inspectors right now, they have no helicopters, which means you really can't get outside of Baghdad very far, and new inspectors, 32 are due in next week, and maybe 100 by Christmas and the 1st of the year, it's still a very small number, much smaller than their predecessor organization had. Starting off with the softer targets to bring the team up to speed I think is regrettable and I think some Security Council members will criticize it, but they really don't have much of a choice right now.

MR. BORGIDA
Give us a sense, too, Dr. Kay, if you would, of what they are doing in terms of their use of equipment, their ability to assess the presence of biological and chemical weapons at these various sites. How are they doing that? Walk us through that for a moment.

DR. KAY
They have a lot of new equipment that is much more sensitive than we had, much smaller, lighter, uses less power, is able to uplink to satellites directly to get to lab facilities in New York and in Vienna, Cyprus. What they are really doing right now is testing that equipment to see if it will work in the field. This is very new equipment. All of us have had experience, I took new equipment around; it didn't work as well in the field as it was advertised to work. They have to get comfortable.

Theoretically, a lot of this equipment has the capability of finding very, very small trace amounts of chemicals, biological agents, and the easier-to-detect radiation substances. They will want to try this out so that when they get to the harder sites, the larger sites like the presidential palaces -- which are 25 kilometers on a side some of them and very large sites -- that they know and have confidence in how their equipment works and what it reports.

MR. BORGIDA
Let's talk about those presidential palaces, because as you put it, rightly, they're not small, they're not one building, they are not one palace. It is quite a large compound, as I understand it. What is the challenge there?

DR. KAY
The challenge is, first of all, sealing it off and the size. These are really many-kilometer-square sites, and with even 100 inspectors you can't hope to seal it off. You're counting on the Iraqis when you say, I freeze this site, nothing goes in and out until I tell you, as chief inspector, it can. The only thing you have is aerial surveillance to be sure that nothing is happening. Then you have to work out an inspection plan. You want to inspect what you see, but you also want to look for what you can't see. There are numerous reports of underground structures. Now, this team has some new equipment to detect underground structures, ground-penetrating radar, but it works very slowly and you have to methodically grid a site and go out. These sites, one of them, has over 100 buildings on it. You have to go through every building, every floor, every office to see what is there. It is very, very time consuming.

MR. BORGIDA
I think you have described your last trip. In the last 30 seconds we have, is the mission impossible? Or at least others have described it in that way. Would you agree with that?

DR. KAY
It is not a mission impossible if the Iraqis fully cooperate with the inspectors. And the 8th of December is the critical day. If they declare everything, it is a mission possible.

MR. BORGIDA
And we shall see. Thank you so much, David Kay, of Potomac Institute here in Washington. He is the former U.N. Chief Nuclear Weapons Inspector in Iraq. Thank you, Dr. Kay, for your time. We appreciate it.

DR. KAY
Thank you very much, David.

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