An advance team of U.N. weapons inspectors arrived in Baghdad Monday to prepare for the resumption of inspections next month. Iraqi officials are promising full cooperation. But many political analysts in the region are not optimistic the resumption of inspections will provide real answers on Iraq's weapons program and avoid war.
Political analysts in the Arab world say it appears as though Iraq and the U.N. weapons inspectors are both trying to establish the rules of engagement.
Iraq's state run Al-Thawra newspaper said Monday that the inspectors must respect Iraq's dignity and security. The newspaper urged the inspectors to act with a sense of legal and moral responsibility.
Iraq's Babel newspaper, run by President Saddam Hussein's eldest son, urged the inspectors to refrain from any act that is politically motivated.
On Sunday, chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix warned that the inspectors would not take no for an answer in their mission to determine whether Iraq has any weapons of mass destruction. Upon his arrival in Baghdad Monday, Mr. Blix noted that the situation is tense, but he said the inspection process provides a new opportunity and the inspectors will conduct a credible inspection.
President Bush has warned there will be zero tolerance for any violations during the inspection process and has said the United States is prepared to act unilaterally to disarm Iraq.
According to Uraib el Rantawi, a war of words already seems to be developing even before the inspections have begun. The head of the Quds Center for Political Studies in Jordan says based on the prior experience of weapons inspectors and the Iraqis, he believes the process will lead to trouble.
"According to the experience of the past, I am not optimistic at all because we have a very, very miserable experience when it comes to the relationship between the inspectors and the Iraqi regime," he said. "But I hope the Iraqis believe nowadays that there is no room for maneuvering here and there and they have no other option but to comply fully with the resolution and to cooperate fully with the inspectors. I have really too much doubt about the end result of this mission and I think there will be trouble between the Iraqis and the inspectors."
Mr. el Rantawi says the inspectors are entering Iraq with what he describes as a huge burden. He says what they do will shape the future of Iraq and the entire region.
The group that arrived in Baghdad Monday is made up mostly of technicians. They will begin the process of setting up communications equipment and refurbishing a laboratory that was left behind when the last U.N. weapons inspectors left Baghdad in 1998. They will also arrange transportation for the inspectors. As many as 100 inspectors are expected in Iraq by the end of the year.
How the inspectors conduct their work will be the key to the success or failure of their mission according to Hassan Nafae. He is the head of the political science department at Cairo University. Mr. Nafae says Iraq is facing a very difficult task.
"I have examined, very carefully, the clauses of this resolution and I do feel that it will be very, very hard to implement on the ground," he said. "For example, it is up to the Iraqi government to prove that they don't have any arms of mass destruction rather than it is up to the international commission to find out whether the Iraqi government hides something or not. I am not quite sure that the Iraqi government could really provide all the information needed to make sure that the Iraqi government does not develop or have programs to develop arms of mass destruction. So a lot will depend on the conduct of the international commission."
Mr. Nafae says the inspectors must show a good faith effort in their dealings with the Iraqis and must refuse any efforts aimed at trying to politically influence their work.
Under the U.N. Security Council resolution unanimously approved November eighth, Iraq has one month to submit a complete list of all of its weapons sites and any sites which could be used to develop weapons of mass destruction. Iraq insists no such sites exist.
Political analyst Abdullah el-Ashaal says many in the Arab world are afraid the entire process will eventually fail. That's why the expert on Arab affairs believes all parties involved should shoulder their responsibility to avoid possible war.
"We have many fears concerning the collapse of the mission and also the collapse of the whole process and the consequences that may be also resulting from such a situation," Mr. el-Ashaal said. "So I think that we need for the moment, a determination on the part of the Arab states, Iraq and also a good will on the part of the United States and also a professionalism that should be displayed by the inspectors.
The inspection team says it will conduct an independent, professional and thorough investigation and report cooperation or the lack of it to the Security Council for its final assessment. The inspection team is expected to submit its first report to the Council in late January.