The discovery in Iraq of empty chemical weapon warheads follows a decision by the United States to provide the U.N. inspection team with additional detailed intelligence information. But, senior U.S. defense officials seem to hold out little hope the U.N. inspectors will uncover anything startling.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld maintains the U.N. inspectors are not in Iraq to make any discoveries, only to inspect sites and material they are directed to by Iraqi authorities.
"They're not in there to discover things and find things," he said. "They're in there to inspect things that the Iraqi government decides to disclose to them. That is what the job of an inspector is. This business that's being around, 'Oh, maybe they'll discover this and discover that,' that isn't what inspectors do."
Mr. Rumsfeld says there is no inconsistency between this belief and the U.S. decision to provide the inspectors with detailed intelligence and even U2 spy planes to carry out their work. He says that is a presidential decision in line with U.N. resolutions.
"Member states of the United Nations were asked, and we agreed, to provide appropriate assistance to see that those U.N.-mandated activities proceed. It's not complicated," he said.
But Mr. Rumsfeld holds out little hope that the inspectors will find anything startling, a so-called "smoking gun," that provides clear evidence Iraq has programs for weapons of mass destruction.
He says one possible problem is that any intelligence information may be mishandled. "Well if, as you give somebody information, it then finds its way to the Iraqis before the inspectors arrive, you might very well not find something," he said.
But even if information is not compromised, Mr. Rumsfeld says, discoveries are still hard to come by, largely, he says, because of Iraq's well-developed concealment programs.
He says he continues to believe that any breakthroughs are more likely to come from Iraqi defectors. "I honestly believe that the way information is gained is through defectors and through people that are taken out of a country with their families, and given a chance to tell the truth," he said. "And in the event that information like something approximating a smoking gun, smoking gun is to be found, it will, I suspect, be via that route."
Coincidentally, on the same day U.N. inspectors found the empty chemical warheads, they also carried out their first surprise visits to the residences of Iraqi scientists.
In one instance, after what was an apparently heated discussion with Iraqi officials, an Iraqi scientist carrying a large box of documents left with the inspectors.