Iraq Foils High-Tech Weapons Inspections

WASHINGTON (08/14/2000) - Iraq has dismantled an automated video surveillance monitoring system installed by the United Nations at several weapons facilities, denying the international community a key inspection capability, the CIA reported last week.

The CIA released a report to Congress Aug. 11 that looked at a dozen nations' acquisition of technology related to weapons of mass destruction. In the report, the CIA confirmed that in addition to denying inspectors on the ground access to key facilities, Iraq also has pulled the plug on a network of special cameras and air monitoring sensors.

"Having lost this on-the-ground access, it is difficult for the U.N. or the U.S. to accurately assess the current state of Iraq's [weapons of mass destruction] programs," the CIA report stated. Iraq may have up to 6,000 chemical weapons hidden, according to the unclassified version of the CIA report.

Since 1998, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has refused to allow U.N. inspectors into Iraq, as required by Security Council Resolution 687. Although the U.N. established a follow-on inspection regime to the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) in the form of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Committee (UNMOVIC), there have been no inspections since 1998, according to the report.

The U.N. installed the Remote Monitoring System in 1995. The system included 30 cameras installed at seven suspected chemical and biological weapons production facilities. The purpose of the cameras is to detect changes in the configuration and use of certain types of equipment that might indicate production of chemical or biological agents. Sensors were installed with the cameras to detect tampering with the system. In addition, 23 air samplers were placed at 15 chemical sites.

The system enables U.N. inspectors to detect unusual activities in real time and, if necessary, coordinate inspections quickly.

Although there has been no hard evidence that Iraq has made an attempt to reconstitute its weapons of mass destruction program after the U.S. bombing of its facilities during Operation Desert Fox in December 1998, the CIA has found evidence of Iraq's continued work on a high-tech unmanned aerial vehicle program.

"These [UAVs] are believed to be intended for delivery of chemical or biological agents," the CIA report stated.

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