October 2007 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 September 2007
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MIDDLE EAST

Iraq (UNMOVIC)

Expected Council Action
A report by the Secretary-General on the archives and other property of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) is due by 29 September. Following the apparent false alarm on potentially hazardous UNMOVIC chemical material within UN premises in August, the Council is expected to give serious attention to the report in early October. Action by way of a letter to the Secretary-General seems likely.

Key Recent Developments
On 29 June, the Council adopted a resolution concluding the mandates of UNMOVIC and of the Iraq Nuclear Verification Office of the IAEA. The resolution asked the Secretary-General “to take all necessary measures to provide for the appropriate disposition of UNMOVIC’s archives and other property under arrangements ensuring, in particular, that sensitive proliferation information or information provided in confidence by Member States is kept under strict control.” It asked him to report within three months on these arrangements, and to transfer remaining unencumbered funds to the Iraqi government through the Development Fund for Iraq within three months.

Annexed to the resolution was a letter from the US and the UK stating that all steps had been taken to remove all Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The letter also drew attention to the Iraq Survey Group’s Duelfer Report, which reviewed Iraq’s WMD programmes. Another letter from the Iraqi government stated that there were no longer legal or political grounds for UNMOVIC to continue its mandate with respect to Iraq, and that the government was committed to respect its international obligations regarding non-proliferation.

On 27 June, the comprehensive UMOVIC compendium of the former Iraqi regime’s WMD programmes, including observations and lessons learned from UN inspections, was published after the removal of sensitive information. During his briefing to the Council on 29 June, UNMOVIC’s Acting Executive Chairman Demetrius Perricos emphasised that the team had followed two principles while drafting the compendium:

  • information related to technology, research and production that may assist in the development of WMDs should be excluded; and
  • confidentiality of certain information should be protected.

He said that the same principles would apply for the classification of UNMOVIC’s archives.

On 30 August, concerns were raised that potentially hazardous chemical materials had been discovered at the UN in New York, apparently having been removed by UNMOVIC from Iraq in 1996. Subsequent information suggested that the initial concerns may have been exaggerated. However, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched an investigation. A fact-finding panel was appointed on 10 September and is expected to report to the Secretary-General by the end of October.

Options
The most likely outcome is an exchange of views-either during consultations and/or in the form of letters-between the Council and the Secretariat on how to proceed further with archiving. An option is for Council to emphasise its concern for safety issues regarding the archiving of dangerous chemical agents, as well as the underlying principles for the protection of sensitive information and confidentiality.

Key Issues
Security risks highlighted by the August event may be a major issue, not only regarding physical material but also sensitive information. The Council will be looking for clear proposals from the Secretary-General on how to handle this. 

Another major issue is whether the remaining funds have been transferred to the Development Fund for Iraq. Most UNMOVIC funds were transferred earlier but resolution 1762, which in June terminated UNMOVIC, required the final transfer to be completed within three months. A related issue is whether archiving, which may require several months, should be financed by these funds before the final balance is transferred.

Whether some of UNMOVIC’s archive-which include paper documents, videotapes, equipment, chemical agents, photographs and CDs-should be destroyed and whether the general public may have access to any of it are two potentially sensitive issues.

Finally, ongoing funding for personnel remains an important issue. It seems that some contracts were extended for three months for archiving, but they may need to be further extended. A related issue is how to preserve UNMOVIC expertise within the UN system.

Council Dynamics
Russia abstained on resolution 1762 because it considered that “it did not provide for UNMOVIC certification regarding the closing of the Iraq disarmament file.” It criticised the refusal by the resolution’s sponsors, the UK and the US, to include information regarding the presence of WMDs in Iraq in March 2003.

UN Documents

 Security Council Resolution
  • S/RES/1762  (29 June 2007) terminated UNMOVIC.
  • S/RES/1546 (8 June 2004) reiterated the Council’s intention to revisit UNMOVIC mandate.
  • S/RES/1483 (22 May 2003) decided to revisit UNMOVIC mandate.
  • S/RES/1284  (17 December 1999) replaced the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) by UNMOVIC.
  • S/RES/687  (8 April 1991) created UNSCOM and established WMD prohibitions on Iraq.
 Last UNMOVIC Report
 Compendium of Iraq’s WMDs

 Full forecast