8 January 2004

Iraq and WMDs

SILVER SPRING, MD.: If there were no WMDs, why was Saddam's regime so defiant toward the U.N. weapons inspection process? Did they really not believe that the U.N. or U.S. would eventually take action if Iraq did not comply with U.N. resolutions about their weapons programs?

BARTON GELLMAN: There are all kinds of things that could explain defiance. Most of them are speculative, and I don't spend a lot of time on speculation in my piece. Here are some things we know to be true:

Iraq really was hiding some documents, records and intentions;

Saddam Hussein resented the extraordinary intrusion of UN inspectors into his most sensitive national security institutions.

Saddam Hussein ruled through the perception of invulnerability and strength, and aspired to pan-Arab leadership, and weakness before the UN and the West did not help him there.

Another possibility is suggested by Hans Blix in today's story: You don't have to have a dog to post a 'beware of the dog' sign. With powerful enemies in Israel and Iran, Saddam Hussein may not have minded looking more dangerous than perhaps he was in fact.

The Carnegie Endowment is about to publish a report that confirms Gellman's article Iraq's Arsenal Was Only on Paper on the failure to find WMDs. More when that happens.

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