UN inspectors find empty chemical warheads in Iraq
Reuters is reporting that United Nations weapons inspectors have found 11 empty chemical warheads today at an ammo dump, with the Associated Press saying they were in “excellent” condition.
“During the course of their inspection, the team discovered 11 empty 122 mm chemical warheads and one warhead that requires further evaluation,” U.N. spokesman Hiro Ueki said in a statement from Baghdad.
It should be stressed that these are empty shells, and of the type that Iraq imported in the late 1980s. Iraq said the shells were “old rockets” that had been forgotten. Whether this is a “smoking gun” remains to be seen, and much depends on how Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector, handles this. He has said Iraq needs to do more to prove it has destroyed its WMD to avoid war.
“The situation is very tense and very dangerous,” he said.
How this will affect attempts by the United States to squelch a second report from the inspectors due in March, which would almost certainly delay any fighting until the blistering summer months, remains to be seen. Also uncertain is whether the empty warheads could be considered a material breach of UNSCR 1441. At any rate, the find will no doubt embolden the White House against France and Russia, who are seen as the two permanent members of the council most likely to buck President George W. Bush’s wishes to fight a quick war in the cooler months of February and March.
Oh, and by the way, today is the 12th anniversary of the first Gulf War, which started at 6:38 p.m., EST on Jan. 16, 1991. (Jan. 17 in Iraq, due to the time difference.)