Memo To: Jesse Helms, Chairman, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Attacking Kofi Annan
If you watched CNN's "Late Edition" Sunday, you saw an interview with Iraq's UN Ambassador Nizar Hamdoon followed by an interview with UNSCOM's chief inspector, Richard Butler. To your eye and ear, Jesse, I'm sure the interviews would have clearly left you with the impression that Richard Butler regards Kofi Annan as a diplomatic genius and the agreement he hammered out with Saddam Hussein as one of the finest pieces of diplomatic statecraft in our time. In addition, Hamdoon several times insisted that the entire country was open to inspection and that UNSCOM could look anyplace it wanted, day or night, that there are no sites closed to it and that there are no time limits imposed on the inspections. When CNN's Wolf Blitzer tried to develop the idea that Iraq would still find ways to cheat under the terms of the agreement, by moving evidence out the back door as the inspectors arrived at the front door, UNSCOM's Butler scoffed at the suggestion and said that could not happen. When Blitzer tried to find out if there had been a side agreement between Kofi Annan and Iraq to lift the sanctions in a time certain, Hamdoon insisted there was no such agreement, that his government was merely relying on the judgment of Kofi Annan and the Security Council that the time before sanctions would be lifted would be reasonable. That is, as I understand it, common sense would rule: If the United States dragged out the sanctions for months and months after UNSCOM inspected anywhere it wanted and found nothing, the whole world would come to see the U.S. was acting in bad faith as Baghdad has long believed.
The only small point of difference that arose in the CNN interviews had to do with the influence the UN diplomats appointed by Kofi Annan would have on the inspection process. As part of the agreement, the diplomats will accompany the UNSCOM inspectors as observers. Baghdad of course sees this as the key to getting the sanctions lifted, because it has confidence that Kofi Annan's appointees will act in good faith. That is, they will be able to certify that no evidence of weapons of mass destruction were found on the sites UNSCOM believes they may be hidden. Iraq had come to believe that UNSCOM had developed a pattern of playing games at the behest of Washington in order to stretch out the process indefinitely. So it was when Hamdoon was asked by Blitzer who would have more influence on the inspection process, he said almost casually: "Well, it depends on how you see it." From Iraq's point of view, Kofi is now its best hope of getting the sanctions lifted, and his diplomats are key to making sure UNSCOM no longer engages in game-playing. When Richard Butler was asked in the following interview about this, he answered sharply that it did not depend on how you see it, that he and UNSCOM are in charge of the inspection process, no ifs, ands, and buts.
Obviously there was no disagreement between Hamdoon and Butler. Hamdoon was talking about Iraq now having a friend in court in the person of the Secretary General while Butler was merely talking about the inspection mechanics — which Hamdoon had repeatedly agreed would be in the total control of Butler. Why then does The New York Times this morning have on its front page a story headlined: "Iraqi Diplomat and UN Expert Differ Sharply on Terms of Pact." The story begins: "Iraq's envoy to the United Nations and the United Nations chief arms inspector disagreed sharply yesterday about a critical part of the arms inspection pact reached last week that helped avert American air strikes on Baghdad." An inside headline says: "A week-old agreement is showing signs of early wear and tear." As a fair-minded man, Senator, I believe you would have to agree that the NYTimes story is the result of an anonymous "UN official" who is named Bill Richardson, the US Ambassador, and that his intent is to discredit Kofi Annan and his agreement, by suggesting Baghdad is already welshing on the agreement. The Clinton administration was clearly not happy with the fact that Kofi Annan came back from Baghdad with a deal that looks good to the world and that it could not be turned down without persuading the American people that the President would prefer to bomb Iraq back to the next century. I encourage you to watch for further signs that the hawks here at home will use every artifice to poison the diplomatic waters. My assumption remains that you will keep an open mind on the process that is now unfolding, in hopes that a satisfactory solution can be found. From time to time, I will follow up with memos to you and your chief of staff on Senate Foreign Relations, Admiral Nance, so you will have the benefit of all available sound information and analysis.