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Ambassador Richard Butler, former director of the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) in 1997-99, gave the Herbert M. Linsenberg Memorial Lecture to Middle East Forum in Philadelphia on April 13, 2000.

Having dealt for several years with Saddam Husayn, I conclude that he poses the greatest threat to peace the civilized world faces. I will explain why.

Iraqi Intransigence

UNSCOM's stated - some would say impossible - mission, was to "destroy, remove, or render harmless" all of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD), as well as the ballistic missiles and launchers upon which they could be placed.

The disposal of Iraq's cache of WMD was supposed to take a year to eighteen months. This was predicated on Iraq giving an accurate account of its WMD holdings in the first fifteen days of the process. However, Iraq did not give an accurate account of its WMD holdings within fifteen days, nor did it during the subsequent eight years inspections were in progress, nor has it to this day. Saddam Husayn and his minions stalled, protested, and deceived to thwart UNSCOM's goals. UNSCOM did find and eliminate a large quantity of WMD assets; but substantial quantities of WMD remain in Saddam's possession.

The incompleteness of UNSCOM's mission was underscored on August 3, 1998, when Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz refused to provide any further WMD information and angrily demanded that I report to the Security Council Iraq was completely disarmed and UNSCOM's mission finished. I stated I could not make such a report because it was not true. This impasse marked the end of all UN monitoring of Iraq's WMD efforts.

Saddam Husayn threatens world peace in two distinct ways: his willingness to use WMD and his challenge to the entire tapestry of arms control treaties constructed since World War Two.

Using WMD

Saddam Husayn is addicted to WMD, having produced or attempted to produce them in all their forms: nuclear, biological and chemical. Moreover he has not just produced these weapons for deterrent purposes; he has used them. He relied on poison gas against not just the Iranians but against his own citizens, the Kurds of northern Iraq, killing 5,000 of them. He fired dozens of ballistic missiles at Israel during the Kuwait war - when Israel was not even a combatant.

It is not at all fanciful to expect him to deploy WMD in the future, perhaps to destabilize the Arab-Israeli peace prociess or to curtail the flow of oil through the strait of Hormuz. Further afield, he might furnish chemical or biological weapons to terrorist groups for attacks on vulnerable Western targets such as subways, airports, and other transportation hubs.

Despite the drubbing he took in the Kuwait war and the eight years of UNSCOM inspections, Saddan Husayn remains a foe to be reckoned with.

Undoing Arms Control

An impressive series of arms control treaties have been signed and implemented since World War II, part of an international effort to prevent the use of WMD. Various treaties knit together to declare that WMD are completely inadmissable. The passage of these treaties, the weaving of this tapestry, has been a long and difficult process, not without gaps and problems, but nonetheless a great achievement.

The continued hold of Saddam Husayn on power, with his WMD addiction, threatens to tear a sizable hole in their fabric. If other states see that the will of the United Nations and the world community can be broken by being obstinate and enduring some sanctions, they also might be tempted to try it. And their neighbors, seeing the development of WMD so close by, would likely feel pressured to follow suit. With this, the tear in the tapestry would grow, undoing many years of hard work and noble effort.

Hence, the reasons for confronting and controlling Saddam Husayn are not only regional but global.

Summary prepared by Nick Beckwith, research assistant at the Middle East Forum.