TV link keeps watchful eye on Saddam's bomb factories

The Gulf war was the first war to happen live on television; five years later the UN is taking its surveillance of Iraq into the global television age.

About 125 cameras have been installed throughout Iraq to monitor armaments activities. They will be switched through to a control room 7,000 miles away in New York. The Big Brother operation will be managed by Unscom, the UN commission that was set up in April 1991 in the aftermath of the war. Headed by Swedish diplomat, Rolf Ekeus, its task has been three-fold: to identify Iraq's arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, to dismantle them and to ensure that Baghdad does not develop new ones. It is in this last mission that the banks of flickering screens in New York will be vital.

With its extraordinary powers to intrude on the Iraqi military, Unscom is what Baghdad has suffered for its invasion of Kuwait five years ago today. It is also linked with the maintenance of the harsh sanctions imposed on the country after the war.

Only when Mr Ekeus is convinced that all banned weapons are gone will the UN consider easing the sanctions. After more than four years of playing cat and mouse with the Iraqis, Mr Ekeus may at last be approaching the end of the "discovery and destruction" phase. On Thursday, he departs for Baghdad to receive a formal report from the government on its past biological weapons programme and what happened to it. If he is satisfied, he may declare to the Security Council that Iraq's mass destruction capability is ended. In theory, at that point, the lifting the sanctions on Saddam Hussein could begin.

Mr Ekeus's team is relatively small, but must count as one of the most productive UN agencies. In New York, he has about 50 officials. There are about 20 people at a field base in Bahrain and anything up to 100 inspectors at one time in Iraq. The mission has been to go into Iraq, find its banned weapons installations and blow them up. One building was so large and so reinforced, it would have taken 400 tons of TNT to do the job, so they entombed it in concrete instead.

Iraq has done everything to frustrate the commission. In the beginning, Baghdad denied that it had either a nuclear or a biological weapons programme. Its nuclear facilities were discovered early on and mostly disabled in 1991. On long-range missiles, Scuds or their derivatives, and chemical weapons Baghdad grossly under-reported the numbers of weapons and related materials that they had.

It took Baghdad until last month to concede that it had had a long-running germ warfare programme in the late 1980s and had produced large quantities of deadly agents, including anthrax. So far, however, it denies ever having progressed into weapons production, a claim that many find unconvincing.

Even so, Mr Ekeus has told the Security Council that he believes Iraq to be rid of weapons in the nuclear, ballistic and chemicals categories. Even Britain and the United States, the two council members that have been most forthright on the need to complete the mission utterly before easing sanctions, admit that the endgame may be approaching. "No-one can deny that we are getting there, but exactly when it will all be over is anyone's guess," one senior diplomat conceded this week.

However, in its monitoring role, Unscom is likely to be in business for a very long time.

Mr Ekeus could never be 100 per cent sure that covert weapons research or even manufacturing may not be resuming in another corner of the country.

Even the cameras guarantee nothing: it is amazing what can be done with a Hollywood-style backdrop.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
Fifa corruption: Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

But if a real smoking gun is found, that might change things, says Tom Peck
Twenty two years later Jurassic Park series faces questions over accuracy of the fictional dinosaurs in it

Tyrannosaurus wrecked?

Twenty two years on, Jurassic Park faces questions over accuracy
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
Genes greatly influence when and how many babies a woman will have, study finds

Mother’s genes play key role in decision to start a family

Study's findings suggest that human fertility is still evolving
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
England can win the Ashes – and Elvis Presley will present the urn

England can win the Ashes – and Elvis will present the urn

In their last five Test, they have lost two and drawn two and defeated an India side last summer who thought that turning up was competing, says Stephen Brenkley
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)