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Iraq disarmament crisis timeline 1997-2000

Timeline of events related to the Iraq disarmament crisis

Continued from Iraq disarmament crisis timeline 1990-1996

February, 1997

  • Iraq allows UNSCOM to remove the missile parts found last September
March 26, 1997
  • US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright delivers a speech at Georgetown University in which she argues that sanctions on Iraq probably will not end until Saddam Hussein is replaced. Albright is criticized by some as undercutting UNSCOM's ability to gain Iraqi cooperation.
June, 1997
  • Iraqi military escorts on board an UNSCOM helicopter try to physically prevent the UNSCOM pilot from flying the helicopter in the direction of its planned destination, threatening the safety of the aircraft and their crews.
June 18, 1997
  • The UN Security Council expresses concerns over Iraq's threatening actions against UNSCOM helicopters and crews.
June 21, 1997
  • Iraq once again refuses UN inspection teams access to sites under investigation.
  • The UN Security Council passes Resolution 1115, which condemns Iraq's actions and demands that the country allow UNSCOM's team immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access to any sites for inspection and officials for interviews
July, 1997
  • Australian diplomat Richard Butler succeeds Rolf Ekeus as Executive Chairman of UNSCOM
September, 1997
  • Iraq provides more information on its prohibited biological weapons programs.
September 13, 1997
  • An Iraqi military officer attacks an UNSCOM weapons inspector on board an UNSCOM helicopter while the inspector was attempting to take photographs of unauthorized movement of Iraqi vehicles inside a site designated for inspection.
September 17, 1997
  • While waiting for access to a site, UNSCOM inspectors witness and videotape Iraqi guards moving files, burning documents, and dumping waste cans into a nearby river.
September 25, 1997
  • UNSCOM inspects an Iraqi "food laboratory". One of the inspectors, Dr. Diane Seaman[?], enters the building through the back door and catches several men running out with suitcases. The suitcases contained log books for the creation of illegal bacteria and chemicals. The letterhead comes from the president's office and from the Special Security Office (SSO).
  • UNSCOM attempts to inspect the SSO headquarters but is blocked.
October 23, 1997
  • The UN Security Council passes a resolution demanding once again that Iraq cooperate with UNSCOM inspectors.
October, 1997
  • UNSCOM destroys large quantities of illegal chemical weapons and related equipment. Iraq admitted that some of this equipment had been used to produce VX gas in May, 1997.
October 29, 1997
  • Iraq demands that US citizens working inside UNSCOM inspections teams leave the country immediately. Iraq also says it will shoot down U2 surveillance planes.
November 2, 1997
  • Iraq prevents three American weapons experts from entering the country.
November 12, 1997
  • The UN Security Council passes Resolution 1137, condemning Iraq's continued violations of earlier resolutions, and again demanded that Baghdad comply with the UNSCOM inspection teams.
November 13, 1997
  • UNSCOM withdraws all weapons inspectors because of the order to expel all American arms experts.
November 18, 1997 November 20, 1997
  • Saddam Hussein agrees to allow UN weapons inspectors to return to Iraq.
November 24, 1997
  • UNSCOM declares that it wishes to inspect Iraqi Presidential Palaces, but Iraq refuses.
December 12-16, 1997
  • Richard Butler meets with Tariq Aziz in Iraq, to discuss Iraq's refusal to allow inspections of "sensitive" sites. No agreement was reached.
December 22, 1997
  • The UN Security Council issues a statement calling on Iraq to cooperate fully with the commission and says that failure by Iraq to provide immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access to any site is an unacceptable and clear violation of Security Council resolutions.

January, 1998

  • Iraq wants Scott Ritter's team out and claims that Ritter is a spy.
January 15, 1998 February, 1998
  • US President Clinton remarks "(Hussein's) regime threatens the safety of his people, the stability of his region, and the security of all the rest of us. Some day, some way, I guarantee you, he'll use the arsenal. Let there be no doubt, we are prepared to act." Senate Democrats also passed Resolution 71, which urged President Clinton to "take all necessary and appropriate actions to respond to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end it's weapons of mass destruction programs."
February 18, 1998
  • Albright, William Cohen[?], and National Security Advisor Sandy Berger[?] visit Ohio for an internationally televised "town hall" meeting on a possible war with Iraq. Angry audience members and protestors disrupt the meeting.
February 20, 1998
  • Saddam Hussein negotiates a deal with UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, allowing weapons inspectors to return to Baghdad, preventing military action by the US and Britain.
February 23, 1998
  • Iraq signs a "Memorandum of Understanding" with the UN, which says that the country will accept all relevant Security Council resolutions, cooperate fully with UNSCOM and the IAEA, and will grant UNSCOM and the IAEA immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access for their inspections.
March 2, 1998
  • US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright asks Richard Butler to keep Scott Ritter from heading any inspection team that is going to inspect Iraqi "sensitive" sites. After other leaders of UNSCOM inspection teams show support for Ritter in a memo to the Executive Chairman, Ritter returns to Iraq.
March 20-23, 1998
  • Richard Butler says that the agreement UN General Secretary Kofi Annan made with the Iraqis has increased Iraqi cooperation with inspectors.
April, 1998
  • Scott Ritter complains to Richard Butler that the US, Israel, and Great Britain have stopped providing intelligence reports to him. US officials disagree, stating that only Ritter was cut off from information.
April 4, 1998
  • UNSCOM completes initial inspections of eight Iraqi Presidential Palace sites.
April 8, 1998
  • UNSCOM reports to the UN Security Council that Iraq's declaration on its biological weapons program is incomplete and inadequate.
May 15, 1998
  • An Iraqi delegation travels to Bucharest to meet with scientists who can provide missile guidance systems. UNSCOM learns of this event, but is never able to get this information to the UN Security Council.
Spring, 1998
  • An UNSCOM inspection team discovers a dump full of destroyed Iraqi missiles. Analysis of the missile parts proves that Iraq had made a weapon containing VX.
July, 1998
  • UNSCOM discovers documents, at Iraqi air force headquarters, showing that Iraq overstated by at least 6,000 the number of chemical bombs it told the U.N. it had used during the Iran-Iraq War. These bombs remain unaccounted for.
August 3, 1998
  • Butler meets with Tariq Aziz who demands that weapons inspections must end immediately and that Iraq must be certified as free of weapons of mass destruction. Butler says he cannot do that.
August 5, 1998
  • Iraq suspends all cooperation with UNSCOM teams.
August 26, 1998
  • Scott Ritter resigns from UNSCOM, sharply criticized the Clinton administration and the U.N. Security Council for not being vigorous enough about insisting that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction be destroyed. Ritter also accused U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan of assisting Iraqi efforts at impeding UNSCOM's work. "Iraq is not disarming," Ritter said, and in a second statement, "Iraq retains the capability to launch a chemical strike."
September 9, 1998
  • The UN Security Council passes a resolution which once again condemns Iraq's lack of cooperation with inspectors.
September 29, 1998
  • The United States Congress passes the "Iraq Liberation Act", which states that the US wants to remove Saddam Hussein from office and replace the government with a democratic institution.
October 31, 1998
  • Iraq ends all forms of cooperation with the UNSCOM teams and expels inspectors from the country.
  • U.S. President Clinton signed into law HR 4655, the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998[?].
November 13-14, 1998
  • US President Clinton orders airstrikes on Iraq. Clinton then calls it off at the last minute when Iraq promises once again to unconditionally cooperate with UNSCOM
November 18, 1998
  • UNSCOM inspectors return to Iraq.
November 23-26, 1998
  • According to UNSCOM, Iraq ends cooperation with UNSCOM inspectors, alternately intimidating and withholding information from them.
November 30, 1998
  • Butler meets with US National Security Advisor Sandy Berger[?] to coordinate timelines for a possible military strike against Iraq
December 11, 1998
  • Iraq announces that weapons inspections will no longer take place on Friday, the Muslim day of rest. Iraq also refuses to provide test data from the production of missiles and engines.
December 13, 1998
  • US President Clinton secretly approves an attack on Iraq.
December 15, 1998
  • Richard Butler reports to the UN Security Council that Iraq is still blocking inspections.
December 16-19, 1998
  • UNSCOM withdraws all weapons inspectors from Iraq.
  • Saddam Hussein's failure to provide unfettered access to UN arms inspectors led Washington and London to hit 100 Iraqi targets in four days of bombing as part of Operation Desert Fox. The US government urged UNSCOM executive chairman Richard Butler to withdraw, and "[a] few hours before the attack began, 125 UN personnel were hurriedly evacuated from Baghdad to Bahrain, including inspectors from the UN Special Commission on Iraq and the International Atomic Energy Agency."
December 19, 1998
  • Iraqi vice-president Taha Yassin Ramadan announces that Iraq will no longer cooperate and declares that UNSCOM's "mission is over."
December 21, 1998
  • Three of five permanent members of the UN Security Council (Russia, France, and China) call for lifting of the eight-year oil embargo on Iraq, recasting or disbanding UNSCOM, and firing Butler. The US says it will veto any such measures.

January 4, 1999

  • Iraq requests that the UN replace its US and UK staff in Iraq.
December 17, 1999
  • The United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (Unmovic) was created to replace UNSCOM. In Resolution 1284, Iraq was once again ordered to allow inspections teams immediate and unconditional access to any weapons sites and facilities. Iraq rejects the resolution.


  • It is reported that Saddam Hussein is using humanitarian funds to build presidential palaces and other personal endeavors.
March 1, 2000
  • Hans Blix assumes the position of Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC.
November, 2000
  • Iraq rejects new UN weapons inspections proposals.

Continued at Iraq disarmament crisis timeline 2001-2003

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