On a sweltering day in Baghdad just after the end of the Gulf War, Robert Gallucci stood in a parking lot with 40 other U.N. weapons inspectors, surrounded by Iraqi officials who wanted the secret documents they had hidden in their clothing.

It was 1991, and Gallucci was serving as Deputy Executive Director of UNSCOM, the United Nations Special Commission that had been created to perform the first-ever weapons inspections in Iraq. He and the other inspectors had practiced a long time for this day, performing test-runs in another country, communicating over secure radio sets, reviewing intelligence information.

Not long before, the U.S. government had given Gallucci some sensitive information about Iraq’s nuclear program. Although the Arab nation, run by the controversial president Saddam Hussein, had denied for months that it was developing a nuclear weapons program, U.S. intelligence had just discovered indications to the contrary. If the UNSCOM inspection team could pay a surprise visit to the site in question, it just might uncover some invaluable hard evidence.

“This would be very exciting if we could surprise them and find it,” says Gallucci, now the Dean of Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, recounting the events in a recent interview. “We put together a very special team here in Washington, and then we [got] a few from the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] . and we planned the mission with some real experts in planning how to search buildings.” The team met overseas to strategize and then staged mock inspections in the Persian Gulf island nation of Bahrain, utilizing video cameras and the two sets of radios they would use to communicate – one set for the Iraqis to intercept their transmissions and another set from which they couldn’t.

Just as in any other inspection, they arrived and traveled around in Iraq using their own transportation. They conversed little in their offices and hotel rooms, assuming the spaces were bugged. And when they were ready, they informed their hosts that there would be an inspection the next day, without telling them where.

That day, they set out at “oh-dark-30,” as Gallucci puts it, employing a military expression meaning very early in the morning. The team arrived at a building heavily damaged from bombing, where entire walls were missing. “We closed off the exits with some members of the team holding video cameras, and then we started a search of the building,” says Gallucci.

They combed through the rooms for hours without finding the information for which they were searching. But at one point in the mid-morning, Gallucci got a call over his secure radio with the message: `We have found it.’

“We went downstairs, and there was a chest coming out of the basement, which we brought to the light of the parking lot, and indeed there were documents in there that were labeled, `Top Secret,'” Gallucci recounts. “[Though much of the writing was in Arabic], the kinds of pictures and charts and scientific language [are] fairly international . And I am not a nuclear engineer, but I’ve seen enough of design information about nuclear weapons to recognize that what we were looking at was, in fact, the point of the whole inspection.”

For Gallucci, the moment could be considered one of personal vindication. He had received the appointment of UNSCOM Deputy Executive Director in April 1991 after six years in the State Department, four years in peacekeeping operations in the Sinai Peninsula and three years at the National War College in Washington, D.C. After the end of the Gulf War, he helped draft U.N. Security Council Resolution 687, which, among other things, required Iraq to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction and allow inspections by UNSCOM.

The problem? The UNSCOM inspections force had been thereby created and empowered, but it didn’t physically exist. It fell to Gallucci and UNSCOM Chairman Rolf Ekeus to gather inspectors, find equipment, arrange transportation and coordinate all the other logistics of an inspections program effectively charged with bringing about a true victory in the Persian Gulf: by destroying Hussein’s extensive hidden weapons cache.

“Imagine it, all you have is a yellow sheet of paper and a fountain pen to make a list of what you need,” says Gallucci. “And the only other people who are there to help you are Rolf Ekeus, one staffer from the U.N. and a secretary. There were four of us. That was it. We had to then create everything.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, they encountered considerable initial skepticism. Gallucci paraphrases the reaction of Ted Koppel in Gallucci’s first-ever television interview, on Nightline: “`A bunch of you from the State Department are gonna do what half a million men couldn’t do in coalition forces – destroy all these weapons? That sounds plausible.'”

Yet within months, the UNSCOM team went from yellow pads and fountain pens to a number of important scores in the hide-and-seek weapons game. “The inspections had a certain cowboy quality to them early on, because we were running around very quickly wanting to demonstrate that we could find things the Iraqis were hiding,” Gallucci notes. “And to everybody’s surprise, we began immediately to find . plutonium separation activity, which they had denied, uranium enrichment technology, which they had denied. Then we found the designs a couple months later to their nuclear weapon, which they had denied. That [was] one of my own personal high points of the inspection period.”

But the completion of the operation was not to be easy. That day, as Gallucci pored over the documents that appeared to confirm U.S. suspicions that Iraq was building a trigger mechanism for a nuclear weapon, he began to worry that Iraqi officials would try to take the evidence away. “I arranged for some of the [most incriminating] stuff to get out during the course of the day, by a method which I have never revealed, and I will not now either, but the material got out of the parking lot of that building,” Gallucci says.

It turned out to be a fortuitous decision. Before the U.N. team left that evening, Iraqi officials shoved the inspectors aside and seized all the documents they had uncovered. In the middle of the night, the officials woke them up and gave the material back. But significant portions were now missing.

The next day, which would end with Gallucci and the rest of the inspections team trapped in the parking lot, began equally auspiciously. They started searching a second building and found more incriminating documents. As they finished up the inspection, the same men who had forcefully taken the documents from them the day before began approaching them once again. But this time, they decided, they would “not make it quite so easy for them,” Gallucci remembers.

“As we saw the same people coming back that we’d seen the day before, the other leader of the team and myself instructed all of the inspectors to put the documents on their bodies, in their clothes, so that the only way the material could be taken from us was if they wished to strip the international inspectors in the parking lot,” Gallucci recounts matter-of-factly. “And they didn’t choose to do that; they said we couldn’t leave the parking lot.”

Thus began a quiet standoff that would last four days and five nights. Every day, the officials would ask the inspectors if they wanted to leave the parking lot, and every day they would respond, “Yes, but only with the documents,” remembers Gallucci. So they would stay, sustaining themselves with a considerable supply of food and bottled water that they brought on all inspections. Gallucci slept on the roof of one of their four-wheel-drive vehicles with a pack of macaroni and cheese under his head for a pillow. The team was in constant contact with U.N. headquarters and the U.S. government, and Gallucci asserts “the threat of the resumption of hostility was quite viable.”

Finally, the Iraqis relented, and let the inspectors go on the condition that they tell them what documents the team was taking. The inspectors immediately agreed.

Although the officials were not pleased with the outcome of the situation, Gallucci certainly didn’t expect an indecent exposure charge. Returning to Iraq a week later because the Iraqis -and the inspectors – had been complaining about the incident, he learned that the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Tariq Aziz, wanted to file a protest against the team for removing some of their clothing to shower during the four-day episode.

“This was in September, and Baghdad was still over 100 degrees during the day,” recounts Gallucci. “My medical officer said that if we didn’t shower, since the sanitary condition was not good, that we’d get stuck getting some medical problems . So we had everybody line up, and we sprayed them [with non-potable water]. This required taking off clothes.” Aziz’s charge, he scoffs, was “beyond outrageous.”

Overall, the incident ended well not just in the short-term but in the larger political sense, says Gallucci. Not only had the team found evidence of an Iraqi nuclear weapons program, but the U.N. Security Council had stuck to its letter of resolution and threatened resumed military action if the Iraqis did not allow the inspections to proceed.

“As a model,” he says, “that’s what you would hope would happen now. If UNMOVIC [the current U.N. inspections team] runs into trouble, you’d hope that it goes back to the Security Council, and the French, the Russians and the Chinese will be aboard as well as the Americans and the British.”

Although the current inspectors have yet to encounter the unusual difficulties Gallucci’s team faced during that particular inspection, Gallucci says their job may be yet more difficult. Iraq has had a decade to devise ways to conceal its weapons, Gallucci notes, and although inspectors have improved their techniques as well, “in the game of hiders and finders, the advantage still goes to the hiders.”

The current inspection team, however, headed by former IAEA Director General Hans Blix, is doing a “fine job,” in Gallucci’s estimation. He would caution Blix about his refusal so far to disclose certain findings of the U.N. team to governments that have provided them with intelligence. “I agree that that protects the purity of the United Nations,” Gallucci says, “But it doesn’t provide much incentive for the government to provide you information . So I think he needs to be a little more flexible with the exchange of intelligence in consultations with governments that provide this intelligence.”

Gallucci’s own assessment of the Iraqi threat is more qualified. The possibility that Iraq is developing viral agents and/or nuclear weapons concerns him most, though he doesn’t view these dangers as “urgent to be dealt with,” affirming his belief that deterrents would work. But a front-page article in that day’s Washington Post (Dec. 12) troubles him. The report cites “credible” evidence that Al-Qaeda operatives took hold of a chemical weapon – probably the nerve agent VX – in Iraq in November or late October of last year. “If true, that’s a very, very bad sign,” says Gallucci, “and an indicator that we can’t really tolerate this regime’s freedom to do that . Up `til that story I was unaware of any good information that Iraq had or would transfer this material to a terrorist group. If today’s story turns out to have substance to it, then I think we’re in another situation.”

He is cautious, however, about the possibility of invading Iraq, an option on which the Bush administration seems so intent. Foremost, he says he hopes Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction can be uncovered and destroyed through a U.N. inspection regime. If that should fail, he would support the idea of military action only with the sanction of the U.N. and in conjunction with other countries, as the U.S. did in the Persian Gulf War. “I would think it would be a distant last resort for the United States to act unilaterally against Iraq,” he says, “.unless we are enthusiastic about helping Al-Qaeda recruit not only in the Arab world but in the Islamic world more broadly.” (The U.S., however, has recently given indications that it may attempt just such a war, sending more than 100,000 troops to the Persian Gulf and continuing to amass military equipment in the area).

North Korea: “It was about all we could expect to do”

But as the United States prepares to deal with threats from one corner of the world, a new potential crisis has emerged recently in the form of North Korea and its nuclear capability. In 1994, Gallucci served as chief U.S. negotiator of Agreed Framework, the accord under which North Korea promised to halt its production of weapons-grade plutonium, used in creating nuclear weapons. In October 2002, North Korea admitted that it had in fact been developing nuclear weapons, but using a uranium-enrichment program. The disclosure caused shock waves throughout the international community and especially in the United States. Gallucci’s reaction was “not shock and surprise,” he says, “but disappointment.”

The objective of the original agreement, Gallucci explains, was to dismantle North Korea’s then-considerable gas-graphite technology, which had the capability of producing roughly 30 nuclear weapons per year. While the accord – and subsequent monitoring by the IAEA – effectively curbed the development of this overt program, the possibility of covert weapons development was not addressed. The U.S. government and Gallucci’s negotiating team recognized this.

“I testified [before Congress] … in 1994 more than once, saying that we could verify the phase on nuclear reactor operation, chemical separation or reprocessing, but with respect to any secret program, in plutonium or uranium, that would depend upon our [intelligence] ability . to discover any cheating on the agreement that the North Koreans might engage in,” Gallucci says. “The virtue of the deal was that it stopped a known program aimed at nuclear weapons – it didn’t do much for secret programs. And we knew that.”

On Jan. 10, Pyongyang announced it would withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty that prohibited it from producing nuclear weapons. The following day, it revealed its intentions to restart a suspended missile-testing program. This past Sunday, Jan. 12, The Washington Post reported a suggestion by a senior Bush administration official that the current problems with North Korea could be attributed to flaws within the 1994 accord. The official claimed the agreement “frontloaded all the benefits and left the difficult things to the end,” The Post reported.

“This was a judgment of all of us involved in the negotiation, and I should take the most responsibility if I headed the negotiating team,” Gallucci explains, a month before the Washington Post article. “It was my judgment – clearly shared by others back in Washington – that among those things that were achievable, the goals of phasing and dismantling the provocative gas-graphite technology . was about all we could expect to do,” in addition to winning North Korea’s acceptance of special inspections by the IAEA – the same inspections that recently turned up evidence of the country’s resumed nuclear activity.

“As a matter of how much we could accomplish in the negotiation,” he continues, “not only did we not gain new inspection rights in North Korea – which would have helped limit the likelihood that they could cheat the way they apparently have – but we also didn’t deal with the threat posed by their ballistic missiles to Japan and to the United States. We didn’t deal with the full deployment of their forces and the artillery that’s arrayed along the DMZ.” He pauses. “We also didn’t, in the Agreed Framework, find a cure for cancer.”

Gallucci smiles wryly. “There was a particular objective that brought us to the table, and that was the objective that we addressed in the framework . There’s clearly more to do.”

The Bush administration has several options, he notes. He lays them out carefully and then deflates most of them. Since the current administration does not seem disposed toward a 1994-style negotiation, it might try to impose sanctions, he says. But the Chinese would never allow sanctions to bring North Korea to its knees. It could use military force, he continues, but that might prove dangerous for Japan and South Korea – and the U.S. has 37,000 troops stationed in South Korea. Without negotiations, the Bush administration is left with a “defense and deterrent posture,” he says, “which amounts to accepting the North Korean nuclear weapons program mated to a North Korean missile program, and that is another unhappy prospect . I think the bid is now to this administration, and the North Koreans are raising the ante almost every day.”

The Greatest Threats

Gallucci may have over 20 years of government experience dealing with some of the most dangerous powers in the world, but he can readily identify the threats he considers the most grave facing the world today.

The first problem, he says, is the threat to the national security of the United States. He looks at the coffee table in front of him, where there lies a thick document entitled “National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction, December 2002.” And then, sitting back in his chair with his hands clasped together, his eyes on the table, Gallucci launches into a chillingly matter-of-fact discourse on a national nightmare.

“The greatest threat to the national security of the United States right now comes from the intersection of the set of phenomena that we call terrorism and the set of phenomena we call attacks with weapons of mass destruction,” he begins. “We, right now in the United States, face the real prospect that one of our cities – Boston or New York being high on anyone’s list – will be attacked with a nuclear weapon. And I’ll be more specific about that. It’ll be a nuclear weapon whose design is of a simple type called a gun type, whose core will be made up of highly enriched uranium, delivered by some unconventional means: a ship – a container ship – a truck, an airplane across the border. It will be a weapon manufactured by scientists associated with Al-Qaeda. It will have material that has come from the former Soviet Union or possibly from Pakistan.”

“And we will not succeed in detecting it, because of the unconventional delivery means. We’ll have no way to defend against this. And we’ll have no way to deter the attacker because the attacker will be the amorphous network that is Al-Qaeda, a network that not only is hard to find, hard to target, therefore hard to punish, but also a network that is prepared to suffer extraordinary losses itself and therefore very difficult to deter by promising punishment.”

“That, to me, is the quintessential threat,” he says. “That’s the one I worry about most . It presents to us the very real possibility that the catastrophe of the 11th of September will pale in comparison to the next big attack on our country.”

He is also concerned, he adds, with the possibility of an attack on the U.S. with a viral agent, such as smallpox. Such a biological weapon, engineered to resist vaccines or to be almost 100 percent lethal, could produce mass casualties on the scale of a fission device, he notes.

On an international level, Gallucci cites a more subtle problem, one concerning “the human condition.” Although he is tempted, he says, to discuss global warming here, “I couldn’t without putting AIDS at the very top of the list.” He somberly notes the unparalleled effect of the disease in places like Asia and Africa, where the percentage of the local populations who carry the virus is “just staggering,” he says. “I don’t see anything comparable to that that presses itself upon us as demanding our attention.”

Back to School

Gallucci clearly is still involved and opinionated in matters of foreign policy, but don’t expect to see him inspecting arms or negotiating many treaties these days. Appointed Ambassador-At-Large in 1994, he was nevertheless always on the lookout for the right path out of government service.

Gallucci started his career teaching at Swarthmore College and moved on to the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies before joining the faculty at the National War College. “I got a great deal out of it and was very happy to have had the opportunity to have been a civil servant in the U.S. government,” he says, “[but] I always kept an eye out for the right opportunity to return to the university, because I thought that’s what I wanted to do in the next phase of my life.”

One day, Gallucci came across an ad in The Chronicle of Higher Education for the position of Dean of the School of Foreign Service in Georgetown, though he says laughingly that some people find this hard to believe. But Gallucci was immediately enticed. His wife was working in the intelligence field in the area, his two children were in school in Arlington and Gallucci would have the opportunity to return to academia without leaving Washington.

Furthermore, the position “is the dream job of somebody who is very interested in policy, but very interested in the university – particularly, in undergraduate education,” he says. “I’ve changed jobs frequently, [but] what I like about the jobs that I’ve had is, I’ve not been bored . I’ve always found the learning curve steep, the jobs exciting and interesting, and I regard them as important.”

He is especially attracted to the multifaceted nature of the dean’s job: relating to the faculty, raising money, and improving the curriculum. “I like the fact that there are so many pieces to it,” he says. “And I’ve also liked my colleagues.from the [university] president on down. This is a first-rate academic institution, has attracted great talent, and it’s nice to go to meetings with very smart people.”

Gallucci is also excited about the school’s “mission,” which not only involves developing future leaders, in his view, but allows him to use a baseball metaphor, a habit for which he professes a particular affinity. “I think I used to play shortstop, and now I just coach the team,” he states.

Last semester, he taught his usual class on International Security and the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction. “I teach only one course, but I really enjoy teaching that one course,” he says. “I’d like to teach more.”

He and the rest of the faculty, he says, are charged with “bringing along” students who will eventually enter a whole range of careers: in law, banking, academia, foreign service or intelligence work, among others.

“We get to help them gain an appreciation for particularly the international sphere [and] hopefully the ethical dimensions of issues as well as the substantive issues – to help them learn how to think about the conflicts, problems that the world faces.”

Although he may be in the foreign policy “dugout” for the moment, his current job seems to be just another exciting way for him to stay in the game. “It’s a great opportunity,” he says. “I love it.”

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