Every time war clouds gather over Baghdad, Saddam Hussein has a habit of hinting that he may allow UN arms inspectors to return. Similarly, every time war clouds gather over Baghdad, voices in the United States and elsewhere, including some in or near the Bush administration, can be heard urging a new and improved system of inspections. Today, some of those voices belong to critics of administration policy who are opposed to war with Iraq. Others favor war but think a provocation, or “triggering event,” is lacking, and they see inspections (which they fully expect to fail) as providing the necessary trigger.
The inspectors departed Iraq in 1998 after enduring more than seven years of tricks and obfuscations, all aimed at protecting the country’s programs for building weapons of mass destruction. Since then, Saddam’s interest in renewed inspections has been aroused in direct proportion to the perceived risk that his country will be invaded. When things are quiet, he has refused even to consider letting the United Nations back—in egregious violation of his pledges under UN resolutions and therefore of international law. But now that Washington is seriously contemplating “regime change,” he may well announce that inspectors are once again welcome.
If he does, he can count on Russia and France, Iraq’s allies on the Security Council, to rally the world in favor of giving peace a chance. Any delay on Saddam’s part in admitting or cooperating with inspectors will then still look better than war, and it will become that much harder to argue that Uncle Sam should use soldiers and bullets to do what international civil servants could do with blue helmets and notebooks. If inspectors go back in, said Jack Straw, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, only last month, “plainly the case for military action recedes.”
Whatever one’s stance on the question of how best to handle Saddam Hussein, it is vital to understand one thing. Unless the Iraqi dictator should suddenly and totally reverse course on arms inspection and everything that goes with it, or be forced into early retirement—in other words, unless Saddam Hussein’s Iraq ceases to be Saddam Hussein’s Iraq—inspections will never work.
To read the complete article, click here: Iraq: The Snare of Inspections