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Western Press Review: Iraq Continues To Fan Embers

  • Don Hill



Prague, 13 January 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Continuing Iraqi resistance to weapons inspections is like a housefire incompletely extinguished by amateur volunteer firefighters. Whenever they back off, the embers reignite.

TIMES: Iraq tried to provoke a new crisis

Today's Times of London summarizes the situation as follows in a brief analysis by Michael Thedoulou in Nicosia: "Iraq tried to provoke a new crisis in the Gulf last night, declaring it was halting the work of a United Nations weapons inspection team headed by an American whom it accused of spying." He writes: "The ban comes days after Washington announced that it would keep a major military force in the Gulf. But dissidents said (Iraqi President Saddam Hussein) believed that America was merely saber-rattling."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Saddam appears to be hoping to pressure the Security Council

Norman Kempster writes today from Washington in a Los Angeles Times news analysis: "A similar Iraqi threat in November touched off a crisis that eventually was papered over by Russian diplomacy. The United States at the time launched a military build-up in the region and insisted it would keep all options open -- including the use of military force."

Kempster writes: "Although it is difficult to read (Saddam's) motives, he appears to be hoping to pressure the Security Council to withdraw the inspectors and lift the postwar economic sanctions. But U.S. officials say that every time (Saddam) provokes a new crisis, he digs himself in deeper."

FINANCIAL TIMES: Sanctions have not yet led to Saddam being ousted

Richard Haass, director of foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington, was a senior adviser to U.S. President George Bush in the 1990-91 Gulf crisis. The following excerpts are from his commentary published in today's issue of the Financial Times of London: "For sound reasons, economic sanctions often get a bad rap, but in the case of Iraq, at least, they have done far more good than harm. Even when sanctions failed, as was the case when they could not dislodge Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi president, from Kuwait, the fact they were tried and found wanting made it less difficult to pull together the coalition that subsequently fought and won the Gulf war."

Haass writes: "Still, there are limits to what economic sanctions can accomplish. Despite their cost, Mr. Saddam has refused to grant unconditional access to the weapons inspectors, almost certainly because he is hiding forbidden technologies or materials. More to the point, he continues to hold power. Sanctions have not yet led to him being ousted."

The commentator says: "The time has come for U.S. policy to revert to what it was initially. Sanctions are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. The priority should be to deny Iraq nuclear, biological or chemical weapons -- and to build international support for ensuring that Mr. Saddam complies with this demand. Toward this end, the Clinton administration should declare that Iraq's full compliance with Resolution 687 will result in a lifting of the exports ban." He says: "The time has come to accept reality: economic sanctions will not oust Mr. Saddam -- other policy tools and the Iraqis themselves must accomplish that. And keeping sanctions in place so long as he remains in power could undermine international support for ridding Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction."

Haass concludes: "But a shift in declaratory policy could help shore up the coalition necessary to keep sanctions in place - and to build necessary support for the massive use of air power that will be required to coerce Mr. Saddam's acceptance of unrestricted inspections if he continues to insist that palaces and other sites are off limits."

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Hussein has capitalized on growing international sympathy

Storer H. Rowley writes today in an analysis in the Chicago Tribune: "Although charges of American spying might resonate in many parts of a suspicious Arab world, Israel and other Western allies of the United States see Hussein's latest gambit as more of the stalling tactics he has used to thwart United Nations monitors since the 1991 Persian Gulf War."

Writing from Jerusalem, Rowley says: " 'He'll keep trying it again and again,' observed Ofra Bengio, an Israeli expert on Iraq and a senior research associate at the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University." Rowley writes: "Bengio, who recently published a book on Iraq titled, Saddam's Word: Political Discourse in Iraq, dismissed the notion that Ritter was a spy, arguing that the Iraqis were merely looking for excuses to frustrate arms inspections."

Rowley writes: "Iraq has made headway in the past two years in its efforts to erode support for tough action against it among Arab and some Western members of the U.S.-led coalition that drove Iraq's invasion army from Kuwait in 1991. Hussein has capitalized on growing international sympathy to the plight of the Iraqi people, who have suffered deprivation, malnutrition, starvation and disease since the United Nations imposed crippling economic sanctions against Baghdad after Iraq's August 1990 invasion of Kuwait."

NEW YORK TIMES: Clinton needs to revive the sense of urgency

The New York Times says today in an editorial: "Once again (Saddam) is trying to dictate conditions to U.N. weapons inspectors. His latest maneuver is no more acceptable than his last, and the White House should be under no illusion that it can pretend it has solved the problem of Iraq's effort to produce deadly biological and chemical weapons. Unfettered movement by U.N. inspectors must be a firm position of the Security Council and the United States."

The Times says: "Not all Security Council members are eager to insist. France and Russia are looking to lift sanctions and share in Iraqi oil revenues and trade. Arab countries, unhappy over the continued suffering of the Iraqi people and the breakdown of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, are unwilling to follow the United States' lead on Iraq. But President Clinton is not without leverage. The Iraqi threat bears more immediately on its neighbors than on America."

The editorial concludes: "Clinton needs to revive the sense of urgency he conveyed immediately after the crisis eased. As he clearly noted then, the issue has not been satisfactorily resolved and the use of military force cannot be ruled out until Iraq obeys United Nations resolutions and lets weapons inspectors do their jobs."

WASHINGTON POST: This would be a good time for Security Council members to stand up for the authority of the United Nations

The Washington Post editorializes today: "The Clinton administration has been in no mood to press the issue, which just last November it was describing as urgent. Instead, administration officials have chosen to portray the end of the November standoff as a victory for the United Nations, and to insist that time is on the United Nations' side. Saddam Hussein doesn't seem to have gotten that message."

The newspaper says: "This would be a good time for Security Council members to stand up for the authority of the United Nations." The editorial concludes: "As long as it pretends to win victories where none has been achieved, as long as it plays down the extent and importance of Iraqi intransigence, the administration can expect to be challenged again and again by Saddam Hussein. Until he is convinced that the Clinton administration is serious about sanctions and willing to back them up with force if necessary, he will keep playing these games. And blustery U.S. claims to the contrary, these are not games the U.N. appears to be winning."
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