IN RESPONSE to Iraq's August 5 decision to cease cooperation with UN weapons inspections, the UN Security Council voted unanimously on September 9 to end its bimonthly reviews of international economic sanctions on Iraq until cooperation resumes. A review of sanctions is expected in mid-October following the biannual reports of the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) on Iraq's proscribed chemical, biological and ballistic missile programs, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on nuclear weapons-related issues. The Security Council's resolution, number 1194, also provides for a "comprehensive review" of Iraq's compliance with its disarmament and other obligations once Baghdad resumes cooperation.
Unlike previous confrontations with Iraq, the Clinton administration-though claiming that force remains an option-has backed away from the threats to compel Iraq's compliance that had stood as U.S. policy since 1991. The United States is seeking to shift responsibility for dealing with Iraq's defiant behavior back to the Security Council, and onto those states-chiefly France, Russia and China-that have argued Iraq's case in the past. As deputy national security advisor James Steinberg said on September 4, Washington's goal is "to be in a posture where it is clear that what Saddam is doing is challenging not just the United States, but the entire international community."
Weapons Inspector Resigns
Drawing additional international attention to the situation in Iraq was the public resignation of William S. "Scott" Ritter, Jr., previously chief of UNSCOM's investigations into Iraq's proscribed weapons concealment activities, on August 26. In an angry letter to Richard Butler, executive chairman of UNSCOM, Ritter denounced the Security Council's refusal to enforce its resolutions against Iraq and condemned Secretary-General Kofi Annan for allowing his "grand office" to be used "as a sounding board for Iraqi grievances, real or imagined."
The day after Ritter's resignation, The Washington Post cited "American and diplomatic sources" who claimed that on at least six occasions beginning in November 1997, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright or other top U.S. officials contacted Butler to prevent scheduled inspections from going forward. The Washington Post also claimed that in March 1998, after Butler rejected Albright's suggestion to remove Ritter from upcoming inspections, Washington and London "withdrew crucial elements of the intelligence support that allowed the special commission to observe Iraqi concealment efforts as they happened during surprise inspections." According to Ritter, …