WITH Saddam Hussein's troops no longer massing along the Kuwaiti border, it seems the front lines of the Iraqi dispute have shifted to the UN Security Council, where the fight is over whether or how to lift the 1990 sanctions on Iraq. The Russians are pressing the US to deal with the Iraqi dictator, and they are probing certain soft spots among members of the former US-led Gulf war coalition.
One thing is clear: President Clinton cannot inch toward lifting sanctions on Iraq prior to the November elections. Saddam's border threat, in fact, helps the president on the domestic political front by giving him a no-lose, get-tough issue to show the Stars and Stripes over.
Still, once the elections are over, the US will have to deal with Iraq. Whether or not Saddam intended his troop movements to create a genuine dispute in the UN, they have. The Iraqi dictator wants an end to the embargo that has harmed his economy and his people, and he no doubt would also like to rebuild militarily.
After having made a significant investment in keeping the Gulf region stable and the oil lines secure, the United States, the de facto guarantor of Gulf security, had to show it could respond to Saddam's threat. It does not want Iraqi aggression to reassert itself. Washington has taken a hands-off attitude toward Iraq: Baghdad has been difficult to deal with, and Saddam is no favorite of the US public. …