The Gathering Storm

Article excerpt

Like meteorology, the business of predicting what might be called strategic atmospheric conditions is more art than exact science. Forecasting the precise moment and circumstances under which Bill Clinton's security policies are going to produce heavy weather for U.S. interests around the globe is nearly impossible.

Still, there are now indisputably storm clouds gathering on the horizon that make it possible to say with confidence that real, and probably violent, "turbulence" is on the way. Consider three recent developments:

* Even as President Clinton was using his summit meeting with Boris Yeltsin in Helsinki last month to foster the image of a close U.S.-Russian partnership - an image that was, as noted in this space last week, purchased at enormous cost to American taxpayers, defensive programs and security interests in NATO - the Kremlin was displaying just how one-sided this relationship has become under the stewardship of Strobe Talbott, Al Gore, Sandy Berger and Madeleine Albright.

The Associated Press reported that on March 22, the day after the Helsinki summit ended, the Russian energy minister, Pyotr Rodionov, signed a 23-year agreement with Saddam Hussein's government. The purpose of this $3.5 billion initiative is to develop Iraq's largest oil field, located near Qurnah in Southern Iraq and estimated to contain 15 billion barrels of oil. According to Iraqi Oil Minister Amer Mohammed Rashid, Iraq expects to earn more than $70 billion over the contract period.

Ominously, Mr. Rodionov announced that, "The agreement will be implemented independently of the lifting of economic sanctions." Mr. Rashid underscored the embargo-busting quality of this deal: "The accord, over which all honorable men should rejoice, will be implemented during the embargo."

In other words, Mr. Clinton's "partners" in Russia have now added unilateral action to eviscerate the U.S.-led United Nations embargo against Iraq and enable Saddam to underwrite renewed aggression to the litany of other, portentous steps they are taking around the world. Among the most worrisome of these are Russia's sales of intercontinental-range ballistic missile technology and advanced conventional weaponry to China, helping Iran realize its ambitions to acquire nuclear weapons and control the Persian Gulf's shipping lanes, and assisting Cuba in building reactors likely to produce Chernobyl-style disasters upwind from millions of Americans.

* No less stunning has been the cynical duplicity of Yasser Arafat, whom President Clinton has invested with the stature of a peace-making statesman. As George Will noted recently, U.S. diplomats like Dennis Ross have paid court to Mr. Arafat in his office in Ramallah festooned with a map that shows a "Palestine with all of Israel's borders erased." Such maps are increasingly commonplace in the programs broadcast by Palestinian television and in publications of Mr. Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization. One is even incorporated in an immense structure outside Bethlehem memorializing terrorists Mr. Arafat calls "martyrs of the intifada."

Yigal Carmon, one of Israel's pre-eminent experts on the Palestinian Arabs who has held senior counterterrorism posts under both Likud and Labor governments, told an American Enterprise Institute audience last Friday that such symbolism is but one indicator of Mr. …