Saddam May Leverage Lessons of Last Showdown Iraq Decided Wednesday to Rebuff UN Inspections. Again, Security Council Nations Can't Agree on How to Counter.; Back to the Brink?

Article excerpt

Iraq's decision Wednesday not to cooperate with United Nations weapons inspections may seem like a replay of the confrontation that peaked in February, when Washington threatened airstrikes after President Saddam Hussein barred investigators from entering presidential palaces.

And some analysts believe Washington's and the UN's problems may be made worse by what Iraq learned last time out.

"One of the lessons that Iraq learned in the last crisis is that crisis diplomacy works," says Andrew Parasiliti of the Washington- based Middle East Institute. "Coming out of that crisis, there were some tangible political gains, which included revealing and exploiting divisions among Security Council members."

In February, the United States and Britain found themselves alone in brandishing armed forces. Now, Washington is acutely aware that it could be even harder to muster support for an airstrike. Iraq has already won some sympathy from Council members. Last month, Russia, China, and France argued Baghdad had satisfactorily dismantled its nuclear-weapons program.

Washington and London have "created exasperation and desperation in Baghdad because {Iraqis} have the feeling that ... however they can cooperate with UNSCOM {the United Nations Special Commission} it would not change anything," says one member of the French mission to the UN. "We think that {on} the nuclear and the ballistic files ... Iraq has done the job it was asked," he adds. "Only the chemical and biological files have not been resolved."

UN sanctions can be lifted only after Iraq receives certification that all four types of weapons programs have been dismantled. And analysts point out that China, France, and Russia may have a financial interest in ending the embargo soon.

Richard Butler, UNSCOM's chief, is under "tremendous pressure from some members of the Security Council to close the books," says Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. …


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