Separate Powers: The Iraq
The long-running confrontation between the United States and the Iraq of Saddam Hussein which began with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait dominated the headlines and the attention of senior American policymakers in the period 1998–99. A cat-and-mouse game between Iraq and the UN Special Commission on Monitoring in Iraq, UNSCOM, led to an initial withdrawal of UNSCOM inspectors in November of 1998, and after much maneuvering and brinksmanship on both sides, to four days of air and cruise missile strikes in December of 1998.’ With President Clinton caught in a public lie over an affair with a White House intern and facing impeachment, Washington was unusually polarized.
This is the account of legislation adopted during this period, the Iraq Liberation Act (ILA) of 1998. Opposed by the bureaucracy at State, Defense, CIA, and the NSC staff, the ILA was signed into law by President Clinton on October 31, 1998, at one of the weakest moments in his presidency. Without reference to the UN Security Council Resolutions which had been the underpinning of international efforts since the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, the ILA committed the United States to a policy of seeking the overthrow of the Iraqi regime.
In early 1998, the Clinton administration’s Iraq policy was under considerable pressure. Its covert support of mainly Kurdish Iraqi opposition groups based in northern Iraq under the banner of the Iraqi National Congress (INC) had collapsed in disarray in 1996 after an attempt by the INC