Guard inspectors in Iraq

President George W. Bush’s stern, open-ended warning issued Tuesday seems to signal his administration is gearing up for a shift in how they deal with Iraq. Bush ordered Iraq to allow United Nations weapons inspectors to reenter the country. Iraq, predictably, feigned outrage at the notion. If indeed the Bush administration is ready to take a new tack with Iraqi relations, their first move should be an appeal to the UN: Lift the sanctions.

An Iraqi official told their news agency they would admit inspectors only if the decade-old economic sanctions were lifted. In addition, Iraqi officials called for an immediate cessation of patrols over the northern and southern no-fly zones.

Paradoxically, the sanctions and no-fly zones were put in place with the stipulation that they would be removed as soon as the UN determined Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and was not attempting to manufacture any.

Considering the current instability of the region and the tenuous coalition built by Secretary of State Colin Powell, the United States needs to do something soon. And with waning international support for the sanctions, the United States should, in the best interests of coalition maintenance, organize an international effort to simultaneously remove the sanctions and cease patrolling the no-fly zones.

Then, the next day, UN inspectors should move into Iraq under the protection of divisions of armed military personnel.

A full invasion of Iraq would destroy Powell’s coalition in the region. Saudi Arabia would pull its support and, with it, the use of its eastern border as a base of operations. Without Riyadh’s backing, the decisive Desert Storm victory would not have been possible. Because Hussein knew we needed the Saudis and because he knew the Saudis would not go along with removing him from power, he could afford to not use weapons of mass destruction against American troops. Such a move would have sealed his fate. If, however, he knew his days were numbered, he would have nothing stopping him from launching chemical weapons, killing hundreds of thousands of American soldiers.

So before Saudi Arabia and the United States have a chance to talk about the limits to another invasion, U.S. forces should enter Iraq and ensure there are no stores of weapons of mass destruction. If there are none, there is no need to invade. If there are arsenals, the Iraqi army will almost certainly try to stop the UN from getting to them. However, with the sanctions lifted, Hussein will have little international support for doing so, making it easier for the United States to continue its efforts elsewhere. If the Bush administration is committed to eliminating any potential Iraqi threat, they must take the initiative.