Iraqi threat remains

Kofi Annan returned from Iraq with good news. The United Nations Secretary General met with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in a last-ditch effort to restore U.N. weapons inspections begun after the 1991 Gulf War. In that the agreement Annan brought back from Baghdad met with U.S. approval and therefore prevents a war this week, Annan succeeded. But the agreement is a temporary fix at best. Annan’s deal only reinstated the status quo, with a few relatively minor concessions to Iraq. Hussein still poses a serious threat of possessing both chemical and biological weapons and the means to produce more. If Iraq is not stripped of these weapons, Hussein will most likely use them again. And given a chance to protect what’s left of his arsenal, he will most likely violate his agreement with Annan. Hussein has broken three similar agreements since the Gulf War.
Hussein is an international villain. He is a master terrorist. And he doesn’t scare easily. It’s not hard to imagine Hussein using the recent standoff to shuffle his arsenal and better hide his weapons of mass destruction. That seems to be his pattern; when the inspectors get too close to the truth, he creates an international standoff. Then, when his weapons are hidden away once more, he gives in and agrees to new, usually better terms. The inspectors return, and the shell game begins again.
Remember, he has used weapons of mass destruction before, against both neighboring nations and his own people. Hussein was prevented from using them in 1991 only by American and Israeli threats to retaliate with nuclear weapons, the one attack that could harm him personally. Hussein has two interests: accumulating power and surviving. Everything else, including the welfare of his people, is disposable.
Iraq’s dictator has waged his campaign of fear against the world for too long now. He must be disarmed and removed from power soon and for good. Every step short of outright assassination should be considered. Hussein’s removal should start now, with renewed inspections and a tightening of U.N. rules. The no-fly zone should be expanded to cover all of Iraq and ground Hussein’s air force. Current American readiness to punish Hussein, with limited allied help, should continue indefinitely. The Iraqi dictator must know that further defiance of U.N. rules will result in swift action against his regime. But all this would still leave Hussein in charge while his nation crumbles around him.
Some measures that move toward Hussein’s overthrow include recognizing a provisional government with leaders from the Iraqi National Congress. Almost $1.6 billion in frozen Iraqi assets could be turned over to a government-in-exile, and a swath of territory in northern Iraq could be cleared of Hussein’s authority. A provisional government could also broadcast a radio free Iraq. The United Nations needs to indict Hussein for war crimes and challenge the seat his government holds at the United Nations. But the international community probably will not challenge Hussein’s right to rule. Diplomatic efforts and vigilance are already pushed to their limits with Iraq. As long as Hussein’s reign continues, only the threat of force can keep him in line. The United States must be prepared to make that threat, and to back it with action if Hussein cheats again.