In seeking to maintain economic sanctions on Iraq until Saddam Hussein is forced from power, the United States has no more effective ally than the Baghdad butcher himself. His latest escapade in self-destruction came this week when a United Nations inspection team was denied access to a suspected nuclear weapons development site but was able to eyeball the actual removal of large quantities of equipment.
When the Security Council heard the observer team's first-hand report and then was treated to an extraordinary Pentagon briefing featuring satellite pictures of cover-up operations, it authorized its president to protest formally and demand "access to the sites where this material has been transported." Iraq pledged its cooperation but not before accusing the United States of "empty allegations" as part of a campaign to prolong the embargo.
Once again the world is witness to Saddam's stupidity and clumsiness. Until the latest episode, sentiment had been building to allow Iraq to sell some of its oil so it could feed tens of thousands of its citizens threatened with starvation and disease. Now that sentiment is much diluted even if the plight of the Iraqi people is not. The Bush administration finds itself in a stronger position to keep the sanctions in place if that is its wish.