Iraq has lived with United Nations economic sanctions since August 1990, so far with no harm to the government but a great deal to its 17 million subjects. Libya fears a more limited economic sanction. Each harbors deeper fears of a possible U.S. military attack. Neither wants to comply with United Nations Security Council mandates. Each is maneuvering desperately. Signs are that, with each, economic sanctions or the threat of them have effect, but require more patience than Western policy-makers normally have.
Iraq has overtly complied with U.N. inspections for nuclear weapons development but impeded the investigators. Reportedly, they are following intelligence leads to a possible plutonium-producing reactor as yet undiscovered. The latest development is that Iraq has told the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency inspection team it wants to come clean. He is satisfied.
The catch is that the U.N. Security Council has other concerns, including Saddam Hussein's blockade against Kurds in the north, his trade sanctions violations, information on missing Kuwaitis, his refusal to sell oil for food for his people as the U.N. instructs, and the location of other weapons of mass destruction. But the Security Council itself is not coming clean. Two of its permanent members, Britain and the United States, want sanctions to remain until Saddam Hussein falls. But that is not a stated Security Council goal. Reportedly, President Bush has authorized covert means to arrange his overthrow, and the Iraqi army has invaded the last redoubt of Shiite rebels in the south.