Danger grows in far-off Iraq

January 28, 1998

Excerpt from a Saturday Miami Herald editorial:

PRESIDENT Clinton's troubles have pushed disturbing events in Iraq out of sight, out of mind. That's too bad: The situation there is deteriorating fast.

A quick review: When the gulf war abruptly ended in 1991, Iraq was in no position to dictate terms. Its military forces -- even Saddam Hussein's elite Republican Guard -- were being routed on all fronts.

So the peace terms imposed by the victorious allies were properly strict. They range from a no-fly zone that's off-limits to Iraqi aircraft to inspections of Iraq's military installations.

A bold test

Gradually, however, Mr. Saddam has been emboldened to test the limits and to chip away at the multinational coalition that defeated him. His diplomatic campaign to end economic sanctions has already met with partial success.

Yet the most disturbing events are those of recent weeks. First, Mr. Saddam asserted the right to say who could conduct the United Nations arms inspections -- and who could not: Americans, with their superior technical expertise.

Then Mr. Saddam asserted the right to say where the inspection teams could go -- and where they could not: to any of the scores of ''presidential sites.'' Several are believed to house biological- and chemical-warfare facilities.

Now Saddam has asserted the right to say when inspection teams may proceed -- and when they may not: not until April, at best.

If Mr. Saddam continues his defiance, then the United States -- acting in concert with its allies if possible, but unilaterally if need be -- must show its resolve by making pre-emptive airstrikes against selected military targets in Iraq.

Pub Date: 1/28/98

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