Iraq's challenge to Clinton

August 12, 1998

The Providence Journal said in an editorial Monday:

WHILE Washington remains transfixed by Monica Lewinsky, the world goes its own way, reminding the president and other U.S. officials of their onerous duty to keep American foreign policy on an even keel.

America's foes may be choosing this time to test U.S. resolve, figuring that the Clinton administration is too distracted to be a formidable adversary. But that would be a grave miscalculation.

First, we had Iraq's decision to break off cooperation with U.N. weapons inspectors. Then, Friday, we had the bombings at the American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. President Clinton had rightly vowed to pursue every avenue to bring the perpetrators of the bombings to justice. But of even more long-term import is the need to re-establish the inspection system in Iraq.

A few months ago, sarin-gas residues were discovered at Iraqi facilities. This is only a very small suggestion of the chemical and biological mayhem that Iraq has been working on to throw its weight around in the Mideast. And to let Iraq continue on this course would encourage other rogue states to do the same.

Mr. Clinton should first try to persuade United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan to pressure Saddam Hussein to stand down. It was Mr. Annan, after all, who came to the agreement with Mr. Saddam last winter to avert U.S. military action. The president should make it clear to both Mr. Annan and Mr. Saddam that Iraq's latest obstructionism is unacceptable. And Mr. Clinton must now prepare to boost American forces in the Persian Gulf -- and emphasize that he will use them if Iraq doesn't cooperate.

Mr. Clinton has shown a powerful ability to keep various aspects of his public and private life separate. He now has another opportunity to showcase this ability again.

Pub Date: 8/12/98

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