For quite some time, Iraq has failed to live up to its agreement with the United Nations to destroy its nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs. Last week, Saddam Hussein announced he would prohibit U.N. inspectors from carrying out scheduled visits to suspected illegal Iraqi weapons sites. The credibility of both the United Nations and the United States are on the line. Iraq must be forced to adhere to its agreements, even if it requires the use of military force.
In February, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan went to Baghdad to defuse a similar crisis. President Clinton declared the United States would use force if Saddam reneged on his promises. In August, Saddam did the same thing, and the United States did not respond. If no forceful punishment is inflicted on Saddam as a result of his latest violations, what sort of fear should any of the world’s dictators have of backing out of agreements?
The United States and United Nations cannot sit passively on the sidelines as Saddam continues to swagger about without fear of punishment. The United States needs to come up with a long-term strategic plan to deal with Iraq. Instead of facing a new crisis every few months, Washington must have an idea of what to do with Iraq over the next several years. It is up to policy-makers to decide whether that means working actively to overthrow Saddam or covertly undermining the regime. It is not an option, however, to allow Saddam to walk all over U.N. agreements and the credibility of the United States with impunity.