- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 8, 2000


Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is running rings around us again. The Russian tanker carrying Iraqi oil intercepted last week by the U.S. Navy provides physical proof of Saddam's determination to violate the U.N. embargo on Iraqi oil exports. According to U.S. intelligence, Saddam has been actively skirting the embargo and raised $62 million in illicit oil exports last month, as reported The New York Times. Saddam has also rebuilt military and industrial sites damaged in 1998 by U.S. and British air strikes, the article said.
And while Mr. Hussein has grown cagier and stronger, the U.N. Security Council's resolve to contain his power has progressively weakened. It has become increasingly clear the United States must move to aid the Iraqi opposition to depose the dictator and lay the groundwork for a peaceful post-Saddam government. Congress is ready for such action. The White House, despite its rhetoric, has repeatedly demonstrated it prefers complacency.
Administration officials say they remain determined to contain Saddam militarily, will maintain the embargo and will support the Iraqi opposition. There is little evidence to back up these assertions, though. In this election year, the United States has failed to respond to Iraq's rebuilding of previously bombed military and industrial installations.
The White House's support of the Iraqi opposition, meanwhile, is purely rhetorical. In October 1998, Congress passed the Iraq Liberation Act, which made Saddam's removal from power a U.S. priority and earmarked $97 million to help the Iraqi opposition depose him. Last year, the Clinton administration released only about $5 million of the $97 million. About $2 million was budgeted for office space and equipment and the remaining $3 million to provide communications and public relations training to the opposition. It is difficult to imagine how the opposition might mount a credible resistance to Saddam with PR training and fax machines. The White House's claim that it supports the Iraqi opposition is therefore laughable.
Efforts to reconvene weapons inspections, meanwhile, are off to an inauspicious start. France, China and Russia opposed the reappointment of original chief inspector Rolf Ekeus, who had the support of Britain, the United States and even U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. Instead, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council reached a compromise and appointed the diplomatic but guileless Hans Blix, formerly the leader of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
France, China and Russia have shown they won't endorse a credible inspection regime in Iraq. As reported by this paper's Bill Gertz, China and Russia are continuing to provide nuclear and missile technology and goods to rogue nations, such as Iran and North Korea. It is no wonder, therefore, that these countries also fail to back comprehensive inspections in Iraq.
The United States must forge an Iraq policy independent of this undistinguished company. Saddam is too brutal and devious to be contained through sanctions alone. His position in power undermines security in the region and is causing unspeakable suffering to the Iraqi people. The White House shouldn't wait. It must aid the Iraqi opposition in deposing the dictator, as Congress has proposed. In the meantime, Saddam will continue to rebuild his installations, skirt the embargo and torment his people.

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