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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Compliance Should End Ban on Iraq

The world, the United States and the people of Iraq can breath a sigh of relief now that the immediate danger of war in the Persian Gulf has been averted.

High-level diplomacy, backed up by the threat of U.S. military action, has apparently forced Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to agree to the unrestricted visits by UN weapons inspection teams that he has been trying to avoid for the past four months.

This does not, however, mark the end of tensions between the United States and Iraq. The missiles might yet be launched.

It remains to be seen whether Iraq will live up to the spirit and the letter of the agreement it signed with Kofi Annan on Monday. There is no saying that Saddam will not welch on the deal if it suits him.

If he does, we will be back at square one, and the United States will almost certainly renew its holy crusade against Iraq.

A more perplexing possibility for U.S. planners is that Saddam will carry out the agreement and allow the UN to destroy all his capacity for making weapons of mass destruction.

The problem for the United States is that if Iraq has demonstrably complied with UN resolutions on disarmament, there will be no justification for maintaining a regime of economic sanctions against it.

The world is already growing restive at the humanitarian damage the sanctions are causing to the people of Iraq. In a bid to improve conditions there, the United Nations recently voted to increase the amount of oil Iraq can sell under the oil-for-food program. It is quite likely that if Saddam is a good boy, Iraq's friends in Russia and France will start calling for a complete end to sanctions.

The United States may dislike Saddam, and some of the more sanguine Republicans in Congress may dream of ousting him by force, but eventually Iraq must be readmitted into the community of nations. Once Saddam complies with UN resolutions, under international law, there will be no grounds for singling his regime out for special censure.

It is likely that the United States will try to delay this possibility by insisting on ever more stringent guarantees that Iraq has destroyed all its weapons potential. The United Nations must of course make sure that Saddam has disgorged all his hidden poisons before it gives him a clean bill of health, and it may be necessary to maintain some form of monitoring.

But like it or not, Saddam may go straight, and the United States does not have the right to postpone the lifting of sanctions indefinitely.