Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Pro and Con on Iraq

The deal that United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has just struck with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is a very good one for the United States. It gets qualified and politically balanced inspectors back into any and all sites they wish to visit in Iraq, for as long as they need to be there, with only some face-saving changes to persuade Saddam to go along with the deal. It will do more to eliminate Saddam's illicit weapons than an air campaign could have.

The United States made it clear to Saddam in 1990 that any use of weapons of mass destruction in the Desert Storm operation would lead to a devastating retaliatory blow, and he seems to have gotten the message. Although evil and adventurous, he is not stupid or suicidal. We can probably contain him just as we contained the Soviets for half a century -- and just as we continue, with our South Korean allies, to contain North Korea.

Can Saddam be trusted? Of course not. But he will have a hard time quickly repudiating this new deal. Having publicly acknowledged that it addresses Iraq's concerns over sovereignty, he would lose a great deal of support in places such as Moscow and in Arab capitals if he immediately tore up the new agreement. And Saddam generally picks his fights with us only when he believes at least some other countries will take his side. Few would now.

It is true that things could change in a year or two. For example, if inspectors find no weapons for an extended period, Saddam may well claim that he has satisfied all UN Security Council resolutions, call for an end to sanctions and threaten to expel inspectors again. But we will have had more time to search for weapons of mass destruction by then. We will have reminded the butcher of Baghdad that it is the world community that sets the rules here, not him, and that many of our original anti-Saddam coalition partners remain firmly with us. We will be able to use our UN Security Council veto to keep sanctions on Iraq should inspectors be expelled. Iraq's conventional military forces will have atrophied further in the meantime. And, if necessary, we can weaken Iraqi forces further with an air campaign at that time. In all, not a bad set of options.

Saddam is still in a box. He is killing relatively few people these days. Our core interests in the Persian Gulf region remain secure. And we did not have to put any innocent Iraqi civilians, or the political cohesion of our position in the Mideast, at risk by conducting an actual military strike. Even if it leaves our mustachioed nemesis in power in Iraq, this is an unambiguous victory for the United States, Kofi Annan and all those who stood with us.

Michael O'Hanlon is a fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington. He contributed this comment to Newsday.

By Alexander Shumilin

Can the recent weapons inspections agreement with the United Nations in any way be considered a "Victory of the Iraqis over Satan-America," as the headline of a leading Baghdad paper put it? Although he passed off his capitulation for a victory, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein succeeded not only in strengthening his authority in Iraq and other Arab countries but in being a catalyst of serious changes on the world political scene.

Saddam has managed to profit by provoking the crisis with the United Nations. On one hand, he became in the eyes of the Iraqis and other Arabs an undying hero-warrior against the United States and Israel. On the other, he has reminded the UN about the country's problems and demanded that the embargo be lifted from Iraq. Having brought the crisis to a boiling point, just as the concentration of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf had reached its peak, he very quietly yielded to UN demands during a last-chance diplomatic mission.

Saddam has carried out what can be called crisis diplomacy, which has dealt a serious blow to the relations between the United States and its European allies as well as Russia.

President Boris Yeltsin's statements about the possibility of a third world war if the United States bombed Iraq shows that the warm relations between Moscow and Washington have cooled considerably. What emerged from the crisis was nothing less than a demonstration of the simple readiness of Moscow to oppose Washington. Russia's foreign policies seemed under the influence of the opposition in the State Duma -- or, to be more exact, of the Communist Party and Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party. For neither the Foreign Ministry nor the Kremlin issued any statements that distanced themselves from the hooligan-like behavior of the LDPR leader in Baghdad.

Tensions were also heightened between the United States and the leading Ara b oil-producing countries. It required great efforts on the part of Secretary of Defense William Cohen to convince the Arab monarchs if not to support the United States then at least not to stand in its way. In the end, Saddam's crisis diplomacy succeeded in casting a pall over the good relations with these countries.

There can be no doubt that, if necessary, the United States will carry out strikes against Iraq without vainly consulting either Moscow or Paris. "If Iraq tries to interfere in the activities of the UN inspectors or in some other way obstructs the efforts of the special commission, we will act rigorously, decisively and without delay," said Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. "We won't allow Saddam Hussein to drag us into one crisis after another."As it turned out, however, Saddam has dragged the United States into the orbit of his crisis diplomacy, which has cost America dearly.

Alexander Shumilin is a staff writer for Kommersant Daily. He contributed this comment to The Moscow Times.