Iraq News APRIL 24, 1998

By Laurie Mylroie

The central focus of Iraq News is the tension between the considerable, proscribed WMD capabilities that Iraq is holding on to and its increasing stridency that it has complied with UNSCR 687 and it is time to lift sanctions. If you wish to receive Iraq News by email, a service which includes full-text of news reports not archived here, send your request to Laurie Mylroie .

APRIL 24, 1998

  The text of Thursday's Iraqi cabinet statement, as reported by the 
Iraqi News Agency, was tougher than it appeared from Friday's NYT and 
wire service reports [even as it was not reported at all by the Wash 
Post].  The seriousness of the Iraqi regime when it speaks formally and 
officially--as in that statement--cannot be overemphasized. 

   Not since the end of the Gulf war has the cabinet [or any superior 
Iraqi authority] so clearly demanded the lifting of sanctions, while 
threatening that something serious, if undefined, would occur if that 
did not happen.  There is another crisis coming, but Saddam seems to 
have something more significant in mind than the two rounds of 
confrontation that have occurred since Oct 29 97, when the RCC ordered 
the expulsion of US members of UNSCOM from Iraq.  

    On Apr 23, the Iraqi cabinet said, "The world now has two 
options-—either to lift the embargo or maintain it.  The first will lead 
to some sort of relationship, understanding, and cooperation, while the 
second will lead to a new state of affairs."

   Never before has the cabinet [or any superior Iraqi authority] so 
clearly defined a specific event as a turning point, after which the 
situation will be different in such a way that it is properly called "a 
new state of affairs."   And that event is Monday's UNSC sanctions 

    The US will prevail on Monday.  Sanctions will not be lifted, 
because Iraq retains such fantastic quantities of proscribed 
unconventional weapons that there is no ambiguity.  No honest person can 
say that Iraq is in compliance with UNSCR 687.  Indeed, that was the 
judgment of the recently concluded, supra-UNSCOM TEM's.

    But Saddam has probably anticipated this outcome.  He is not one to 
judge the outside world, particularly the US, more benign than it is.  
Rather, he judges it to be weak.  Thus, Saddam most probably plans to do 
something at some point after the sanctions review that will create a 
"new state of affairs."  Probably, he has been planning to do this-—and 
probably he has something specific in mind--since the confrontation 
erupted in the open last October and perhaps even since March 97, when 
the first public hints of the confrontation can be seen [see "Iraq News" 
Oct 30]. 

   In its statement, the Iraqi cabinet also "reaffirmed that Iraq has 
offered all it has and even offered things that were impossible for the 
Iraqi mind to accept.  However, Iraq accepted all of that in order to 
give its partners and the fair-minded ones in the world an additional 
chance to bolster the just position on the embargo imposed on Iraq."

   That language echoes the Oct 29 RCC statement, "Regardless of the 
bitterness and anger embedded in our psyches, hearts and consciences, 
and for the purposes of knowing the results that could be yielded by the 
efforts of the countries that have recently taken balanced and fair 
positions inside and outside the Security Council, we deem it wise to 
give these countries another chance to act upon the dictates of justice 
and fairness to lift the blockade.  Meanwhile, we will keep the 
recommendations of the National Assembly under the consideration of the 
[?key] responsible state and party leaders, each according to his 
constitutional responsibility and in light of the ensuing developments 
and the realities of international and Arab relations."  

    The Nat'l Assembly, in a statement broadcast on Iraqi TV Oct 27, 
recommended that "the RCC, the various state organs, and the Foreign 
Ministry shall make a decision on freezing relations with the UNSCOM in 
particular and the other related resolutions, particularly the 
activities that threaten national security and that the United States 
stands behind until it becomes clear to Iraq in an unequivocal manner 
and based on a specific, not long time frame that the blockade would be 
lifted, beginning with the implementation of Paragraph 22 of Resolution 
687."  That may be the most relevant language in all this.  In any case, 
we will see soon enough.

    The Iraqi cabinet also said in its Apr 13 statement "Iraq has the 
willpower and ability to defend this willpower."  It concluded by 
denouncing the embargo and the US, affirming, "We have no alternative 
but to make our enemy feel that it has to pay a heavy price if it 
decides to maintain the embargo on our people."