Abba Eban famously said of Yasser Arafat that he never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Apparently Saddam Hussein studied at the same school as Arafat; a day after Congress voted overwhelmingly to give President Bush the authority to use military force against Iraq, Hussein decided to make a special effort to emphasize how uncooperative he would be.
The Iraqi government erected new hurdles today to unrestricted U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq, saying it could not provide security guarantees to U.N. aircraft in northern and southern Iraq and warning that new inspections could be impeded if the United Nations fails to pay for services that had previously been free.So Iraq explicitly promises to hinder the inspections, while making implicit threats to the safety of the inspectors. In addition, Iraq rebuffed Hans Blix, who has been desperately trying to pretend he can reach an agreement with Iraq to conduct inspections:
A senior Iraqi official, Gen. Amir H. al-Saadi, told Hans Blix, the U.N.'s chief weapons inspector, in a letter that "the aggressive military acts by the U.S. and British air forces" enforcing "no-fly" zones in northern and southern Iraq would "hamper" Iraq's capacity to guarantee the safety of weapons inspectors. U.N. officials maintain that the inability to fly their aircraft to U.N. offices scheduled to be set up in the regional capitals of Mosul and Basra in northern and southern Iraq could add several hours to the time it would take them to conduct inspections, eliminating the element of surprise.
Blix had appealed to Saadi in an Oct. 8 letter to confirm Iraq's commitment to abide by a series of U.N. terms for inspections of national security sites, interviews of scientists, surveillance operations and travel to suspected weapons facilities.So, now the unrestricted inspections are so unrestricted that the inspection teams need to negotiate even more than they already did two weeks ago.
But Saadi ignored Blix's request, proposing instead a resumption of negotiations to resolve "any difficulties which may confront our work." He also dismissed Blix's insistence that Iraq, which operates daily flights from Baghdad to Basra, has the ability to ensure the safety of U.N. aircraft along the same route.
Doesn't this argue against the theory that Saddam Hussein isn't really a threat even if he gets weapons of mass destruction because he can be deterred? The strategy of deterrence is based on the hope that Hussein will act rationally. But we see that even as the threat from the U.S. becomes more imminent, he's stonewalling inspections even more. Either his weapons programs are much farther along than we think, and he's desperate to hide the progress that Iraq has made, or he's irrational. Either way, it doesn't make one sanguine about avoiding war.