'Groundhog Day' in the Gulf

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Although the arms inspectors are eager to get back to work, the breakdown in the inspection system has given Iraq time to hide suspect items. "A few months from now, when they're getting closer to his weapons of mass destruction, Saddam simply blocks them again," says Waller.

As unsatisfactory as that scenario seems, the alternative may have been worse: "Bombing would have put an end to arms inspection, but it wouldn't have been able to eliminate his weapons-of-mass-destruction program," says Waller. "Then we'd be left with arms control by bombing, which could necessitate bombing Iraq every six months -- it's unlikely that Washington could find the political will or support for that."

At the core of the conflict sits a simple opposition: Iraq wants to end sanctions but seems to have no intention of relinquishing weapons of mass destruction; Washington wants to maintain sanctions until Saddam Hussein is history, and is determined to prevent Iraq from developing weapons of mass destruction. The problem is that the international community is sympathetic to aspects of both positions. Saddam finds no international backing when he bucks the arms-control system, but Washington finds little support for long-term sanctions against Iraq.

The U.S. is unable to break out of the logjam by delivering a decisive blow. To militarily topple the regime in Baghdad would involve a commitment of ground forces in excess of those deployed during Operation Desert Storm. That Washington could muster either the domestic and international support necessary to undertake such a venture is extremely unlikely, particularly since Saddam presents no immediate threat to his neighbors, as he did in 1991.

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