Iraq's Presidential Inspection

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BAGHDAD: It hardly registered on the radar of the world’s media, but an historic event took place here today. For the first time since the Gulf War, U.N. weapons inspectors entered an Iraqi presidential site Thursday. The Radwaniyah Palace in Bagdad played host to 20 busloads of UNSCOM officials and their diplomatic escorts -- all primed and ready to pounce on any evidence of weapons of mass destruction, right?

Not quite. The unwieldy convoy hardly constitutes a rapid response team, and Iraqi officials had been notified of the inspection ahead of time. UNSCOM is keeping its expectations low for these early “baseline” visits. Whether they will turn up anything in future trips remains to be seen. More important to Iraq is how many trips it will take before Baghdad is granted a clean bill of health. One crumb of comfort for the Iraqis: Richard Butler, the belligerent UNSCOM chief, is being rotated out as the inspections begin.