Iraq Tests U.S. Credibility

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If Iraq is bombed, it'll be because the U.S. has a point to make. "There's a lot of frustration internationally at the U.S. making empty threats about the use of force," says TIME U.N. correspondent William Dowell. "Washington is feeling the pressure to render military strikes a credible option, and there's no better target than Saddam." Defense Secretary Cohen is in Europe Tuesday to get Gulf War allies on board for action against Iraq's new defiance of the U.N. The Security Council meets Wednesday to formulate a response to Baghdad, which could be a prelude to military strikes -- although Russia, France, China and pro-Western Arab states are likely to remain firmly opposed.

But firing off a fleet of cruise missiles will raise new strategic problems for Washington: "Even though Saddam has now rendered U.N. arms control ineffective, it's not clear what an air strike actually achieves," says Dowell. "It may damage his military assets, but it's not likely to dislodge Saddam from power." So whether or not the Tomahawks fly, the post-Gulf War standoff game is about to change.