The U.S. believes the legal basis for a strike was established by previous U.N. resolutions, and is against sending Kofi Annan back to Baghdad to seek another compromise. Even if it turns out to be simply an attempt to bluff Iraq into backing down, the new approach certainly suits William Cohen -- the steely defense secretary is less convincing answering questions from doubters than he is playing the man-of-action shtick.
Call it the Clint Eastwood approach: Iraq is anticipating a U.S. cruise missile strike any day now, despite Washington hardly uttering a threat. Baghdad is worried, in fact, precisely because of the administration's ominous silence. "There's a marked change in the U.S. approach from the last time," says TIME U.N. correspondent William Dowell. "William Cohen has taken no reporters on his Mideast mission, and acting U.N. ambassador Peter Burleigh isn't talking to the press either -- it's as if we're trying to convince Iraq we're serious by not saying anything."