Iraq Cycle Goes Up a Gear

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U.N. arms inspectors barged into Saddam Hussein's party headquarters in Baghdad Wednesday, signaling Washington's intent to turn up the heat on Iraq. But once again, the endgame remains elusive. The Iraqis may have sparked a new crisis by blocked access after the U.N. team refused to provide a list of desired items. "Inspections have previously been only undertaken with probable cause and there's some precedent for the Iraqis asking for an explanation," says TIME U.N. correspondent William Dowell. "It looks like Washington wants to push things toward a new confrontation, but the U.S. still lacks an answer to what would come after bombs."

Special Report Baghdad, for its part, may have designed its strategy around the inevitability of U.S. bombing. "By downgrading its missions all over the world and at the U.N., Iraq appears to have given up on diplomatic efforts to end sanctions," says Dowell. "They may be hoping that American bombs will destroy sanctions by boosting sympathy for the Iraqi people." Whatever the outcome, both sides appear to agree that the present impasse can't hold. Especially with an impeachment vote on President Clinton looming.