Meanwhile, Back In Iraq

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Now that NATO is focused on Yugoslavia, what has become of the daily drumbeat of sorties over Iraq? To the surprise of U.S. military analysts, the Iraqis have been unexpectedly quiet, reports TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson. "U.S. planes still go out on missions every day to patrol the Iraqi no-fly zones," he says, "but since March 19 the Iraqis have not done anything to challenge the aircraft or violate those zones." The reason, reports TIME U.N. correspondent William Dowell, is that the Iraqis have succeeded in accomplishing some of their immediate goals and they can enjoy the respite provided by the Kosovo mission. The last crisis with Saddam led to the expulsion of U.N. observers, he says, "and now the U.S. and its allies have lost the capacity to monitor Iraq's biological weapons capacity."

In addition, Saddam has solid economic and political incentives to keep things calm while the U.S. and its allies are otherwise occupied. "There is a considerable amount of secret traffic going on through bordering Turkey and Jordan exchanging oil for food," says Dowell, "and the U.N. is looking the other way." Maintaining the current stalemate allows Saddam to survive quite nicely as a result of that trade, while at the same time he keeps considerable U.S. resources pinned down in his region. Why bother to upset the balance?