He-e-e's Back! Saddam Is a U.S. Dilemma Again

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Like Freddie Krueger, Saddam Hussein looks destined to haunt America with an apparently endless string of sequels. Last December's bombs — and eight years of sanctions — have failed to dislodge him, and Washington has now been forced to accept that the reservations expressed by its European and Arab allies over bombing — and the resultant removal of United Nations weapons monitors — may have been correct. So with the U.N. Security Council meeting Friday or Saturday to adopt a resolution easing some sanctions against Iraq in exchange for Baghdad's accepting a new monitoring system, Defense Secretary William Cohen has been drumming up domestic support for a shift by insisting that the key to stopping Saddam Hussein from building weapons of mass destruction is to have monitors on the ground in Iraq — exactly the argument used by the European allies against last December's bombing.

"The U.S. hoped to bomb Iraq back to the Stone Age and then forget about it," says TIME U.N. correspondent William Dowell. "But it's obvious now that you can't forget about Iraq, and it's hard to see what the bombing accomplished except to end the monitoring system. Now the U.S. appears to have come around to the European approach, emphasizing the need to have monitors in there." The danger now, though, is that UNSCOM (the United Nations Special Commission) gets replaced with a tamer and less confrontational monitoring body. "UNSCOM's combativeness eventually created political problems for both the Iraqis and the West," says Dowell. "There may be a temptation to avoid confrontation in a future monitoring system. And that's potentially a major problem, because the worst-case scenario would be a toothless monitoring system that creates a false sense of security." In other words, we're back at square one.