Peace, At No Price

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BAGHDAD: Peace in our time? The Iraqi News Agency today reported the news everyone’s been waiting for three weeks to hear: all United Nations weapons inspectors, including the American contingent, will be allowed back into the country to continue their work. The White House is still somewhat skeptical, but it seems almost certain that Saddam has stepped down from the standoff.

In the end, it was all down to the deal brokered by Russia Wednesday — and don’t think Moscow isn’t going to crow about it. “Without any use of violence, any use of weapons, without a show of force, it was achieved through diplomatic means,” said Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov after the emergency middle-of-the-night meeting between permanent Security Council members in Geneva.

Saddam and his parliament seem satisfied that the Russians will work on their behalf to implement the crucial article 22 of U.N. resolution 687 — which, of course, you know by heart — and its promise to end sanctions once Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction are neutralized. Saddam’s happy because he gets to look heroic to the Iraqi people, and didn’t have to deal directly with the hated Americans. Clinton should be happy, because he didn’t blink and the return of inspectors is unconditional. Who’d have thought — a rational solution in the Gulf that doesn’t involve cruise missiles.