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Stratfor analysis: U.S. May Be Attempting to Get Out of Its Iraqi Box

This Stratfor analysis comments on the London meetings earlier in the
week.  The news itself is interesting, and possibly hopeful.  Two notes,
though: first, "stated US policy" may not be as clear as it is stated
below; repeated US statements have promised that sanctions will last as
long as the existing Iraqi regime does.  Second, as even the French
proposal (more favourable to Iraq than its only real alternative, the
UK-Dutch proposal) suspends but does not lift the sanctions, I am
surprised that an even more generous package should be considered now.

Colin Rowat
Coordinator, Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq (or)

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2220 GMT, 990916 – U.S. May Be Attempting to Get Out of Its Iraqi Box

U.S. and UK delegates to a September 15 UN meeting in London agreed to
discuss lifting all non-military Iraqi sanctions in conjunction with a new
arms inspection regime, according to both Reuters and Agence France-Presse
on September 16. This marks a reversal of stated U.S. policy, possibly an
indication the U.S. is looking for a way out of its failed Iraq policy. 
Stated U.S. policy on the sanctions regime is clear. A State Department
report released on September 13 reads, "Sanctions will remain in place
until [UN Security Council] requirements are fully met." Saddam Hussein
has not obliged, and there is no indication that the status of outstanding
issues, such as weapons of mass destruction, has changed since the last UN
inspectors left in December 1998.
Under the plan reportedly discussed in London, which will be considered by
the Permanent Five foreign ministers next week in New York, Iraq would
only have to comply with weapons inspectors for a "trial period" before
sanctions are removed. This contrasts with the standing Anglo-Dutch
proposal, which the U.S. has supported until now, that the sanctions would
be "suspended" for set periods of time after which the Iraqis would have
to pass a review to maintain the suspension. 
Why would the U.S. be interested in finding a way out its current policy?
First, as we have pointed out previously there is no clear end-game to the
current policy unless either the U.S. or Saddam Hussein crumbles. Saddam
has shown no signs of crumbling. On the other hand, the U.S. is under
increasing pressure abroad to redefine its Iraq policy. Intransigence on
Iraq limits the U.S.’s options in the region.  Second, the U.S. would also
like to redeploy some of its air assets from the region. Kosovo
demonstrated just how quickly a crisis could stretch U.S.  airpower to its
operational limits.  Third, maintaining a failed Iraq policy presents a
risk of embarrassment that could haunt Al Gore, the administration’s
presidential candidate, in the upcoming primary season.

Any change in the U.S. policy remains unofficial for the time being. U.S. 
officials have so far declined to comment on the outcome of the London
meeting. If a real change is in the air, it may indicate that the U.S. has
finally accepted that the box into which it thought it had placed Saddam
entraps the U.S. as well.

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