International Papers

The Rules of the Game

The international press is looking skeptically at the massive declaration Iraq filed over the weekend, in which it claimed to have ended all its illegal weapons programs. How does the report fit into Saddam Hussein’s game plan?

An editorial in the Guardian suggests that he “may yet succeed in dividing his opponents”:

Saddam Hussein has won the opening round in his final attempt to stave off military action by the US. He is playing a long game, to break the current consensus in the UN security council, and to tie the west in knots in expectation—hope even—that new al-Qaida attacks will divert attention away from Iraq towards the global “war” on terror.

The Telegraph, though, blasted the report in an editorial titled “Iraq insults our intelligence,” complaining that “If only he had admitted that he still had some chemical and biological weapons … it might have been a degree more convincing. … Saddam’s claim that he has suddenly disposed of all these weapons stretches credulity too far. His dossier is yet another of his games, played to weaken the resolve of the Western democracies and to retain his grip on power.”

“It will take weeks to comb through the verbiage” of the report, the Times of London predicted, adding, “As so often with Saddam Hussein, the short-term tactic is adroit, but the long-term political calculation is likely to be disastrous. … In the short term the inspections and this delivery of documents may convince anti-American capitals and provide some evidence for timorous Europeans that Baghdad is observing the UN resolution. But even fellow Arabs are sceptical” of Saddam’s strategy, following his unexpected (and poorly received) “apology” to Kuwait on Sunday.

Iraq may have met the Dec. 8 deadline for its declaration, but U.N. weapons inspections are far from over. The Christian Science Monitor notes that the real game has barely begun: “Now practice is over, and the UN is aiming to ensure inspectors can play the game properly. They more than doubled the 17-member inspection team Sunday as 25 new observers arrived. … By month’s end, 80 to 100 UN experts will be making daily inspections in Iraq, UN officials say.”