IRAQ has been on the back burner for a while. Its various problems are expected to heat up, even boil over, again this spring, with messy results. Iraq's strongman, President Saddam Hussein, may soon be flexing his muscles once more.
The United States-led coalition to liberate Kuwait did not want to create a power vacuum in Iraq but preferred to think that Saddam would be replaced, or at least, figuratively speaking, defanged. They emphatically affirmed the integrity of a sovereign Iraq, even one having military forces, but with a difference.
United Nations Security Council resolution 687 of April 3, 1991, set the cease-fire terms. It called for complete destruction of Iraq's nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons as well as its long-range missile capability. Verification by a UN Special Commission, UNSCOM, and by the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, was to be foolproof and unlimited. A strict customs regime was to ensure that Iraq could not resume import of weaponsmaking materials.
The disarmament conditions were backed by an economic blockade, to be lifted when the UN Security Council found Iraq to be in full compliance. But there's the rub. The IAEA says that nuclear disarmament is complete. UNSCOM feels that chemical weapons and missiles are pretty well ruled out.
Lately, however, doubts have arisen over biological weapons: Inspectors have uncovered Iraq's importation, before the war, of enough bacterial culture to produce two tons of biological agents. What happened? Officials say it was ``destroyed by rampaging mobs in the troubled early months of 1991.''