Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 219

The surprise, Russian-brokered deal to end the standoff between Iraq and the UN, finalized early yesterday morning in Geneva (see yesterday’s Monitor), continues to generate questions and some skepticism. Details of the deal, which was hammered out earlier in the week during a visit by Iraqi deputy prime minister Tareq Aziz to Moscow, have still not been disclosed. Clinton administration officials insist, however, that the UN and the U.S. made no concessions to Iraq in return for Baghdad’s approval of a return of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq, and for the full resumption of their activities. U.S. officials insist, moreover, that the Russian-Iraqi deal is precisely that — an agreement between Moscow and Baghdad — which carries no obligations for the UN. They deny, among other things, that the U.S. has agreed to any reorganization of the UN weapons inspection team. Baghdad had insisted that the U.S. presence on the team be reduced.

White House officials, including President Bill Clinton, expressed skepticism yesterday over the likelihood that Iraq will comply fully with UN resolutions, as Baghdad has pledged under the Russian plan. To underscore that wariness, Pentagon officials announced that the U.S. would send an additional 32 warplanes to the Persian Gulf region. "We must be quite cautious about this. This [crisis] is not over," White House national security advisor Samuel Berger told reporters. He said that Washington would continue its two-pronged policy of pursuing a diplomatic solution to the Iraq crisis while simultaneously threatening military action.

During a visit to Cairo yesterday, Tareq Aziz appeared to confirm that Iraq had won no concessions from the UN in return for its decision to allow immediate resumption of the work of the UN weapons inspectors. But he did indicate that Iraq had received assurances from Russia that Moscow would work for a "just and fair diplomatic solution" to Baghdad’s confrontation with the UN. "I am not speaking of specific commitments [from the UN]," Aziz told reporters, "but Russia has promised to work toward the… lifting of UN sanctions and to affirm that the [UN] Special Commission will respect Iraq’s sovereignty." (Reuter, U.S. media, November 20)

FBI Director Downplays Russian Crime.