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What's All the Fuss about Iraq?


Part 2: The Long Answer

And here's the long answer:

In 1991, Iraq fought in the Persian Gulf War against the United States and other countries. Iraq had taken over Kuwait, one of its neighbors, in what Iraq claimed was a dispute over oil drilling and national borders. To the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and other countries, this was just an example of one country taking over another.

The response of the U.N. and the world community was to work through non-military channels, imposing sanctions and other economic means to make it difficult for Iraq to keep buying and selling things on the world market. The U.N. did these things in hope that Iraq would leave Kuwait. That didn't happen. The result was the Gulf War, which lasted six weeks and ended in the defeat of Iraq and the liberation of Kuwait.

As part of the cease-fire agreement that ended that war, Iraq agreed to let weapons inspectors conduct periodic inspections of weapons factories in Iraq. People in the United Nations and elsewhere don't want any one country to have too many weapons, especially if the leader of that country is determined to try to control other countries. So, it was hoped, international representatives would be allowed to continue to make sure that Iraq was not building a stockpile of missiles, chemical weapons, or even bombs.

But since 1998, weapons inspectors have not been allowed into Iraq. This is a clear violation of international law, since Iraq is refusing to obey United Nations resolutions that require such inspections. The United States, in particular, wants to punish Iraq for not obeying those resolutions.

Word came this week that Iraq had agreed to allow inspectors back, but how long they will be able to stay and whether such inspections will uncover anything is a different question. And should Iraq default on its promise once again, many people will be in favor of a direct attack.

But any attack on Iraq must be viewed with some concern in the light of this fact: In the 1990s, Iraq admitted making thousands of gallons of liquid anthrax, the kind of biological weapon that can strike fear into anyone who hears the word.

If Iraq is still making anthrax, then it could unleash the bacteria on attacking troops. Iraq is also thought to have other chemical weapons that could harm invading armies.

Iraq also is thought to be stockpiling long-range missiles, the kind that can travel up to 400 miles. These kinds of missiles can strike at U.S. bases and allies in neighboring countries like Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

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