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By Ehud Barak

Ehud Barak is the former prime minister of Israel.

-- The U.N. Security Council has unanimously voted in favor of a new resolution calling for the resumption of U.N. inspections in Iraq. The realities of U.N. diplomacy may, in the end, lead the United States to accept the possible need for a second resolution before an operation in Iraq begins. But leaving an opening for the United States to act (probably together with Britain) on an Iraqi violation before a second resolution is passed is a crucial element in the effort to disarm Saddam Hussein and in the world war against terror as a whole.

It is crucial to have within the resolution such an opening for ''early action'' for three reasons. In its absence, Saddam might misinterpret what lies ahead for him, the world community resolve to carry on the struggle against terror might be deeply damaged, and the execution of a successful and decisive operation, when the time comes, will be compromised.

First, Saddam excels in judging cracks in the resolve of rivals and well understands the mechanics of a new inspection regime: three or four weeks before the inspectors land in Iraq, two or three months of intensive inspections activity before they can draw preliminary conclusions, two or three weeks of consultations between U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Anan about how to formulate the report and then, well into March or April 2003, a new debate about a second resolution. By then, as the Arab saying goes: ''Allah Karim.'' Literally: ''God is generous.'' Practical meaning: ''God will take care. Something could happen on the way that will solve the problem positively for observers of the faith.''

If Saddam feels that the United States is being dragged under European intransigence into this long corridor of diplomatic activity, without an ''early exit'' strategy into operational phase, he might believe that the determination to hold him accountable for his rogue record is fading away. His readiness to defy the U.N. Security Council resolution (UNSCR) as well as the United States will just increase.

Second, cracks are already appearing in the international community in regard to the support for operations against Saddam. The Saudi foreign minister made it clear that the Kingdom is reluctant to see American bases on its ground being used as launching pads for an attack against Saddam unless ordered by the Security Council. In the wake of the Islamic Party victory in the recent Turkish elections, Turkey, an essential ally, might be found somewhat less willing to cooperate. The mood in Germany and Europe as a whole is not supportive of the removal of Saddam. And even in the United Kingdom, questions are raised about the price tag of British participation in a war against Iraq: 3-5 billion pounds for the initial operation and up to 15 billion pounds if a long-term British military presence in Iraq would be needed. Those are not promising signs.

Third, the source of Saddam's apparent calm in what otherwise would amount to a cliff-hanging brinkmanship with his personal future at stake is the fact that he hoped for a ''soft'' resolution that would push his ''moment of truth'' far downstream. The basic circumstances of the coming collision dictate that no strategic surprise is achievable, but the absence of an ''early action'' exit would have made even tactical surprise, namely steps that might push Saddam out of balance, practically impossible. The United States would not have been able to incapacitate him from activating some of his preplanned responses. Thus the operational decisiveness and effectiveness of an attack would have been compromised.

Bearing in mind the overall price and potential death toll of a full-fledged attack, the United States should not exclude the option, however slight, of a surgical operation against the inner core of the regime at the opening stage of an attack, if Saddam will not comply with the newly defined inspection regime.

The events of the last two months -- the killing of the Marine in Kuwait, the explosion of the French tanker off Yemen, the tragic massacre in Bali, the Chechen hostage-taking in Moscow with its painful outcome and the advancements of the North Korean nuclear program -- indicate that this is just the beginning of a new world war. Putting an end to world terror and weapons of mass destruction in the hands of rogue despots is an ordeal that might well take half a generation, not just a year or two.

Faced with a choice between a definite conditioning of an attack on a second resolution and more ambiguous language that could be interpreted by the United States, when the time comes, to allow immediate action, the Security Council chose the latter -- and rightly so.

Had the United States failed to achieve such wording, a much heavier price would have had to have been paid in the future.
(c) 2002, Global Viewpoint. Distributed by Tribune Media Services International.
For immediate release (Distributed 11/8/02)