Military strike against Iraq looms: Charles Richards, Middle East Editor, assesses the likely consequences for Baghdad of its defiance of the UN

THE likelihood of military action against Iraq for its refusal to comply with United Nations resolutions increased dramatically yesterday after the White House spokesman said Iraq 'must be held accountable'.

The possibility of some military action became all the more likely after the withdrawal of United Nations inspectors from their fruitless vigil outside the Agriculture Ministry in Baghdad.

The UN inspectors had virtually camped outside the ministry for 17 days after the Iraqi government refused them entry to search for documents relating to Iraq's programme to develop weapons of mass destruction. The team leader, Mark Silver, said that they were withdrawing for their own protection after they had faced 'threats and physical pressure' from increasingly aggressive crowds clearly orchestrated by the Iraqi authorities against them.

The Iraqis, however, have remained defiant. The Agriculture Ministry debacle is only the latest incident. Elsewhere, a UN guard has been killed in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq and a car bomb nearly killed the wife of the French President, Francois Mitterrand.

Iraq's refusal to permit the UN inspectors access to the building is in clear violation of UN Security Council Resolution 687. This consequently gives the legal basis for any action, including military, which the United States might wish to take.

American and other Western diplomats said that this week the situation had reached its most serious level, but admitted that the US-led coalition against Iraq had few realistic options. As with the Gulf war, the United States has to identify both aims and means. Are its aims to punish Iraq, to remove Saddam Hussein or to speed the destruction of Iraq's weapons development programme? And how could these be achieved with more limited means after so many weeks of co- ordinated strikes in early 1991 failed to achieve total success?

President George Bush must weigh up the political risks. At one point, striking against Saddam Hussein would have improved his flagging presidential election standings. Now it could derail the Arab-Israel peace process, just as new life is being breathed into it.

The way in which President Saddam has stood up to the international community and survived throughout this period suggests that he is growing in confidence at home.

Many in the Arab world would like to see Saddam Hussein removed once and for all. Three of Iraq's regional neighbours - Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria - are preparing a co-ordinated effort to topple him. This has of itself created a notable rapprochement in the difficult and sensitive relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Some sort of air strike, to take out a weapons factory already earmarked for destruction, or to hit, for example, the Agriculture Ministry, might make the West feel that it was actually doing something positive. It would not of itself solve the longer-term problem of how to restrain Iraq's military and regional ambitions.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Arts and Entertainment
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)
newsBloomsbury unveils new covers for JK Rowling's wizarding series
News
scienceScientists try to explain the moon's funny shape
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Shine Night Walk 2014 - 'On the night' volunteer roles

Unpaid Voluntary Work : Cancer Research UK: We need motivational volunteers to...

Accounts Assistant (Accounts Payable & Accounts Receivable)

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Accounts Assistant (Accounts Payable...

Senior IT Trainer - Buckinghamshire - £250 - £350 p/d

£200 - £300 per day: Ashdown Group: IT Trainer - Marlow, Buckinghamshire - £25...

Education Recruitment Consultant- Learning Support

£18000 - £30000 per annum + Generous commission scheme: AER Teachers: Thames T...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star