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Thursday, February 26, 1998 Published at 19:30 GMT

US: Can Clinton Sell Iraqi Deal?
image: [ US military: privately pleased with diplomatic success ]
US military: privately pleased with diplomatic success

US Republican charges that President Bill Clinton has handed Washington's Iraq policy over to the United Nations are a sign of problems ahead for the administration in selling the deal on weapons inspections. The BBC's US Affairs Analyst, Maurice Walsh, considers why an agreement that has averted war might seem unsatisfactory to some Americans.

Several American commentators have noted an air of frustration hanging over the apparently satisfactory outcome to the latest confrontation with Iraq that, on the face of it, is difficult to explain.

[ image: Kofi Annan: accused of controlling Washington's Iraq policy]
Kofi Annan: accused of controlling Washington's Iraq policy
First, it appears that the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, has achieved the optimum objectives of Washington's policy over the past few weeks. President Clinton and his senior foreign policy advisors can boast free and unfettered access for UN weapons inspectors, conceded after diplomatic pressure, not military action. That's what said they wanted all along.

Second, US military commanders privately confide they told the President a diplomatic exit would suit them just as well, given the uncertainties about the possibility of outright military success.

And it was clear from the rowdy town meeting attended by President Clinton's foreign policy team in Ohio last week that there was vocal opposition to military action in Iraq.

So why is there this sense of let down and unfulfillment?

Trent Lott, the Republican leader in the US Senate, expresses one element of this feeling by accusing the Clinton administration of appeasement. Mr Lott said the outcome of the Iraqi crisis showed that it was the UN calling the shots, not the United States.

[ image: Senate Republican leader Trent Lott: some distance to go until satisfactory outcome is reached]
Senate Republican leader Trent Lott: some distance to go until satisfactory outcome is reached
This should strike a chord with many Americans nostalgic for the heyday of US power who see no reason why the world's only superpower should not dictate policy to other nations. They find the idea that Washington might have backed down because France or Russia or China were disinclined to go to war an insult to their national self-image.

But, the Clinton Administration itself may have generated some of this sense of anti-climax.

Over the last few weeks the President and his advisors used some tough talk about dealing with Saddam Hussein in their arguments for a military strike. They demonised the Iraqi leader as a "dangerous tyrant" and an "insidious dictator". Now they have to explain to Americans why they'll have to live with this man still in power in Baghdad.

The noisy town meeting in Ohio last week contained some clues as to the confused state of American public opinion.

Sure there were loud voices, reminiscent of the anti-Vietnam protests opposed to any US military action. But the Clinton foreign policy team was also assailed by those who argue that American troop losses are not worthwhile unless Saddam is driven from power.

Attempts to explain that the objectives of military action would be limited and would not include Saddam Hussien's removal didn't seem to capture anyone's imagination.

Now President Clinton must have recourse to subtlety once again to explain the deal cut in Baghdad. Americans weaned on simple truths about evil empires may not respond wholeheartedly.

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In this section

Baghdad co-operates with UN inspectors

Text of the resolution warning Iraq

Iraq tests limits of weapons inspections deal

US keeps forces on alert in Gulf

Full text of UN-Iraq agreement

Iraqi deal: winners and losers

A turning point for the UN?