Then again, Iraq's abrupt termination of talks with Richard Butler suggests that Saddam may be preparing to again suspend cooperation with the U.N. weapons inspectors. And that could be Washington's best hope: "If the Iraqis overplay their hand and get belligerent, that could provoke the Security Council into continuing sanctions," says Waller. Indeed, without Saddam Hussein's legendary capacity for overreaction, sanctions might already have been history.
The breakdown of U.N. arms talks with Iraq sets the stage for yet another standoff in the fall. But this time, Washington will find it even more difficult to rouse a posse to go after him. "By ending talks with the U.N. inspectors, Iraq is setting things up for a confrontation in October when sanctions come up for review," says TIME correspondent Doug Waller. "Baghdad is counting on support from France, China and Russia for an end to sanctions, and the U.S. will face an even bigger fight this time around."