The UN's weapons inspectorate chief and Iraq have agreed on tentative terms for the conduct of weapons inspections, which in theory could begin as early as two weeks from now. But the success of any such deal depends as much on the men who will carry out the inspections as on the details of when, where, and how they are carried out.
Hans Blix will head the UN arms inspectorate charged with searching for, finding, and destroying Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. I have known Blix for over forty years. In 1960 he was my deputy when I was a leader of the Swedish Liberal Youth organization. Since then I have followed his career closely. He became Sweden's foreign minister for a year and was later a director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna.
Personally, Blix is amiable and has a sense of humor; politically he is weak and easily fooled. I can think of few European officials less suitable for a showdown with Saddam Hussein. Indeed, it is with utter disbelief that I watch television news about Blix's negotiations with the Iraqi dictator's henchmen.
The world has been amply warned about Blix's weaknesses because he has a track record of compounded failure. When Blix headed the IAEA before the Gulf War of 1991, he blithely assured the world, after several inspections, that nothing alarming was happening in Iraq. He delivered the clean bill of health that Saddam had hoped for when he began hiding his atomic factories and ambitions.