My friends and I think that the U.S. will probably invade Iraq during the first New Moon after Christmas — the first week of Jan, 2003.
There seems to be almost nothing that the U.N. inspectors could do to stop it — they can say, “Well, we didn’t see anything”, but there’s already enough to warrant military action (at least according to U.S. officials), evidenced in the fact that Iraq fires on U.S. planes enforcing the “no-fly-zone” almost daily. This has been going on since the “end” of Desert Storm.
It also appears that the U.S. has been preparing for an invasion for many months, amassing supplies and equipment all over the region.
The very last step before an invasion is to send the invasion force — the people — to the region, something which could take place in a matter of days or weeks.
The U.N. inspectors will be done on Dec 8, 2002. After that, all that’s left is last-minute (and probably half-hearted) diplomacy, and then it’s “Merry Christmas, let’s go to Iraq”.
Who knows. Maybe it will be February.