Iraq Starts to Feel the Pinch

October 19, 1990

Saddam Hussein can be expected to explore every option before giving in. There are signs that he has started the exploration. The Soviet negotiator Yevgeny Primakov, in Washington after meeting the dictator, suggested that Iraq might withdraw from Kuwait in return for the acquisition of Babiyan Island and other concessions. Secretary of State James A. Baker III was right to rebuke the suggestion, which Baghdad then denied having made. But the idea gets to the heart of Iraq's designs on Kuwait before the invasion and has the look of an authentic trial balloon.

After Iraq looted Kuwait of its gold, food and other wealth in early August, two or three months were needed before Baghdad could begin to think about being pinched by economic sanctions orchestrated by the United States and mandated by the United Nations Security Council. That time appears to have come. The dictator is looking forward to lean times.

The Iraqi ruler's latest propaganda ploy is to offer oil to his enemies at $21 a barrel, the price he was seeking when the rate was $14. But there is no need to bite at this, when the U.S. Department of Energy shows that the oil shortage caused by removal of Iraqi and Kuwaiti products from the market has just about ended. Iraq needs the West's dollars more than the West needs Iraq's oil.

Despite the emotional Jerusalem incident, Yasser Arafat and the PLO are finding themselves isolated in Arab circles because of their support for Iraq's aggression. An Arab League ministerial meeting in Tunis rejected, by 11-to-10, a resolution condemning the United States reaction to the Jerusalem affair. Despite the assassination of the speaker of the Egyptian national assembly, the authorship of which is suspected rather than known, the regime of Hosni Mubarak has gained popularity for opposing Iraq's aggression.

Meanwhile, the circle about Iraq has tightened. United Nations Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar has hinted, no doubt for Iraqi consumption, at military action to enforce Security Council resolutions. The big five of the Security Council are polishing a draft resolution that, picking up on a British proposal, would authorize claims for damages against Iraq. There is every reason to think that the policies designed to roll back Iraq's invasion through economic pressure are starting to make themselves felt in Iraq.

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