The key to a successful solution of the Iraqi crisis lies in the new American-Soviet relationship. Unless the United States was reasonably certain that there would be no Soviet attack on Western Europe, it would not dare transfer half of its NATO ground forces and the best, most modern half of its heavy armor from Germany to the Persian Gulf. Unless the Soviet Union felt confident that U.S. goals so near its southern border were not antithetical to its own, it would not have joined in the United Nations pressure operation to boot Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.
Because American-Soviet understanding is so crucial, the next aim of U.S. diplomats in this drama should be to secure Moscow's approval of a new U.N. resolution specifically authorizing the use of force. "You'll see," a carefully anonymous Iraqi official was quoted last week. "As soon as Saddam is convinced that Gorbachev will support a military attack by Bush, our great leader will get out of his precious Kuwait."
Whether accurate or not, this subversive comment from Baghdad surfaced in between Mr. Hussein's firing of his oil minister and his army chief of staff. Close ties between the Iraqi military establishment and its Soviet armorers should not be discounted. Mr. Hussein lives in fear of a coup or assassination, and for good reason. He totally misjudged the implications of the post-Cold War situation that prevents third parties from the old game of playing one superpower against another.