WASHINGTON — Washington. SADDAM HUSSEIN has made it repeatedly clear that he will not yield to the United States. Might he yet be persuaded to yield to the United Nations? It is useful to review the record.
Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2. Within hours, the U.N. Security Council voted 14-0, with Yemen abstaining, to condemn the invasion and demand ''unconditional and immediate'' withdrawal of Iraqi forces.
These were the council members who joined in Resolution 660: the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, France, China, Canada, Colombia, Cuba, Finland, Malaysia, Zaire, the Ivory Coast, Ethiopia and Romania.
Last month the terms of Canada, Ethiopia, Colombia, Finland and Malaysia expired. They have been replaced by delegates from Austria, Ecuador, Belgium, India and Zimbabwe. The five new members reportedly will stand firmly by the same established position: unconditional and immediate withdrawal.
The Security Council followed its resolution of August 2 with a second resolution four days later. Resolution 661 imposed economic sanctions on Iraq and authorized non-military measures to enforce them. (Thirteen for, Yemen and Cuba abstaining.)
On August 9, in Resolution 662, the United Nations declared Iraq's annexation of Kuwait null and void. (Unanimous, 15-0.)
On August 18, in No. 664, the council condemned Iraq for holding foreign nationals hostage and demanded their immediate release. (Unanimous, 15-0.)
Resolution 665, on August 25, tightened the sanctions by outlawing all trade with Iraq by land, sea and air. (Thirteen for, Yemen and Cuba abstaining.)
Other resolutions followed. Nos. 666 and 669 dealt with humanitarian aid. No. 667 condemned Iraq for violence against foreign embassies. By unanimous vote (No. 670) the council tightened the U.N.'s embargo on air traffic and authorized detention of Iraq's merchant fleet.
In October, with only Yemen and Cuba abstaining, the council adopted a stinging resolution (No. 674) holding Iraq responsible for all financial losses resulting from the invasion. On November 28, by unanimous vote (No. 677), the council condemned Iraq's attempt ''to alter the demographic composition of Kuwait.''
Finally, on November 29, in Resolution 678, came the most drastic statement in the series. The council voted to allow Iraq ''one final opportunity, as a pause of goodwill.'' That failing:
''The Security Council authorizes member states cooperating with the government of Kuwait, unless Iraq on or before 15 January 1991 fully implements . . . the foregoing resolutions, to use all necessary means to uphold and implement Security Council Resolution 660 and all subsequent relevant resolutions . . . ''
Saddam Hussein is not a madman. He is ruthless, arrogant, shrewd, bellicose, deceitful -- all of that -- but he is not mad. For public consumption he has continued to insist that he would never relent. But if he would like a way out, The heavy weight of 12 U.N. resolutions might provide the necessary fig leaves. Once Iraq withdraws -- unconditionally withdraws -- the situation changes. We would no longer be talking of freeing Kuwait but of punishing Iraq.
There would then be time to talk of reparations and to discuss the dismantling of atomic and chemical weapons. It would not be the United States, but rather the United Nations, imposing its will upon Iraq.