Saddam Hussein's Concession

April 10, 1991

The United Nations had better police vigilantly the cease-fire agreement with Iraq. Saddam Hussein, his Revolutionary Command Council and the rubber-stamp parliament all agreed to it. But they did so under duress, they denounced it as unjust and, if experience is a guide, they will repudiate the terms when it suits their purposes.

With U.S. troops occupying 15 percent of the country, U.S. planes controlling the skies and the United Nations enforcing an economic boycott, Iraq had to agree to U.N. cease-fire language to begin reconstruction of its devastated country.

The 1919 Treaty of Versailles imposed on defeated Germany by the victors of World War I was similarly punitive. It was burnished as crime and humiliation in the mythology of Germany's extremists, until, after Hitler came to power, Germany repudiated it. Even before then, Germany's military had subverted the arms limitation terms.

Saddam Hussein was the power behind Iraq's dictatorship when Kurdish revolt tore the country apart in 1974-75. The shah of Iran openly helped Iraq's Kurds. Then the Iraqi dictatorship and the Iranian monarchy made a deal. The shah sold out the Kurds, whose rebellion capsized. In return, Iraq gave up its claim to sole jurisdiction over the Shatt el Arab waterway, giving both countries unrestricted rights to it.

But Saddam Hussein and his Baathist Party colleagues didn't mean it. He took the title of president in 1979. The next year, with Iran in revolutionary chaos, he tore up the treaty, renounced its concession on the waterway and invaded Iran. This is what he may well do about high-tech weapons and the Kuwaiti border if ever he can.

To attain the cease-fire, Saddam Hussein has agreed to international inspection to guarantee the permanent dismantling of chemical, biological, nuclear and missile weapons. He agreed to a 20-page resolution that spells out how Iraq's future oil revenue will be taken to pay reparations to Kuwait. He accepted responsibility for environmental damage by Kuwait's burning oil wells. But he did it all under protest.

Saddam Hussein remains the dictator of Iraq and his view of history prevails there. So long as he or his henchmen rule, Iraq will renounce this treaty as easily as American pilots, who confessed war crimes while in Iraqi captivity, repudiated them afterward. Iraqi leaders cannot help but notice that American officials expect to have the last troops out of Iraq by the end of the month.

A real security for the cease-fire agreement would be a repudiation of Saddam Hussein by Iraq. This would require giving power to people who blame his villainy for the collapse of their country. Until then, the cease-fire agreement will be no better than the international policing of it.

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