G-7 Pressure on Saddam

July 17, 1991

Saddam Hussein, the man who isn't there, has shaped the agenda of the Group of Seven summit almost as much as the man who is there, Mikhail S. Gorbachev. While leaders of the free world democracies ponder their response to the Soviet president's pitch today for Western support of his economic reform programs, they already have put the Iraqi dictator on notice that his regime will remain a targeted pariah until he is gone or complies with the toughest United Nations sanctions in history.

The new phrase for this is "preventive diplomacy," a doctrine growing directly out of Iraq's seizure of Kuwait less than a month after the 1990 G-7 summit virtually ignored the United Nations. Had the doctrine been in effect a year ago, Saddam's aggression might never have happened. Now that it is proclaimed against a background of Security Council support for collective military action, the Baghdad leader is a threat to no one except his own people. Because their plight is especially harrowing, it could lead to a more forceful, interventionist role for the United Nations in protecting and bringing humanitarian aid to those who are victims of their own government.

Security Council Resolutions 687 and 688 already provide international legal cover for the stationing of an allied rapid response force in Turkey to guard against further Baghdad attacks on the Kurds or the Shiites and to channel relief to the beleaguered Iraqi population under direct U.N. supervision. The resolutions also probably justify further allied air strikes if necessary to eliminate Iraq's clandestine nuclear weapons program -- a move threatened anew by President Bush and French President Francois Mitterrand. The wisdom of such a move would rest on its effectiveness in toppling Saddam from power by encouraging the military coup the Bush administration mistakenly anticipated soon after the gulf war ended.

Reports of new purges and executions of generals suspected of disloyalty underscore the priorities of Saddam Hussein. His priorities are not the Iraqi state or the Iraqi people but his own power, wealth and survival. The leaders of the United States, Britain, France, Italy, Canada and Japan assembled in London are right to call for the maintenance of sanctions so long as he clings to power. Unless these extraordinary U.N. resolutions lend credibility to the new puissance of the world organization as a peace enforcer, the doctrine of "preventive diplomacy" will have little deterrent effect on future would-be tyrants.

Mr. Gorbachev ought to remind the free world summiteers that Soviet Union support for, or acquiescence in, collective HTC international action against Iraq put the G-7 nations in a position to turn back the Baghdad aggressor. Had the man who is there in London acted otherwise, the man who isn't there might be far more menacing to world peace than he now is.

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