Iraq's recognition of Kuwait and its border is a positive step toward qualifying for lifting of United Nations sanctions against Iraq.
But sanctions should not be lifted until all U.S. requirements are met. U.N. inspectors must be satisfied Iraq is clean of weapons of mass destruction. Rolf Ekeus, head of the U.N. Iraq disarmament commission, spoke of the need for more documentation on chemical and biological developments.
Although France and Russia managed to block the U.N. Security Council from imposing an exclusion zone at the 32nd parallel below which Saddam Hussein's major military forces may not go, that is still a reasonable objective of U.S. policy. Iraq's dictator must never again trigger a massive and expensive U.S. deployment at will, and that means he must never be able to do so.
The gesture that Saddam Hussein did make ended 33 years of non-recognition of Kuwait's sovereignty and the pretense that Kuwait is Iraq's 19th province. The fallacy of that claim is that Kuwait is not an artificial creation of British imperialism as Saddam Hussein has said; Iraq is.
Kuwait is a city-state that thrived and then went lightly under Ottoman Turkish suzerainty followed by British protection and independence. Iraq, however, was put together after World War I by British officials who dreamed of resurrecting ancient Mesopotamia by combining three provinces from Turkish administration that differed in language, ethnicity and religion. This was intended to insure oil supplies to the imperial fleet operating east of Suez. Those reasons have disappeared, though Iraq remains a sovereign state. No reason but Saddam Hussein's lust for power justified the claim on Kuwait. Only Iraq's desperate economic straits motivated renunciation of the claim.
Kuwaitis fear that Iraq's dictator could as quickly reinstate it. Nonetheless, he made the first step toward qualifying for the lifting of sanctions. France and Russia seek this because French companies would resurrect Iraq's oil industry and because Russia seeks $6 billion repayment of debt which Iraq can pay only after it is selling oil again.
The role of Russia's Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev in Saddam Hussein's change of heart represents the re-entry of Russia to an active Middle East diplomacy. The goal is not only repayment of Iraq's debt but also a revival of Russian influence in the region. This need not be a bad thing.
Russian influence ought next to be brought to bear to persuade Saddam Hussein to remove heavy weapons from southern Iraq, to provide U.N. weapons inspectors with data they require, to account for 625 kidnapped Kuwaiti and other Arab nationals, and to pay reparations for destruction in Kuwait. That would certainly encourage the world community to lift import and export sanctions.