When Iraq was growing anthrax and botulism diseases to use as weapons in the 1980s, it was embroiled in a seemingly endless war that it had started against a more populous country, Iran. When Iraq (it now says) dismantled these weapons, it was preparing a war of conquest against a smaller neighbor that it claimed had no right to exist, Kuwait.
Iraq threatened at that time to invade a less populous but richer neighbor, Saudi Arabia. And it hurled ballistic missiles at population centers in still another country it maintained should not exist, Israel, in hopes of distracting Arab states from its own aggression against some of them.
Iraq's current admission of having developed biological warfare is so chilling because it demonstrates the ease with which a rogue regime in a middle-sized country could develop such horrible capabilities. That Iraq refrained from using such weapons -- which can get out of control and lead to mass murder on the side wielding them -- is only slightly reassuring. This is a regime that inflicted poison gas on its own citizens. The world cannot trust to its inbuilt restraints and alleged humanitarian impulses.
The United Nations Security Council should not contemplate lifting sanctions against Iraq's oil exports, at its periodic review of them Tuesday. The regime of Saddam Hussein denied for four years that it had developed biological warfare. Now this regime admits it, only in hopes of ending sanctions.
But Rolf Ekeus, the Swedish diplomat who heads the U.N. commission on dismantling Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, cannot certify that the materials are destroyed as Iraq says. He affirms that Iraq still maintains five pieces of machinery for making ballistic missiles, which it denies.
In considering an end to sanctions, the Security Council should be guided by what the resolutions establishing them say. Sanctions against oil exports may be lifted when the U.N. can verify that Iraq has destroyed its capability for biological, chemical and ballistic warfare. Sanctions against imports relate to human rights abuses against its own citizens in the north and south of Iraq and on providing information on Kuwaitis who disappeared during Iraq's invasion.
There may come a time when the U.S. will have to reconsider its adamant hostility to relaxing sanctions against Iraq, if Saddam Hussein has in fact fulfilled the conditions spelled out in the U.N. resolutions. That time is not in sight.