Dealing with Iraq More provocations: Firmness requires world display of unanimity.

November 04, 1997

SADDAM HUSSEIN'S game is to weasel out of United Nations mandates to scrap weapons of mass destruction by isolating the U.S. from its former allies. The way to thwart Iraq's dictator is for major powers to display unanimity in sticking to the resolutions of 1991 that ended the gulf war.

When France, China and Russia abstained from a British and American resolution in the Security Council slightly tightening the screws of sanctions to bring compliance with U.N. weapons inspections, the Iraqi tyrant saw disunity to be exploited. His quick response was to sow greater division by saying the U.S. citizens on the inspections teams were no longer welcome in Iraq, though the rest of the inspectors were.

The U.N. Special Commission chairman, or chief investigator, Richard Butler of Australia, did not fall for this. He did not allow the inspection teams to proceed without their Americans. It is not for Iraq's government to decide which U.N. personnel are acceptable. The commission had already accused Iraq of noncompliance by withholding information. This was defiance, not of the U.S. but of the U.N.

A unilateral U.S. response would miss that point and play into the dictator's hand, enlarging the differences with France, Russia and China. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan sent three emissaries to Baghdad, arriving today in hopes of defusing the crisis. He made it clear that they are not bargaining over U.S. participation, but would discuss "firm implementation" of U.N. resolutions requiring Iraq to scrap nuclear, biological, chemical and long-range missile weapons.

Further action should come from the Security Council and respond to any failure of this mission to bring compliance. Saddam Hussein is from the school of dictators that turns defeat into martyrdom and survival. He is also one who tyrannizes his people, as U.N. human rights investigator Max van der Stoel reported yesterday. This tyrant is not afraid of unilateral U.S. bombs but of U.N. unanimity. Achieving and maintaining that unanimity should therefore be the U.S. goal.

Pub Date: 11/04/97

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