THE UNITED STATES and its coalition partners must keep the pressure on Iraq to open up fully to United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) weapons inspectors. This includes the 63 installations that Iraq claims to be out of bounds to inspection as "presidential sites."
The Iraqis' claim is nonsense. This crisis exists because Iraq has stonewalled and played cat-and-mouse and retained biological and chemical weapons of mass death and missiles to carry them -- if not its nuclear weapons program -- in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions ending the 1991 gulf war.
There can be no compromise on weapons inspection. Russia could not promise that when it persuaded Iraq's dictator, Saddam Hussein, to allow the inspectors' return.
At the same time, there was blustering in U.S. circles about what the crisis was about. It was not to topple Saddam Hussein. Washington is not asked to approve who rules Iraq. Coalition partners have never considered ouster of the dictator to be the objective.
The U.S. is not at its best when declaring rulers unacceptable. Like Fidel Castro in Cuba since 1959 and Muammar el Kadafi in Libya since 1969, pariahs display a tendency to withstand American efforts to abolish them. Better not add the tyrant of Baghdad to the list.
Russia is right in urging that Iraq be shown light at the end of the tunnel. Permanent economic sanctions is not a way of international life. The world disapproves of the concept. Saddam Hussein uses that in demanding inspections and sanctions of Iraq be ended.
That can happen only in return for total verified compliance with UNSCOM efforts to rid Iraq of the proscribed weapons. No more should be demanded, and no less accepted.
So far, there is a lack of good faith from Saddam Hussein. U.N. inspectors believe he is elusive about weapons development, particularly anthrax disease and VX chemical agent. No sanction should be lifted until UNSCOM is satisfied it has located and destroyed all of it.
Saddam Hussein should be encouraged to believe compliance will bring him rewards. If Russia were to win Iraq's gratitude for that, fine. But neither Moscow nor Baghdad should harbor the illusion that less than full compliance will suffice.
Pub Date: 11/30/97