DEALING with Iraq's tyrant, Saddam Hussein, does no involve a choice between force and diplomacy. Neither provides hope of restoring the arms inspection process without the other.
In reneging on his commitments to the United Nations, ordering U.N. arms inspectors out of the country, Saddam Hussein is counting on his persistence and focus where foreign powers are fitful and anxious to move on. This crisis could have been ended years ago, with economic sanctions against Iraq lifted, had he allowed the U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) to go about its business of finding and destroying any capability for nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.
His quarrel is not with the United States but with the United Nations. The response must come from an array of powers carrying out U.N. mandates.
Only Britain is firmly aboard and has moved aircraft to participate in a strike. British Defense Secretary George Robertson is touring friendly Persian Gulf nations and lining up open and tacit cooperation, following the visit of his U.S. counterpart, William Cohen, who lacked visible success.
According to Mr. Robertson, France and Russia, Iraq's greatest sympathizers among the U.N. Security Council's permanent members, are less tolerant of Mr. Hussein's latest obstructions than they were previously.
Saddam Hussein is likely to back down only when he sees a credible threat. He has before. This takes patient persuasion from other governments, Arab and non-Arab.
Iraq's dictator must not be allowed to dictate a change in UNSCOM personnel, including its able chief, Richard Butler.
But some sympathy is due Mr. Hussein's demands for an end to sanctions, which impoverish the Iraqi people. Sanctions should end when their original terms are met and weapons of mass destruction are destroyed. They should not be kept on until the dictator is gone, as some in Washington propose. But sanctions must remain until verification that chemical, biological and nuclear weapons-making is gone for good.
Pub Date: 11/11/98