Saddam Hussein continues to probe for signs of weakness and weariness in the U.N. Security Council's resolve to strip Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. He tried again this week, sending his deputy prime minister, Tarik Aziz, to New York to argue the case for some kind of "reasonable" compromise that would ease the pressure on Iraq. The council wasn't buying. It continues to insist that Iraq must abide by all the resolutions growing out of its aggression against Kuwait. Left implicit is the threat that if it doesn't, further punitive measures might be taken.
A test could come in a few days. A team of international inspectors plans to go to Baghdad to ask for cooperation in destroying equipment used to produce Scud missiles. Iraq has been balking, contending with a straight face that it wants to convert the Scud factory to peaceful purposes. Iraq's record of lying and cheating doesn't simply encourage skepticism on this point but demands it. The computers, stamping machines and other equipment Iraq wants spared were acquired to make weapons of mass destruction. Given half a chance, there's no doubt Hussein would so use them again. It would be folly even to consider offering him that chance.
And if Iraq continues to resist the U.N. resolutions, what then? The United States and Britain have pointedly not ruled out the use of force, attacking from the air what U.N. inspectors are prevented from destroying on the ground. Hussein may in fact prefer such a response, figuring that if he is going to lose his weapons of mass destruction anyway, it might as well be to allied bombs and missiles. That at least could earn him some sympathy from the Arab world. This political factor is something to consider. But vastly more important is the need to make sure that Iraq is denied any means that would allow it to go on developing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.