Iraq Does It Again

The U.N. Security Council's orders were clear and emphatic. Iraq, after its defeat in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, was required to destroy its stocks of ballistic missiles and chemical and biological weapons, and its facilities to build nuclear weapons. To make sure there would be no revival of banned weapons production the council also ordered a long-term international monitoring program.

The Iraqi regime has always resisted the monitoring plan. Resistance has now become defiance. This week a U.N. team left Baghdad in frustration after seeking for more than a month to get Iraq to permit surveillance cameras to be set up at two former missile test sites. The Security Council had already warned of "serious consequences" if Iraq refused to allow the cameras.

If Iraq's government has learned anything in the last few years it should be that defiance of the United Nations isn't cost-free, and that its many strategic targets can be reached by sea-launched cruise missiles. Earlier this year Iraq threatened to interfere with U.N. inspection flights over the country. In response, a factory in Baghdad linked to the nuclear weapons program became the target for U.S. Tomahawk cruise missiles on Jan. 17. And just 10 days ago an intelligence complex in the capital was attacked by U.S. missiles, in response to evidence of official Iraqi involvement in a plot to kill former President George Bush.

How to respond to Iraq's latest challenge almost certainly will be a key topic at this week's G-7 conference in Tokyo. President Clinton has described the situation as "quite serious." Washington's view is that no new Security Council authorization is needed for any further military strikes. Certainly, though, Clinton should work hard to enlist other countries in any new military mission, reminding his colleagues that the confrontation is not just between the United States and Iraq, as Baghdad would have it, but Iraq and the United Nations. That's Nations , plural, a point the President should take care to emphasize.

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