The economic sanctions imposed on Iraq after its invasion and brutal occupation of Kuwait are still in force, but support for the measures is faltering. Three permanent members of the U.N. Security Council--China, France and Russia--have signaled they are ready to think about easing the restrictions, which are now in their fourth year. All, surely by no coincidence, have reportedly lined up contracts to help rebuild Iraq's infrastructure once commerce with Baghdad again is made legal.
The United States and Britain, the other two permanent members of the council, rightly insist that Iraq must comply more fully with U.N. resolutions before any changes are made.
Specifically they say Saddam Hussein's regime must recognize Kuwait's independence and stop waging ruthless war against Iraqi Kurds and Shiites. These are valid and honorable demands, and Washington shouldn't hesitate to use its Security Council veto to enforce them.
Iraq does appear to have complied with U.N. orders to halt and destroy its programs to build nuclear and chemical weapons; whether it has also done so with its biological weapons program is less clear. Iraq argues that by ending its production of unconventional weapons it has earned the right to be freed from sanctions. But Washington and others question whether Iraq has in fact made the decision to adopt more responsible policies, domestically and in its foreign relations.
Iraq could hardly have resisted the internationally supervised destruction of its chemical and nuclear weapons programs without inviting harsh reprisals, since defiance of the Security Council would have constituted an unmistakable threat to peace and security.
However, many U.N. members appear ready to regard Iraq's actions against its Kurdish and Shiite citizens and its refusal to accept Kuwait's independence as matters of much less international concern. The United States and Britain, taking the moral high ground, don't see it that way at all. They are right to continue demanding that Iraq must end its internal persecution and recognize Kuwait's border before the sanctions are lifted.