THE OTHER SIDE
February 20, 1998
Saddam Hussein's refusal to allow U.N. weapons inspectors to conduct their work has the international community questioning his ultimate motivation. A panel of experts explores the crisis from the Iraqi perspective.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
February 19, 1998
An exploration of public support for the use of force in Iraq as compared to past conlicts.
February 18, 1998
Four diplomatic veterans discuss the possibility of an attack on Iraq.
February 17, 1998
Analysis of the U.S. military arsenal in the Middle East.
February 16, 1998
How significant a threat does Saddam Hussein's country really pose?
February 11, 1998
Ambassador Richardson discusses the ongoing crisis with Iraq.
February 10, 1998
Members of Congress discuss the U.S. government's support of military action against Iraq.
February 9, 1998
Regional commentators give local perspectives on the growing crisis with Iraq.
February 4, 1998
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright tries to marshal support for a possible attack on Iraq.
January 30, 1998
The U.S. tries rallying support for military action against Iraq.
January 14, 1998
Iraq's U.N. Ambassador, Nizar Hamdoon, defends his country's actions.
January 13, 1998
Amb. Butler discusses the latest disagreement with Iraq.
December 18, 1997
Amb. Butler discusses Iraq's continued defiance of U.N. inspections.
December 1, 1997
Margaret Warner leads a discussion on the proposals to ease the impact of international sanctions on Iraq.
November 25, 1997
Is Saddam Hussein illegally hiding weapons throughout Iraq?
What's the best way to deal with Iraq?
November 20, 1997
U.N. Ambassador Richardson on the possible resolution of the Iraq crisis.
November 17, 1997
Arab perspectives on the Iraqi crisis.
November 14, 1997
Sandy Berger the National Security Adviser, discusses the Iraqi crisis.
November 13, 1997
Newsmaker interview with Deputy PM Aziz who defends his country's expulsion of U.N. weapons inspectors.
November 12, 1997
U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson discusses the Security Council's vote to impose stricter sanctions on Iraq.
November 11, 1997
Four foreign policy experts debate how best to deal with Saddam Hussein.
November 10, 1997
Defense Sec. Cohen discusses the situation with Iraq.
November 6, 1997
The chief U.N. arms inspector discusses Saddam's latest moves.
November 3, 1997
U.N. Ambassador Richardson discusses tensions between the U.S. and Iraq.
October 9, 1997
Sec. Cohen issues a stern warning to Saddam Hussein.
Online Forum: 1996:
The plight of the Kurds in Northern Iraq.
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PHIL PONCE: We get four perspectives. Kanan Makiya has written four books on his native Iraq, which he left at age 18 to study in America. He's now a visiting professor at Brandeis University. Edmund Ghareeb has authored books on Iraq and the Kurds, as well as a history of the Gulf War. He's an adjunct professor at American University. Oleg Grinevsky ran the Middle East department of the Soviet Foreign Ministry and met Saddam Hussein several times. He's now a visiting fellow at Stanford. And Amatzia Baram heads the Middle Eastern History Department at the University of Haifa in Israel. He's currently a senior fellow at the United States Institute of Peace.
Gentlemen, welcome. Mr. Ghareeb, why, in your opinion, is Saddam Hussein ready to risk bombing by Americans and the British? What's his motivation in all this?
Saddam Hussein's motivation.
EDMUND GHAREEB, American University: I think there are a number of factors that are involved here. Some of them have to do with domestic situations. Some of them have to do with a regional one. I think one of the most important and the most immediate has to do with his belief that whatever he does or does not do in terms of cooperating with UNSCOM, with the inspections regime, the sanctions are not going to be lifted on Iraq.
This has been to a large extent greatly strengthened by the statements that came out from the administration last spring, especially Secretary Albright which has said that if the sanctions will not be lifted as long as Saddam Hussein remains in power in Iraq. So basically this changing of the goal posts in many ways has contributed to this problem.
PHIL PONCE: So you're saying he feels he has what, nothing to lose?
EDMUND GHAREEB: Basically in part because he realizes that it's going to be difficult to bring about the changes, but he probably believes that there has to be pressure, there has to be a push in order to change the things, there has to be a dramatic position. The second thing that I think is also very important in this area is that he probably also may have reacted recklessly to the reckless statements and provocative position that has been adopted by UNSCOM and its--its executive director. At least this is one of the main ways that people in the region are looking at it.
PHIL PONCE: Before we leave that, when you say reckless, what is--what do you mean by that?
EDMUND GHAREEB: Basically what a lot of people have been saying about what Mr. Butler has done--for example last fall he came out and made a statement saying sort of--and almost--it was seen by a lot of people in the Middle East as an orientalist or almost racist statement, saying that people in the Middle East have a different way of looking at truth.
We in the West have a literary tradition, a cultural tradition that looks at truth as being objective, but in the Middle East, or in Iraqi-Muslim culture, this is looked at as in many ways as a way that the truth is something that could be looked at, how you convince the other person, how does the other person see it.
PHIL PONCE: Let me get Mr. Makiya in here. Mr. Makiya, what is your opinion as to what Saddam Hussein's motivation might be?
Mr. Makiya: "He hopes to extract political advantage out of the current crisis....he doesn't care about the strike. "
KANAN MAKIYA: He hopes to extract political advantage out of the current crisis. He sees--he doesn't care about the strike. He hopes to be able to utilize it to underscore the essential lie that's at the bottom of American foreign policy today, and that is that a pretense that if you just keep--observe the--if you just allow us full inspection of the country and you--these sanctions will, in effect, be removed.
I agree with Dr. Ghareeb, that he understands that it is not--the hidden agenda of U.S. officials is not to remove those sanctions. And now he's engaged in a project to convince the world and appear reasonable, as he illustrates, that the United States is not serious; that, in fact, it has a policy of hurting the larger number--larger proportion of Iraq's population. The problem, he sees the current confrontation as an excellent opportunity to expose this essential lie, if I might call it that, at the heart of the current policy of the Clinton administration.
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Baram.
AMATZIA BARAM, University of Haifa: I must say I disagree with my two learned colleagues, whom I like and admire and respect. I think that until a few months ago this could certainly be one--one possible and acceptable explanation. This is no longer the case. He listens very carefully to what the president is saying here and what the secretary of state is saying, and what they said recently was that there is a very good chance at least, even more than that, it was implied that, in fact, America implied that America has decided to forsake its position that whatever Saddam does, embargo stays on.
If he listened carefully--and I'm sure he did--both the President and the secretary of state almost said it in so many words, that the moment--in fact, the secretary actually said it--the moment he complies with 687 namely, allows UNSCOM to go in, look, come back to New York, and report that, give him a clean bill of health, the moment that happens, he--the embargo is going to be lifted.
So today I think he knows the embargo will be lifted because America already changed its position even though it's not yet fully expressed in a sort of specific way, explicit way; however, I think that he wants to do two things. I look at his modus operandi, and that's my conclusion. He wants to keep the weapons of mass destruction. He needs them--he thinks he needs them for a number of reasons. And he wants the embargo to be lifted, both things.
Now, of course, because UNSCOM are bothering him all the time, show us this and show us that, and go everywhere and look around, allow us free access, he wants to kill UNSCOM as well. But his dilemma--that's his first dilemma--if he kills UNSCOM, there will be nobody to come back to New York and tell the Security Council here, Saddam has a clean bill of health. So what he's trying to do is trying to do two things: to erode UNSCOM to the extent that it won't really be operative anymore, but it will still be there, and create a time limit, create a timetable. The Iraqis now demand two months.
They will be able to--ready to compromise on three months--few months--very few months, at the end of which UNSCOM cannot find anything concluding the embargo is lifted. Now, UNSCOM will try to find something; they will continue to obstruct; and so the idea is to continue and obstruct UNSCOM but have a timetable that is binding and in two or three months the embargo is over and UNSCOM is no longer necessary, and he's got free of both. That, I think is their idea.
PHIL PONCE: Let me get the Ambassador. Ambassador Grinevsky, your thoughts?
Amb. Grinevsky: "Is he (Saddam Hussein) crazy or what, or maybe stupid? "
OLEG GRINEVSKY, Former Russian Diplomat: Well, thank you. First of all, for my mind this is maybe the key question, to understand his motivation and--I mean, Saddam's motivation. That's, one, he is building weapons of mass destruction and trying to threaten to the other countries. Is he crazy or what, or maybe stupid?
That's the question I ask myself several times when I met him--last time it was in 1989, when Gorbachev send me to Baghdad to persuade Saddam Hussein to support the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. Well, I met him in the palace. I gave him a letter from Gorbachev and then explained the Soviet position , what he takes--well, it took about 40 minutes, not more. But then late in the night, about 11 o'clock PM, special car came and took me I don't know where, in some place, maybe it's palace, maybe not, and then we have a talk until 3 o'clock in the morning, and it was very interesting impression.
He looked at me with cold eyes, very suspiciously, and I had an impression that I am talking with a snake which is looking on me and just calculating where to bite. Well, his main impression was, please, explain me what's behind your decision, what kind of guarantee you have that Afghanistan will not become Muslim fundamentalist country? I managed to explain that, but you see, the question about motivations are combined with his personality--very suspicious, very tough, maybe ruthless.
But let's analyze what's happened with him. He came to power in 1979 and then he headed situation in the country when the whole country was divided into three parts--Northern part--this is Kurds, who are struggling for their independence; the Southern part, the majority of the population, this is the Iranian Shia population, Iraqi Shia population, but very close ties with Iranian population; and then it was necessary for him to have some kind of a national idea to unite the whole country.
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Ambassador, I'll have interrupt you with the history because there are so many things to talk about, about the current situation, and let me leave you for a moment and go to Mr. Makiya. Mr. Makiya, what do you think the incentives are that Saddam Hussein might have to make a deal?
KANAN MAKIYA: If he comes out looking good at the end of it, right now the--everything is going his way, he has--Kofi Annan, the secretary-general of the United Nations going there in person. He has the entire world focused on him. He has President Clinton addressing the Arab world, talking about how dangerous he is, and like a magnifying glass, the way this has always worked in the seven years since the Gulf War, he is made bigger than the actual tinpot dictator that he actually is.
He is enlarged by the attention of the world that's currently going on, and this is precisely the game that has proceeded so beautifully from his point of view ever since the end of the Gulf War. I mean, who could have imagined a turnaround in the situation after the devastating defeat of 1991 to be in a situation where the entire--the United States has lost all its allies in the region, its military victory has completely whittled away, and we now actually have, if Professor Baram is right, a U.S. administration that is seriously going to trust this guy to not build such weapons, which is delusion, if there ever was one, in the future.
And supposed they went in there with UNSCOM, cleared every single weapon, suppose he gave them a complete bill of health and they went in there and checked the whole country inside/out, do you and I, or does anybody now seriously not believe that this leader, this particular regime, this system will not go ahead and rebuild these weapons, of course, they will. Every sensible, reasonable, rational human being knows that that is the structure, that's the way this regime works. So if that is why I speak of a lie at the heart of U.S. foreign policy, most American officials I talked to are all convinced that he would do this, they lack any trust.
You can never trust him again. So are we--do we think really that President Clinton will trust the Iraqi leader at some point down in the future? Is that the message that President Clinton is passing onto the Iraqi population? Well, if it is, no one I think really see it, can take it very seriously.
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Baram, what incentive does Saddam Hussein have--what incentives might he have for saying no to a deal?
Mr. Baram: "If he knows that the bombing will be light ... avoiding his military position, avoiding his power base...I think then he doesn't care, then he'll emerge victorious politically, not militarily, politically, and that's enough. "
AMATZIA BARAM: I think Saddam is between the horns of a dilemma right now. If he says no to a deal, unless the U.S. and the British accept every demand of his, he stands a chance of being bombed. Now, he now thinks--he now believes that America will go ahead with it. If he's bombed, it's not like--I know many people believe--some people who know a lot believe that he doesn't care if he's bombed. I would put it this way.
If he knows that the bombing will be light, a day or two or three, avoiding his military position, avoiding his power base, dealing only with--factory or a suspected factory--I think then he doesn't care, then he'll emerge victorious politically, not militarily, politically, and that's enough. But I think he has to take into account that maybe one of two things will happen: If the bombing is heavy, either during the bombing there will be a coup de tat against him, there will be total havoc in Baghdad, total chaos in Baghdad, no electricity, no communication, no telephones, and he is afraid of a coup detat, why there is such chaos in Baghdad.
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Baram, do you agree with that--
AMATZIA BARAM: Let me just finish. Or after the bombing, if he sees that the damage is tremendous, his army and the Republican Guard officers will turn against him because they regard him as a failure. He has to worry.
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Baram, how concerned do you think he is about that scenario that he just--
EDMUND GHAREEB: Mr. Ghareeb.
PHIL PONCE: I'm sorry.
EDMUND GHAREEB: I think this question of the danger of a collapse of the Iraqi state in case there's a major campaign is real and the danger here is that Iraq could collapse as a state, Iraq's territorial integrity could fall apart, and this could lead to a new kind of disaster for the whole region because it's going to invite the neighbors of Iraq to come in; it's going to lead to probably a civil war inside Iraq. So what are the chances of this? I think this only could happen if there is a major military campaign, with devastating impact on all of Iraq, or maybe if they do get Saddam Hussein, himself.
On the other hand, I think there are--what's important, that some of the point that we did not mention earlier, what are some of the changes that have occurred in the region that have led Saddam Hussein to at least take the position he did. One of them for example was that he realized that U.S. policy of dual containment was falling apart, especially the containment of Iran was falling apart; there was only--containment of Iraq.
The second thing is he realized that the Arab states were becoming very disenchanted with Washington, especially with the failure of the peace process, the failure to put pressure on Netanyahu. There was also growing concern in the Arab world that Iraq was no longer as a state being seen as a threat to its neighbors as was the case during the Gulf War of 1990/91. But now Iraq, itself, was being threatened.
So he realizes that all of these issues and also one other thing--and this is a final point I'll make--especially after the Turks--the Turkey launch against the Kurds in Northern Iraq--this was a major issue, and there was silence in Washington, this became a big issue for them and also for the Arab region, so he wanted to exploit that.
PHIL PONCE: I'd like to get back to the ambassador for one final question. Sir, in your opinion, what is the inclination in Iraq towards making an attack against Israel?
Amb. Grinevsky: "I think that now there is unique possibility for peace."
OLEG GRINEVSKY: Well, I don't think that there is a real inclination for such an attack. The main problem for Iraq is to keep that unity. For one time--well, if he tried to play into Israel card--but right now he is more and more concentrated on the unity to keep the whole country united. That's why I think that now there is unique possibility for peace. I think that practically now Saddam is ready to open all the palaces, or all the places.
The difference is just it will be the United Nations ambassadors for countries represented in the Security Council, accompanied by the members of special United Nations commission, or vice versa; United Nations commission accompanied by the ambassadors. To my mind, this is not the problem, real problem, where it's possible to strike, and diplomatically, it's not very difficult to solve this problem.
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Ambassador, we'll have to leave it there. A lot to talk about, and I'm afraid we're out of time. Thank you all.