November 17, 1997
Even though Saddam Hussein continues to frustrate the U.N. Security Council, there is little support in the Arab world for military action against Iraq. After a background report, Jim Lehrer leads a discussion of how Saddam Hussein is viewed by his neighbors.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Secretary of State Madeleine Albright spent Sunday hopscotching here way to four Persian Gulf states, her purpose to try to convince Arab allies that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to block U.N. weapons inspectors returning to Iraq to do their work. Albrights one-day diplomatic mission included visits to Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. The last three stops were late additions to the trip, which originally was to focus on a U.S.-sponsored economic conference in Qatar. That conference was designed to bring together Israeli and Arab business and political leaders, but many Arab governments boycotted the meeting, a sign of the deteriorating condition of the Middle East process. In Qatar, Albright held a press conference where she laid out the U.S. position of no negotiations with Saddam on the weapons inspection issue. She also said the U.S. has reason to believe that Saddam may be taking advantage of the crisis to restart illegal weapons production.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
November 14, 1997
Sandy Berger the National Security Adviser, discusses the Iraqi crisis.
November 13, 1997
Newsmaker interview withDeputy 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 7, 1997
The chief U.N. arms inspector discusses Saddam's latest moves.
November 3, 1997
Sec. Cohen issues a stern warning to Saddam Hussein.
October 9, 1997
U.N. Ambassador Richardson discusses tensions between the U.S. and Iraq.
September 10, 1996
A discussion with two Iraq experts in the U.S..
September 4, 1996
A group of experts discuss Saddam Hussein's decision to send troops in the Kurdish Safe Haven.
Online Forum: 1996:
The plight of the Kurds in Northern Iraq.
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International Atmoic Energy Agency
Sec. Albright tries to rally Arab support for U.S. position.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, Secretary of State: In recent days tensions have increased as a result of Iraqs efforts to exercise a veto over who may serve on U.N. inspection teams. In addition, Iraq has tampered with U.N. cameras and illegally loaned equipment, which could be used in the production of prohibited missiles or biological warfare agents.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Afterwards, in Bahrain, Albright met with the U.N. weapons inspectors who were pulled out of Iraq last week, including the six American inspectors who were ordered out by Saddam Hussein.
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: We cannot know for certain why Iraq chose this particular moment to choose this particular fight with UNSCOM inspectors.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Government officials in Bahrain reportedly told Albright they agreed that Iraq should comply with the U.N. resolution and arms inspectors. But they also reportedly said they were concerned about civilian casualties in the event military force is used to punish Saddam Hussein. Albright heard those same concerns in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, which both share borders with Iraq. Kuwaiti and Saudi leaders reportedly told Albright that while they too supported the U.S. position against Saddam, they would oppose the use of military force. On a more positive note yesterday Albright was able to announce that both Russia and France had agreed to use their "unique ability" to communicate with Saddam Hussein to try and convince him to de-fuse the crisis by allowing U.S. weapons inspectors back into Iraq. And today State Department officials arriving with Albright in Pakistan said the United States would support more humanitarian assistance for Iraq if the inspectors were allowed to return. But Iraqs representative to the United Nations called that suggestion a non-starter.
JIM LEHRER: Mohammed Wahby, an Egyptian journalist, and former government official is here. Hes joined by Fouad Ajami, director of Middle East studies at the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University; and Raghida Dergham, senior diplomatic correspondent for Al-Hayat, an Arab newspaper published from London. Fouad Ajami, how would you describe Arab opinion about the Iraqi crisis?
Little support for Saddam Hussein, great sympathy for Iraqi people.
FOUAD AJAMI, Johns Hopkins University: Well, I dont think really, Jim, there is any one Arab opinion about this crisis, as there is no one single American opinion about this crisis. The Arab world has divided, but I think we have to look at--and if you take a look at the different states, they line up differently--the Egyptians who rode with us in the Gulf War of 1990-91 had second thoughts about the American position, and they have great sympathy for Iraq. The Palestinians must have the sympathy for Iraq as well; the Jordanians are in good measure; and I think the Arab world looks at this crisis and is not convinced that Saddam is the menace that weve made him out to be. And in many ways lets give the devil his due. Saddam has succeeded. Hes forced the worlds attention to be focused on these sanctions, which have been in existence for seven years and have outlived the use in many ways.
JIM LEHRER: Raghida Dergham, how do you read the Arab reading of his threat, the threat of Saddam Hussein, the chemical and biological weapons, the whole inspectors issue?
RAGHIDA DERGHAM, Al-Hayat Newspaper: They put it in the context of the balance of power in the region; they put it in the context of who else in the region has these weapons of mass destruction; they point out to the fact that Israel is not questioned about acquisition of such weapons, whereas Arabs are, but I think the larger issue is now the question for many in the Arab world is that the objective? Is the objective is to get rid of Saddam Hussein, the downfall of Saddam Hussein, and the attitude is "fish or cut bait." If we did the weapons of mass destruction, then its much more interesting to keep inspectors, international inspectors, inside Iraq, so that there will be an ongoing watch of these weapons. And if it is the implementation of the Security Council resolution, then one should stick to the letter of these resolutions so that its compliance is guaranteed by Iraq, then eventually that oil embargo should be lifted in accordance to an--of UNSCOM and finally sanctions should be hopefully the inference--the 986 resolution for food and medicine--hopefully it should be expanded to include education, for example, rather than allow the fabric of the society to disintegrate.
What is the real issue with Saddam Hussein?
JIM LEHRER: So, in other words, if the emphasis is just on the weapons of mass destruction, whats the big deal about the composition of the teams, whether theyre Americans or not, the U.S. should make such a big deal about it?
RAGHIDA DERGHAM: No, I think the issue is not to--again, even in the Arab world it is not acceptable that Saddam Hussein dictates to the Security Council and to UNSCOM. So, this is not what people are asking for, but I think sentiment is towards take account of whats going on, take stock of whats going on. If there is compliance, its all right to reward it; and if this is not the idea, then we should expect Saddam Hussein to be defiant as he is, and the issue is the issue of defiance comes in the Arab mind as well because when you look at the defiance of Saddam Hussein, its normally meant with armed conflict, and when the defiance of Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, he is absolved, so people look at it in this context. They take a look at the whole region, rather than only Saddam Hussein. And this is not in support of Saddam Hussein. The sentiment is for Iraq, the country, the Iraqi people suffering under sanctions. I wouldnt agree with those who say that Saddam Hussein is going to be the savior of the Arabs. I think his legacy and his history disqualified him from playing this role.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Wahby, would you agree that the average Egyptian makes a distinction between Iraq and Saddam Hussein?
MOHAMMED WAHBY, Al-Mussawar Magazine: Theres no question about that. Not only the average Egyptian but the average Arab, and here I would disagree with Professor Ajami totally. He himself contradicted himself when he said that the Arabs--they must think of Saddam Hussein as such and such and such, and that are so many opinions in the Arab world that cannot really say that the Egyptians and the Jordanians see eye to eye on this. As a matter of fact, the Egyptians and Jordanians them--the Saudi Arabians, I was just--just made a tour of the Arab world, and I can assure you that as far as Saddam Hussein is concerned, yes, people are against him, yes, people are against what he did, theres no question about that, but at the same time people are very much against the use of military force because they realize very much that such military force would de-stabilize the region and even after using the military force, you may end up with Saddam Hussein again playing up cat and mouse with the United States and at the same time people see what is happening now, a flagrant case of double standards, and as far as the United States is concerned, because they ignore what Saddam Hussein has been doing, and what, and at the same time concentrate, focus totally on Sorry, they ignore what Mr. Netanyahu has been doing and concentrate only on what Mr. Saddam Hussein has been doing.
Is the Iraqi situation tied to the Israeli-Palestinian problem?
JIM LEHRER: And they see those as parallel situations.
MOHAMMAD WAHBY: Actually, as a matter of fact, what Saddam Hussein has done recently is not to be compared with what Mr. Netanyahu has done. Saddam Hussein has not said that the United Nations should not go ahead with the inspection. He objected only to, he has confined his complaint to the United States. Hes saying that he doesnt fault the United States being a jury as far as he is concerned--to be at the same time the judge by dominating the inspection team, the United Nations is both a jury and the judge. He doesnt want that. But he is wrong, no question about that. The Arab world is against it, but at the same time that offense cannot be compared to the offense which Mr. Netanyahu has been doing and which also the United States has been protecting him from anger of the world community, to the extent the United States has been left in many instances in a minority of three--the United States, Israel, and Micronesia.
FOUAD AJAMI: May I just get into this?
JIM LEHRER: Yes.
FOUAD AJAMI: This analysis by Mr. Wahby tells you exactly what the dilemma in the Arab world is. I dont think we were talking about Benjamin Netanyahu. This linkage, if you will, this is the old argument that we thought we buried in the Gulf War of 1991, that there was a linkage to what Saddam was doing and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Saddam is a brigand. Hes a threat to his own people. Israel has nothing to do with it, but this tells you exactly what this crisis is all about for President Clinton. This is a "Ground Hog Day," that famous movie by Bill Murray, where the same thing happens all over again, so were back again because we never removed Saddam; were back with some of the same Arab dilution about Saddam that is going to make the linkage between Israel and the Palestinian question on the one hand, and the Gulf on the other. The weapons of mass destruction and the threat of Saddam represents both to his neighbor and the torment to his people, these are issues that truly matter. What Netanyahu is doing, what Israel is doing, this had nothing to do with it. It just tells you that we waged this great imperial campaign in 1990-91, and we left the man Saddam in his bunker, and we left--we gave an opportunity for this old girth and this old argument such as the one expressed by Mr. Wahby to resurface, and we are there again.
Saddam Hussein: get him or forget him?
JIM LEHRER: We are there again, and now what do we do about it?
FOUAD AJAMI: Well, I think my own feeling has to--I had this little cliché in a piece I did in the Daily News, the New York Daily News, that what we should do is we should be very clear about Saddam represents; we should either get him or forget him. We have done neither. We have not unseated Saddam Hussein; we have left these sanctions, and now our President says, in effect, that the sanctions--in an unguarded moment President Clinton says that these sanctions will stay to the end of time. These sanctions cannot stay till the end of time. So we dont put our soldiers in harms way; we dont support a democratic struggle, or even the democratic possibility of the Iraqi opposition to Saddam. We cut them off the payroll, and then we say that Saddam is a great menace, and we have our secretary of defense showing up on one of those talk shows with a five pound bag of sugar to tell us that look if this was anthrax, this would destroy us all, and we are completely confused, and the Clinton administration has not clarified exactly what the threat of Saddam is all about.
JIM LEHRER: Yes. Raghida.
RAGHIDA DERGHAM: Yes. I was going to say that this is really very much a problem; that there is a lot of confusion as to what is intended from now on. I believe that if there is going to be a military operation and if its going to be yet another Tomahawk missiles attack into Iraq, I dont even think that Gulf states will welcome that, and also they would want it to be those countries who do not object to the military option; they would want to be decisive to hit the very infrastructure of the regime; otherwise they dont want it. So, in effect, the decision right now is to either go all the way against Saddam Hussein to bring his downfall, or really sit back and say, well, we have to see what were going to do, 986--that resolution should be expanded so that it would include other infrastructure, the society of Iraq, and also to just take stock of where we go from here including the dialogue, so that with a dialogue--more to Saddam--including the constitution that he claims he has--through a dialogue force him to deliver, so that opposition to start to function from within because the opposition on the outside has so far failed to prove the point.
JIM LEHRER: So what do you think of Fouad Ajamis idea that get him or forget him, is that kind of what youre saying too?
RAGHIDA DERGHAM: Yes. Im agreeing with that idea. Its exactly what I said. I said "fish short, cut bait" Enough of this going on pretending that we are both places, and having Iraqi people pay the price. I think either go all the way, or start to really go by the letter of the resolutions, lift the sanctions when he delivers to UNSCOM, and in the meantime strengthen that all for food resolution and expand it to included education and clean water and that sort of thing.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Wahby, get him or forget him?
MOHAMMAD WAHBY: Yes, I would agree, and I think most of the Arabs also would agree with that. The only one point I would like to make--and that is the link is still there and Mrs. Albright has admitted that; she said that by the fact that the peace process in the Middle East is collapsing, more or less, is making it much more difficult to get the support of the Arab countries on so many other issues, including Iraq.
JIM LEHRER: And thats--whether anybody likes it or not, the linkage is there?
MOHAMMAD WAHBY: The linkage is there in the minds of the Arabs, and, therefore, we cannot ignore it; well have to deal with it at the same time.
Is American policy the link?
RAGHIDA DERGHAM: Well, it is because of policy really, the American policy towards the region; thats where the linkage comes in.
MOHAMMAD WAHBY: Yes.
RAGHIDA DERGHAM: And because the peace process, in fact, started after the Gulf War, and people were hoping it will lead somewhere, and the fact that its collapsing at the hands of the--from the point of view of the Arabs, Mr. Netanyahu--then thats where the linkage is very strong.
JIM LEHRER: All right. We have to leave it there. Thank you all three very much.