November 11, 1998
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: We get four views now on the looming confrontation with Iraq. Rolf Ekeus was chief U.N. arms inspector from UNSCOM's inception in 1991 to 1997. He is now Sweden's ambassador to the United States.
Charles William Maynes was an assistant secretary of state during the Carter administration and is now the president of the Eurasia Foundation. Paul Wolfowitz was undersecretary of defense for policy during the Gulf War. He is now dean at the Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins.
And Edmund Ghareeb is an adjunct professor of Middle East Studies at American University and the author of several books on Iraq. Thank you very much, all of you, for being with us.
Ambassador Ekeus, is the ability of the weapons inspectors to do their job worth going to war over?
Are weapons inspections worth going to war over?
ROLF EKEUS, Former UNSCOM Executive Chairman: The weapons inspectors are
the only guarantee that Iraq and Saddam Hussein does not acquire the terror
weapons -- biological, chemical weapons, and nuclear weapons. There is
no other absolute guarantee, and, therefore, I don't say to go to war,
but they are definitely the ones who stand between zero weapons and fully
armed Saddam Hussein with terror capability.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Edmund Ghareeb, how do you see that, worth going to the brink of war with?
EDMUND GHAREEB, American University: I think primarily -
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: -- over?
EDMUND GHAREEB: -- what we have to look at is what has this policy accomplished so far. UNSCOM has destroyed most of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. But, instead, also we are seeing the continued suffering of the Iraqi population. We are seeing 6,000 dead children every month. We are seeing one policy for Iraq - a weak Iraq - and we are seeing another policy for friends of the United States or strong countries that violate international law.
We also know that Resolution 687 talks, for example, about making sure that the whole Middle East is a zone free of mass destruction weapons, but the United States focuses on Iraq. What we are seeing here is that there one policy for Iraq and another policy for the rest of the world, instead of focusing, giving - providing incentives to Iraq to comply with United Nations resolutions, while at the same time seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.
We are not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and this is why, in fact, we are seeing this sense of déjà vu. We are seeing this crisis again. The Iraqis are making an appeal to the whole world by saying please pay attention to what's happening to us; please pay attention to the degradation of human and health resources in Iraq.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: How do you see it, Mr. Ambassador?
PAUL WOLFOWITZ, Former Defense Department Official: Well, people talk about Iraq as though Saddam Hussein was Iraq. Iraq is a big country with a lot of people who are suffering terribly under his rule. And I think what we're seeing now is a failure of American policy and a failure of American policy to take advantage of our greatest strength and his greatest weakness, which is that 98 percent of the people of Iraq would like to be rid of this tyrant, and they need some help in doing so.
And, frankly, it's true that without UNSCOM, Saddam Hussein will get weapons of mass destruction. But I think it's pretty clear he can defy UNSCOM, he can defy the U.N. It's been almost a hundred days now without effective inspections in Iraq. I think the only real way to deal with this problem is to deal with the heart of the problem; that's Saddam Hussein, himself.
And it's not as hard as people say it is, because so many people in that country - not just Shia in the south and Kurds in the north, but Sunnis want to be free of this man. He kills his own people; he murders his own associates. He's a terrible tyrant, and that creates a weakness which we ought to be taking advantage of.
|The goal of a military strike|
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: But just on the specific question of whether there is to be military action to get the weapons inspections going again.
PAUL WOLFOWITZ: Well, what we have is a failure of administration policy. If they don't do anything, then they're going - it's true - they will look weak; they will lack credibility. But they have no credible options either.
The military actions they're talking about, they, themselves, admit aren't going to get inspectors back in, aren't going to get rid of this capability, may in the end strengthen him some more. They've resisted - and I don't know why they've resisted - what the Congress has voted overwhelmingly to support, and that is to provide serious support to the democratic opposition of Iraq.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you see it like that, Mr. Maynes, that here we are again in this situation where Saddam Hussein is sort of calling the shots, he's pressed to this point and military action is again threatened, troops are on the way, costs millions of dollars, and then perhaps there will be a deal in the end?
CHARLES WILLIAM MAYNES, Former State Department Official: That is what he's doing. I would just say that if we bomb, that means that the inspectors are never going to go back in. If we bomb, we have to do it because we have decided that there is no possibility of getting the inspectors back in, and we're taking military action to take out discreet military targets, and that those would be related to the weapons of mass destruction.
But if we go to war now, that means that the inspection regime is over, and we are moving to a new policy of containment and I suppose occasional military action in order to prevent any actual development of a nuclear or other weapon of mass destruction.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Mr. Maynes, I'm going to come back to the goal of military action. What possible options are there now - and I'll ask you all about this - short of military action?
CHARLES WILLIAM MAYNES: Well, there aren't many, although I did notice that the President in his speech does say something that I think does open up actually a door that wasn't opened up before. He says explicitly that if Saddam Hussein is really serious about ending the sanctions, there's one easy way to do it, and that is comply, and let UNSCOM do its job.
Before, it's been a little unclear if Iraq actually did comply with UNSCOM fully that the sanctions would be lifted. And this statement moves that closer to a position where our goal is to deal with the weapons and not the regime. At least, that's the way I read this sentence, because in October, we had been unwilling to make a statement like that in New York.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So you're saying there may be some negotiated settlement that is possible?
CHARLES WILLIAM MAYNES: Well, I'm just saying this statement - one of the issues here has been what is the American goal, is it the weapons of mass destruction, or is it Saddam Hussein's regime? Very few regimes will commit suicide even under the threat of sanctions. So this was a disputed issue. This sentence implies that if there is full compliance with UNSCOM, the sanctions could be reviewed and lifted.
PAUL WOLFOWITZ: I think the record shows that there's never going to be full compliance with UNSCOM and if the deal of the kind that's just been described is done and sanctions are lifted, it's only a matter of time and probably a very short time before he kicks UNSCOM out again. And then there's no sanctions to work with; there's no coalition to work with; there's no -
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So you think we're at the end of that road?
PAUL WOLFOWITZ: I think our policy has collapsed, and it's going to continue collapsing further and see the restoration of Saddam to full power and enormous influence in the Gulf unless we change course and make it clear that supporting the Iraqi people to get this man off their back is our goal.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What do you - how do you see that?
EDMUND GHAREEB: It's up to the Iraqi people to decide who they want as a leader, not for the United States to decide for them who they want as a leader. There's no doubt that there have been problems with the Saddam Hussein regime for the Iraqis and for the neighbors, but it's up to the Iraqis to solve that problem. I think the issue here is where do we go from here?
The issue is that the United States must engage with countries of the region - must begin to look at a new and imaginative, a creative policy to try to resolve the issues behind this. And I think what Mr. Maynes has said is a very important point here.
What is it that the United States wants? Do you want to end the regime, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime, or do you want compliance with the sanctions? If you really want compliance with the United Nations resolutions and if you want to see that Iraq does not threaten its neighbors, there are ways to define what are the problems, to define the way to -
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: But isn't that what they've been trying to do over all these years?
EDMUND GHAREEB: No, they have not. That's the problem. On the one hand, we say we are supporting opposition to the Iraqi government. We financed the opposition. We say that there's an Iraq Liberation Act, and at the same time, we say that if the Iraqis comply with the United Nations resolutions, then perhaps the sanctions would be lifted.
But recently - and this is why I think this crisis was triggered at the United Nations, Iraq, for example, there was - Kofi Annan's visit to Baghdad, and a deal talking about a comprehensive kind of reassessment, re-evaluation of the situation in Iraq. And this would have been the opportunity for the United States to use this as an opportunity to show that Iraq should be given incentives if it complies with the monitors, if it complies with UNSCOM, then sanctions - some sanctions - economic sanctions -
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You mean, if one file is closed by UNSCOM, a certain sanction - one of the economic sanctions would be dropped? You're talking about specific tit for tat?
EDMUND GHAREEB: Yes, very much. I think these are the sanctions. If a chemical file is closed, then perhaps some -
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Let me just get to Ambassador Ekeus. Is that - is there - do you see an option, short of military force here?
AMBASSADOR ROLF EKEUS: I think Saddam Hussein - we are not clear about his priorities. There are two alternatives. One is the most important thing, is to get sanctions lifted, and then you know what to do. He has to cooperate and give up his hope of keeping weapons of mass destruction. Where the option is open, that his priorities to keep the weapons of mass destruction - and then he would never go along. This is -
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: In other words, you're not sure which the goal is -
AMBASSADOR ROLF EKEUS: Well, I think I'm pretty sure after six, seven years, that he has decided that the weapons are more important; they are decisive in his policies, so the way to get him to change these priorities is not - I believe - to just wait and hope that he will change his mind, but to take diplomatic action first of all, and I think the President's statement today is pointing in that direction, because what the Council - permanent members sometimes have got - that is to go back to the fundamental, and the fundamental are the weapons - and if they can be clear there that this is not a matter of eliminating Saddam, it's not a matter of keeping sanctions on forever, but to get rid of the weapons, at least he will be given a chance to accept that he can no longer play on what he has seen, differences between certain parties.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And, Mr. Ambassador, what should - if there is military action - let's move to that possibility - what should the goal be?
AMBASSADOR ROLF EKEUS: The goal should definitely be -- I would say military sanction, which is not military action but it is preparation for military action. That's the most important state - namely to give Saddam Hussein a signal that this can hurt you if you don't do the right thing -
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: But let's assume that that fails and there are air strikes. What should the goal be in that case?
AMBASSADOR ROLF EKEUS: I don't want to - I think the key is to put maximum pressure to get back to the fundamentals and make clear to Saddam that he is in deep trouble if he does not -
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What do you think the goal should be?
PAUL WOLFOWITZ: The only thing that's really going to hurt him is action, and it can't be only military action, action that aims at overthrowing him. And -
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You don't want just pin prick military strikes?
PAUL WOLFOWITZ: We've had a series of them. We had them in 1993, when they attempted to murder former President Bush, this administration responded with a true pin-prick attack, when he rolled up our people in Northern Iraq in 1996, we did the same thing again. I think Saddam gains from that sort of action, and he probably would welcome it. Look, a diplomatic solution is always better than a war, but the best thing of all here would be to truly let the Iraqi people decide who's going to govern them.
It's fine for Professor Ghareeb to say the Iraqi people should decide. I couldn't agree more, but they're not free to decide now. Anyone who suggests - even hints at the possibility that the government in Iraq faces the prospect not only of his own death but the death and torture of his extended family, that's why everybody in that country hates him so.
|Eroding U.S. support in the region|
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What do you think the goal should be?
CHARLES WILLIAM MAYNES: Well, we should have two goals if we're forced to use military action. We should try to take out any facility that involves weapons of mass destruction that we can identify and we should also try to do it in a way that does not destroy the American position in the Middle East.
In other words, if we engage in a military campaign that totally erodes our position in the Middle East, Saddam Hussein will have won. So I think that's the reason why we have to concentrate on military targets as -- to the degree that we can, and also try to rally as much support as we can from our allies.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: First, Mr. Ghareeb, your reaction to the talk about military targets, and then what do you think the reaction in the Middle East would be?
EDMUND GHAREEB: I think, first of all, I just want to make a brief point on the weapons of mass destruction. I think there has been a great deal of exaggeration about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq also, and this is - I think deterrence is the best way.
When Iraq had a mass destruction capability, when it had a powerful army, it did not use these weapons because there was deterrence during the Gulf War, and today, Iraq -- after eight years of sanctions, after a devastating war of over a hundred thousand tons of bombs dropped on Iraq, Iraq is not in a position to threaten its neighbors, and it should know, and there should be red lines that if it uses weapons of mass destruction, then there will be severe response.
So that's on the one hand. Secondly, I think in terms if there's military force, this will undermine many of the friends of the United States in the region. It will radicalize the region, to radicalize the Iraqis. It will create further tension. It might vulcanize the whole region, and in addition to this, it will raise the issue again of U.S. double standards when it comes to its policies in the Middle East.
There's one policy that seeks absolute verbatim implementation of every U.N. resolution, every "i" and "t" dotted when it comes to Iraq, but then we look the other way when it comes to friendly countries to the United States. The last couple of days Turkey has sent over 20,000 troops into northern Iraq to attack Kurdish rebels against the Turkish government and what have we heard from Washington? There has been no response, even though Washington talks about Iraq's territorial integrity and independence.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: All right. Gentlemen, thank you very much for being with us.