|CHANGE IN POLICY?|
August 14, 1998
According to recent reports, the U.S. government urged U.N. investigators to stop a series of surprise weapons inspections in Iraq. The move was an attempt to prevent another stalemate with Saddam Hussein. Is America changing its policy towards Iraq? Following a background report, four foreign policy experts debate the situation.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: We get four views now: Charles William Maynes was Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs during the Carter administration; he's now president of the Eurasia Foundation. John Bolton was Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs during the Bush administration and is now senior vice president at the American Enterprise Institute. Geoffrey Kemp was Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Near East and South Asian Affairs at the National Security Council during President Reagan's first term; he's now at the Nixon Center. And Raymond Zilinskas conducted inspections in Iraq in 1994 as part of the U.N. Special Commission; he's currently an associate professor at the University of Maryland's Biotechnology Institute. Thank you all for being with us.
|John Bolton: "I think there's a very deliberate effort by the administration to avoid a confrontation with Iraq."|
Mr. Bolton, what do you think of the way the administration is dealing with this crisis?
JOHN BOLTON, Former State Department Official: Well, bad and getting worse. I said in February when Kofi Annan went to Baghdad and cut the deal, that the taped portion talked about, that it was a bad arrangement then principally because it would lead inevitably to exactly what we're seeing now; that Saddam Hussein would once again challenge the U.N. weapons inspection regime, once again try and break out from under the U.N. economic sanctions. The administration said in February that the deal cut then actually would strengthen the position of the United States the next time. The next time they said that Saddam Hussein challenged the U.N., they would be ready to respond with force. That hasn't happened. There isn't any indication it's going to happen, and I must say that report in The Washington Post this morning, if it's true, goes from simple incompetence by the administration to malfeasance.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you see a major shift in U.S. policy?
JOHN BOLTON: I think there's a very deliberate effort by the administration to avoid a confrontation with Iraq. I think it could come from a number of different reasons, perhaps a desire not to have a foreign policy crisis in the middle of the President's Lewinsky testimony, perhaps because the State Department is trying to comply with what Kofi Annan wants in an effort to save the February deal. I think it's very hard to understand. It's particularly hard to understand, if these reports are true, that the United States has actually tried to pull back the UNSCOM inspection effort. This would be a break with our allies and our friends that would be almost inexplicable.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Mr. Maynes, let's come back in a minute to The Washington Post story. Do you see a change in U.S. policy, and, if so, is it a good idea?
CHARLES WILLIAM MAYNES, Former State Department: I think what they're doing is accomplish two things: one to contain Iraq and two to preserve the American position in the Middle East. They realized in the last crisis, when they announced early that they were going to use force, that there's very little support for it, that we were going to damage our position in the region, that we had little support among our allies, and that they needed to bolster the coalition. I think that they're not making the mistake this time that they made the last time of speaking before they made sure that they had people lined up behind them.
And I think that a lot of the criticism of this makes the assumption the United States could use force simply because no one opposes us, and that we don't have to worry about the political and diplomatic consequences of what we do. I think the administration realizes we do have to worry about those consequences; we have to make sure that we have the support before we take action.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Kemp, lessons learned, do you think that's why there's a change?
GEOFFREY KEMP, Former NSC Staff: Well, certainly the big lesson from the February crisis was you cannot use massive force, and it's going to take massive force to be effective on a technical violation. There's just no support for it in the region, and the region—
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You mean, you can't use massive American force against Iraq because it is not agreeing to certain elements in the inspections?
GEOFFREY KEMP: Right. The sort of cheating that went down in February that's going on now I think for most people in the region is a technical violation, serious, but it's not the same as invading Kuwait or trying to kill George Bush. If Saddam does something egregious, something stupid, really stupid, then I think there would be growing support for the use of force. The dilemma the administration is in it's kept saying that if it uses force, it's got to be massive. We know massive force is going to cause a lot of casualties. That would create a firestorm in the Middle East, and we would simply just not get access in the future. That's very serious. So they have to waffle right now. They have to essentially punt the ball to Kofi Annan. Clinton is very weak, not just on this issue but on dozens of other foreign policy fronts. What they should be doing is putting in place a really serious long-term effort to get rid of this man that's going to take a lot of money and a lot of time. They've got to build support for it, and it cannot be done overnight.
|The views of a former inspector.|
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Zilinskas, you're a former inspector. Is there anything in the inspections that explains this change of policy? Does the U.S. view Iraq differently?
RAYMOND ZILINSKAS, Former UNSCOM Inspector: I think they learned a lot from the last episode in February, and that is really that they cannot go in and defend and set up a big forceful, military response in Iraq, for, as was mentioned, technical violations. So that gives Hussein a lot of place to work his magic, and he's doing it. I mean, he jerks the chain, and the U.S. used to respond. Now the U.S. doesn't do it anymore, so I wonder what the next game is going to be. As far as the inspections are concerned, the principle which Iraq agreed to, which is to allow access to UNSCOM and the agency anytime anywhere, well, that's gone by—
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Tell us exactly what is happening right now.
RAYMOND ZILINSKAS: What's happening is that the UNSCOM is able to do some routine monitoring of something like three to four hundred facilities, that they've been doing right along.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And excuse me for interrupting, but that means not only with cameras but people are actually going to those places?
RAYMOND ZILINSKAS: Yes, sure.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay.
RAYMOND ZILINSKAS: So that's going on. But those are the ones that Iraq said it's okay. But as far as throwing a new inspection to, for example, if they find information about a new facility that they suspect, they can't go out there. Or if there is some activity going on somewhere in the desert, they can't go out there. So essentially, they can't do their work.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What I was trying to get at too is, have the inspections proceeded enough that the U.S. doesn't think Iraq is the threat it was?
RAYMOND ZILINSKAS: Oh, I think so. I think that's another thing that learned, is that there are no weapons of mass destruction hidden in the desert somewhere that's ready to be deployed and destroy neighbors and military forces in the region. It's a potential. And I think the U.S. has recognized that they've got to keep the potential down. And as long as that's happening, then Iraq is not an immediate threat.
|The United Nation's takes the lead.|
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Bolton, what would be wrong with letting the U.N. take the lead on this? You've heard the administration people saying this is between Iraq and the U.N., not between Iraq and the U.S. at this point. What's wrong with that?
JOHN BOLTON: I think that's fatuous. I think anybody who believes that the U.N. is going to operate in this or any other area without American leadership is simply deceiving themselves. I think the main point is that the administration has bumbled the situation in Iraq repetitively over so many years that they're actually quite correct at the moment in saying that their options are limited. Their options are limited because they haven't kept the Gulf coalition together; they haven't prepared adequately to take the kind of military strikes that they should, and as Geoff Kemp pointed out, and I certainly agree, I think the policy—long-term policy—should be to overthrow Saddam Hussein, because we are not dealing here merely with technical violations of the inspection regime. We are dealing with a consistent seven-year history by Iraq of attempting to break free of those restrictions entirely. And I think it's a no-brainer at this point to conclude that the only way to keep Iraq from getting a capability of weapons of mass destruction is to get a new government there.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What do you think about the U.N. taking the lead in this, Mr. Maynes, what's wrong with that?
CHARLES WILLIAM MAYNES: I don't think there's anything wrong with it. We are in at this point a position of trying still to persuade him through pressure and negotiations to adhere to the agreement. The only group that has the kind of direct access to the Iraqi government that we favor is, in fact, the United Nations. We are not anxious to have the Russians send a delegate there. We're not anxious to have the French send a delegate there. So the only group or the only institution that can send a delegate there that we would approve of is the United Nations. So I see nothing wrong with what the administration is doing.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Kemp, do the shifts we're talking about mean that somehow Saddam Hussein has broken out of the box that the administration always said they wanted to keep them in?
GEOFFREY KEMP: Not really. I mean, he's weak. He does not have access to money he needs to rebuild the country. He's clearly squirreling things away. He's clearly still a very, very serious putative future danger that we have to watch very carefully. But I think the very fact that he's weak and contains one of the reasons why many of the people in the region, the Saudis and the Iranians, to give you two examples, want him to stay exactly like that, because they fear that if we try to overthrow him and we might even succeed, we're likely to cause chaos. Chaos is going to rebound on them. And nobody in the Middle East at this point in time wants chaos.
|Raymond Zilinskas: "The U.S. is the biggest supporter of UNSCOM of all nations, so in that way it is influential."|
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Zilinskas, on this show last week, Amb. Butler said that they had discovered a document, and he wouldn't give us any details, and that perhaps this was related to discoveries that UNSCOM was about to make in Iraq. What does your experience from the past tell you about that?
RAYMOND ZILINSKAS: Not much, I must say, because he's really keeping it very close to his vest, but it probably either has to do with more chemical weapons or some further information on a biological weapons system that is apparently very revealing and very damaging.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And what does your experience tell you about The Washington Post story today, which Secretary of State Albright has disputed, that she actually tried to put off or to change the timing of some very secret inspections, some surprise, I mean, inspections, because the Security Council was not yet united, and they wanted to avoid a real confrontation until it was? What kind of control have the Americans, in your experience, had over the inspections?
RAYMOND ZILINSKAS: Well, the U.S. supplies the most logistic support to UNSCOM, most of the inspectors are American, and also most of the equipment that's being used by UNSCOM is of American origin. So obviously, the U.S. is the biggest supporter of UNSCOM of all nations, so in that way it is influential. However, from what I knew of Chairman—well Kierst, the one that I worked under and of course of Butler—these people are very, very strong personalities, and they don't lay back and let people dictate to them, especially when it has something to do with their accomplishing their mission. They are the ones who are in the best position to find out or to determine whether or not the mission should go or should not go. And so I find very little treatise to this report.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: This report really disturbs you.
JOHN BOLTON: Absolutely. And I don't find Secretary Albright's denial all that reassuring. I hate to sound like a lawyer but that's what I am. Parsing what she said in her denial, it was that she had not ordered Richard Butler to do or not do anything, and I'm sure she didn't order him to do or not do anything. The most disturbing aspect of the Post story, though, was contained in its very first sentence, where the reporter said that the efforts by the United States to pull UNSCOM back and to rein it in had been going on for months, even after the March discovery of elements of VX nerve gas that might have been weaponized. If, in fact, this turns out to be true—and I personally believe that the House and Senate Foreign Affairs Committees should come back from recess and hold hearings on this matter—I think it's that serious—if that's true, that's not just a reversal of American position, it's betrayal, and I think a dishonest way of characterizing what exactly we think should be happening in Iraq.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Want to comment on this?
CHARLES WILLIAM MAYNES: Well, I think, you know, the story is obviously brilliant journalism, but it doesn't provide a basis for judging the diplomacy of the administration. We don't know what was said by the administration in these conversations. Perhaps, we were telling them that in some cases we had information suggesting it was going to be a dry hole. There are all sorts of considerations that could have gone into this, so I really think that what we should do is wait and see how this thing is going to develop.
|Charles William Maynes: "One of the ironic developments here is that the United States now is in a much stronger position than it was a few months ago to get support for the continuation of the sanctions"|
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Kemp, you think the way out of this is only to overthrow Saddam Hussein?
GEOFFREY KEMP: I think that our best ally in the short run is Mr. Butler. I think Mr. Butler is very serious. He is not going to sign off if there is any remote suspicion Saddam has something there, so we've got to work with Butler and Kofi Annan. They, rather than the Russians or the Chinese, are our best allies at this point in time. But I think it's futile to think that ultimately just U.N. pressure alone is going to change this regime. It has to be done systematically over a period of time. We have to build an alliance to do it. It's going to take years probably. There's no magic bullet, I'm afraid, and this man is potentially a menace. And the serious thing about the Post story was the fact that Butler has suspicion that they are still doing things they should not be doing. That's what should be worrying us. That's why we have to work with him at this point in time.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What do you think should be done next?
CHARLES WILLIAM MAYNES: I think we have to—first of all, I think we have to contain Iraq, which we are doing already. We have to try to shore up support for the sanctions, and one of the ironic developments here is that the United States now is in a much stronger position than it was a few months ago to get support for the continuation of the sanctions. In terms of overthrowing Saddam Hussein, that is a very long-run process. Brent Scowcroft, who was head of the NSC during the Bush administration, during the Gulf War, said they tried eight times to get Saddam Hussein, and they missed every time. So there is no magic bullet, as Geoff was saying. If the desire is to overthrow Saddam Hussein, then we've got a long period of containment ahead.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, thank you all very much for being with us.