November 21, 1997
Return to this forum's introduction.
Questions answered in this forum:
Wouldn't it have been better to remove the American inspectors? What do Arab nations think of America's peace keeping objectives now? Who would be impacted most by an unrestricted Saddam Hussein ? Why is U.S. foreign policy so inconsistent? How would the U.N. have reacted to a U.S. military strike? Viewer comments?
Randa Kayyali of Washington D.C. asks:
How would a U.S. attack on Iraq contradict the peace process? The U.S. is trying to play the role of an objective outsider seeking peace in the Middle East while only a few hundred miles away, the same U.S. government might soon be dropping bombs. Would the Palestinians and other Arabs become even more disillusioned with U.S. objectives in the region?
Amb. Alvin P. Adams of UNA-USA responds:
The crisis in Iraq has little direct bearing on the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian people, except insofar as Iraqi President Saddam Hussein chooses to use it to stir up mischief in the Middle East and, in particular, in Israel. U.N. economic sanctions were imposed on Iraq, and weapons inspectors were sent into Iraq, only after Iraq had attacked Kuwait and was defeated. The current confrontation is not between Iraq and the United States, but between Iraq and the United Nations. Saddam Hussein has tried hard to turn it into an Iraq-U.S. confrontation in order to cause division among the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and to weaken the Gulf War coalition. Military action against Iraq will not help the U.S. under the U.N. mandate and may unsettle public opinion in some Arab states, but it will not scuttle Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Nobody wants to have a military confrontation with Iraq. The Arab countries don't want it. The U.N. doesn't want it. The Americans don't want it. However, if Iraq returns to a policy of confrontation with weapons inspectors, the United States will have no alternative but forceful action against Iraq as a measure of last resort to force it to comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions. Such military intervention may alienate a number of Arab nations, but it would be seen within the context of Iraq's greater threat to the stability of the region. Further, while there is some humanitarian sympathy for the Iraqi people and the terrible suffering they have endured as a result of the economic sanctions, privately Arab leaders express little sympathy for Saddam Hussein. For more than six years, since the end of the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein has failed to ensure the lifting of the sanctions by cooperating with U.N. weapons inspectors. By full cooperation with the U.N. and compliance with its resolutions, he can end the sanctions against his country.
John Bolton of American Enterprise Institute responds:I believe that the 1990-91 Persian Gulf Crisis shattered forever the notion that Arab unity invariably triumphs over contrary national interests. After all, President Bush, in assembling the international coalition which reversed the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, created for the first time an alliance of independent Arab governments and Western states. Indeed, how could one ignore the underlying fact that the Iraqi invasion was itself unjustifiable aggression by one Arab state against another.
At the time, we were warned that "the Arab street" would rise in protest all over the Middle East if the U.S.-led coalition actually did engage in military operations against Iraq. No such uprising took place. Nor will it today if military action ensues.
The U.S. role in the Arab-Israeli peace process was never stronger - before or after - than it was in the immediate aftermath of the victorious Desert Storm operation. That was the point when Secretary Baker was able to launch the effort that led to the Madrid Conference, and the first-ever face-to-face negotiations between Arabs and Israelis. In turn, this led to the Israeli-Jordan peace agreement, and to direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians.
If anything, the current state of play in the region has seen a dramatic decrease in the role of the United States, and a dramatic increase in the role of the Russian Federation. The loss of American pre-eminence will unquestionably encourage a larger role for the European Union and several European states individually. I predict that that outcome will simply cause more confusion in the region, and retard the search for a durable and comprehensive peace.
Yahya Sadowski of The Brookings Institution responds:It is hard to see how a U.S. strike against Iraq might have advanced the peace process in any region of the Middle East. It might or might not have forced Saddam to relent from his campaign against the American role in UNSCOM. But it certainly would not have driven him from power, even if it had extended to massive attacks against the Republic Guard. It would not have resolved the growing Kurdish imbroglio in Northern Iraq, where Turkey is now erecting a security zone. It would not have created a credible security regime in the Gulf that would ease the fears of the Saudis and Kuwaitis. It would not have encouraged greater cooperation by the Arab states, such as Jordan and Egypt, with American policy. While it might have won the approval of the Israeli premier, Benjamin Netanyahu, it is hard to see how it might have encouraged him to be more supportive of the peace process.
An American strike against Iraq, whether limited to Cruise Missiles or expanded to include a heavy aerial bombardment, would have been strictly a reaction to Iraq's provocation. It would not have been a constructive step toward any wider goal.
Next: Who would be impacted most by an unrestricted Saddam Hussein?