The central focus of Iraq News is the tension between the considerable, proscribed WMD capabilities that Iraq is holding on to and its increasing stridency that it has complied with UNSCR 687 and it is time to lift sanctions. If you wish to receive Iraq News by email, a service which includes full-text of news reports not archived here, send your request to Laurie Mylroie .
I. SADDAM CHAIRS RCC-PARTY LEADERSHIP MEETING, INA, APR 29 II. JIM HOAGLAND, "NO TIME TO TONE DOWN," WASH POST, APR 23 III. PAUL WOLFOWITZ, "REBUILDING THE ANTI-SADDAM COALITION," NOV 18 IV. BOSTON GLOBE ED, "FACED DOWN BY SADDAM?" APR 25 V. CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY HAILS SEN. LOTT ON IRAQ, APR 28 On Apr 27, the UNSC, as expected, voted to maintain sanctions on Iraq. Apr 28 was Saddam's birthday, a major holiday on which no serious work is to be done. On Apr 29, Baghdad issued its first major response to the UNSC sanctions review. Saddam chaired a joint meeting of the RCC and Bath party leadership. It issued a short statement, "The meeting was held to follow up the UN Security Council's stands in light of the principles stated in the statement issued by the Revolutionary Command Council and the Iraq Command of the Arab Socialist Bath Party on 16 April" [which had called for the immediate lifting of sanctions after the sanctions review.] Yesterday's statement also said, "The meeting will be resumed to discuss the foreign minister's report on the activities and contacts in New York with the UN secretary general and UN Security Council members." Iraq will respond to the UNSC vote, but it seems no decision will be announced until after the Foreign Minister returns from NYC, where the UNSC has still to decide on the Russian-led effort to "close" the nuclear file. Meanwhile, as Jim Hoagland, Apr 23, wrote, the Clinton administration, which had not really expected another Iraq crisis until Oct, seems to be further backpedaling [that was also reported in the news section of the Wash Post, Apr 29]. "Despite new signs that Saddam Hussein may soon break out of his deal with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan," Hoagland explained, "the Clinton administration is weighing a retreat from its previous threats to bomb Iraq if Baghdad resumes active disruption of UN weapons inspections." The administration is apparently moving toward a policy of "deterrence," rather than "containment," raising the threshold for Iraqi challenges that would cause the US to threaten military action against Baghdad. According to Hoagland, under a "deterrence" policy, the US would respond "with force to any open deployment of chemical or biological weapons or to any threatening move by Iraqi forces against Kuwait or Saudi Arabia. . . . Under one set of proposals being urged on Clinton, the United States would not treat expulsion of UNSCOM [!!!] as a trigger for strikes, despite suggestions last February that Iraq's reneging on the Annan deal would provoke an automatic US military response that would be unilateral if necessary." Indeed, on Feb 24, the day after the Annan deal, the Wash Post reported, "Clinton said he remains ready to use military force if Iraq reneges on the accord." Asked to respond to Republican criticism of the accord, Clinton said, "Since 1991 our strategy has been to keep sanctions on, keep Iraq from rebuilding its military might and threatening its neighbors, but to pursue this inspection system to end what is the biggest threat both to its neighbors and to others by indirection, which is the chemical, the biological and the nuclear weapons program." Who is responsible for the US retreat from Feb to Apr, or at least contemplated retreat? The allies, of course, particularly the Arabs. As Hoagland explained, the US reassessment is based on a recognition that Washington "failed last winter to generate support from its Arab allies and from its main Security Council partners" for military strikes. Yet Paul Wolfowitz, former Bush Undersecretary of Defense, already last Nov, described the situation otherwise. As he wrote in the WSJ, Nov 18, "Why has the anti-Saddam coalition become so weak . . .and what might be done to reconstitute a new coalition? The major reason for other nations' hesitance to join any military effort to force Saddam Hussein to comply with the UN Security Council resolutions remains unspoken. They do not wish to be associated with a US military effort that is ineffective and that leaves them alone to face Iraq. That is the lesson of the original Gulf War coalition. "International condemnation of Saddam's 1990 occupation of Kuwait was almost universal. But that outrage alone would not have been enough to create a consensus for unified action. The actions countries were asked to take were extremely risky, particularly the nations of the Arabian Peninsula. . . The decisive step in forming the coalition that eventually liberated Kuwait was not the initial condemnation of Iraqi aggression by the UN Security Council, but the decision by Saudi Arabia, a few days later, to accept the deployment of a large US armed force on Saudi soil. That Saudi decision was initiated by a telephone call from President Bush to King Fahd on Aug 4, 1990, in which the president promised that US forces would finish the job of liberating Kuwait. Mr. Bush then dispatched Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney to Jiddah for a meeting with the King on Aug 6 that sealed the Saudi agreement to the deployment of one of the largest American armed forces ever sent overseas. "In hindsight that Saudi decision has been almost taken for granted, but at the time it was anything but a sure thing. The Saudis had already declined a US offer of a fighter squadron in the immediate aftermath of Iraq's aggression. . . . The US was asking a country with only modest armed forces of its own to take on a tiger in its immediate neighborhood . . . The Saudis had no interest in merely pulling the tiger's tail. If the US was serious about eliminating a threat to their survival, they would join us. Otherwise they would do the best they could to persuade the tiger to leave them alone." And that, more than anything else, helps explain the lack of Arab support for the administration's proposed strikes on Iraq. The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, Apr 17, also commented on the planned US shift to deterrence, "meaning we will only use military force against deployment or use of missiles or WMD - not their acquisition or possession. What then? After they are deployed, will we say, 'The US will only retaliate against their use'? Or after they are used, will we say, 'The US will only retaliate if they are used against someone we like'? The editors of the Boston Globe, Apr 25, also took the administration to task, calling the proposed policy "even more untenable" than the old. The Globe endorsed a policy of overthrowing Saddam, applauding recent Senate approval of funding for the Iraqi National Congress and describing the INC's "realistic" plan for bringing Saddam down. Finally, the Center for Security Policy, Apr 28, hailed Sen Lott's leadership on Iraq, "Even as the Clinton administration once again shows itself unable or unwilling to address the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction in the only way certain to be effective—namely, by removing him and his clique from power—Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) has once again insisted that the latter should be the object of American policy. Better yet, he has helped to secure the first increment of funding need to achieve that objective." Seconding Sen. Lott's call for US support for the Iraqi National Congress, whose leader, Ahmad Chalabi, he met earlier this week, the Center concluded, "The Clinton administration could powerfully signal its embrace, albeit belatedly, of this goal by having President Clinton follow Senator Lott's in meeting with Dr. Chalabi. Until then, the Majority Leader is to be commended for stepping into the breach—and his colleagues in the Congress for following his strategically important lead."