1998 Congressional Hearings
Special Weapons
Nuclear, Chemical, Biological and Missile



HOUSE INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS COMMITTEE

DEVELOPMENTS IN THE MIDDLE EAST

WEDNESDAY, JULY 29, 1998

ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR NEAR EASTERN AFFAIRS

MARTIN S. INDYK



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As always, it's a pleasure to have an opportunity to discuss Middle
East issues with the committee. In the nearly five months since we
last met, a lot has happened in the Middle East, not much of it good.
One thing has not changed however, and that is the vital importance of
our interests in the Middle East.


Before turning to the body of my remarks, I wanted to take a few
moments to reiterate our revulsion and sorrow at the murder of three
Sister of Charity nuns in Hodeida, Yemen. The Yemeni government has
likewise condemned this terrible act, expressed its condolences
directly to the sisters, provided assistance in the repatriation of
the sisters' remains and stepped up protection of Christian sites in
Yemen. The suspect is in custody and has been identified as a person
with extremist tendencies. First reports suggest that he acted alone,
although the investigation continues.


In contrast to the responsible actions of the government of Yemen in
this horrible incident, the government of Iran this week appears to
have executed a person of the Baha'i faith. We strongly condemn this
action by the Iranian judiciary which runs directly counter to Iranian
President Khatami's commitments to freedom and the rule of law. We
note that there are some seven other Iranians of the Baha'i faith in
detention in Iran and urge the government of Iran to avoid any
repetition of the use of capital punishment against people of faith.
We will be following this matter closely and are urging other
governments engaged in dialogue with the government of Iran to express
their concerns directly.


INTRODUCTION



Unfortunately Mr. chairman, too many innocent people are dying in the
Middle East. That is one of the reasons that we continue to vigorously
pursue a just, lasting, comprehensive and secure peace in the Middle
East. Last week we reached a new stage in our efforts to achieve
agreement between Israel and the Palestinian authority on the package
of ideas we have presented to both parties aimed at restarting the
final status negotiations. Israelis and Palestinians have now agreed
to discuss directly Israeli refinements to our ideas. We are in
constant touch with both sides, but believe that it is essential for
them to resolve these issues directly. As soon as they do so, we stand
ready to involve ourselves directly in an effort to bring this
dragged-out effort to a successful conclusion as quickly as possible.


Iraq under the brutal rule of Saddam Hussein continues to be a
potential source of instability in the region, but recent revelations
about his continued deceit concerning his weapons of mass destruction
program have reinforced our argument that Iraq is far from complying
with the Security Council resolutions and have helped counter pressure
to lift sanctions. Meanwhile,, the expanded UN program to ensure that
the basic humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people are being met is in
place and the situation of the Iraqi people is continuing to improve.
Using money appropriated by this Congress, we have also developed a
program of overt support for the Iraqi opposition designed to make it
more politically effective and to assist in the efforts to document
Saddam's war crimes.


On Iran, the Secretary has laid out a process that, through a series
of parallel steps, by both governments, could eventually lead to a
more normal relationship with this key regional country. The reaction
in Iran to the Secretary's remarks was predictably mixed, given the
ongoing, intense political debate in Iran, but this approach does
offer a way forward, if the government of Iran is prepared to respond.
Meanwhile, people-to-people exchanges continue.


Last week, Iran test-launched the Shahab-III, a medium range ballistic
missile, heralding a new and potentially threatening development in
the regional arms race. Although not unexpected, this missile test
underscores the urgency of our efforts to shut off the flow of
technology to Iran's WMD and missile programs and the importance of
helping our friends in the region develop defenses against this
emerging threat, even while we seek to encourage moderation in Iran's
international behavior.


As the tenth anniversary of the bombing of Pan Am 103 approaches in
December of this year, we have also been preoccupied in recent months
with the question of how to bring to justice the Libyan terrorists
responsible. We are discussing with the UK and the Netherlands the
possibility of conducting a trial of the two suspects in a Scottish
court in the Netherlands. I should emphasize that the President has
made no decision on this and will not consider the matter until we are
satisfied that the large number of complex legal issues have been
sorted out. I want to be very clear on one point, however. The UNSC
resolutions call for the suspects to be tried in an American or
Scottish court. We are exploring the establishment of a Scottish court
in a third country venue. A Scottish court means a panel of Scottish
judges, applying Scottish legal procedures and Scottish rules of
evidence. It does not mean a world court proceeding and it does not
mean an international panel of judges. Our bottom line remains simple:
we seek justice for the 189 American victims of Pan Am 103 and their
families. Any arrangements agreed to will have to lead to this
objective or demonstrate clearly to the world that Qadhafi has no
intention of ever delivering the suspects, thereby helping to
strengthen the UN sanctions against Libya.


I would now like to discuss these developments and other issues in
greater detail.


MEPP



First on the peace process, it is useful to remember the fundamental
premise that the parties own this process, not us. If it is to
succeed, the parties must once again learn to work directly together,
without having their own perceptions and needs filtered through the
U.S. This is especially important because over the past 18 months the
parties have lost the ability to deal with each other directly. If
they cannot resolve their differences on these issues, how are they
going to resolve the extremely complex and sensitive issues involved
in the final status negotiations that will resume as soon as we
achieve agreement on our ideas? That is one of the reasons we have
insisted that the parties get together in the current phase of
negotiations. In our judgment, the only way to re-establish a
relationship of trust and confidence is to work on the gaps in their
positions together.


It is not at all certain that the current phase in which the parties
are talking about Israeli refinements to the ideas we presented will
succeed. The gaps have narrowed significantly but the clock is ticking
on the interim agreement. It will expire in less than ten months.
Already Palestinians are discussing a unilateral declaration of
statehood and Israelis are warning that any such move will provoke
annexation of territories in the West Bank. These developments would
have disastrous consequences. It is therefore imperative that the
parties come to an agreement now that would restore confidence and
credibility to their partnership, lead to parallel implementation of
their obligations under the interim agreement and create a conducive
environment for final status negotiations.


While the spotlight has been on the floundering Palestinian track in
the peace process, it has been impossible to make progress on any
other track. This does not detract prom the critical importance of
resuming negotiations between Israel and Syria and Lebanon. This is
not just because of our commitment to comprehensive peace, but also
because of~ the strategic interest we have in bringing Syria into the
circle of peace. Recent visits to Washington by the Lebanese Prime
Minister and the Syrian Foreign Minister have enabled the Secretary of
State to engage in detailed discussions about how to resume
negotiations on these two tracks. As soon as~ we have agreement on the
Palestinian track we will undertake an effort to get these
negotiations under way again.


In this context, a potentially positive development is the Israeli
government's announcement of its readiness to implement UN Security
Council resolution 425 which calls for withdrawal of Israeli forces
from Lebanon. We believe it is important to implement Security Council
resolutions and we have long sought an independent Lebanon free of all
foreign forces. We therefore welcome the Israeli decision. We
recognize that, as a practical matter, there would have to be some
kind of understandings to facilitate Israeli withdrawal and the
security of the Israel-Lebanon border in its aftermath. Resolution 426
specifically outlines a role for the UN Secretary General in the
implementation of resolution 425. We note that Kofi Annan has been in
touch with all the concerned parties and we urge him to continue this
process of consultations.


IRAQ



Turning to Iraq, we are no less determined to prevent Saddam Hussein
from ever again being in a position to threaten his neighbors and our
interests than we are to achieve a comprehensive Middle East peace.
Indeed, containing the threats to regional stability goes hand in hand
with our efforts to promote peace in this volatile region. We are
doing this by working to maintain international support for sanctions
against the Saddam Hussein regime until it complies fully with all
relevant Security Council resolutions. Frankly, given Saddam Hussein's
track record, we do not believe this is likely to occur. For in the
period since we last met, UNSCOM has uncovered additional concrete
evidence of Saddam Hussein's deliberate concealment of his WMD
programs. And until and unless he comes clean with full and complete
disclosures -- as required by the Security Council resolutions, the
Council cannot contemplate lifting sanctions.


For our part, I want to be clear: given Saddam Hussein's track record,
we cannot and will not abide a situation where he is free to spend
fifteen billion dollars of oil revenues on efforts to reconstitute his
ability to threaten the region again. That would constitute an
unacceptable threat to our vital interests.


From this basic judgment, there flow two obvious points: first, Saddam
should leave power. The United States has long expressed its interest
in dealing with a successor government in Baghdad, particularly one
that is democratic in character and wants to use Iraq's tremendous
natural resources for the benefit of its people, rather than to
threaten its neighbors. To move toward this objective, we have laid
out a plan to use the funds earmarked by Congress to aid the
democratic opposition to Saddam: we will encourage a united opposition
with the shared goals of fostering a pluralistic, post-dictatorship
Iraq that is secure in its borders, at peace with itself and its
neighbors and in voluntary compliance with UN resolutions.


In the first instance, this money will go to developing the
opposition's basic organizational skills and encouraging coalitions
within the opposition.


We are also offering assistance to facilitate the collection and
organization of the evidence of Saddam's war crimes. There is a huge
amount of documentation available on this subject and many in the
opposition are anxious to put it together with the objective of
seeking Saddam's indictment before an international tribunal.


We will assist the opposition in calling for the enforcement of US
resolutions, such as the human rights provisions of 688 and the
equitable distribution of food and other humanitarian goods under the
oil for food program.


We will also be projecting the opposition message into Iraq through
the operations of Radio Free Iraq. Regrettably, none of these efforts
are short-term projects, but it is very important to demonstrate that
there is a viable Iraqi alternative to Saddam Hussein's brutal and
destructive regime.


The second point which flows from our judgment that Saddam is unlikely
to comply with the UNSC resolutions is that sanctions are likely to
remain in place for the foreseeable future. Since these sanctions are
aimed at the Iraqi regime and not the Iraqi people, it is imperative
that the international community find effective ways to meet the needs
of the Iraqi people. For this reason, we supported the significant
expansion of the UN's oil for food program, including the
reconstruction of enough of Iraq's oil infrastructure to enable Iraq
to export the maximum amount of oil allowed under Security Council
resolutions. The good news is that this program is working and will
continue to improve the lot of the Iraqi people until the burden of
Saddam's rule is lifted from them.


In fact, my principal deputy has just returned from Northern Iraq
where he saw and heard first hand that the program is working. Many of
the people with whom he spoke commented that they were receiving more
of the benefits of their country's wealth now than they would if
Saddam were to regain control of Iraq's revenue. They were
understandably interested in seeing the sanctions remain in place and
"oil for food" continue.


Saddam has complained that this program is a way to avoid lifting
sanctions -- not surprisingly he has twisted the truth that this
program is designed to ensure that he and his regime are denied, to
the extent possible, the means they want to enrich themselves and feed
their illegitimate ambitions while providing Iraqis what they need to
survive the depredations of their unchosen ruler. Sanctions and oil
for food are two ways of working toward the same objective: an Iraq
able to resume its rightful place in the international community as a
unified state at peace with its neighbors and playing the positive
role its geographic location, resources and dynamic people would allow
it to do.


IRAN



Iraq's neighbor to the east is a country in transition. In electing
Muhammad Khatami president last year and apparently continuing to
support him enthusiastically, the Iranian people, particularly the
youth, have made clear their desire for change. It is not clear,
however, how quickly the people's will will be achieved. Conservative
forces opposed to change continue to control key organs of power in
the Iranian government and remain a formidable impediment to the
reforms President Khatami seeks to pursue.


The Secretary of State, in her recent address to the Asia society, has
made clear that we would like to see the change that the Iranian
people are demanding come about. And while there are areas of Iranian
policy of significant concern to us, we can envisage that within a
framework of parallel steps taken on a mutual and reciprocal basis, it
should be possible to build trust and confidence and overcome
misunderstanding and in this way develop a road map to improved
relations.


For our part, we continue to be prepared for an official dialogue with
the Iranian government. Recent Iranian actions such as the flight
testing of a medium range ballistic missile and the deplorable hanging
of an Iranian citizen of the Baha'i faith indicate that we would have
much to talk about. Of course, Iran has said publicly that it too has
issues of concern and we would be prepared to discuss those as well.


Recent Iranian actions in such areas as narcotics control, the
situation in Afghanistan and in relations with its Arab neighbors
across the gulf, have demonstrated that Iran can, when it chooses to
do so, exert positive influence in its region. But its development of
weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems, as well as its
continued support for terrorist organizations, remind us of Iran's
potential to threaten our interests and those of our allies in the
region.


For these reasons, US sanctions on Iran remain in place and we are
working with other countries to retard and delay the development of
Iran's weapons of mass destruction program. We have recently had some
success with Russia in this area and will continue to work for
improved cooperation in denying Iran WMD and missile technology. In
light of recent developments, this effort takes on new urgency.


LIBYA



Turning to the subject where we have recently seen the most visible
changes -- the issue of Libya. For far too long the victims and family
members of the Pam Am 103 bombing have been denied justice. Libya,
under the dictator Muammar Qadhafi, has refused to deliver for trial
before American or Scottish courts, the two suspects in the case.
After ten years, we are no closer to getting the accused into an
American or Scottish courtroom. The possibility we are now examining
is simply this: moving a Scottish court and Scottish law to another
country, probably the Netherlands. We are discussing the possibility,
and seeking to resolve the legal complexities. Until we do so, no
decision will be made to proceed with this idea.


Our bottom line is the same: there will be justice or there will be
US-mandated sanctions. We have told the representatives of other
countries that, if we decide to proceed with this approach, it is
non-negotiable on a take-it- or-leave-it basis. We have told those who
have urged flexibility on us that they will have the obligation to
urge Libya to accept this offer. And if Qadhafi demonstrates that he
has been bluffing all along when he promised the Arab league to
deliver the suspects to a Scottish court in a third country, we will
expect them to help enforce and strengthen sanctions.


Mr. chairman, this snap shot of the Middle East provides a mixed
picture of our position there. Saddam is in power, but still in his
box. The peace process is alive, but only just, and with a still
uncertain outcome. Developments in Iran offer the prospect of positive
change, but the struggle for power and influence continues. In the
case of Libya, we're looking at creative ways to achieve justice for
the families of the Pan Am 103 victims, but Qadhafi could be bluffing
and we will have to be ready to rally support for stiffer sanctions if
he is. But let me assure you that, whatever the outcome in these and
other situations, we have the resources and the will to defend our
interests and our friends.


Thank you.



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