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 .
SUN, MAY 24, 1998 I. STATEMENT OF THOMAS PICKERING, MAY 21 II. STATEMENT OF RICHARD PERLE, MAY 21 III. STATEMENT OF DAVID KAY, MAY 21 IV. STATEMENT OF KENNETH POLLACK, MAY 21 NB: The Navy announced today that the USS Independence had left the Gulf and was now operating in the Arabian Sea. Sec. Cohen also said the U.S. planned in the coming weeks to order home F-117 stealth fighters and other jets such as B-52 heavy bombers sent to the Gulf last November, according to Reuters. On Thurs, May 21, the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee and its Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a joint hearing, "Iraq: Are Sanctions Collapsing?" The panelists were Under Secretary of State, Thomas Pickering; former Asst Sec Def, Richard Perle; former chief nuclear inspector in Iraq, David Kay; and Kenneth Pollack, Persian Gulf Analyst, Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Sen. Frank Murkowksi [R AK], Energy Committee Chair, began the hearing by asking, "Are sanctions working? Speaking about the recent decision to vastly expand UNSCR 986, he asked, "Have we so weakened UN sanctions that Saddam can keep his weapons of mass destruction and threaten world oil supplies?" Sen. Sam Brownback [R KS], Chair of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Middle East, advised, "A number of us in the Senate are worried that we are going down a course which doesn't address the problem, Saddam Hussein" and called for a "frank dialogue" about where the US intends to take its strategy toward Iraq. Sen. Ben Knighthorse Campbell [R CO] remarked that it was naïve to believe Saddam would use the additional revenues he will receive under UNSCR 986 for his people, while he complained about how the last Iraq crisis had ended and the phony palace inspections that followed. Sen. Conrad Burns [R MT] asserted "Saddam will starve his own people to serve his own purposes." Sen. Chuck Hagel [R NE] said that enforcing sanctions is not an act of foreign policy. Rather, it is a tool of policy. And he asked, "What is our policy?" Maintaining sanctions. As Pickering explained, "Our fundamental goal is to counter the threat that the Iraqi regime poses to US national interests and to the peace and security of the Gulf. This goal remains unchanged from the time of Desert Storm. Its importance was manifest in the diplomatic and military resources the US brought to bear last winter. . . . Based on Saddam's record, we have no reason to think he will comply with the obligations the Security Council has levied on Iraq. That means, as far as the US is concerned, that sanctions will be a fact of life for the foreseeable future." Pickering defended the expansion of UNSCR 986, "The 'oil-for-food' program keeps these sanctions in place, but makes them endurable for the average Iraqi and acceptable to the larger international community." The alternatives were "watching the Iraqi people starve" or "lifting sanctions prematurely," while "We are now working with the [UN] Secretariat and other members of the Security Council to ensure the effective implementation of the expanded 'oil for food' program. . . Obviously, the program is not perfect. We recognize that there have been—and will continue to be—glitches. . . We also must face the fact that some members of the Security Council are far more interested in hastening the end of the sanctions than we are." Sen. Murkowksi responded by asking, "Doesn't this allow Saddam to have the best of both worlds? He can rebuild his oil industry and then his war machine for whatever he has in mind." Murkowksi also cited the $450 mil/year Iraq earns from unsupervised oil shipments--to Jordan, Turkey, and through the Gulf, noting that the money went straight to Saddam and helped keep him in power. He called for effective efforts to stop the trade, while noting that UNSCR 687 required sanctions to remain in place until Iraq had relinquished its proscribed weapons and undertook not to rebuild them. The UNSC had nonetheless expanded 986, which was "beyond me." Sen. Brownback suggested that the administration had undertaken a strategy which assumed that Saddam would remain in power, while predicting that sanctions would loosen to the point where they became virtually meaningless. Pickering explained that that was not so. It was "our heart's desire" to see Saddam removed, as the Sec State had explained in her speech early last year, but there were "difficulties." Brownback replied, "You have strong support in Congress for a strategy to oust Saddam over the long term," observing that "Your words and actions don't match." Sen. Hagel asked, "How viable are sanctions over time?" Sanctions can work for a while in the short term, he said, but they are a short term solution." Sen. Pete Dominci [R NM], recently returned from the Gulf, said the Saudis had said it was time to reduce the US presence in the region. He was concerned about their "less than total commitment," explaining "I'm not sure that this is going to work. . . The whole scheme seems rather porous and the longer the time passes, the less it is apt to work." He also said he had met US servicemen in Saudi Arabia who had returned there 11 times, complaining Saddam "plays us like a yo-yo." Sen. Murkowksi concluded his comments to Pickering, saying that he didn't feel the administration was working in a clear way to end Saddam's regime, charging rather that US policy was "prolonging the regime of this despot," asking "how is the world going to free itself of Saddam Hussein, and warning that US policy was simply sustaining his rule, "until Saddam has built up his infrastructure to achieve his aims whatever they may be." Sen. Brownback ended the session by citing press reports that the administration was moving to a strategy of deterrence, explaining that he had taken Pickering's statements to mean that that was not so. Pickering assured him on that point. The position of the Republican Senators regarding Iraq was bolstered by the testimony of the first two non-administration witnesses, Richard Perle and David Kay. Perle explained, "The sanctions regime is indeed collapsing, along with American policy toward Iraq. In fact, there is little to distinguish the Iraq sanctions from American policy since American policy is nothing more than the desperate embrace of sanctions of diminishing effectiveness, punctuated by occasional whining, frequent bluster, political retreat and military paralysis. What the Administration calls a policy of containment has become an embarrassment as our friends and allies in the region and elsewhere ignore our feckless imprecations and reposition themselves for Saddam's triumph over the United States. More than six years after his defeat in Desert Storm, Saddam Hussein is outsmarting, outmaneuvering and outflanking what may be the weakest foreign policy team in any American administration in the second half of the century. The coalition once arrayed against Saddam is in disarray, marking a stunning reversal of the position of leadership occupied by the United States just six years ago." Perle concluded that "Saddam's eventual political victory will be followed by a restoration of his military power." And "only a policy that is openly based on the need to eliminate the Saddam Hussein regime has any hope of attracting sufficient support in the region to succeed." And "without legislation and other pressure on the Administration there will be no change in current policy, previous Congressional initiatives will be sidelined or ignored and irreparable damage will be done to the position of the United States in the region and the world." Kay warned that UNSCOM inspections were "sliding toward irrelevance in coping with . . . Saddam's efforts to protect and expand his capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction." He explained that when UNSCOM began its work, it operated on the basis of four assumptions that have all proven false: 1) Saddam would be overthrown; 2) Iraq's WMD capabilities were not that extensive or significantly indigenous; 3) a post-Saddam Iraq would declare all Iraq's WMD capabilities; and 4) UNSCOM would be able to disarm Iraq and leave a country without a WMD capability. Not only did Saddam survive, but Iraq's WMD capabilities were of gigantic scope and proved to be indigenous, Kay explained. Iraq's WMD effort spanned a decade; cost more than $20 billion; and involved more than 40,000 people. Iraq "succeeded in mastering all the technical and most of the production steps necessary to acquire a devil's armory of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as well as the missiles necessary to deliver them over vast distances. . . . The capability to produce weapons of mass destruction cannot be eliminated by simply destroying 'weapons' facilities. The weapons secrets are now Iraqi secrets well understood by a large stratum of Iraq's technical elite, and the production capabilities necessary to turn these 'secrets' into weapons are part and parcel of the domestic infrastructure of Iraq which will survive even the most drastic of sanctions regimes. . . . Iraq is not Libya, but very much like post-Versailles Germany in terms of its ability to maintain a weapons capability in the teeth of international inspections. Once sanctions are eased or ended, the capability can be expected to become quickly a reality. . . . "One can only despair that those who urge containment of Saddam as an appropriate policy have not examined preconditions of the Cold War case to see if they exist in the Gulf. The US maintained for 40 years more than a million troops in Europe as part of its effort to contain the Soviets and invested vast resources in the social, political and economic reconstruction of Europe into a bastion of democratic values." Kay concluded "Political change in Iraq holds the only hope for eliminating Iraq's capacity for producing weapons of mass destruction and the equally dangerous arms race that is about to ignite across the Gulf," advising support for the Iraqi opponents of Saddam. By contrast, Kenneth Pollack defended containment, even as he acknowledged it could not last as is. He advised that to maintain the present international position on Iraq, what he termed "broad containment," the US would have to make concessions on issues other than Iraq. "This could mean making concessions to Russia on NATO expansion, to China over trade issues, and to France over Iran, and so on." Or the US could make another set of concessions to achieve "narrow containment," relaxing restrictions on Iraq, to draw new "firm 'red lines' around those things which the entire international community recognizes as dangerous. Thus there would be fewer restrictions on Iraqi behavior, but those that remain would be much clearer and more defensible." That, however, IS the administration's approach--to make concessions, like expanding UNSCR 986, in order to maintain the international consensus, even as recent experience has shown that each concession fails to produce a stable consensus, only the demand for more concessions. Indeed, Sen. Murkoski responded, by advising that you talk of a defense of containment, because it has worked over the past years, but if you ask whether Saddam is better off today than he was one, two or three years ago? In the Q&A that followed, Perle noted that Pickering's statement that it was "our heart's desire" to remove Saddam was far from "robust language." Rather, it should be a US "objective." One of the reasons the US had lost the propaganda war over who was responsible for the suffering of the Iraqi people under sanctions, as Perle maintained and Pickering acknowledged, was that "We've cut off the democratic opposition." Perle advised that the US should recognize that there is an Iraqi opposition whose claim to legitimacy is greater than Saddam's. Although Congress recently authorized money for the democratic opposition, Perle predicted that the administration would find ways not to spend it [see "Iraq News, May 1, for the legislation], even as Perle explained that he did not see any new policy initiatives coming from the administration. "I think we're going to coast until we fall off the cliff. It's frustrating to see the administration mobilize so much energy into thwarting initiatives, like from the Senate majority leader, without having anything else." Indeed, it is frustrating. It might seem inexplicable. One would think that given Saddam's character, as described by the Republican senators, and the nature of his proscribed weapons programs, as described by Kay, the US would do everything in its power to oust Saddam. But it does not. Already by 1994, the Clinton administration had decided that it was not willing to overthrow Saddam by supporting a popular insurgency. It would be a coup or nothing, as the Peter Jennings ABC News special on Iraq, which aired last June and was repeated this winter, explained. Basically, the Clinton administration did not, and does not, want to take action that entails significant foreign policy risks, even as it does not recognize, or perhaps does not acknowlege, the risk in not acting. As the evidence mounts that an Iraq policy based on sanctions alone is not tenable and will lead to Saddam's return, politically and militarily, the administration digs in its heels. As Perle noted, it seems to have rejected even the modest initiative of the Senate Majority leader, despite assurances that the Senate would strongly support a US policy to back the Iraqi opposition in a long-term effort to overthrow Saddam. As that is the road the administration does not want to go down, it balks at taking even the first step.