Developments in US Iraq Policy

Iraq News 03 August 1998

By Laurie Mylroie

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 .


   With the anniversary of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and Amb. 
Butler's arrival in Baghdad, both Aug 2, things are heating up.  The 
Iraqi press viciously attacked Kuwait, as well as Butler.  As AP 
reported, Al Thawra charged Kuwait was to blame for the invasion and 
that "Kuwait is an American base. . .  The rulers are hiding behind the 
borders of the Security Council, supplying the agents and mercenaries 
with what they need to plot against our country."  Similarly, Babil 
attacked Kuwait for using its resources to make war on Iraq and "to 
bribe this international official or that to prolong the sanctions."

   Former Asst Sec State for Near East Affairs, Robert Pelletrau, in Al 
Hayat, Aug 2, wrote an astonishingly frank, interesting, and useful 
account of the events of Aug 31, 96, when Baghdad assaulted the 
US-backed Iraqi opposition in Irbil.   
   As Pelletrau wrote, "In September 1996, the Iraqi Army intervened in 
Iraqi Kurdistan and the US administration responded with weak rocket 
attacks on Iraqi air defense sites south of Baghdad and extended the 
no-fly zone north to the 33rd parallel.  After this, Secretary of State 
Warren Christopher asked me to undertake a difficult mission to restore 
U.S. influence in Northern Iraq . . . It was a large undertaking.  
Indeed, in August Talabani had violated a cease-fire which had been 
negotiated with our assistance and he occupied areas traditionally under 
the control of the KDP.  The purpose of the attack was not the land 
itself, but money.  Part of the cease-fire had been that the KDP would 
share with the PUK revenues collected by the KDP from the trucks coming 
from Turkey across the Habur border crossing and returning with Iraqi 
diesel fuel. . . . The PUK forces had received some arms from Iran and 
there was possibly some Iranian artillery assistance across the border 
to the PUK.  But according to my knowledge, there was no direct Iranian 
intervention in the fighting."
   As readers will recall, following the Iraqi attack on Irbil, the 
administration claimed that the Kurdish fighting was a conflict between 
pro-Iranian Kurds and pro-Iraqi Kurds, a fight in which the US had no 
interests at stake.  CIA chairman, John Deutch, was the only 
administration official to publicly take issue with that.  Pelletrau has 
become the second.
   Indeed, in the period prior to Aug 31, 96 an effort was made to 
address the Kurdish fighting by establishing an INC monitoring force.  
The terms of a cease-fire had been agreed upon, but its implementation 
waited upon the establishment of the monitoring force.  Some $4 million 
was needed and a number of people, in and out of Gov't, sought to obtain 
it, including the head of State's Northern Gulf Affairs, a point to 
which Pelletrau alluded when he wrote that the State Dept "could not at 
the time fund a neutral force to supervise a cease-fire." 
   But why not?  It was because the White House ran Iraq policy from 
behind the scenes.  And it did not want the INC to get the money. It was 
still angry at the INC for its Mar 95 offensive.  The White House feared 
that if the Iraqi army attacked the INC, the US would have to defend it. 
And that they didn't want to do, even as the administration never 
provided the INC any weapons with which to defend itself either.  
Rather, the White House convinced itself there was an easier way to 
overthrow Saddam--through a coup. 
   Thus, the White House made it impossible for the State Dep't to 
acquire the money it sought for the INC monitoring force.  It was told 
that there was no money for such a force.  All the money for Iraq was in 
the CIA budget and that money was for covert operations.  But a 
monitoring force was an overt operation and hence the CIA could not pay 
for it, or so it was argued.  And when, in Jun 96, Saddam wrapped up the 
CIA-backed coup, and then in Aug, attacked the CIA-backed insurgents, 
the Clinton administration had a serious problem.  But rather than fix 
the problem, it dealt with it in the manner described by Pelletrau, with 
a well-oiled spin machine in very high gear.
   As Pelletrau explained, "I asked the two Kurdish leaders by telephone 
to meet in Ankara and I was surprised to a certain extent when both 
agreed immediately. . .  I tried to involve London and Paris in this 
effort.  London agreed.  But the French ambassador in Washington . . . 
informed me of his Government's position, which was that the Kurdish 
parties should negotiate with Baghdad. . . .
    "The period between our arrival in Ankara and the holding of the 
talks on October 30 and 31 saw an important development—the 
administration had taken an initiative, under electoral pressures and 
charges raised against it of abandoning our allies in Iraqi Kurdistan, 
to evacuate those working with American organizations in Northern Iraq 
and help also to evacuate members of the INC from the area to Guam, in 
the Pacific ocean, to begin their processing as refugees in the US.  The 
Kurdish leaders showed their distress about the redirection of the US 
presence in their areas and they only responded very reluctantly to our 
request to help in the evacuation. . . "
   In Ankara, on the eve of the US elections, Pelletrau managed to 
hammer out the text of an agreement between the Kurds.  But "after 
reading the statement, the head of the KDP delegation, Sami Abd al 
Rahman, said he could not accept revenue sharing without Barzani's 
agreement.  We waited as he tried to call Barzani, but without success, 
on a satellite telephone in Salah al Din.  This took many hours and we 
could wait no longer.  . . . . Therefore [we] took Sami Abdul Rahman and 
pressured him very strongly to agree and that is what he did in the end, 
because he had no other choice.  I then called in the journalists and 
read them the final statement.  The successful result was a source of 
comfort to the Secretary of State and came at a time when the 
Republicans were waiting fiercely to attack US policy."  
  But they weren't really.  Some of Bob Dole's foreign policy advisors 
wanted him to make an issue of the Iraq fiasco in the presidential 
campaign, but Dole hesitated.  He had been among a group of senators who 
met with Saddam in the spring of 1990.  They held an obsequious exchange 
with him and, after Iraq invaded Kuwait, Baghdad released a transcript 
of the meeting.  Probably, the meeting was part of an Iraqi campaign of 
deception practiced on the US prior to the invasion of Kuwait.  
   Dole could have acknowledged the mistake [who hasn't made a mistake 
on Iraq?] and done the country a service by putting Iraq back on the 
national agenda.  But Dole didn't want to be embarrassed by recollection 
of his meeting with Saddam, which probably would have been part of 
Clinton's response to serious criticism from Dole about Iraq.  
Consequently, Iraq did not figure much in the election campaign, and it 
was not until a year later, with Saddam on the ascendant, that the 
Senate was ready to take up the issue.

    On Wed, Jul 29, Asst Sec State for NEA, Martin Indyk, testified 
before the House International Relations Committee.  In his prepared 
statement, Indyk reiterated Clinton policy on Iraq, "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 actions 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 . . ."
   In response to Congress' pressure to develop a policy toward Iraq 
that would aim at Saddam's overthrow, Indyk explained, "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..."  
  Indyk's statement also said that Saddam was "still in his box." 
  But Congress is not happy with this.  The chairman, Ben Gilman, 
explained, "We also have serious concerns about how to address the 
ongoing threats of Iraq.  And as you know, just a few days ago the 
committee marked up a resolution finding Iraq in material breach of its 
requirements of the post-war cease-fire."  That is, Congress is moving 
to find Iraq in breach of UNSCR 687, the formal cease-fire to the Gulf 
war.  The resolution passed the full Senate Friday, and the House is to 
vote on it this week.
   When asked about prospects of a civil war in Iraq, if Saddam were 
overthrown by an insurgency rather than a coup, Indyk said, "I 
personally tend to be more sanguine.  I think that there is a lot more 
cohesion to the Iraqi state and to the Iraqi people than is normally 
given them credit for. After the Gulf war, there was great concern that 
the Shiite rebellion in the South would lead to the breakaway of the 
South under Iranian tutelage.  I think that fear was much exaggerated 
and unfortunately led to or had an influence on the calculations of 
Iraq's southern neighbors and of Washington about whether to support 
that rebellion or not.  So I don't think that we should be overly 
concerned about that."  
  Indyk also explained that Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah would be coming 
to Wash DC in Sept.

   Finally, the Wash Post, Aug 2, "US Aims to Unify Foes of Saddam," 
reported, "Directed by Congress to pursue more vigorous efforts to bring 
down Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the Clinton administration has 
responded with a detailed, 27 page plan to rebuild Iraq's shattered 
political opposition and prepare a case for a possible war crimes 
indictment of Iraqi leaders [see "Iraq News," Jul 14] . . . 
  "[Senior administration officials] said they have no illusions that 
their plan will put an early end to Saddam Hussein's regime, but said 
they want to support and unify the Iraqi opposition in hopes of 
fostering an orderly transition to democracy should Saddam Hussein 
unexpectedly fall."
  Yet "Two staff members of House International Relations Committee 
Chairman Benjamin A. Gilman (R-NY) assessed it as a 'baby step' that 
might 'lead to a slightly higher profile for the Iraqi opposition abroad 
but [be of] little help in Iraq.'  In a report they said the 
administration's list of 73 Iraqi opposition groups with which it 
intends to work is 'absurd [because] many of the groups listed number 
only one person and several are not even Iraqi.'" [see "Iraq News," Jun 
18] ...
  "A Republican Senate aide who has analyzed the plan called it 'fatally 
flawed,' and said some of the 73 listed opposition groups are 
'penetrated by Baghdad.'"  He said GOP lawmakers asked Indyk at a testy 
meeting to redirect some of the $5 million to a London-based group 
called Indict, which is promoting war crimes prosecution of the Iraqi 
leadership. [ED: The INC helped found Indict, after Iraq's Aug 96 attack 
on Irbil].  When Indyk raised legal objections to funding the group, the 
senators reminded him that the bill appropriating the money contained 
the phrase, 'notwithstanding any other provision of law.'  [ED: This is 
the same kind of argument the administration used in '96 to deny money 
for an INC monitoring force.]  This source said GOP senators are also 
unhappy because they want most of the money to go to the Iraqi National 
   Finally, the Wash Post offered its own evaluation of the State Dep't 
proposal, "Much of the plan reads like an organizational manual for 
grass-roots activists."  And that is because the Clinton administration, 
even now, seems to believe that all that it has to do regarding Iraq is 
to maintain the sanctions.