TESTIMONY February 25, 1998 BENJAMIN A. GILMAN CHAIRMAN HOUSE INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS U.S. OPTIONS IN IRAQ The Committee will come to order. The subject of today's hearing is U.S. options in confronting Iraq. When we planned this hearing we thought we would spend most of our time today exploring the risks and rewards associated with military action against Iraq. But the agreement reached in Iraq two days ago by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has changed the equation. Military action remains a distinct possibility down the road, but for the time being President Clinton has committed our nation to seek in good faith to implement the Secretary General's agreement. Many of us are extremely skeptical of that agreement. Saddam Hussein has broken his word to the United Nations many times before. Perhaps this time he means to honor his commitments, but we tend to doubt it. There are several provisions within that agreement that are deeply troubling. It obligates the U.N. weapons inspectors to quote "respect the legitimate concerns of Iraq relating to national security, sovereignty and dignity." Close quote. That sounds an awful lot like Saddam Hussein's description of what the dispute was about in the first place. The agreement changes the composition and structure of the U.N. inspection agency in ways that may reduce its effectiveness. The agreement then goes on to direct the reconstituted inspection agency to carry out its work in accordance with quote "specific detailed procedures which will be developed given the special nature of the Presidential Sites." Close quote. We don't know what these specific detailed procedures will be, but if they are designed to respect the legitimate concerns of Iraq relating to national security, sovereignty, and dignity, as defined by Saddam Hussein, they are bound to be a problem. Most troubling of all is the question of whether this agreement commits us to a course that will, in short order, render the continuation of international sanctions on Iraq untenable. Make no mistake about it, the sanctions regime that has been in place against Iraq since 1990 has been our most effective tool in containing the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. In this connection, we should recall that during Congress's 1991 debate over whether to authorize President Bush to use military force to expel the Iraqi army from Kuwait, a significant minority of this institution held the sanctions regime in such high regard that they urged us to rely on it to the exclusion of military force as the means most likely to restore freedom to Kuwait. It would indeed be tragic if the net result of the saber rattling we've witnessed over the last several weeks was to speed up the lifting of international sanctions on Saddam Hussein. For all these reasons, many of us were surprised when President Clinton rushed to embrace the agreement negotiated by the Secretary General. Some have suggested that the Administration may have developed second thoughts about the military course to which it was committed until two days ago. Whether that course was a wise one is a subject we hope to explore today. For example, was the confrontational course adopted by the Administration warranted by changes in Iraqi behavior over the last several months, or was Iraq simply behaving as it has since the war ended in 1991? Was the Administration's strategy of using air power to coerce Iraq into complying with Security Council resolutions likely to succeed, or would it have isolated us internationally without advancing our objectives in Iraq? Finally, I think we all agree that our country needs a more comprehensive strategy to deal with the real problem in Iraq -- Saddam Hussein's continued grip on power. What are the necessary elements of such a strategy, and does the Secretary General's agreement with Iraq make it easier or harder for us to carry out such a strategy? These are all topics that I hope our witnesses will address this morning.