Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs
Statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Subcommittee on Near East and South Asia Affairs
Washington, DC, June 23, 1999
I am pleased to appear before you this morning to discuss U.S. policy toward Iraq.
Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, remains dangerous, unreconstructed and defiant. We have come to the conclusion, after more than eight years of effort at seeking Saddam's compliance with UN Security Council resolutions, that his regime will never be able to be rehabilitated or reintegrated into the community of nations. This conclusion is based on what Saddam's record makes manifest--that he will never relinquish what remains of his WMD (weapons of mass destruction) arsenal, and that he will never cease being a threat to the region, U.S. interests, and his own people. It is based on Saddam's policies, not on any predetermined policy of our own. Thus, in November of last year, President Clinton announced a new policy with regard to Iraq: henceforth, we would contain Saddam Hussein while we sought a new regime to govern in Baghdad. The President committed the United States to support those Iraqis--inside and outside Iraq--who seek a new government and a better future for all the people of Iraq.
Some 8 years after the Gulf War and Saddam's persistent defiance of the international community, we are under no illusions that Iraq under Saddam Hussein will comply with UNSC (United Nations Security Council) resolutions on disarmament, human rights, accounting for POW's and the return of stolen property.
In view of this reality, our policy rests on three pillars. First, as long as he is around, we will contain Saddam Hussein in order to reduce the threat he poses both to Iraq's neighbors and to the Iraqi people. Second, we will seek to alleviate the humanitarian cost to the Iraqi people of his refusal to comply with UNSC resolutions. Finally, we will work with forces inside and outside Iraq, as well as Iraq's neighbors, to change the regime in Iraq and help its new government rejoin the community of nations.
Our policy of containment plus regime change is designed to help protect the citizens of Iraq and its neighbors from an aggressive and hostile regime. Sanctions diminish the ability of Saddam Hussein to reconstitute his military and WMD capabilities. Operations Northern and Southern Watch deter Saddam from using his air force against the civilian populations north of the 36th parallel and south of the 33rd. We maintain a robust force in the region, which we have made clear we are prepared to use should Saddam cross our well-established redlines. Those redlines include: should he try to rebuild or deploy his weapons of mass destruction; should he strike out at his neighbors; should he challenge allied aircraft in the no-fly zones; or should he move against the people living in the Kurdish-controlled areas of Northern Iraq.
Let me be particularly clear on this point: the United States is concerned for the protection of all Iraqis against the repression of the Baghdad regime. Besides those new living in relative safety in parts of northern Iraq, the world should not forget that Iraqi Shiites in the south, tribal Sunni Arabs in the west and center, the Turkomans and Assyrians, and even Tikritis themselves continue to suffer Baghdad's daily repression. Hence, we believe that the world community should tolerate no backsliding from Baghdad's obligations under any of the UNSC resolutions intended to protect the people of Iraq and its neighbors from the depredations of the current Baghdad regime. In particular, UNSC resolution 688 twice cited the consequences of Baghdad's repression of the Iraqi civilian population as a threat to international peace and security. It therefore demanded not only that Baghdad "immediately end this repression," but it also insisted that Baghdad give "immediate access by international humanitarian organizations to all those in need of assistance in all parts of Iraq." Baghdad is in flagrant violation of this UNSC resolution, as it is of so many others.
We are committed to maintaining UNSC controls on the Iraqi regime, while lifting the burden of sanctions off the backs of the Iraqi people through the expansion and streamlining of the oil-for-food program.
This humanitarian relief program is the second pillar of our policy. Sanctions were never directed against the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people. In fact, food and medicine are specifically exempt from sanctions. Iraq has always been free to buy and import these goods, but Saddam Hussein has long chosen not to do so in order to manipulate public opinion by deliberately causing the suffering of his own citizens. Our response has been first to establish, and then to expand, the oil-for-food program, which provides a mechanism for the United Nations to control the use of revenues from the sale of Iraqi oil for the purchase of humanitarian supplies for the Iraqi people. Despite interference by the regime, the oil-for-food program has ensured that the people of Iraq receive the food and medicine, which their own government denies them.
There is a fundamental principle at work here. As long as the current Baghdad regime is in defiance of the UNSC resolutions, we will never allow it to regain control of Iraq's oil revenues. They will continue to be escrowed by the UN and their uses controlled by the UN sanctions committee. This same approach underpins the British/Dutch draft Security Council resolution currently under consideration in New York. The draft would allow for the suspension of sanctions on Iraqi exports in return for full compliance by Baghdad with a roadmap of key disarmament tasks. Imports would continue to be controlled and effective financial controls would remain in place. These provisions are coupled with an effective, intrusive arms control regime that preserves UNSCOM's mandate and prerogatives. Though there are some aspects of the draft which we will seek to improve in the course of Council discussions, we support the British/Dutch draft because it meets our bottom-line criteria: real arms control; expansion of the oil-for-food program on the basis of humanitarian need; insistence on a standard of full Iraqi compliance for action on sanctions; and denial of oil revenues to the regime. This is a tough, credible package that deserves Council support.
Although effective, the containment element of our policy has its costs. As we have seen repeatedly since 1991, even a contained Iraq under its current leadership remains a threat both to the stability of the region and to the welfare of the Iraqi people. Both are paying too high a price for Saddam's continued rule. In our judgment, both urgently deserve better. It is past time for Saddam to go.
For these reasons, President Clinton announced in November that the United States would work with the Iraqi people toward a government in Iraq which is prepared to live in peace with its neighbors and respect the rights of its people. We are fully committed to supporting the Iraqi people in bringing this about. In pursuit of this objective, the United States will adhere to two important principles: one, we will uphold the territorial integrity of Iraq; and two, we will not seek to impose from the outside a particular government or leaders on the people of Iraq. We do support a change of government that will be responsive to the aspirations of the Iraqi people--one that takes meaningful steps toward a democratic future for the country and can represent fairly the concerns of all of Iraq's communities. And we will work with a new Iraqi government, as it pledges to fulfill its international obligations, to lift the sanctions, to deal with the large debt burden, and to reintegrate Iraq into the international community.
If it is to be successful, change must come from within, from the Iraqis themselves. In particular, the security forces and the people must stand on the same side. The support of Iraqi exiles, including the politically active opposition, along with neighboring states, however, is indispensable: the captive Iraqis need a voice. And, in particular, the internal Iraqi resistance needs a voice, through the Iraqi Opposition living in freedom, to make clear to all Iraqis and to the world its aims. The Iraqi National Congress has described these resistance aims to us as: first, to bring the security forces to the side of the people in changing the regime; and second, after the current regime passes, to stand with all Iraqis in promoting reconciliation and reconstruction. Our approach is to work in an intensive and coordinated way with these Iraqis and other countries that support these aspirations of the Iraqi people.
Free Iraqis--those in exile and those who live in relative freedom in northern Iraq--bear a special responsibility to develop a coherent vision for a brighter future. They must take the lead in developing and promoting an alternative vision based on the restoration of civil society, the rebuilding of the economy, and the promotion of a new role for Iraq as a force for peace and reconciliation in the region. They can also play an effective role in de-legitimizing Saddam, in helping to build the case for his prosecution as a war criminal, and in getting the truth into and out of Iraq. And, as Iraqis committed to a future vision of Iraq that appeals to Iraqis inside and to Iraq's neighbors, they can best build the case for the support of regional states to channel more material assistance to the Iraqi people and their resistance elements.
Congress has provided the Administration with a number of important tools to support Iraqis who are working toward a better future for Iraq. These include earmarks of $8 million in existing Economic Support Funds. We are using these funds to strengthen Opposition political unity, to support the Iraq war crimes initiative, to support humanitarian programs and the development of civil society, and for activities inside Iraq.
We also have established and recently stepped up broadcasting hours for Radio Free Iraq, which operates independently and broadcasts daily in Arabic uncensored news and information to the Iraqi people.
We have named a Special Coordinator for Transition in Iraq, Francis Ricciardone, who is managing the overall effort. Mr. Ricciardone has already had considerable success in helping disparate opposition groups work together and elect a new interim leadership that right now is preparing the way for an Iraqi opposition conference aimed at achieving a broader participation and more effective program of activity. Last month, Secretary Albright met with an Iraqi delegation, including the INC interim leadership and prominent independents, to underscore the Administration's support for their efforts. We know they were warmly received on the Hill as well.
Since then Mr. Ricciardone has worked further with the INC on their plans for the opposition conference and has also consulted intensively with regional states on how best to promote our shared interests in the reintegration of Iraq to the world community under a government that will act responsibly both internally and externally.
We have also made progress working with the two major Kurdish factions in the North, the PUK and the KDP, to help them reconcile their differences and better provide for all the people of northern Iraq. Just last week, leading members of both groups came to Washington for talks aimed at strengthening the reconciliation process. The two major Kurdish leaders, the Turkomans, and other groups from Northern Iraq, have played a very positive role in reunifying and reviving the Iraqi National Congress. This portends well for the contribution the Kurds, Turkomans, Assyrians, and Arabs of the North must also make in reunifying and rebuilding Iraq when a new leadership in Baghdad makes this possible.
Finally, there is the Iraq Liberation Act, which provides discretionary authority to the President to direct up to $97 million in Defense Department drawdown and training for designated Iraqi opposition groups. We are in the process of drawing down this account for the provision of equipment and training to the opposition.
Many have called on the President to use this authority to arm the Iraqi opposition and support armed insurrection against Saddam Hussein. We believe such action is premature. There are a host of issues that must be resolved before we can have confidence that providing arms to the Iraqi opposition would advance our objectives of promoting a change of regime and not just lead to more re Iraqis being killed unnecessarily. One requirement is a credible, broad-based, Iraqi political umbrella movement that can authoritatively articulate a future vision for those Iraqis who now lack a voice in their own fate. Such a movement is indispensable to reassure those few Iraqis now supporting Saddam Hussein that there is no future for them or Iraq under his regime while there is a bright future afterwards, even for them. Hence, the first kinds of support which we aim to provide to the Iraqi Opposition under the drawdown will be to meet their most urgent requirements: equipment for the infrastructure vital to the effectiveness of an international political advocacy movement; broadcasting equipment; and training in "civil affairs," including disaster relief operations. Further kinds of material assistance to the Iraqi opposition can be provided when they can best be absorbed and exploited.
To channel substantial assistance to those resisting Saddam's oppression
inside Iraq, we will need the cooperation of Iraq's neighbors. Although
they all share and support the Iraqi people's longing for a change of regime
in Baghdad, they have strong views about how we can help the Iraqi people
reach this goal. We must take those views into account, and gain their
cooperation in promoting the recovery of Iraq as a good neighbor and contributor
to regional stability.