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1998 Iraq briefing paper

Found  this at the web-site of the Royal Institute of International Affairs.
It's quite long (16 pages!!) but interesting, if you have not seen it

> ********************
> Volker Perthes
> Middle East Programme
> The Royal Institute of International Affairs: BRIEFING No. 40 February
> 1998
> In the early months of 1998, the outlook for relations between Iraq and
> the West looked distinctly bleak. The crisis over UN inspections of Iraq's
> potential to create weapons of mass destruction began in November 1997
> with the Iraqi government's attempt to control the make-up of the United
> Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) inspection teams on the grounds that
> the Anglo-American components of them were, in effect, spies came to a
> head in February 1998 when the United States and Britain insisted on full,
> unrestricted compliance with all UN sanctions under the threat of military
> action. Even though Iraq reluctantly acquiesced in Western demands, little
> thought appeared to be given in American and British planning to what the
> consequence of such action would be on Iraqis themselves and on Iraqi
> public opinion.
> It had been comfortably assumed by Western military planners and by
> Anglo-American politicians that the 'weakening' of Iraq's military and
> weapons development potential would eventually enable Iraqis to overthrow
> the Saddam Hussein regime. This had, after all, been the implicit (and
> occasionally explicit) objective of the two Western allies since the end
> of the war against Iraq in 1991. Even the peaceful resolution of the
> crisis at the end of February did not negate these objectives. The problem
> with both these assumptions, however, is that they have ignored any
> objective evaluation of Iraqi attitudes and beliefs after six years of an
> intensive and all-encompassing sanctions regime which, according to Iraqi
> and UN estimates, caused the deaths of up to one million people, half of
> them children.
> Firsthand and detailed accounts of what has been happening inside Iraq
> have been infrequent and rare. This briefing, however, attempts to fill
> the gap. Even though it is based on fieldwork carried out a year ago, the
> latest information from Iraq confirms that its analysis is still accurate
> today. The picture that emerges is of an Iraq which, largely because of
> the sanctions, is angry, vengeful and profoundly anti-Western in its
> attitudes, whatever its population may think of the repressive regime that
> controls the country. In the wake of the crisis at the start of 1998, such
> attitudes have become even more profoundly entrenched, a development which
> must raise questions about the wisdom of pursuing a policy that seems to
> produce results consistently running counter to its objectives.
> The account given below is the first of several briefing papers we shall
> produce dealing with the current situation in Iraq. Subsequent analyses
> will look at the issue of the sanctions regime itself and of the nature of
> a country which, even in its present attenuated state, is still pivotal in
> the Arab Middle East.
> George Joffé
> Introduction
> A summary
> Impressions from Baghdad, March 1997
> *     'Leave the past alone'
> *     'Iraq as victim'
> *     'We will be back'
> *     Iraq six years after the defeat
> *     Regime Stability
> *     Foreign relations
> Versailles-Baghdad? The failures and risks of Western policy towards Iraq
> *     Continuity: regime and policy
> *     Revisionism in waiting
> Introduction
> Over six years after the ceasefire in the war over Kuwait, Western policy
> towards Iraq has clearly ended in a cul-de-sac. Saddam Hussein is still
> Iraqi president and international sanctions have failed to attain their
> goal of bringing about a change of regime. It may, therefore, now be the
> time to consider new and more flexible policy options towards Iraq. Yet
> information, particularly over the internal situation and the political
> attitudes of the ruling elite, is scarce. This briefing is intended to
> help correct that situation. After detailing impressions gained during a
> trip to Baghdad in March 1997 [1], the paper focuses on Saddam Hussein's
> Iraq - it does not deal with the Iraqi-Kurdish north of the country - and
> also discusses how the central government in Baghdad could be handled in a
> way that might enable Iraq to be reintegrated into the international
> arena.
> A summary
> Since its invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, there has been a wide-ranging
> sanctions regime in operation against Iraq. This includes an embargo on
> trade, the obligation for the regime to engage in complete disarmament in
> the fields of unconventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction,
> together with long-range missiles, and the imposition of reparations.
> Against the expectations of many observers, these sanctions have not led
> to a change of regime although they have weakened Iraq militarily and
> economically. In fact, the Iraqi regime has recovered from the defeat in
> Kuwait, has expanded its territorial sovereignty and the scope of its
> foreign relations and has once again demonstrated its effective control
> over most of its national territory. The anti-regime Iraqi opposition has
> shown itself to be ineffective and the Kurdish parties and movements, of
> whom so much was expected by the international community, have not been
> able to put in place even the slightest element of any structure designed
> to create a better, democratic Iraq in the northern part of the country.
> At the same time, a collapse of the regime cannot be excluded -
> particularly since it is so profoundly personalized that the sudden death
> of the president would severely undermine the whole power structure. It is
> at least as likely, however, that the regime and its leader will survive.
> Whether or not the peaceful reintegration of Iraq into its environment -
> with or without Saddam Hussein - is possible, together with the creation
> of a regional security system in the Gulf, is a question for which there
> is as yet no clear or certain answer. At present it seems to be more the
> case that a revisionist and vengeful attitude has developed within the
> Iraqi regime, as a result of the sanctions, the embargo and the continuous
> undermining of Iraqi sovereignty. This attitude will, therefore, also
> influence the policies of any successor regime. In particular, an active
> revisionist policy can be expected to be adopted by Baghdad if the
> international community maintains a reactive policy aimed solely at
> undermining it. A peaceful reintegration of Iraq into its regional
> environment cannot be achieved without international support and, in
> essence, European and international policy must be more creative towards
> Iraq if this is to be achieved. This particularly means that the sanctions
> regime needs to be moderated and specifically directed towards what must
> be its primary objective - the prevention of renewed Iraqi aggression -
> while, at the same time, preventing the long-term rupture of international
> contacts with Iraqi society.
> Impressions from Baghdad, March 1997
> Since access to Iraq by air is prohibited under the sanctions regime,
> Baghdad can only be reached by road, a distance of 900km from the
> Jordanian capital, Amman. Roughly every 100km in Iraqi territory there is
> a checkpoint operated by the saitara (literally 'domination' or
> 'control'), one of the security services of the regime. What was striking
> about these controls was the fact that the soldiers, who were generally
> young, made a point of stopping us because they wanted to beg for bread
> and other foodstuffs and occasionally for cigarettes. The regime clearly
> cared little for the adequate victualling of its military, probably less
> because of the embargo than because of the poor treatment generally meted
> out to conscripts and simple soldiers in Iraq and elsewhere. Whether they
> take their food from the population at large or exact it as tribute from
> travellers is of no concern to the political leadership.
> To what extent the trade embargo imposed in 1990 really has caused poverty
> and distress in Iraq is not easy to determine. At first sight there did
> not appear to be a supply crisis in Baghdad, the capital. The markets were
> full of fruit, vegetables, meat, bread and pastries; and imported goods,
> particularly from Turkey and Jordan, were available. Prices, however,
> reflected these origins and such goods were beyond the reach of average
> income earners. The elite eats meat and drinks Scotch but most Iraqis,
> particularly those unseen by the visitor, essentially have to live off
> their official rations - flour, rice, tea, sugar, fat and lentils - which
> satisfy only 40 per cent of calorific requirements. Food imported under
> the UN-controlled oil-for-food programmes brings the level up to around 80
> per cent.
> Life and activity on the major shopping streets of Baghdad are not
> significantly different from their counterparts in Damascus, Amman, Cairo
> or Sana'a. Despite seven years of embargo, things seem relatively normal.
> Nor is there an undue security presence; the number of policemen, soldiers
> and not-so-secret policemen is significantly less than in many other Arab
> towns. It is noteworthy that around half the chemist shops are closed and
> that medical supplies in those shops that remain open are limited. Many
> shops which sell luxury goods such as imported shoes or textiles or
> made-up clothes clearly do little business - dusty shops and goods with
> bored shopkeepers waiting for a customer to wander in exemplify the
> problems. Products such as household and secretarial goods, wherever they
> are available, appear to date from pre-embargo days.
> Baghdad is anything but attractive; there is no old city any more - the
> older district is now made up of a few decayed roads and side streets
> lined with buildings from the beginning of the century. Otherwise it has
> been radically modernized. Through-roads with prefabricated blocks of
> flats or massive official and government buildings dominate the urban
> skyline - vast powerful structures which demonstrate the role of official
> power, not aesthetics, and a sense of 'no-nonsense' architectural
> pragmatism prevails. The fact that authority is concerned with commitment
> and effectiveness, whether in the construction of roads and industry, or
> in the conduct of war and policy, is continuously emphasized in this
> country, and it also underpinned, directly or indirectly, the
> conversations I participated in during my visit. A significant point of
> criticism of the policies of other regional states, which was an
> astonishing aspect of many of these conversations, was that they were not
> serious. Thus Qatar manifested many positive political attitudes but its
> policies were not serious; Syrians engaged in tactics but were not
> strictly concerned with an improvement of relations with Iraq; Kuwaitis
> had prevented, in particular, any pan-Arab improvements in the Arab League
> through their lack of seriousness; Iranians were not serious enough about
> their desire for normalization to counter the strained relationship with
> Iraq. Iraq, on the other hand, as far as those who fashion or help to
> fashion policy are concerned, intends to be appreciated as a state to be
> taken seriously, not one to be trifled with. It sees itself as serious,
> powerful, disciplined and, as observed by one commentator who wanted, as
> it were, to excuse Iraq's use of force in foreign policy, 'occasionally a
> little inclined to nervousness' - in short, almost Prussian in character.
> 'Leave the past alone'
> Discussions with Iraqi officials reveal much about what the Iraqi
> political class thinks and what is important to it. The very relaxed
> approach to the recent past is striking, with a deep-seated feeling that
> Iraq has been ill-treated by the world and a vast self-confidence that it
> cannot be held down in the long term. Linked to this was the ever-ready
> question of where Germany - the author's home country - would stand if
> relations between Iraq and the West gradually improved. A similar question
> would have arisen, no doubt, had the author been from another European
> state.
> According to the head of the Arab desk in the Iraqi foreign ministry, a
> friendly and experienced diplomat of the old school, it would be best if
> Iraq and its neighbours could forget the past and open a new page in their
> common history. Iraq, at least, was ready to do so. To forget would be
> better than engaging in plain speaking as demanded by a few Arab states.
> All Arab states, including Iraq, had committed errors. If the Kuwaitis
> were to insist on it then, in effect, the whole history of the Gulf crisis
> and the war should be discussed through the Arab League, and Iraq was
> ready to do this. Then the Kuwaitis could say what they had to say, but
> Iraq would not hold its own tongue; 'Only God does not err.'
> The desire to let bygones be bygones is a tried and tested way of avoiding
> crucial questions. When asked about the use of chemical weapons against
> specifically Kurdish populations during the so-called 'Anfal' campaign in
> 1988, a young diplomat committed to improving relations with the West
> asked me if we had not agreed that it was now a question of opening a new
> page of history. And an official in the Presidential Office raised the
> same objection to a sceptical suggestion that Iraq's willingness to
> cooperate with the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) over the disarmament had
> not been really as great as he claimed - certainly until 1995 - since Iraq
> had concealed the existence of a biological weapons programme from the
> Commission until then. His response was: 'But now we are cooperating fully
> and that must count.' Until 1995 Hussein Kamel - the son-in-law of the
> president, who fled to Jordan in August 1995 and was killed after his
> return in 1996 - had been responsible for informing UNSCOM about Iraq's
> armaments programmes and, as is well known, was thus to become the agent
> blamed for this deception by Iraq.
> The search for a new starting point goes along with an individual and
> occasionally wilful interpretation of recent history where it cannot be
> ignored. In the propagandist vision of the regime, the Second Gulf War is
> still branded as the 'Mother of all Battles' and I never once heard the
> word 'defeat' during my his visit. George Bush, according to a recent
> publication in an academic periodical of international affairs, was '...
> forced in 1991 to declare a ceasefire through the heroic resistance of the
> Iraqi people.' [2] And the dominant Iraqi claim, if not overriding
> conviction, is that Iraq was not essentially an aggressor but much more
> the victim of a staged American conspiracy. Iraq, explained Said Qasim
> Hamoudi, the bureau chief for foreign affairs in the leadership of the
> ruling Ba'ath party and member of the foreign affairs committee in
> parliament, had never committed aggression against any of its neighbours,
> neither against Kuwait in 1990, nor against Iran in 1980. No one denied
> that Iraq was the first to use military force, but the aggressor was the
> other side. There had been mistakes, of course, but the Kuwaitis basically
> wanted to starve Iraq out through a policy of low oil prices which had
> cost Baghdad $10 billion a year. Iraq had only laid claim to its
> legitimate right of self-defence. Others like Kuwait, no less than Iran
> ten years before, had to understand that Iraq would not let itself be
> provoked or placed under economic pressure. And there had been no
> organized plundering during the occupation of Kuwait, at least not from
> the Iraqi side, Hamoudi explained. A few Iraqi officers who were
> discovered plundering were executed. Nor had Iraq fired any oil fields -
> that was done by US forces.
> 'Iraq as victim'
> It was repeatedly stated that, whatever the failings of the past, Iraq had
> nonetheless retreated from Kuwait as demanded by the United Nations
> Security Council. As a result there was, in fact, no remaining
> justification for punishing Baghdad or threatening Iraq's sovereignty and
> independence. The international embargo that would remain in force at
> least until the Security Council established that Iraq had met all the
> disarmament demands made upon it was considered - not just by regime
> officials - as a great injustice. Hardliners, such as the head of
> department for Western Europe in the foreign ministry, talked of a
> genocide which the West today actively or secretly sought. In any case, it
> certainly had nothing to do with Kuwait if the embargo was maintained and
> if the imports of food and medical supplies to which Iraq was entitled
> under the oil-for-food provisions of Security Council Resolutions 986
> (1995) or 1111 (1997) were delayed for months. All was the result of the
> West's hatred of Arabs.
> Private-sector representatives reacted differently but were hardly less
> bitter. According to estimates made by the chambers of industry, Iraq's
> private industrial sector was working with at best 10-15 per cent of its
> capacity, owing to the shortage of spare parts, inputs and intermediary
> products which had to be imported. It was simply scandalous, the general
> secretary of the union of industrial chambers explained, that not one
> catalogue of supplier firms had been authorized by the sanctions
> committee. The president of the federation of chambers of commerce made
> the political consequence clear. The young generation which had grown up
> under the sanctions would not forget what the USA and the West had done to
> them. What concerned him and his colleagues - traders and entrepreneurs -
> was that it could well have been the case that before the last war and the
> embargo they might have engaged in unambiguous 'remarks' about Saddam
> Hussein - 'remarks' generally serves as a euphemistic description for
> criticism or opposition positions - but these have gone today. Precisely
> because of the intense coercion caused by the sanctions regime and Western
> attitudes, all now stand behind the regime. The relationship between the
> private sector and the regime had also improved because the embargo and
> foreign currency crisis had led to the liberalization of the economy. The
> state, the chamber of commerce president explained, was no longer
> concerned with how a trader acquired a particular commodity or obtained
> the foreign currency to purchase it, so commerce could now maintain its
> own secrets. Indeed, in the most recent past, the regime had only been
> concerned to ensure that traders simply brought food and other essential
> goods into the country.
> Naturally there are some who see the link between the continued existence
> of the regime and the maintenance of the embargo by the USA and the West.
> But it is precisely this connection which is regarded as particularly
> unjust and unbearable. The West, specifically through the strategies which
> were and continue to be predicated upon the embargo as a means to weaken
> and possibly encourage a change in the Iraqi regime, clearly
> underestimated the strength of the attachment to sovereignty - almost, it
> could be said, an obsession with it - within the Iraqi political and
> intellectual elites. Iraq is a young nation-state and particularly
> responds to the obligation, as a young nation forged above all in the
> eight-year-long war with Iran, to protect the sovereignty of the state and
> guard it against all forms of foreign control and influence. This has a
> value for the political class which overwhelms other humanitarian or
> political values. 
> What has happened to Iraq, Salah al-Mukhtar, editor-in-chief of the daily
> Al-Jumhuriyya explained, is not only extraordinary but unprecedented, in
> that the UN has sought to place international law above the sovereignty of
> a nation-state. Not only was this unacceptable to Iraq, it was in fact a
> principle which would bring war in place of peace. Similar views were
> expressed by foreign affairs committee member Hamoudi. Iraq accepted the
> legitimate interests of every other state, including American interests in
> oil, and was ready to cooperate with the USA. What could not be accepted -
> and what would limit every attempt at cooperation - was America's attempt
> to dominate Gulf oil at the cost of Iraqi rights there.
> It appeared to be particularly difficult for Iraqis to imagine that states
> in the contemporary world could renounce the pursuit of crude power
> politics and replace the unrestricted claim to sovereignty with other
> principles. A young lecturer at the Mustansariya University in Baghdad - a
> Kurd, as she explained, not without some sense of pride - asked why
> Germans did not use their technical expertise to build nuclear weapons. It
> was, after all, only a question of choice, not of means. I tried to
> explain that Germany had consciously decided to renounce certain specific
> military options, and, after the experiences of two world wars, favoured
> economic, not military development. Yes, she replied, no doubt that made
> sense given Germany's economic power, but would it still not be necessary
> to translate economic into military power? Should not every state in the
> world try to achieve this?
> 'We will be back'
> Criticisms of the embargo and of the undermining of Iraqi sovereignty -
> through the activities of UNSCOM, the Allied bans on flights in northern
> and southern Iraq and the controls by UN inspectors on foodstuff
> distribution under the oil-for-food resolutions - are mixed with an
> apparently undented self-confidence (at least as far as the ruling elite
> is concerned) that Iraq will withstand all of this and eventually the
> Western world will realize that Iraq and its interests must be taken
> seriously. In fact, the head of the department for Western Europe in the
> foreign ministry claimed the embargo had strengthened Iraq's capacities.
> In his view there was no doubt that this was the case in terms of morale
> since if information was fabricated abroad in order to disparage the image
> of Iraq and its president this strengthened domestic solidarity. But it
> was also true in the technical sphere; much of what used to be imported -
> he had in mind hospital beds as an example - was now produced domestically
> because the embargo had blocked delivery of such goods. In fact the Iraqi
> armaments industry now used part of its available capacity to manufacture
> spare parts and technical products for civilian use. This did not mean,
> however, that Iraq was now autarkic. It appeared that what had really been
> strengthened was the determination to hang on. We are used to such things,
> the president of the chamber of commerce explained, and the stamina to
> survive longer remained, for 'ten years, if God wills. But some day we
> will return.'
> Hamoudi, the party official and foreign policy expert, based this
> conviction that Iraq would survive above all on geopolitical factors of
> regional strategy. These would eventually be of greater weight than
> America's political objective of weakening Iraq. In essence, as a central
> state in the Gulf, Iraq and its interests could not be left out of the
> West's calculations. A state which had survived a seven-year-long embargo
> and could still function had to be given its appropriate significance: 'We
> are not in Somalia here.' Iraq, he explained to my surprise, was an
> element for stability, a regional power which could guarantee security in
> the Gulf. Without Iraq, there would be no counterweight to Iran. In the
> last analysis, the American military presence in the Gulf was no
> substitute for Iraq's military strength; not only were American troops too
> expensive, they could at best only protect the Gulf monarchies against
> external, not internal, threat. Iraq had, after all, ensured that the
> region should not fall into Khomeini's hands for eight years, from 1980 to
> 1988. The current enforced demilitarization of Iraq endangered regional
> stability 'because it produced imbalance. Iran can build up its chemical
> and nuclear aggressive capacity but there is no longer an Iraqi
> counterweight.' It would thus be in the interests of all, including the
> USA, to remove the embargo and to avoid further weakening Iraq's military
> power. Hamoudi's message to the West was clear - at the end of the day,
> you will not be able to do without us!
> Finally, oil is perhaps the most important factor in Iraq's self-awareness
> and perseverance. Iraqi officials are probably right when they claim that,
> with its still unexploited oil fields, Iraq may have the largest oil
> reserves in the world - greater even than those of Saudi Arabia. Europe in
> particular, Salah al-Mukhtar believes, must be concerned lest Iraq and its
> oil potential fall under US control. In effect Iraq was defending Europe's
> independence by resisting the United States. Not only could Iraq in the
> future satisfy European and Japanese demands for oil single-handedly by
> specifically expanding its production capacity, but Europe would also find
> it to be a partner which, unlike Saudi Arabia, could withstand pressure
> from US trade policy. Clinton had been able to pressure the Saudis into
> buying Boeings, rather than Airbuses: this would not work with Iraq. The
> lifting of the embargo would, therefore, also be in Europe's interest. And
> there was no doubt that regional states, particularly Turkey, wished to
> see Iraq regain its status.. In his view only a strong, centralized Iraqi
> state which controlled all its national territory could guarantee Turkey
> border security - could, in effect, ensure that Turkey did not have to
> anticipate 'terrorist problems' from Iraqi soil.
> Logically, a third issue attached itself to those mentioned above. If the
> measures of punishment currently imposed on Iraq by the United Nations are
> unjust and if Iraq, despite these injustices, one day recovers its
> strength, then it will question again those matters in which it acquiesces
> today under pressure, given its weakened state. Revisionist policies
> therefore have to be expected. Naturally, Hamoudi explained in response to
> questions, there was still a border problem with Iran. It was correct that
> Tehran was offered the recognition of the thalweg - the line of greatest
> depth - in the Shatt al-Arab as its border in 1990. Iran had always
> considered the thalweg as the boundary line and the Iraqi leadership, in
> order to gain Iran's support during the dispute with Kuwait, was ready to
> make it clear that it would accept the Iranian position. This, however,
> was, according to Hamoudi, an 'offer of the moment': Iran had never
> accepted the offer so it was no longer valid.
> Self-evidently a problem also remained as far as Kuwait was concerned. In
> Hamoudi's view, the Security Council, by establishing the border between
> Iraq and Kuwait through Resolution 833, took from Iraq half of its narrow
> access to the sea, effectively stealing twelve oil wells and moving
> Kuwaiti territory 700 metres northwards. That demonstrated that the
> Security Council could not properly establish bilateral borders. Although
> the Iraqi regime accepted the Resolution and still enforced it, this was
> only because of pressure and it never considered the border decision just.
> It was thus not in Kuwait's interest to accept a border demarcation
> imposed in such unusual circumstances and the Kuwaitis should be willing
> to revise the special conditions for border definition in bilateral
> negotiations. In any case Iraq had the right to make revisions to its
> situation once the embargo was lifted. So one theme for revision would be
> the border question with Kuwait, and reparations which were imposed on
> Iraq were another: 'We will then claim reparations.'
> In any case - as many of the interviewees remarked - once the embargo has
> ended and Iraq becomes once more master of its own fate, it will recall
> those who helped 'during the aggression and the embargo' and those who
> abandoned it. Germany, it was frequently stated, must consider whether it
> really wanted to remain behind all other European states and even behind
> the United States. One should realize that Baghdad was full of European
> and American business representatives. In fact, as far as I was able to
> establish, the claims concerning American business representatives were
> slightly exaggerated!
> Iraq six years after the defeat
> It is difficult, if not impossible, to draw up a clear analytical picture
> of the internal state of Iraq and of the policies and plans of the regime,
> or to give a prognosis for the future pattern of developments in Iraq. The
> country's isolation, not solely but predominantly because of the embargo,
> limits the flow of information. The secretiveness of the regime and the
> often seemingly wilful disinformation provided by its opponents makes
> matters worse. Comments in the international press are often
> contradictory; information, particularly from frequently unidentified
> opposition circles, is rarely reliable [3]. As a result, the comments
> which follow are largely based on impressionistic estimates and informed
> supposition.
> Regime stability
> The Iraqi regime is quite clearly more stable than its opponents had
> expected and hoped. This emerges, not only from the self-awareness which
> the Iraqi political and bureaucratic elite manifests in conversation, but
> also in the political and military developments that have occurred in the
> last two years.
> Thus the flight of Hussein Kamel, the son-in-law of Saddam Hussein and a
> long-standing minister, in August 1995, which first appeared to be a
> crisis for the regime, soon turned into an embarrassment for all those who
> supported him. He did not succeed in gathering the exiled Iraqi opposition
> behind him and he was never in a position to initiate a transfer of power
> in Baghdad. The murder of Hussein Kamel and some of his relatives after
> his frustrated return to Iraq hardly damaged the international reputation
> of the Iraqi regime, and the local consequences have been difficult to
> evaluate. Reports about differences within the presidential family have
> increased since and should be considered to be generally correct, whatever
> the accuracy of certain specific reports [4]. There is, however, no doubt
> that the regime has survived the Hussein Kamel crisis. In October 1995,
> shortly after his flight into exile, the regime arranged a referendum over
> the re-election of Saddam Hussein - less as a democratic event than as a
> demonstration of continued organizational competence.
> It seems from this event that, since this crisis, Saddam Hussein has
> depended less on the members of his own clan and has turned instead
> towards the de facto single political party, the ruling Ba'ath party, and
> that the influence of the president's own family has weakened while that
> of the institutions of the regime has strengthened.
> The anti-regime Iraqi opposition has demonstrated its ineffectiveness
> during the six years since the end of the Gulf War. Specific groups, such
> as the Damascus-
> and Tehran-based Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq or the
> Saudi- and American-backed Iraqi National Congress, are not willing to
> cooperate with one another. The Kurdish parties and movements have not
> succeeded, despite international support, in building effective democratic
> institutions in the three northern Kurdish provinces and thus in making
> the first step towards a better Iraq.
> The clearly exaggerated hopes born of a Kurdish national movement in a
> powerfully idealized Western vision have been killed by open warfare in
> which the PUK and the KDP, the two leading parties in Kurdistan, engaged
> in the summer of 1996 and which flared up again in the autumn of 1997. The
> KDP originally obtained the military support of the central regime in
> Baghdad so that the latter was able to reassert its territorial
> sovereignty over a significant part of Kurdistan, in particular the
> hinterland of the Kurdish capital, Irbil - an event which it described as
> the liberation of Irbil.
> The regime cannot prevent all armed attacks, even in Baghdad, as the
> attempt against Uday in December 1996 demonstrated. The military continues
> to be a critical factor in regime stability; thus its leadership relies
> predominantly on particularly loyal groups recruited from the President's
> own regional and tribal areas, such as the special Republican Guards, for
> the security of the capital and for its own security. The Iraqi secret
> services, it appears, had frustrated a CIA-supported attempt to organize a
> military putsch in summer 1996 [5] and a later attempt in 1997 was
> countered by the execution of fourteen senior army officers. Fear of
> greater threats to internal security, such as open revolts, clearly does
> not exist. Popular support for the regime does not appear to be
> significant but the population is more concerned with its daily bread than
> with politics. Indifference, disgust and resignation clearly play a role
> in this, as does fear: the regime has never concealed its brutality
> towards opposition elements [6]. At least some of those interested in
> politics would like to see real political change but still support the
> regime in its confrontation with the West, particularly over the embargo.
> The dependence of the population on the regime and the state increased, of
> course, during and because of the supply crisis caused by the embargo, and
> this has had concomitant political consequences. The distribution of
> essential foodstuffs, indeed of all products which come under the context
> of the oil-for-food agreements, will only be achieved through the
> state-run rationing and ration card system, and this will intensify
> popular economic and political dependence on the regime.
> Foreign relations
> Evidence from the domestic situation in Iraq suggests that the
> self-confident stance of the regime against this background is well
> founded despite there being few changes to the pattern of diplomatic
> breaches in Iraq's regional and international environment. Iraq is still
> isolated, but the isolation barrier has holes.
> This is particularly the case with relations with the Arab world. Public
> opinion in general, in most Arab states except for Kuwait and Saudi
> Arabia, is scandalized by the suffering of the Iraqi people; the demand
> for the removal of sanctions is popular and even some Gulf leaders - the
> most prominent being Sheikh Zayad, president of the United Arab Emirates -
> have openly proposed that sanctions be ended. Relations with the UAE,
> Qatar, Bahrain and Oman have been largely normalized; the same is true for
> Morocco - all states which during the Gulf War were unambiguously on the
> side of Kuwait. Saudi Arabia officially supports the Kuwaiti hard line -
> Kuwait has repeatedly made it clear that a reconciliation with Saddam
> Hussein's regime is out of the question - but maintains careful contacts
> with Iraq and distanced itself cautiously but unmistakably from the rocket
> attacks with which Washington reacted in September 1996 to the advance of
> Iraqi forces into northern Iraq and the area of Kurdistan around Irbil.
> Iraq's links with its western neighbour, Syria, have begun to improve
> significantly, although normalization will not go very far while Damascus
> holds on to its strategic partnership with Tehran [7]. Links with Jordan,
> which after the flight of Hussein Kamel had reached a low point in 1995/6,
> are once again businesslike and friendly. Neither country could tolerate a
> breach, for Jordan depends on the Iraqi market and on Iraqi oil supplies
> for its survival, while Iraq needs Jordan as a window onto the world.
> Politically, Egypt has become the most important partner for Iraq. Cairo
> has not officially restored the diplomatic relations which were broken off
> in 1991 but maintains a diplomatic presence in Baghdad and behaves
> regionally and internationally as the advocate of Iraq's reintegration
> into the world community of states. At the same time the Egyptian
> government has encouraged its private sector to strengthen relations and a
> biannual exchange of industrial delegations has been established. The
> Iraqi government has made it clear that it wishes to accord Egyptian goods
> priority access to its market in future [8]. Cairo can underline its
> leadership role and overall responsibility in the Arab world through such
> an active policy towards Iraq, including criticism of US attitudes in this
> respect. Furthermore, Egypt supports the immediate neighbours of Iraq in
> calling for the protection of the territorial integrity of the Iraqi state
> so as to avoid any regional precedents, such as the creation of a Kurdish
> state. Iraq today offers no threat to Egyptian security, although its
> disintegration would be dangerous to Egyptian interests. Even Kuwait and
> Iraq's non-Arab neighbour, Iran, both of which have always paid
> considerable attention to Iraq's regional ambitions, have made it clear
> that the territorial disintegration of Iraq would not be in their
> interests either. The same is true for Turkey: Ankara is interested in an
> extension of Iraqi oil exports since a large part of these exports - as
> provided for in the oil-for-food agreements - will flow through the
> pipeline across Turkey and will thus generate lucrative transit fees.
> Baghdad has, in effect, had a certain success in renewing its links with
> the wider international environment. Officially, the oil-for-food
> agreements are seen as the first step for Iraq towards the lifting of the
> United Nations trade embargo. The political class knows very well that the
> Security Council has only conceded on Resolutions 986 and 1111 in order to
> maintain the embargo overall by mitigating its consequences on
> humanitarian grounds and thus negating all criticism that holds the UN
> responsible for the misery endured by the Iraqi population. The Iraqi
> government needs to demonstrate to its domestic political audience that
> its efforts in breaching Iraq's international isolation by breaking down
> the trade embargo have been successful.
> At the same time, international interests would like to ease the sanctions
> regime, particularly the trade embargo. Russia and France head the list of
> industrialized states that would like to normalize their relations with
> Iraq and end the embargo, once UNSCOM has delivered a positive mission
> report - something which it is not yet in a position to do. Paris, like
> Moscow, is quite prepared to work with the existing Iraqi regime once the
> conditions of the ceasefire have been substantially fulfilled. Both states
> have substantial economic interests in Iraq: both have large financial
> claims that must be serviced once Iraq is again able to achieve its full
> oil export capacity, both are interested in investing in the Iraqi oil
> sector and both expect a significant proportion of the opportunities
> presented by the economic reconstruction of Iraq. In March 1997, the
> Russian and Iraqi governments concluded an agreement whereby a group of
> Russian companies will direct the development of an oil field in southern
> Iraq and will share in the subsequent production.
> At least two French companies - Elf and Total - have made it clear that
> they cannot sign similar contracts for two other fields until the
> sanctions have been lifted. Yet French interest in renewing comprehensive
> cooperation with Iraq has been demonstrated in several ways, in addition
> to frequent trade delegations. The French cultural centre in Baghdad was
> reopened in early 1997 and the French diplomatic presence there has been
> assured by a well-established interests section, officially under the
> Romanian flag. Unlike Washington, Paris tolerated without demur Iraqi
> advances to Irbil, together with the effective extension of the central
> government's territorial control. Indeed, France was particularly critical
> of the American reprisal measures and withdrew its participation in
> Operation Provide-Comfort - the no-fly zone which it had supported
> alongside the USA, Britain and Turkey over northern Iraq in order to
> protect the Kurds.
> Other European states have taken cautious steps towards normalization,
> particularly through the return of their diplomats, high-profile
> deliveries of aid, visits of trade delegations and the conclusion of
> agreements for Iraqi oil deliveries under the oil-for-food agreements.
> Significantly, Germany has held back from this. Bonn has not cut official
> diplomatic relations with Baghdad but it withdrew all diplomatic personnel
> long ago.
> *
> Washington continues to argue that no accommodation can be made with
> Saddam Hussein and shows a strong political will to maintain the embargo
> as long as the current regime remains in power. Yet, the US position is
> not, in fact, in line with the decisions of the Security Council;
> Resolution 687 links the lifting of the embargo to the fulfilment of the
> ceasefire conditions, particularly the requirements for elimination of
> weapons of mass destruction, but not to a change of regime. The US
> government has stated in somewhat vague terms that Iraq must be expected
> to have unfriendly intentions towards its neighbours while the current
> regime remains in power [9]. It must therefore be expected that Washington
> would apply its veto to the lifting of trade sanctions even if UNSCOM were
> to decide that Iraq had fulfilled its disarmament requirements. Such a
> veto would be difficult to defend internationally and could well lead to
> an uncontrollable erosion of the sanctions regime. US policies are not
> unambiguous, however. It may be the case that the USA, despite its
> hard-line position, would like to hold an alternative option open. Five
> American companies are among the first to buy oil from Iraq under the
> oil-for-food agreement [10].
> Versailles-Baghdad? The failures and risks of Western policy towards Iraq
> US-led Western policy has failed when measured against its declared goal
> of bringing about a change of regime in Baghdad or of at least punishing
> the existing regime. The elite has suffered least from sanctions, and the
> regime itself has survived a tough seven-year trade embargo, has expanded
> its territorial control and has built its regional and international links
> anew. No alternative based in the opposition exists; the
> internationally-supported Kurdish autonomy experiment in the north has
> been destroyed by an intra-Kurdish conflict which cannot be resolved even
> with American attempts at mediation. Western policy has been defined to a
> large extent by its aspirations, above all the hope that Saddam Hussein
> would be replaced one way or the other, rather than by realizable
> objectives. There can be no other explanation for Washington's support in
> 1995 for Hussein Kamel, a former collaborator within the intimate
> leadership circle who went into self-imposed exile and who had been
> responsible for the intensive rearming of Iraq after the Iran-Iraq war. Of
> course, unsuccessful policies can often be sustained for want of better
> alternatives, and this need not always be wrong [11]. Nonetheless, the
> failures and risks of such a policy must be clear to those who implement
> it and they should always have an alternative end-game available -
> something which has not been the case as far as Iraq is concerned.
> Continuity: regime and policy
> The Iraqi regime has not changed in its structure or its character as a
> result of its defeat in the Kuwait war or the continuing sanctions.
> Massive reductions in its sovereignty - no-fly zones, foreign control of
> its air space, embargo, arms restrictions, international monitoring of
> research and production sites, control over permitted imports and exports,
> international monitoring of foodstuffs distribution - have rendered Iraq
> more vulnerable to external threat. As a result, domestic concerns over
> its territorial integrity, together with regime fears of foreign plots and
> the permanent feeling that foreign forces are continually striving to
> marginalize, isolate, surround and dominate Iraq, have all strengthened.
> Such threat perceptions existed before the Second Gulf War and played a
> role in justifying the regime's propensity for the straightforward
> application of force to domestic threats and to what in Iraqi eyes were
> pre-emptive strikes against external dangers, as in the case of the
> invasions of Iran and Kuwait. [12] Now they have become the means by which
> new military options are sought, despite the sanctions regime. Baghdad is
> clearly interested in acquiring rockets with a greater range than in the
> past, even though these are currently banned [13] It is, in addition,
> quite certain that Iraq is legally working on the development of
> short-range (under 150km) rockets [14]. The regime may not be popular but
> a majority of the population seems to share the conviction that the
> sanctions and the new boundary with Kuwait imposed by the Security Council
> are injustices against which defensive measures must be taken.
> There are also few grounds to believe that the regime will change its
> attitudes under existing conditions or that a successor regime would be
> significantly more democratic or would develop a basically different
> perception of Iraq's regional role. Most future scenarios implicitly or
> explicitly assume that a new regime, if it is to succeed, must essentially
> operate with and through the Ba'ath Party - the essential institutional
> support for the current regime. It will probably also have to cooperate
> with the presidential clan and certainly will need military and Republican
> Guard support. Finally, a change of regime will most likely either lead to
> the imposition of another repressive dictatorship over the whole territory
> of the state or to chaos and civil war with unquantifiable regional
> consequences [15].
> It is also significant that the West has no strategy for the situation
> that would develop if the current regime should suddenly decide to embark
> on a policy of compliance, with positive steps towards Kuwait and Saudi
> Arabia, and, in particular, cooperation with UNSCOM in such a way that it
> could confirm the completion of all disarmament requirements in its next
> report. The trade embargo could then no longer be legitimized
> internationally, nor could the no-fly zones in the north and south of
> Iraq. The issue of who ruled in Baghdad and how this was done would also
> revert to being an Iraqi internal affair. Arab states have already decided
> to live with Saddam Hussein; the West would not be able to act
> differently, given its desire for access to Iraqi oil and the Iraqi
> domestic market in the future. The USA could prevent an official lifting
> of the embargo in such circumstances by use of its veto and alone maintain
> the policy of dual containment. It would, however, be increasingly
> difficult to ensure international support for the isolation of Iraq and to
> sustain a viable basic international consensus over the approach to be
> adopted towards Baghdad.
> Revisionism in waiting
> It is completely unclear whether - with or without Saddam Hussein - the
> peaceful reintegration of Iraq into its regional environment can be
> guaranteed or whether a regional security system can be created in the
> Gulf, in the medium to long term. It is more significant in this respect
> that, under the pressure of the sanctions, embargo and the sustained
> erosion of Iraqi sovereignty, a revisionist and revanchist political
> dialogue has emerged inside Iraq which, in the end, will significantly
> influence the policies of any successor regime.
> The analogy with the political and psychological evolution in German
> attitudes after the First World War - given that the Versailles peace
> treaty was perceived at the time as a 'diktat' - is illuminating [16]. As
> with all analogies, of course, there are also significant differences.
> Unlike the situation in Iraq, where in 1991 the insurrection of part of
> the army and the population failed, there was a change in regime in
> Germany after defeat in 1918. The political atmosphere in Germany became
> revisionist as a result of the severe ceasefire and peace terms that were
> imposed. Territorial revisionism has been an important element in Iraqi
> policy formulation ever since the colonial boundary demarcation between
> Iraq and Kuwait in 1923, and this is similar to the German case. The real
> parallels, however, lie in the political reactions to international
> sanctions in both cases. Germany, like Iraq today, was condemned to heavy
> reparations, had to disarm, forfeited its sovereignty in the defence
> field, lost part of its territory and had to accept reduced sovereignty
> over the Rhineland. There is undoubtedly a 'Versailles complex' among
> Iraqis today which consists of a widespread and deep-rooted perception
> that Iraq has been unjustly treated, that it was not responsible for the
> war [17], that the boundary relocation was an injustice and that the trade
> embargo is a crime against the Iraqi people. The Iraqi army, it is sternly
> asserted, remained 'undefeated in the field'. Official propaganda claims
> that Iraq resisted the 'Aggression of the Thirty' (allied states) and
> forced George Bush to agree to a ceasefire [18]. This ideological complex
> is strengthened as developing generations of Iraqis continue to be
> isolated from external scientific, cultural and political influences
> because of the isolation of the country as a whole.
> It is incontestable for Iraqis that the regime of Saddam Hussein was not
> defeated. It is not surprising that Iraq seeks to evade the restrictions
> on arms supplies and to recover its full sovereignty. The Iraqi government
> only accepted the ceasefire conditions under the pressure of circumstances
> and entered into cooperation with UNSCOM over the destruction of defence
> programmes prohibited to it under duress. Thus the official recognition of
> the new Kuwait-Iraq boundary imposed by the Security Council in 1994 was
> treated as a capitulation; it was unavoidable, given the intense
> international pressure, but would be subject to revision once
> circumstances changed. For many, if not for the great majority of the
> Iraqi population, Kuwait is still part of Iraq.
> Realistically, therefore, it must follow that the boundary question will
> continue to be a source of conflict regardless of whether any new regime
> is pro-Western or not. As other bilateral relations in the Gulf have
> demonstrated, regional border conflicts have nothing to do with the
> international orientations and alliances of the states involved. Any
> future Iraqi successor regime will be weaker, initially at least, since it
> must first build up a stable political, military and social alliance on
> which it can rely. It will thus incline to populist rhetoric and will
> certainly intensify a latent border conflict, if that will serve to close
> domestic ranks. Targeted violations of other ceasefire conditions - no-fly
> zones, if they are still in operation, verification regimes, import
> restrictions and so forth - could also serve the same goals. In
> particular, a revisionist or even a revanchist policy must be expected if
> the international community continues to pursue an unrestricted policy of
> rejection towards Iraq. In any case, the peaceful integration of Iraq into
> its regional environment will not occur without international support.
> 1The visit took place within the context of a research project entitled
> 'Regional policy and the development of a new Arabic-Middle Eastern
> system' funded by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation.
> 2Editor (Salah al-Mukhtar), 'tada'iyat al-adwan al-amriki al-jadid 'ala
> al-iraq' (The outcome of the latest American aggression against Iraq), in
> Shu'un Siyasiyya (1996), 6-7, pp. 4-8 (p. 7)
> 3One of many examples which raise more questions than they answer is the
> following. On 6 February 1997 Le Monde reported that three cousins of the
> Iraqi president, including Lieutenant-General Maher Abed El Rachid, had
> been placed under house arrest. On 4 March 1997, the Süddeutsche Zeitung
> announced that, during an attempted attack on Qusay, the president's son,
> the same person, General Maher Abed El Rachid, had been injured. Similar
> contradictions dominated in the background and outcome of the attack on
> the president's oldest son, Uday, who has been under medical care since
> then, because he was seriously injured. See Barton Gellman, 'Saddam's clan
> is reeling from blows and threats', International Herald Tribune, 11
> February 1997.
> 4Some sources claim that the attack on the president's son Uday was not,
> as the regime itself claimed, to be blamed on Iranian agents, nor on
> members of the anti-regime opposition, but to members of the president's
> extended family who wanted to avenge the death of Hussein Kamel, in whose
> murder Uday was claimed to be implicated.
> 5See Patrick Cockburn, 'The CIA; bungle in Baghdad', The Independent 11
> April 1997.
> 6 See particularly Samir al-Khalil, Republic of Fear: the Inside Story of
> Saddam's Iraq, Hutchinson Radius, New York, 1990. 
> 7A technical cooperation agreement between Damascus and Baghdad exists
> with respect to the waters of the Euphrates, where both have similar
> interests against those of Ankara. In June 1997, commercial relations were
> re-established between Syria and Iraq, and Syria has officially demanded
> that the UN consider it a transit country for Iraqi imports under the
> oil-for-food resolution.
> 8 See SWB/ME, Weekly Economic Report 0475, 25 February 1997.
> 9In this context see particularly the speech of the US Secretary of State,
> Madeleine Albright, 'Preserving principle and safeguarding stability:
> United States policy toward Iraq', remarks at Georgetown University,
> Washington DC, 26 March 1997.
> 10Coastal, Bayoil, Mobil, Chevron and Texaco (situation January 1998).
> 11 It would be interesting to ascertain how frequently states (or their
> decision-makers) continue to follow policies if they have been shown to be
> unsuccessful. This could happen because there appears to be no realistic
> alternative or because such alternatives appear to be particularly risky,
> or - and this could play a significant role in respect of Western policy
> towards Iraq (and Iran) - because the relevant international actors whose
> cooperation would be necessary for an alternative policy to be successful
> cannot establish agreement over the 'right' strategy or 'better
> alternatives'. Thus a sustained discussion has developed in Europe over
> the failure (or at least the limited success) of the policy of 'critical
> dialogue' while the US state department has come to realize that the
> American policy of 'dual containment' has also been unsuccessful. (See Jim
> Hoagland, 'As Europe looks "South", America watches a wider screen',
> International Herald Tribune, 6 March 1997.) Nonetheless both the European
> Union, at least till the Mykonos trial in April 1997, and the USA have
> adhered to their original policies towards Iran and towards Iran and Iraq
> respectively.
> 12 See May Chartouni-Dubarry, 'La "question iraqienne" ou l'histoire d'une
> puissance contrariée', in Bassma Kodmani-Darwish and May Chartouni-Dubarry
> (eds), Perceptions de sécurité et stratégies nationales au Moyen Orient,
> Paris 1994, pp. 53-81. Institut Français des Relations Internationales.
> 13See Washington Post, 5 February 1997.
> 14See Report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the Special
> Commission established by the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraph 9(b)
> of Resolution 687 (1991), United Nations Security Council, S/1996/848, 11
> October 1997, p. 26. In February 1998, Iraq announced the successful
> testing of a new short-range missile.
> 15 See Chartouni-Dubarry op. cit., pp. 80f.
> 16 This analogy has often been made. See Al-Ahram Centre for Political &
> Strategic Studies, 'al-taqrir al-istratiji al-arabi (The Arabic Strategic
> Report) 1991', Cairo, 1992 p. 259. See also Joffé, 'Iraq', p. 9.
> 17 Editor (Salah al-Mukhtar) 'Limadha shu'un siyasiyya?' in Shu'un
> Siyasiyya, 1 January 1994, pp. 4-7. 'The Gulf War appeared to be a neutral
> term ... but there is an attempt in fact to obscure the nature of the war
> which was a criminal war and an offensive war. It is necessary therefore
> to see it as Atlantic or American aggression ... terms such as "the mother
> of battles", "aggression of the 30", "American zionist conspiracy" etc.
> are the scientifically correct terms.'
> 18In this context see the interview with the Iraqi information minister,
> Hamid Yusuf Hammadi, in al-Quds al-Arabi (14 March 1997) documented in
> SWB/ME/2872, 20 March 1997. In this he states: 'We have not been defeated,
> because defeat means surrender. As long as we offer resistance, we cannot
> be considered defeated ... George Bush announced the ceasefire
> unilaterally, claiming to have driven the Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. But
> the Iraqi forces actually left in accordance with an agreement concluded
> with the USSR ... Bush wanted to get to Baghdad, but he was defeated in
> the region south of Basra ... the bombing and the withdrawal of the army
> in Kuwait were not a defeat. Our entire losses during the war were less
> than our losses in one average battle of the war with Iran.'
> Dr Volker Perthes is a researcher at the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik
> in Ebenhausen. His work includes Der Libanon nach dem Bürgerkreig, The
> Political Economy of Syria under Assad, and (as editor) Syria in 2010:
> Prospects of Socio-Economic Development. 
> George Joffé is Deputy Director of the RIIA.
> The Royal Institute of International Affairs is an independent body which
> promotes the rigorous study of international questions and does not
> express opinions of its own. The opinions expressed in this publication
> are the responsibility of the authors 
> © Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1998.Briefing Papers
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