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Re: [ADC-ITF] The U.S. Will Reconsider Sanctions

On Thu, 4 Nov 1999 wrote:

> ... In regard to both Iraq and Yugoslavia, the U.S. has used a
> combination of bombing and sanctions/blockade to obtain its real
> objective -- "regime change."... 
> Richard Becker
> International Action Center

Certainly in the case of Iraq US President Bush announced, after passage
of UN SCR 687 (which linked sanctions to Iraqi weapons), that the
sanctions would remain for as long as the regime did.  Furthermore,
Albright's first policy speeches on Iraq after becoming Secretary of State
took up this torch.  The policies of these individuals have also been
backed with actions, as we have seen in the recent "US trains Iraqi
opposition" discussion.  Even before this, though, the CIA had been
involved in both Iraqi Kurdistan and Jordan in an attempt to effect
"regime change".

All of this said, though, I would prefer to qualify Mr Becker's statement
in at least two ways.

First, "the US" does not have a single set of consistent desires.  The US
government is notorious for its infighting: departments seeking to promote
themselves over their rivals, staff leaking information that they hope
will promote their department over another, etc.  Political correspondants
regard Washington as a very talkative capital in part, I think, for this
reason.  In this case, though, the most relevant part of "the US" might be
"the US Administration", the White House and its advisers.

Second, though, it is unclear to me that even the US Adminstration knows
what it wants to do with Iraq.  Every possible change in the situation
presents the Adminstration with risks: an independent Iraqi Kurdistan
angers Turkey, a popular uprising risks being Shiite-led, an unsanctioned
Iraq under Saddam Hussein may damage US credibility in the region.

Against this, the current situation does not seem so bad, I would guess,
from the Administration's point of view.  In contrast to 1998, which saw
Iraq crises in February, November and December, there have been none this
year.  Clinton ran on a domestic policy platform: "it's the economy
stupid".  The current situation in Iraq does not threaten this priority.

"Regime change" creates a turbulent Iraq, however smoothly it is handled:
the opposition groups that the US currently supports can only be kept at
the same table as each other with manacles.  There is therefore a live
debate about the feasibility of this strategy for "regime change": 

        WASHINGTON, Jan 30 [1999] (AFP) - While there is a clear consensus
        in the United States for the ouster of Iraqi President Saddam
        Hussein, a major rift lingers here over Washington's plan to
        encourage it.  The debate on the merits of the Iraqi Liberation
        Act -- which provides 97 million dollars to assist opposition
        groups in their struggle to topple Saddam -- came to a head again
        this week when a senior military officer told Congress he doubted
        its effectiveness. "I will be very honest, I don't see an
        opposition group that has the viability to overthrow Saddam at
        this point," General Anthony Zinni, the commander of US forces in
        the Gulf, told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently. He
        noted there were 91 fragmented opposition groups and that  "their
        ability is questionable," warning that while he supported
        Saddam's overthrow, without a united coalition to take his place,
        his ouster would destabilize the region.

        "I've seen the effect of regime changes that didn't quite come
        about the way we would have liked," he said, listing Somalia,
        Afghanistan and Iran as examples. "And the last thing we need is
        another rogue state. The last thing we need is a disintegrating,
        fragmented Iraq because the effects on the region would be greater
        in my judgement than (those of a) contained Saddam," Zinni said.
        In a polite but somewhat testy exchange with senators who
        supported the liberation act, Zinni was asked if he considered to
        be "a viable piece of legislation." "I think it would be very
        difficult, and I think if not done properly, could be very 
        dangerous," Zinni responded...

I think (on the basis of the Cockburns' book, Out of the Ashes) that the
ideal regime change, from the Administration's point of view, is the
"silver bullet": someone close to the Iraqi President kills him and takes
over.  I have no idea what plans exist to support this nine-year old hope. 

Colin Rowat
Coordinator, Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq

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