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Extract of report from Gulf Stability Conference: notes on Iraq and the US

Here is an extract from a report based on an FCO-led conference back in
October (Wilton Park Conference 580: 25-29 October 1999) - "How Best to
Bring Lasting Stability to the Gulf?". The report was written by Richard
It provides an insight into the diplomatic perspective, and discusses
various suggestions which have been put forward for 'resolving' the
situation. Interestingly, it acknowledges that "the view that their [the
Iraqi population's] suffering is due to the behaviour of the regime and to
misappropriation of resources available under UN-sanctioned oil-for-food
arrangements is increasingly contested." However, emphasis on the ethical
implications of the sanctions, or recognition of the scale of civilian
suffering, is noticeably absent.
If anyone would like an electronic copy of the whole 12 pages please let me
know today or tomorrow. It includes more discussion of relations among other
Gulf States and the US, the US' role in the region, projected economic and
commercial developments, implications of political instability, etc.

Richard Latter, November 1999

1               Introduction
At the end of the last decade of the Twentieth Century the Gulf region is
enjoying a period of stability and relatively low tension which is based
upon a system of deterrence established after the 1991 Gulf War. Problems
associated with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD),
terrorism, and the activities of aggressive regimes have been met with
containment policies against Iraq and Iran, forged by Western powers and
broadly backed by the governments of the Saudi Arabian peninsula. This
'containment approach' is, however, increasingly criticised internationally
not least because related policies are not able to deal with many of the
problems which are generating public discontent in the region: the breakdown
of Iraqi society and the suffering of Iraq's population; economic problems
and a lack of economic reform; a growing mismatch between resources and
burgeoning populations; the problems of urbanisation; increasing
environmental pollution. There is concern that stability will become
increasingly precarious if governments fail to deal with the root causes of
continuing inter- and intrastate tensions. While policy adjustment is
already occurring, for example the United States' commitment to 'dual
containment' has eroded in recent years, many argue that such adjustments
need to be made more quickly. 
There is a growing chorus of comment and advice urging a redirection of
Western and US policies and a greater dynamism in Gulf Cooperation Council
states' (GCC) deliberations; the nature of the US presence in the Gulf is
subject to increasing debate, although it remains broadly supported except
in Iraq and Iran. Many urge the West and GCC to adopt a more positive
attitude towards change rather than 'continuing their traditional resistance
and suspicion'. They also call for efforts to increase the stake of local
populations in the process of change.
Relations between the region's states will need to be stable if the region
is to advance from a balance-of-power paradigm to a more cooperative,
collective security-based approach. Indeed, even if this may be desirable
and there are those who disagree, the difficult question remains: how to
move from the existing situation to a better and more cooperative future?
Part of the answer lies in improving confidence and developing perceptions
of mutual interest and benefit, not least in the economic arena. Leadership
elites in the region need to develop an understanding that security is not
an absolute but something which is relational and involving perceived
threats; there has to be a recognition of different interests and an
acceptance that related accommodations will be required. Many call for a
'vision of transition' to be forged and shared by the region's states; too
much policy has been reactive in the past. For the first steps to be taken
in this direction, it will be necessary for leaderships to accept that
future stability can no longer be rooted in the existing status quo.
What are the prospects for this type of adjustment in governments' thinking
and consequent policy development? Are there signs that the Gulf region is
moving in a new direction as it enters a new century? 
2               Interstate Relations
Any change of attitudes in the region will not occur at a uniform pace in
all countries. History, the nature of states' regimes and their national
interests influence both the direction and pace of intellectual debate and
of policy-making. Those deciding how best to persuade regimes to be more
flexible in their approach to changing circumstances must be mindful of
important national differences. Opting for flexibility will pose particular
difficulties where states and regimes are perceived by their neighbours to
constitute a genuine security threat; Iraq provides the obvious example.

Given the significant US military presence in the region, many argue that
Iraq does not constitute an immediate conventional military threat to its
neighbours, although concern remains about the country's possible chemical
and biological weapons (CBW) capability. In the Arab world, indeed, many
perceive Iraq to have been badly treated as a defeated power, pointing to
over ten years of economic sanctions and their severe impact on Iraqi
society. This said, the regime remains isolated and there are few illusions
as to its repressive nature. 
Nevertheless, the UN sanctions' regime against Iraq is under pressure
because of its adverse humanitarian impact on the Iraqi people; the view
that their suffering is due to the behaviour of the regime and to
misappropriation of resources available under UN-sanctioned oil-for-food
arrangements is increasingly contested. Falling population numbers,
healthcare and malnutrition problems, possible economic and social
breakdown, and the eventual collapse of the state are unlooked-for adverse
consequences, many argue, of continued sanctions. Too few incentives are
being offered to make cooperation with the United Nations more attractive to
the regime. Indeed some argue that continued pressure serves merely to
increase the regime's interest: in aggression against its near neighbours,
in terrorism, in WMD acquisition. Current policy, they argue, merely fuels
current and future radicalism in Iraq. This view is vigorously contested by
others who insist that military pressure in combination with sanctions
offers the only means to contain an Iraqi regime which is inherently
aggressive and revisionist. For them, significant policy change must only
occur when the regime in Baghdad changes. Compromise serves only to enable
the regime to strengthen its position and to prolong its hold on power.
Others believe this policy to be counterproductive; the public hardships
caused result in an increase in support for the regime, do not affect the
regime itself or key groups which support it. They urge the negotiation of a
reintegration of Iraq into the international and regional systems. For this
to occur, however, a change in Iraqi leadership attitudes will be required,
for example, regarding the future position of the Kurds, cooperation with UN
agencies, and indeed the future nature of the country's political system.
The Iraqi regime must be committed to normal economic exchanges with its
neighbours, to maintaining correct relations with neighbouring states and,
in the longer term, to accepting democratic principles and human rights
norms. There is little evidence that such change is seriously contemplated
in Baghdad. 
Some observers argue that, notwithstanding a lack of progress on these
issues, sanctions should be lifted and diplomatic relations normalised in
order to begin to rebuild 'normal' relations with the Iraqi state. These
actions would be complemented by a clearly-stated commitment to resort to
military action if and when Iraqi actions merited a military response.
Another variant of this approach is to lift sanctions while maintaining
stringent border monitoring and controls to prevent the import of weapons
and WMD-related materials by the Iraqi regime. Arguments have also been
advanced in favour of making sanctions 'smarter'; introducing a more
selective regime which would reduce the discomfort of the civil population
while continuing to restrict the military and other aspirations of the
regime itself. Few of these proposals seem likely to be adopted in the near
future given the continued opposition of the United States to such
proposals, an attitude which is unlikely to change during a US presidential
election year.
There is little interest in the international community in taking military
measures to promote the Iraqi regime's overthrow. Faced with the evident
resilience of the regime, more support is being offered by the United States
to opposition groups which are committed to Saddam Hussein's overthrow.
However, the levels of support made available thus far seem unlikely to
bring change in the near term (see below). Many observers expect current UN
policies to be continued, notwithstanding the evident unease in the Arab
world and the concerns of humanitarian agencies. Few are pressing for
radical efforts, whether military or economic, to change the situation. A
gradual erosion of sanctions may well occur, but Iraq will remain a pariah
in the region for as long as the current regime remains in power. To some
degree, the current situation suits neighbouring states which are not
threatened by a severely weakened Iraq. Furthermore, international criticism
of ongoing policy is generally directed at the United States and has had, as
yet, few political consequences for governments in the Gulf region. Only
when a regime change occurs will serious consideration be given to other
available options.

The United States
In recent decades the United States has been concerned to maintain a
balance-of-power in the Gulf region in order to protect access to oil, a
perceived vital US national interest. The dual containment of Iraq and Iran
was deemed to be consistent with these goals. Some now take the view that
the US needs to focus less on balance-of-power considerations because it is
able to deal with regional problems unilaterally. Increasing concerns around
the globe about perceived US unilateralism have a particular resonance in
the Gulf.
This said, the strategic situation in the region has changed: while the
regime of Saddam Hussein remains in place in Iraq, Iran is proving to be
increasingly moderate as well as taking a more 'nationalist' approach in its
foreign policy; the GCC states are threatened more from within than from
without; and oil is less of a 'strategic' commodity. For some, it is
increasingly unclear whether protection of oil flows from the region
continues to be a US 'vital' national interest, given the international
nature of the oil industry and multiple sources of supply. Less positively
from a US perspective, South Asia has become a region with two
newly-emerging nuclear powers, and the success of the Taliban in Afghanistan
is regarded as potentially destabilising. Israel appears to be an
increasingly important military factor in the region, given the development
of long-range air and missile capabilities in states with which it has
antagonistic relations. US arms sales in the Gulf remain important but they
are falling. In these circumstances, US policy regarding Iraq and Iran is
becoming more differentiated. 
US support for sanctions against Iraq remains firm despite the adverse
effects on the country's population and their failure to bring political
change or the return of an UNSCOM-type inspection regime to ensure that Iraq
is not developing WMD. Continued containment is being supplemented by an
overt support for the external Iraqi opposition and by the robust
prosecution of no-fly zones and related air attacks against Iraqi military
installations. Military training is being given to the opposition, although
this does not include combat training; the relatively modest amount of $96
million draw-down on existing DoD funds is involved. The United States is
also seeking the indictment of Saddam Hussein and his clique as 'war
criminals'. The US insists that while the current regime remains in power,
Iraqi oil income must remain under UN control. US forces are likely to
remain in the Gulf region at least until the Saddam regime has been
Despite criticisms of these policies in the Middle East, they attract little
attention or criticism inside the United States itself. There is some
concern about the suffering of the Iraqi people and a recognition by the
Administration that something will have to be done, or seen to be done, to
alleviate their situation. Foreign criticisms of US policy are likely to
persist, based upon various lines of argument, for example: that training of
Iraqi opposition groups could generate problems akin to those associated
with the 'contra scandal' or the training of forces which were to emerge as
the Taliban. Others are concerned that any indictment of the Iraqi regime
simply precludes any possibility for their cooperating with the
international community. Others contest this view, arguing that such action
is consistent with an evolution of international law which reflects a
growing unwillingness to accept gross abuses of human rights by leaders
against their citizens.
Greater urgency is required in considering how best to address the internal
problems affecting Gulf states. Even if interstate relations continue to be
manageable, economic, social and internal political pressures may yet give
rise to instability in the region.

4       Conclusions
At the end of the Twentieth Century much is occurring which is positive in
the Gulf region. Relations between most Arab states and Iran are improving
and the atmospherics of regional politics have greatly improved since the
1980s and early 1990s. Two striking problems remain: an isolated Iraq, whose
eventual re-emergence as a regional actor will have profound implications,
for good or ill, for regional security; and the changing demographic,
economic and social conditions affecting the region which will affect
fundamentally the region's future political evolution.
How these problems will be resolved will become clear only as the next
century progresses. They cast a veil of uncertainty across the region's
future. What can be said today, with confidence, is that they must be
resolved successfully if a more peaceful Twenty-first Century for the Gulf
is to follow the tumult and violence of the Twentieth Century. 

List of Participants
AL-AKKAS, Abdulmuhsin: Saudi Research and Marketing Group, Riyadh
AL-MALKI, Moza: University of Qatar, Doha
AL-MANI, Saleh: King Saud University, Riyadh
AL-MASKERY, Saif Bin Hashil: Consultative Council of the GCC, Muscat
AL-SHEHABI, Saeed: Gulf Cultural Club; Al Aalam Publications Ltd, London
AMNEUS, Henrik: Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Stockholm
BAABOOD, Abdulla: University of Cambridge, Cambridge
BORG, Erik: Swedish National Defence Radio Institute, Bromma
DOYLE, Chris: Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding
(CAABU), London
EL-SAYED SAID, Mohamed: Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies,
ELLEHĜJ, Martin: Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Copenhagen
FARAH, Geili: Embassy of the State of Qatar, London
FUNDER, Nanna: Danish Defence Staff, Copenhagen
GOZNEY, Richard: Cabinet Office, London
HARARI, Michael: Embassy of Israel, London
HARRIS, Anthony: Robert Fleming & Co Ltd, London
HETHERINGTON, Martin: Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London
HOGSBRO, Christian: Danish Defence Staff, Copenhagen
HOLLIS, Rosemary: Royal Institute of International Affairs, London
HORAK, Dennis: Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ottawa
JOHAR, Hasan: National Assembly of Kuwait, Safat
KAPISZEWSKI, Andrzej: Jagiellonian University, Krakow
KHONSARI, Mehrdad: Senior Research Consultant, Centre for Arab and Iranian
Studies, London
KLOMP, Marije: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Hague
LATTER, Richard: Wilton Park, Steyning
MABRO, Robert: Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, Oxford
MALEKI, Abbas: International Institute for Caspian Studies, Tehran
McDONNELL, Jonathan: I B Tauris & Company, London
MOOSA, Hassan: Gulf Cultural Club, London
ORHUN, Ömür: Ministry of Foreign  Affairs, Ankara
PAN, Wei Fang: Chinese Embassy, London
POLLOCK, David: Department of State, Washington DC
RATHMELL, Andrew: King's College, University of London
RAZOUQI, Ahmad: Embassy of the State of Kuwait, London
REMBE, Malena: Swedish National Board of Police, Stockholm
SAKR, Naomi: University of Westminster, London
SAYYAR, Waheed Mubarak: Bahrain Embassy, London
SHABANI, Reza: BBC Monitoring, Reading
SICK, Gary: 'Gulf 2000', New York
SINGH, Jasjit: Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi
SUNDE, John: Department of Foreign Affairs, Pretoria
van BOSHEIDE, Henk: Ministry of Defence, The Hague
YAPHE, Judith: National Defense University, Washington DC
ZANKL, Peter: George C Marshall European Center for Security Studies,

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