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Re: A Note on Strategy

A few comments in response to Peter's interesting suggestons on strategy.

As an interim measure, opening up oil-for-food to an extent which restores
authority over economic management to the Iraqi government is possibly a
pragmatic means to achieving a less oppressive sanctions regime. I think such an
arrangement is exactly what many less hawkish members of the American Congress
woulk like to see - ongoing weapons inspection and arms embargo but with a more
open approach to 'non-military' imports.

Iraq's Arab neighbours may even be counted on to support such a process.
However, while Saudi Arabia, Oman, Dubai, etc. may be uncomfortable or even
outraged by the human toll of sanctions, I suspect there is at least tacit
support for the basic strategy of 'containment' which underlies sanctions. In
fact, is it not a poorly kept secret that American planes flying missions over
the no-fly zone, take off from Oman?  Whatever the case, all of these states
share with the Americans an interest in 'containing' Saddam which explains their
lack of forthright opposition to U.S. policy. Saudi Arabia also benefits of
course by being able to manipulate oil prices more effectively without rivalry
from Iraq.

Strategically,  I think it best to concentrate on the two best reasons for
removing sanctions entirely. First,.the obvious suffering and deprivation they
have caused to the Iraqi people. This is a direct message that unites people
across every political and geographical divide. Second, the total lifting of
sanctions creates a policy vacuum and an opening for advocates of an entirely
new policy direction.

There has been an understandable tendency in the anti-sanctions movement to
almost exclusively emphasize the former approach. If this comes across as
"rather loose and wooly" at times, I think it is because not enough attention
has been given to what a new post-sanctions policy should look like.

I don't think there is one global policy strategy that will solve Iraq's many
political and social dilemmas - these are obviously the responsibility of Iraqis
themselves. But, as with pre-sanctions relations between  western governments
and Iraq, post-sanctions policies will either directly or indirectly strengthen
the Baathist regime -whoever controls it -or support a transition to popular
government. Policies which might help achieve the latter include more energetic
support for an International Tribunal on War Crimes for Iraq, and more
substantial  support for the recognition of Kurdish autonomy in the north.

This does contradict the idea of restoring control over Iraqi society to Iraq,
but suggests that it should be part of a policy favouring decentralization,
federalism, and respect for human rights which ensures that that control is
restored to the Iraqi people, not just to the Baath.


Ben Rempel

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