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RE: Re-arm?

> Can anyone tell me where I can find opinion on the probable outcomes of
> the restoration of full sovereignty to Iraq?

Hi Tony,

This is the big question, and is often addressed in some form or another in
everything written on Iraq policy.  Part of the answer to your question
depends on what you mean by "full sovereignty": a removal of the arms
embargo might be consistent with full sovereignty, but is much less likely
than loosening of economic constraints.  Full sovereignty can be restored
with or without Iraqi debt restructuring, which may be one of the most
important issues in Iraq's future.

The arguments that are then deployed tend to emphasise the following issues:

1. non-conventional weapons

The Iraqi government learned, during the Iran war, the value of
non-conventional weapons, using them (and international support) to fight a
nation three times its size to a standstill.  It has made their retention a
high priority over the 1990s, possibly paying a very high price to do so
("possibly" because it is not clear that the US would have approved
sanctions' lifting had Iraq been found in compliance by UN weapons
inspectors; US administrations have repeatedly insinuated that sanctions are
actually linked to the person of Saddam Hussein, not to Iraq's weapons).  It
most likely maintains clandestine non-conventional weapons programmes to
this day.

I do not understand well the extent to which Israel's possession of such
weapons influences the Iraqi government's interest in them, but Iran has
certainly not diminished in size over the past decade.  Further, with India
and Pakistan developing their nuclear weapons since sanctions were imposed
on Iraq, the need to have such weapons to maintain parity may have

Thus, all indicators suggest that the development of these weapons will
continue to be a priority in the future.  My own sense is that some
programmes will be almost impossible to prevent: laboratory level biological
or chemical weapons research require relatively few resources.  Actually
"weaponising" the results of this research (that is, scaling up to military
dimensions) is much more obvious, and easier to prevent.

2. invasions

Under Saddam Hussein, Iraqi forces have invaded two neighbouring countries,
Iran and Kuwait.  One of the results of this is that Iraq, under Saddam
Hussein as president, has always been on a war footing.  One group of people
argue, on this basis, that Saddam will always seek to maintain some form of
war footing, to keep Iraqi society relatively in check.

One factor that has changed, though, is that neither of the previous two
invasions took place in the face of strong "great powers" opposition.  The
Iran invasion was widely supported internationally as an effort to break
Ayatullah Khomeini's Islamic Revolution.  The circumstances surrounding the
Kuwait invasion are more debated but there does seem to be agreement that no
strong signals of deterrence to the Iraqi army's buildup on the Kuwaiti
border in the months prior to the invasion were sent by the US.  Thus,
Saddam may have believed that he would be allowed to swallow Kuwait.

It is now much more clear that any significant military expedition by the
Iraqi army will draw a US military response.  How much is "significant",
though?  The border skirmishes with Saudi Arabia and Iran have not yet
counted.  Would movement of military assets into Iraq's share of the
non-militarised zone along the Kuwaiti border while the US was trying to
maintain support for its Afghan campaign be significant?

A related question is that of how well Saddam can gauge what is
"significant".  He is a survivor but, I think, got it very badly wrong in

It is certainly the case that, as Iraq's position in the world normalises,
its military will rebuild.  Apparently many non-Iraqi Arabs also would
regard this as a good thing: a weak Iraqi military contributes to a weak
Arab world, according to this thinking.

3. internal oppression

In this case, it is noted that the Iraqi government, under Saddam Hussein,
has pursued systematic campaigns against civilian populations, particularly
Kurdish, even after the Iran war.  The official rationale of the US/UK 'no
fly zones' derives from this observation.

In the South/Centre of Iraq, it is the case that the zone does nothing
noticeable to reduce internal repression.  Indeed, by stressing that their
rules of engagement only allow them to attack when they themselves are
attacked, they guarantee ineffectiveness from this point of view.  In Iraqi
Kurdistan, my sense is that the zone does offer a sense of protection to

I think that similar thoughts to those that apply to the issue above, that
of invasions of other countries, applies here, but to a lesser extent.  The
eyes of the world are and will be on the Iraqi government's treatment of
Iraqi Kurdistan, but troop movements into regions officially recognised as
being part of Iraq are different than those into regions of, say, Kuwait:
international responses are less likely.  This is one reason that I think
that Iraq's Kurdish population is at real risk as Iraq as a whole

4. spending priorities

The final issue often addressed in this context is that of Iraqi government
spending priorities.  Crudely, would Saddam spend anything more on the
civilian economy were economic constraints loosened?  In recent history, the
Iraqi government has certainly had a sense of social contract, investing
heavily in civilian infrastructure and education prior to sanctions.  I
personally think that this would most likely be continued: the Iraqi
government is full of well trained senior civil servants with a desire to
improve their country; without the excuse of sanctions, popular expectations
are likely to rise sharply, placing pressure on the government to deliver.

I hope that this helps somewhat.  I apologise for not citing particular
articles or papers in this summary.  If you'd like references, I can try to
think of some more specifically.  Please also let me know if you have any
questions, either on the above or otherwise.


Colin Rowat

work | Room 406, Department of Economics | The University of Birmingham |
Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK | 0121 414 3754 |

personal | 07768 056 984 (mobile) | (707) 221 3672 (US fax) |

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