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There Are Alternatives to a Military Option - by Hans von Sponeck

Hoping that this is legible. If not, you can read it from the original at ZNet's Middle East pages:


There Are Alternatives to a Military Option 
by Hans von Sponeck
January 10, 2002  

In October 1998, the US Congress defined US policy on Iraq and passed the 'Iraq Liberation Act'. It 
contains a passage which confirms that the ultimate objective of the United States authorities is 
the removal of Saddam Hussain and his government. This puts the tug of war between the US 
Departments of State and Defence into its real perspective. 
With the recent demise of the US Iraq containment policy the issue is not 'whether' Iraq should be 
next on the list but 'how' this can be justified and made palatable to the governments in the 
Middle East and to the so-called coalition partners, particularly in Europe. The American public is 
not the problem. The majority either does not know the issues and therefore does not care or is 
traumatized by the humiliating atrocities of 11 September and receptive to the medicine of a 
military response. 
There can be no disagreement that perpetrators must be brought to justice. The rhetoric escalation 
of recent months by US politicians and their media followers in accusing Iraq of supporting 
international terrorism is void of evidence. Not a single incident can be traced to Iraq from the 
attacks on the US embassies in Nairobi and Daresalaam to the 1993 and 2001 World Trade Centre 
bombings. The anthrax crime is an internal US affair. US intelligence agencies, moreover, know that 
Iraq no longer possesses the weapon systems which would allow the use of the WMD capacity which 
still exists in the form of Iraqi scientists. To admit this, however, would be the death nail to 
the entire self-serving US Iraq policy. 
The US 'case' for an attack against Iraq is therefore nowhere convincing, not even in Britain. The 
list of those who warn against military action grows day by day. Bundeskanzler Schroder recently 
warned in the German Parliament that choosing new targets in the Middle East would backfire and 
'could explode in our faces'. Leaders in the Middle East among them King Abdullah of Jordan, 
Presidents Mubarak and Assad, Dr. Amr Moussa, Secretary-General of the Arab League, the former 
Saudi intelligence chief Turki Ibn Faisal and even the two Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq, 
Barzani and Talabani echo this concern. The US authorities can not ignore these apprehensions. The 
long struggle against terrorism can not be won without allies. An attack against Iraq would 
endanger fragile partnerships and not contribute to eliminating the causes of conflict in the 
Middle East. Quick fixes with military hard-ware will not produce the civilian soft-ware for 
stability and peace. 
Eleven years of a self-serving US policy of economic sanctions against Iraq have not removed Saddam 
Hussein, the ally of the 1980s, but destroyed a society and caused the death of thousands, young 
and old. Evidence of the damage attributable to sanctions is contained in many reports of reputable 
international organizations. To say this is not to overlook human rights violations carried out by 
the Iraqi authorities. National lawlessness, however, is no justification for international 
lawlessness. The International Bill of Human Rights and other international law in the case of Iraq 
have simply been ignored, creating conditions of double punishment for innocent civilians. 
The question that needs an urgent answer is what kind of an international road map is required in 
the case of Iraq to get things straight? First and foremost, Iraq must be given the opportunity to 
show its face where it counts, the UN Security Council. This will only be possible when the US 
displays statesmanship and begins to talk to its adversary. Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz 
has repeatedly offered dialogue on all issues. This should no longer be rebuffed. There is a wealth 
of intelligence information about Iraq on military and political issues in the hands of the United 
Nations to gauge the sincerity of Iraq's willingness to dialogue. The repeatedly postponed meetings 
between the Government of Iraq and the UN Secretary General which finally took place in New York on 
26 February constituted a good beginning. At that time, the Iraqis placed before Secretary General 
Annan a comprehensive position paper on all outstanding issues from missing Kuwaitis to stolen 
property, compensation and disarmament. Even if this submission was defective, it should not have 
been dismissed by the US/UK as 'nothing new'. It could have been a useful base-line for talks. 
Regrettably, after this first meeting, the UN Secretary General was muzzled by US /UK insistence 
that their bilateral policies had to be sorted out before these multilateral talks could resume. 
There has not been another meeting since then. The deadlock with the resulting exhorbitant human 
costs thus continues. 
The negotiating role King Abdullah of Jordan had accepted at the March Arab Summit in Amman for 
similar reasons has not fared much better. Both UN and Arab League initiatives should be given a 
chance. Confidence building measures of this kind would prepare the ground for 'hard thinking and 
plain speaking' at the forthcoming 2002 Arab Summit in Beirut and in the UN Security Council. In 
fact, King Abdullah has visited Kuwait. He should no longer postpone his visit to Baghdad. 
Those who argue that this would constitute a propaganda victory for Saddam Hussein should be 
reminded that the resolution of this major international conflict is a pre-condition for averting a 
deepening global crisis. They should also understand that the resolution of this conflict is not 
about saving political faces but about saving human lives. The urgency of the moment is for the 
international community to end one of the great injustices of our time. 
The oil-for-food programme, the aging life-line for the civilian population has just been extended 
by the UN Security Council for another six months. No agreement has been reached on improving 
conditions under which this programme is implemented. Its severe limitations in terms of funding 
and scope means that the civilian population is forced to remain a hand-out society. People will 
continue to die prematurely. Those who live will face more hardship and deprivation. At the 
beginning of this year, the mortality rate for Iraqi children under five, according to UNICEF, had 
increased by 160% compared to 1990, the highest increase among the 188 countries UNICEF had 
surveyed. Should this alone not be a strong motivating force for the UN Security Council to 
intensify efforts to find a political solution? 
Having the removal of Saddam Hussein as a declared objective, it can not be expected that the 
United States will bilaterally be willing to negotiate with Baghdad. The US, however, also knows 
that the replacement of governments can not be the order of business in the multilateral context of 
the UN. This presents a difficult dilemma for the Americans. It could only be overcome if they were 
to agree to a discussion of the draft resolution for the resumption of arms inspection and the 
lifting of economic sanctions presented by the Russian Government to the UN Security Council last 
June. This proposal foresees the return of arms inspectors to Iraq as demanded by the Bush 
administration and the lifting of economic sanctions after 60 days. The Iraqis have neither 
accepted nor rejected this proposal. 
Here is an opportunity that presents a political option to another military confrontation with 
Iraq. It must not be missed. Friends and allies of the US and the UK should not avoid the 
obligation they have to play their part and do so with commitment and perseverence. It will not be 
easy. This is a call on the European Union which, as an entity, and through individual member 
states has so far participated only half-heartedly in the Iraq discussion. It is also a call on 
Iraq's friends, other than Russia, to impress on Iraq that cooperation with the Russian proposal 
could be the beginning of a comprehensive process to normalize its relations with its neighbours, 
to begin national reconstruction in exchange for re-accepting arms monitoring and verification and 
the continuation of a military embargo on Iraq, as a potential buyer of armament and on potential 
exporters of arms to Iraq. 
Such an approach would also be an important contribution to the wider Middle East Peace Process. 
Iraq and Palestine are no longer issues that can be handled separately. Solving one without the 
other will mean that peace will not return to the area. This leads to only one conclusion, the 
international community including the United States must accept a multi-pronged intervention as a 
first step towards solving the crises in the Middle East. Dialogue and negotiations, not military 
confrontation, should be the basis for this approach. 
Hans von Sponek is the former head of the UN weapons inspection team in Iraq. 



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