The United States fought a militarily very successful war to liberate Kuwait and to restore peace and stability to the Persian Gulf. In many respects, however, that war appears never to have ended, and whereas prior to the war it was possible to maintain peace and stability in the Persian Gulf without a substantial permanent American presence there, such a presence is apparently now necessary to maintain the peace. But is this a tenable long-term situation?
Second, in regional security affairs, one would normally assume that the way to produce a stable situation is to integrate all of the major actors into some structure that can sustain the peace. And yet U.S. policy for seven years now has been based on excluding both Iran and Iraq from active participation in the affairs of the Gulf. Is this a correct policy? Can it succeed, or must it be changed?
Third, we are now in a respite between incidents of cheat and retreat from Baghdad. Many people expect that no later than the fall we will once again confront the problem of how to deal with Saddam Hussein and his regime. Can the sanctions be sustained? Should they? Can the inspection regime be sustained? Should it?
As we look at the inspection regime, what is the utility of it? If the nuclear program has essentially been uprooted, if the chemical weapons program has been largely destroyed, if all that is left is biological weapons-and if those can be reconstituted, as Richard Butler says, within one week after having been found and destroyed - what is the marginal utility of the inspections? Are they the answer to this problem, or is there a better answer to a problem of concern to everyone in the region and everyone here: namely, Iraqi weapons of mass destruction?
Finally, what, if anything, is the relationship between the situation in the Gulf and U.S. policy and situations elsewhere in the region, such as the motionless peace process between Arabs and Israelis?
JOSEPH MARTY (Director for Near East and South Asia, National Security Council)
The strategic importance of the Gulf region is, of course, unquestioned. It is home to the world's critical energy sources, also home to a lot of very good allies and friends that we owe a good deal of support to. Instability in the Gulf with its oil and gas resources could have an immediate impact on people around the world. That's why the American military has been more actively engaged in operations in this region than any other region in the world for the last two decades.
I'd like to touch on three obvious areas in breaking this down: Iraq, Iran and the Gulf States. In Iraq, it might help to review where we are right now. In the most recent crisis, President Clinton matched vigorous diplomacy with a robust demonstration of potential force, and it worked. The U.N. weapons inspectors, including Americans, are back inspecting in Iraq, and they're inspecting the most important sites, the Iraqi equivalent of Camp David, the Iraqi equivalent of the Pentagon. That's a real victory. It's a victory for us. It's a victory for the international community.
Two, sanctions remain in place, with - and this is important to remember surprisingly good compliance for sanctions that have been in place for eight years. Saddam's insistence on maintaining some WMD capability has cost his country over $120 billion over the last eight years in lost oil revenues. Those lost revenues, along with the arms embargo, have prevented any significant rebuilding of his conventional weapons capability. This has obviously limited the military threat he can pose to his neighbors, including Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. That's a real victory, but Saddam and Saddam's regime also remain in place. There are a few promising signs, of course, about regime instability and internal dissent - not many, and we're not grasping at those straws - but we don't see hopeful signs of organized, viable internal opposition.
On weapons, the discovery and elimination of a broad segment of his WMD capability has truly been impressive, but that success puts us at a tough point. The regime is now expert at hiding the small number of WMD-related items that remain in Iraq, key WMD-related items. At the same time, UNSCOM has to react to the Iraqis' getting very good at hiding these things with increasingly aggressive tactics that lead to more frequent confrontations.
In the Security Council, we have an enviable record of success. Eight years, sanctions remain in place, Iraq is contained. It's not a bad record of success. There is clearly no doubt that the French and the Russians with a few other silent partners have different views on maintaining sanctions than this administration does, and they are pressing against our efforts to maintain those sanctions. But, as the latest crisis shows, there are some real bedrock positions that all of the permanent five members share. Clearly, every foreign leader that President Clinton spoke to during the most recent crisis (marked from November to March of this year), agreed on the need for Iraq to comply fully with UNSCOM. And we have been open and very direct about thanking France and Russia directly for their direct intervention in Baghdad. We think that played some role. We will have differences on tactics with the French and the Russians and others on the Council, but we shouldn't mistake differences in tactics for a lack of a shared vision of what Iraq must do for the Council.
The Arabs are supportive but uneasy. I'm sure there are probably several of you people who have held my position, and every one of you has said that phrase at some point in your career, "The Arabs are with us, but they're uneasy." But they, too, weren't silent in the recent challenge. Many sent repeated high-level demarches to Baghdad demanding compliance, no holds barred, no ins, no outs, no waffling.
Other Arab countries provided key logistical and transit support for our buildup: Egypt, the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia. Clearly, none of our friends in the Arab world had any sympathy for Saddam during the crisis, even as many shared our sympathy for the Iraqi people.
The expansion of the oil-for-food program recently has given us a modest tool to offset legitimate Arab concerns over the Iraqi people suffering from sanctions. We think, quite honestly, that has been a P.R. difficulty for this country and for the coalition. It's probably going to take at least a year to offset what has been a real mistaken impression about our view on oil-for-food. Clearly, some of the concerns about a supposed U.S. double standard may be in part a self-serving rationale by leaders finding it difficult to step up to the Iraq problem. It's a difficult problem, but we understand the legitimate feelings they have about their public's displeasure and what they view as the double standard, and we will address that later.
The challenge from Iraq is not over. Clearly, we have to continue to limit the regime's ability to threaten its neighbors. We do that through the presence of military force, both U.S. and allied. We do that through the no-fly zones that continue to operate in the North and the South. I think everybody is familiar with the reasons for those. They not only prevent Iraq from denying the human rights of the people who live under the no-fly zones, but they also take away sovereignty and remind Saddam that he is being punished for continued bad behavior. We will continue to operate the multinational interception force, the MIF, which denies him illicit smuggling opportunities out of the Gulf. We're going to support UNSCOM to the hilt, as we always have, and you can bet that we are going to be fighting to maintain sanctions as long as there is a rationale for doing so.
We are serious about helping the Iraqi people through the oil-for-food arrangement. We just expanded it. We mean to make it work, and we mean to keep those dollars aimed at food and medicine. We do not want to let a large amount of this money - some, maybe but not a large amount - be siphoned off for regenerating Iraq's capability to develop oil. We will continue to be in contact with various elements of the Iraqi opposition to help them work more effectively.
Finally, we remain ready to work with the new government in Baghdad when it comes to power. Saddam will not last forever, and we should be ready to work with the Iraqis who succeed him.
On Iran, let me perhaps go a little faster. There is no doubt, and we have said it, that we are encouraged by what we have seen taking place under Khatami. The CNN interview was encouraging; he had many interesting and positive statements. Iran's handling of the OIC summit was a step forward, with its refreshing lack of vitriol. Finally, Iran's warm welcome for American wrestlers and other items like that have been encouraging signs.
I will now mention the canonical three items that continue to concern us about Iran. We are serious about these, their pursuit of WMD, pursuit of terrorism as a weapon of policy, and violent opposition to the peace process. Those are serious concerns. You know well our position on those. Let me be very clear. When it comes to our approach on Iran compared to that of the EU, while we may differ on tactics, as on Iraq, there is near universal agreement on the three concerns I mentioned and our standards for addressing them. If you have any doubt about that, you can look at statements of the IAEA by our BU friends, you can look at the arrangement, and you can look at the near exact view we have on sale of WMD related and dual-use components to Iran. It is a shared view we have with the EU.
This being a discussion about the Gulf in general, Iran certainly is taking advantage of changing attitudes in the region to advance a diplomatic agenda. Iranian-Saudi contacts have increased significantly over the past half year. But what we believe to be Saudi distrust of Iranian intentions remains. Nobody knows the Iranians better than the Saudis, and we're not nervous.
Other Gulf countries will take the lead from the Saudis. Certainly, the United Arab Emirates will demand more signs of goodwill, given the dispute about the islands. We see any rapprochement between the Gulf States and Iran being a slow process, as we view any potential thawing of relations between the United States and Iran. On the Gulf States, without a doubt we're the preeminent security partner of all the GCC States, and there is no sign that that will change. The other countries sell hardware. We sell security. We share with the Gulf States a view of Iran and Iraq, and we are clearly the region's 911 emergency service.
Clearly, another key to our Gulf relations is our effort to advance the Middle East peace process. We are acutely aware of the dangers to our ability to play a leading role in the Gulf when the peace process is stalemated. We know that we have been able to make improvements in our relations in the neighborhood because of the promise that flowed from the Middle East peace process. In the same way, a logician would say very clearly that we are now going to go down the other side of that hill and suffer more difficulty sometimes in dealing with Arabs and promoting our vision in the region because of the impasse in the Middle East peace process. We realize that. It's a fundamental part of every discussion about the peace process and about the Gulf region.
Right now, of course, it won't surprise you to know that the administration is looking hard again at long-term Iraq policy, and the impasse in the Middle East process figures prominently in the way we think about the way forward. Let me just say the obvious: those facts are yet another reason for the hard decisions to be made by the peace-process parties in the region, and it's another reason for us to remain engaged actively and to be the driver behind the peace process.
IVAN ELAND (Director of Defense Policy Studies, CATO Institute)
There is always one in the crowd who not only doesn't buy the policy or the alternatives to the policy, but doesn't buy the paradigm. I'm fulfilling that role today.
Mr. Marty just said that it's self-evident that we have a strategic interest, a vital interest, in the Persian Gulf. I'm not sure I would agree. You may say, "Well, that contradicts everything we hear in the media every day," but I'd just like to take you back a little way to the time of the Persian Gulf War. There were several economists that did studies on oil at the time. One of them was David Henderson, senior economist for the Council of Economic Advisers under Reagan. He examined what would happen to the oil market if Saddam Hussein had overrun Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, the worst possible case. This was presumably why we did Desert Storm, and I see no other reason to have done Desert Storm, frankly. I'm a realist. Let's say it was the oil.
If that had occurred, there would have been a price rise. There also might not have been, because if Saddam Hussein takes over Saudi Arabia and the Emirates he has to price oil as the Saudis do because there's a lot of oil in the ground, and if oil goes above a certain price, you will have substitution, conservation. That's an economic phenomenon. He would have had 20 percent of the world's production if he had Kuwait, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the Emirates. So what would that have done to the U.S. GDP if, in the worst case, he had exercised a limited monopoly power over the oil? The postulated amount that he would have held off was 4 billion barrels of oil. The price rise would have led to a one-half of 1 percent decrease in the U.S. GDP.
There were many economists in agreement at the time: Bill Niskaner of the CATO Institute who used to be on Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers, Milton Friedman, James Toban. From across the political spectrum, they were writing op-eds saying, "Don't go to war for oil." That's my perspective. I'm not really sure that the Gulf is really that strategic for U.S. interests.
But, even if you don't accept my principle, I'm going to analyze why I think the current policies are wrong. Things have changed since the Gulf War. Iraq has become much weaker. The military has been eroded by sanctions and by the war itself, and it couldn't, probably, launch an extended ground invasion into Saudi Arabia without a great deal of difficulty now. As far as a conventional threat to its neighbors, it's not that great. Saudi Arabia has a modem air force. They could probably do well in attriting any sort of invasion that did occur.
There are basically two threats, if any, to the oil: Iran's closing down the Strait of Hormuz, which I don't think they would do because they use it themselves. They have three Russian submarines, and we have antisubmarine warfare capabilities. Their submarine is not all that capable, despite the hype, and we could probably open up the strait easily.
The big problem that I see is with Saudi instability. During the war, the Saudis were not willing to let our combat aircraft - strike aircraft, that is - use their bases. Countries say one thing or another, but what they do is really what matters. They were more concerned about how their actions looked to their own people than about the threat from Iraq. The threat of instability bothered them more than the threat of Saddam.
What about weapons of mass destruction? A lot of countries in the Middle East have them, and Iraq is not the only one to have used them. I believe Libya used them against Chad in 1987. Plus, as we just heard, Mr. Butler has said they could reconstitute the biological weapons within a week or two, even if we took them all out. Biological weapons are very easy to make, easy to transport, and no country in the Middle East has a missile that can hit us.
The real threat that I see with the weapons of mass destruction is from terrorism. We have already had incidents of mass terror: the Tokyo subway, the World Trade Center bombing. If they had done a good job in the World Trade Center bombing, we would have lost 10,000 people. That's the threat that I perceive. If you take military action against Iraq, I think it is very likely that Saddam could retaliate through some terrorist group on the United States. And I just don't think that price is worth paying. We have to watch where we intervene not only in the Middle East but everywhere because of the terrorist threat. Is that a policy of appeasement? I would say no because, if your strategic interests aren't involved, then why take the chance that an attack like this could occur? These attacks are very hard to mitigate, hard to detect and very lethal. Five pounds of anthrax can kill 300,000 people, and one pass with an aircraft sprayer using biological weapons can kill over a million people. Very small quantities of these things are impossible to interdict coming into this country. We can't do it on drug shipments - we only get 5 to 15 percent.
The administration is stressing a general WMD threat, I think, to drum up support for the latest intervention (had the negotiated settlement not occurred). What we ought to do is tum that around and say, do you want to take the chance, when you intervene in places that aren't in your vital interest, of a terrorist group doing something like this? There is a new strategic environment now. The weakest terrorist group can do something like this. It's already occurred. If the World Trade Center bomb had been a nuclear device, it would have killed 100,000 people.
We need to think about this, and about what our vital interests really are. We also need to think, whenever we take a military action like air strikes, about what the air strikes would have accomplished? The Air Force admitted they didn't even know where the WMD sites were. If you go after these weapons with air strikes or a ground offensive, let's hope you get them in time because they may be used for purposes of terrorism, which I think is the bigger threat.
SHIBLEY TELHAMI (Anwar Sadat Chair for Population, Development and Peace, University of Maryland)
I would like to focus my talk strictly on policy toward Iraq because the imminent crisis pertains to Iraq and not to Iran. I think the changes vis-a-vis Iran are going to be long-term, and they're going to be cautious, and they are going to have their ups and downs. With the exception of a few issues related to ILSA [the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act], I don't think there are imminent choices that the U.S. is going to have to face that are going to be hugely consequential for the relationship with Iran.
On the other hand, crisis with Iraq is almost inevitable, and I don't think that the U.S. has carefully thought about how to address the next one when it emerges. I will focus on American and Arab expectations and how they have changed since the handling of the previous crisis with Iraq, and how I see these affecting American and Iraqi behavior in the next crisis.
One issue that has been debated a lot, particularly when the previous crisis emerged, is American public opinion. There were surveys that indicated Americans want to go to war against Iraq because Iraq was challenging the United States. In fact, we had strong public support for a military option in the abstract, given certain types of questions, in a way that was surprising even in comparison to past crises. But the lesson to be drawn from what has transpired - given the American decision, which was seen in the domestic context as a concession to Iraq - is that public opinion on this issue does not matter much in the United States. Public opinion has not placed this issue high in the priorities list. People have opinions on it but the president's popularity did not go up when he was seen to be tough, and it didn't go down when he was seen to have compromised. This is not a burning issue in the minds of Americans. It could become one, of course, if the U.S. gets involved militarily, but it certainly isn't now. There is no reason to change policy or to become more aggressive in response to public demand. That argument really doesn't have much power.
This is not the case with Congressional opinion. There is no question that the next crisis is going to raise the expectations for a military strike. The next crisis cannot be resolved in the same way as the last one because the administration will face not only partisan politics on this, but also a sense that U.S. credibility is on the line.
Therefore, in the Washington arena, the pressure will increase in favor of a military strike, and it will not be just a question of responsiveness to public pressure. In the case of regional public opinion, it's also interesting to read the expectations because, in essence, the U.S. is responding to those. First, in Arab public opinion, it is seen that Iraq has compromised. Iraq is seen to have made the final concession leading to that compromise, not the United States. So, ultimately, credit went to Iraq in that particular crisis, and, therefore, the expectations are that there will be some compensation and relief from the international community.
There is also a shift in focus from weapons of mass destruction to the palace inspections because the crisis was essentially over palaces. The palace issue has been somewhat resolved, and, therefore, expectations were raised that there would be some relief forthcoming, even aside from the issues of weapons of mass destruction. So you have a shifting of Arab opinion in favor of Iraq and toward the expectation that there would not be a military confrontation during the next crisis.
Finally, there is the issue of who is responsible for the suffering of Iraqis. This is clearly an issue that matters a lot in the Middle East, across the region, including among governments, not just public opinion. This is a genuine issue in the Arab world. The fact of the matter is, no one in the Middle East believes that the primary responsibility for the suffering lies with the Iraqi regime; everybody believes it's the sanction structure. The U.S. can't delude itself that it can win that argument.
Maybe it doesn't matter. Maybe expectations in the Arab world, public opinions, don't matter. That's a decision the U.S. will have to make. But you're not going to win the argument. I think that is a fact about the regional context of this particular crisis.
Let me say a word about the strategic situation in terms of the way it was affected by the handling of the recent crisis. There is no question that the U.S. gave in a little bit to the U.N. bureaucracy on managing the Iraqi affair. But there is also no question that the U.S. asserted its national interest separate from the U.N. in the previous crisis. In some ways, the choices have become sharper for the United States; the status quo has become less tenable. The same continuation of the status quo after the next crisis has become less likely. You have a sharpened choice between a military strike on the one hand and relief on economic sanctions on the other.
The structure of the U.N. relationship with Iraq, not solely because of the role of the secretary general of the United Nations, which clearly has been psychologically important in conveying a certain message, but also in terms of the involvement of U.N. diplomats joining U.N. inspector teams has been helpful. As you know, there's been some tension between the diplomats and the technical inspectors. The inspectors are more responsive to actual fulfillment of detailed resolutions, and the diplomats are more interested in the political arena. For the first time, in a way, we saw relatively positive statements coming out of the U.N. following inspections. The diplomats would say the Iraqis have cooperated fully, or that they found nothing and that the inspection had been successful - the sort of thing that we have not heard in the past on the same scale from the level of technical inspectors.
That has again raised the expectations that there is more compliance than was the case, and more separation, in a way, between the technicians and the diplomats in the U.N. arena. This seems to take a little bit away from the U.S. ability to prevent an emerging international consensus that there has been compliance once Iraq complies more fully. Clearly, Iraq has not fully complied yet. But if the Iraqis decide to play some cards or come clean on some issues, particularly biological weapons, it would be much tougher for the U.S. to control the international interpretation of whether Iraq has complied. In that sense, the status quo has become less tenable, and in fact, the possibility of relief has increased.
At the very same time, the chance of the military option has increased. In fact, if I had to bet today, I would say that the next crisis will result in U.S. military involvement, even though this is not what the administration is seeking. I don't think the U.S. is prepared yet to make a decision on the other side, and expectations are such that they involve credibility, and they involve a Congressional component.
The United States has invoked national interest in the previous crisis. For the first time, the United States, which had been portrayed as essentially being an agent of the United Nations in implementing U.N. resolutions, its degree of responsiveness to Iraq depending on the degree to which Iraq was complying with U.N. resolutions, invoked, besides the U.N. compliance issue, American national interests that are independent from the U.N. resolutions, independent from Iraq's compliance with U.N. resolutions. They are the ones at stake. This particular issue is going to come back in the congressional debate during the next crisis. Therefore, I think that both choices are there for the administration, and as I said, the one that has the edge clearly depends on what Iraq itself will do.
One of the problems in the current strategy is that the status quo is less tenable. We are very much in line for another crisis, and yet the U.S. has no strategy on how to deal with it. It is in a reactive mode, waiting for the next move. Therefore, Iraq can choose the issue and the timing to create the next crisis in order to force the U.S. decision. Iraq could surprise everyone and reveal information on biological weapons that would lead to certain expectations in the international community and force the U.S. to act one way or the other on the political front. Or it could lead to a military confrontation that would be related to the state of the Arab Israeli peace negotiations. Clearly, they have been reading the state of affairs on the Arab-Israeli front and employing it accordingly.
I respectfully disagree with the suggestion that there is absolutely no linkage between the two issues, that Arab leaders simply use the Arab-Israeli issue as a way of covering up for their discomfort with Gulf policy. There is some truth to this. Arab governments have not really figured out how to deal with Iraq even aside from the Arab-Israeli conflict. But because the choices are very hard for them, they are less likely to choose options that run counter to the public opinion if the peace process is collapsing. As a consequence, I think the two are related to each other.
I think the U.S. has to be very careful about using the military stick. On the one hand, if it's used as a punitive stick, there is no possibility that it would lead to any structural change in the Iraqi government or in the situation between Iraq and the Gulf countries. The more punitive it is, the more painful it is for Iraq, the more painful it is going to be for the U.S., which puts Washington in a very great dilemma.
Intellectual honesty requires the U.S. to see only two clear choices. One is to remove the Iraqi government militarily, which I don't see as politically viable or even possible. The other is to live with the Iraqi regime in a contained fashion and to prepare a strategy along these lines.
MR. FREEMAN: I think you have raised an interesting question. Perhaps our next speaker will address it, or, if not, we will get into it in the question-and-answer period immediately after the next speaker. If we have a policy that justifies bombing Iraq, if bombing Iraq has intense congressional support and significant public support and if in implementing the policy by bombing we are worse off than before, what kind of policy is that?
DOV ZAKHEIM (CEO of SPC International Corporation)
I would like to take these issues from the perspective of four assertions that I constantly hear when I am in the Gulf or speak to people from the Gulf. The first is that we are creating a threat that is not there with respect to Iraq and Iran; we really want to stay in the Gulf with major military forces. The second assertion is that we are not serious about Iraq. If we were, we would get rid of Saddam. Instead, we are constantly raising the bar on sanctions, and Shibley Telhami laid out quite graphically what that means. It ties directly into this so-called mythology about the Iraqi threat. A third assertion that I have heard over the years is that dual containment is actually a policy that was created by Washington's Israeli supporters. Many people finger Martin Indyk specifically, having come from the Washington Institute, which many people in the Gulf think is a front for AIPAC. Therefore, they argue the whole policy is a charade. The fourth assertion is that the failure of the peace process has really undermined our credibility in the Gulf because we are hypocritical. Why, ask the people in the Gulf, are we tougher on Saddam than we are on Mr. Netanyahu?
With regard to the so-called creation of a threat, most analysts and most governments really do acknowledge that there is a threat from Iraq. The endless violations that UNSCOM has pointed out clearly indicate that. Butler's statements about the ability of Iraq to reconstitute its biological weapons point to that. With respect to Iran, one has to ask why are they building ballistic missiles with ranges that go far beyond their Iraqi neighbors. You could not really say they need them against Pakistan or against Turkey and certainly not against Russia, since the Russians are helping them with their ballistic missiles. So, it looks pretty clear that some kind of threat is there.
From the American side, we are stretched very thin around the world. We are spending a fortune on operations and maintenance precisely because we maintain both no-fly zones over Iraq and ships in the Gulf. There are many military people who are clamoring for a cutback somewhere in these operations and maintenance costs. We are not going to cut back in Bosnia. So, in a sense, if we wanted to modernize and streamline our forces, the most sensible thing to do would be to pull out of the Gulf.
Finally, in terms of creating a threat to sell arms, where are the French? They seem to be just as enthusiastic about selling arms as we are, have just completed a rather hefty sale to the United Arab Emirates and have not dropped out of the most recent competition with the UAE - nor, for that matter, have the British. But the French clearly are not perceived as creating the myth of a threat. So I do not think the correlation is there. In fact, the idea that the threat is a myth itself is a myth.
As for Saddam, it is quite a different matter. We looked awful this past fall. That is not just the view in the Gulf. That is the view everywhere outside the Clinton administration. We did not look like winners. Saddam is still there. You heard earlier that he might go. They have been saying that for 20 years. In fact, they have been saying that about Hafiz al-Asad for 20 years as well. What is fascinating about the Middle East is the longevity of its leaders. Mr. Mubarak, for instance, is rather a short timer, 17 years or so, and he is the junior leader in the region. Leaders in the region have watched presidents, and secretaries of state come and go quite frequently.
We do seem to raise the bar. I basically subscribe to Shibley Telhami's views: We are not consistent about how we are dealing with sanctions. If we were serious, we would have handled the matter of the Kurds quite differently. If anything else undermines our credibility in Iraq, it is the fate of the Kurds.
Regarding the assertion about dual containment being created by Israeli supporters in Washington, Anthony Lake was Mr. Indyck's boss. Mr. Lake was never as welcome in Jerusalem as Mr. Indyk was, and it's not clear that he was terribly welcome in Jerusalem either. He was put down by one member of the Knesset in terms that I can only define as disgusting. So the origins of this policy are not necessarily due to pro-Israeli supporters in Washington. On the other hand, there is no doubt that at one point Israel clearly wanted to see both Iraq and Iran kept down, and dual containment certainly fulfilled that. Right now, however, we have a very different story, particularly with respect to Iran. The Iranians are becoming a little more civil about how they look at Israel, and the Israelis are just dying to improve relations with Iran. There may have been some truth to the Israeli equation at the start of this policy. There is no accuracy to it today.
The fortunes of the peace process did not affect Saddam's behavior. Remember, it was not just 1991. It was the threats before the 1990 invasion. It was the behavior since the Gulf War. It did not matter who was in charge, Rabin or Peres. Saddam operates from a different set of calculations entirely. There is no doubt, on the other hand, that improvement in the peace process, which I submit is a complete mess, would enhance our image in the Gulf because what Henry Kissinger said about perceptions being reality is in fact true in this case. There is an almost unanimous perception in the Gulf, rightly or wrongly that the peace process or lack thereof is undermining Arab support for American policy in the Gulf. You can say that objectively that is not the case, but if everybody believes it you have a problem.
What to do about all of this? We ought finally and publicly to bury the notion of dual containment. It may have worked for a while; it does not work today. I do not know when it actually died. It's like Franco; it died at some point.
Second, we should move full speed ahead to normalize relations with Iran. I believe there indeed is a military threat from Iran. Yet we faced a military threat from the Soviet Union for about five decades, and guess what? We had an ambassador there, and we had relations there, and we had trade with them. If we really believe, as many of us do, that there is a serious threat from Iran, it can be dealt with even as relations are maintained with these people, because ultimately we believe that Western ideas will prevail. One must make every effort to get those ideas in, to have interaction, to meet with as many Iranians as possible. If Tehran wants to say no, let them say no. We should open up. In that regard, these considerations are probably what is motivating the Saudis as well. Relations do not hurt. They can only help.
Once we follow these steps, it is going to be much easier for Europe to do business in that part of the world. One of the complaints I hear from my European friends is, that it is all very nice for the United States to put sanctions on countries that primarily do business with Europe. They are not seeing too many sanctions on China these days.
A lifting of limitations on Iran will probably make it easier for us to do something different vis-a-vis Iraq, which in my view is to focus on anything to do with the purely military aspects of the Iraqi threat and leave the rest out of it. If one examines the behavior of the Europeans and even, to some extent, our Arab friends, when it comes to the pure military threat, they are playing ball with us. It is about the questionable notions of dual use, oil-for-food and all these other things, that they start to squawk and say, "you are changing the rules of the game." Perhaps as part of this refocusing of dual containment we could tum around to our European friends and say "fine, we will impose some tougher military impositions on the Iraqis."
Lastly, on the peace process, there are some ways to change it by perhaps holding out incentives for both sides and coming out and saying what we ultimately would like to see in the Middle East. Unfortunately, we have been tongue-tied about this until today.
Q: There is a feeling in the Gulf among the GCC member countries and perhaps more widely in the region that the United States consults and discusses issues with those countries only in times of crisis and when the United States wants money or something specific. Is this in fact a justified criticism, and, if so, what should be done about it?
DR. ZAKHEIM: Our Gulf friends are not alone. We hear the same complaints in East Asia and even in Europe. It is a symptom of a larger disease, which is that in general this administration's foreign policy is totally reactive. If Mr. Bush talked about "the vision thing," at least he used the word "vision." Now, there is none. And you will get all kinds of explanations as to why, but everybody knows that the emperor has no clothes on. You need to have a clear sense of what you want the United States to do in the world and then get people out there articulating what it is that you have decided to do and making sure that those you want in your camp will support you. The basic problem isn't just that we are not sending people out. We do not have anything for them to sell.
DR. ELAND: I think the U.S. often is heavy-handed in all parts of the world when it deals with these things, and I think that's one of the reasons that we're such a target for terrorism. But in this particular case we are providing for the defense for Europe and for the world and for the Persian Gulf. If you're throwing in the resources, then there is a cost for that. I would prefer that we did less there and actually consulted with people and were a balancer of last resort, shoring up the balance of power and being less responsible for the security arrangements, only stepping in in certain regions as a last resort.
I don't think I would step in as a last resort even in the Persian Gulf, but I do think the United States can try to shore up the balance of power if one country gets out of hand. It can help and consult with other countries to offset the power that's getting too strong.
MR. MARTY: We have had serious visits to or serious visits with all of these countries in the last six months. Most notably, we will have the vice president going out to Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Israel shortly for important discussions. I think the concern we hear from countries in the region about Iraq, provides less support for what Dov Zakheim was saying, and it proves more why there are a hundred people sitting in this room. The Iraq problem is a hard one. These countries want to talk to us continuously. I think we have been pretty clear with them that we will talk with the governments and the defense and the political side. We don't blame them for wanting close consultations. We are serious about doing that. But I don't think it's as clear a sign as Dov would have you believe that we don't have anything to say to them.
Q: I have just come back from the region, having found very widespread concern and perhaps misperceptions of U.S. policy. This is perhaps the most serious such instance in a quarter century. What might be done to improve communication and ensure accurate perceptions of American intentions?
DR. TELHAMI: At some level, of course, you can't completely fix perceptions. You're going to have a diversity of views and perceptions of the U.S. independent of what the U.S. does or doesn't do. The best you can hope for is to be able to conduct a foreign policy with the cooperation of the majorities, particularly within the ruling elites.
That, of course, we have a problem with right now. Despite the fact that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not the only problem or not even the main problem in the Middle East, our perceptions of America are still generally seen through that prism of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. If anyone had the illusion in 1991 after the Gulf War that the Palestinian Israeli dispute was no longer an issue for the conduct of American foreign policy, I don't think anyone believes that now.
Psychologically, Arab interpretations of America are still largely shaped through this prism. Clearly, perceptions of the U.S. in the Middle East will be tied to the fortunes of the American mediation of the Arab-Israeli peace process.
We have a very limited number of Americans who speak to a very limited number of Arab intellectuals - you see the same people over and over again - and, by the way, to a very limited number of Israelis, most of them from north Tel Aviv, Labor party supporters. It's a ridiculously small sample in both cases.
There are things that can be done. Apart from just sending people out to the region, it's whom they speak to when they get there. And it isn't just government officials. USIA should be sending more people out there. We should be sending more congressional staff out there. And not just talking to government officials but business people, not just the big business people but the smaller business people.
They are very articulate. They are willing to talk, and their views are going to come as a surprise to a lot of Washington folks. When you go to Israel, don't just speak to north Tel Aviv. Go and speak to those people who actually vote Likud. You cannot come up with solutions unless you understand what's bugging folks, and we do not understand either side particularly well.
Whether the connection between the peace process and Gulf policy is real or not, the perception of the connection is there. And the fact is that we have reached a dead end on this particular approach to the peace process. What people in the region would like to hear, including a lot of Israelis, is where are we headed? Do we want a Palestinian state or not? What are we going to say about Jerusalem, and what are we not going to say? My own view is the one thing the Israelis do not have that they cannot get for themselves is international recognition of Jerusalem. The one thing the Palestinians desperately want is a Palestinian state. If you have two things that each side wants, you have the makings of a deal somehow. But we refuse to act on this. We keep playing games, and as long as we keep playing games we are going to frustrate an awful lot of people in the Middle East.
DR. ELAND: It's difficult to improve perception when the policy is skewed toward Israel; that's just a fact. Unless you change the policy, I don't think you can improve the perception.
MR. MARTY: I may disagree with some of the elements of Dov and Shibley's point, but substance does matter. This may be surprising coming from somebody from the Clinton administration, but we're not going to say spin is going fix this. We will talk to people, but the underlying policies of the peace process, our approach toward Iraq and toward Iran, are the things that are going to convince the Arabs we're serious. We are examining and trying to fix the ones that are broken, but we don't think this is just going to be fixed by talking. We need to make our case better, but it's not a question of how we package it.
Q: What is the place of human-rights policy in the U.S. approach to Iran?
MR. MARTY: All of the positive signs are things that we took as important indicators of Khatami’s change in tone. But you will notice that we don't have an ambassador in Tehran. People need to understand how little has changed over time. We are observing carefully the change in tone coming from Tehran. We are, however, a long way away from happy diplomatic relations with this country.
Ambassador Freeman knows well we have relations with countries that we still have very serious human-rights issues with, and we have managed carefully and over time to deal with those issues even as we remain diplomatically linked to those countries.
With Iran, human rights will clearly be an issue of any dialogue that we have. If you want proof of that, ask Bill Richardson. He delivered a pretty stiff note to the Taliban in Afghanistan about exactly the same issue. He continually raised that issue with them. We have been very clear that human rights will be the way that we view the government coming in Kabul, and I would certainly not equate Afghanistan and Iran, but you can imagine that that will be part of any dialogue that we have with the Iranian government.
DR. ELAND: I think that it's valuable to the United States to improve relations with Iran. We need to do it gradually because of the history involved here, but by engaging them, you're actually in a better position to foster human rights. If you isolate them, then you don't have any leverage over them. Of course, if their behavior doesn't improve regarding terrorism and that sort of thing, then you will have to reassess the policy.
MR. FREEMAN: I agree that there should be a wary opening to Iran. I also think all of us should be aware of the difficulties between the United States and Iran, which are not limited to those that Joe Marty mentioned, that is, weapons of mass destruction, terrorism and opposition to the peace process, but include Iranian export of revolution, Iranian naval behavior, and, as Joe Marty mentioned, the way in which Iran handles its territorial disputes with the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf states. And it also, obviously, includes the issue of human rights.
Q: What should we have done differently with regard to the Kurds and why?
DR. ZAKHEIM: The basic flaw in our approach was to encourage these people to believe that somehow we would support their drive for, at its extreme, independence, although it is not at all clear that they really wanted independence. Some did; many wanted autonomy. We encouraged them, and then, when Saddam retaliated, initially it was a matter of allowing his helicopters to fire at them. Later on, under the Clinton administration, it was a matter of essentially allowing Saddam to reoccupy part of Kurdistan. You cannot encourage people who have long-standing nationalist aspirations to do something and then on the day when you. have to be there not show up.
We know there are quarreling parties among the Kurds. It is not a united group at all. They don't trust us because we let them down in the past. Everyone at some point has let the Kurds down. It may have been right and proper to tell them up front what we could do and what we could not do, and maybe a little less rhetoric and a little more honesty would have saved them, at a minimum, a lot of bloodshed and pain and maybe maximally would have improved their position vis-a-vis Iraq. But the way we did it was just the opposite.
Q: Is Mr. Khatami's apparent opening to the United States a ploy or a serious initiative by the Iranian regime? Should the United States take it seriously?
DR. TELHAMI: You are more likely to affect their behavior through engagement than otherwise. We have relations with so many countries with whom we disagree, and clearly the record shows that that is a better lever to affect their behavior than to put them outside of the international system.
The vast majority of the Iranian experts that I know see a genuine conflict within Iran today. Whether Khatami himself is part of that, or whether he's just instrumental, the fact remains that there has been a structural change. This was a popular election that reflected popular sentiment on the street in demonstrations, and no politician can ignore it. I don't imagine that the arrest of the mayor of Tehran and the episode pertaining to that is merely a public-opinion episode intended to play to American politics. So I don't read it as merely cosmetic. However, I agree with Chas; the verdict is still out.
This is a situation that requires delicate handling, and you have to deal with it cautiously in terms of any potential opening.
I do think that in this environment toughening sanctions would actually play into the hands of the conservatives.
Therefore, I think you have to be cautious in both ways, not only in terms of slowing down the opening but also in not reacting to minor changes in a harsher way that would affect the outcome of what I see as a genuine conflict within Iran.
MR. MARTY: I agree wholeheartedly with the idea that there is something genuine happening there, and that's the assessment of our intelligence agency analyst that watched this very closely. If one were to move from the hypothesis that Khatami was doing this as some clever ruse to get just enough cooperation from the Europeans to get what he needs, measuring what he did and what he said and the heat that he has taken, he's gone too far. We think that he's taken a few more steps, maybe half steps, but he seems to have been committed to something broader than just a game to pull support from the Europeans.
The flip side of this is we're not rushing into anything. We are going to watch for signs from Iran, and step by step we will respond to openings that we see from the Iranians. As you know, we have proposed a dialogue with the government of Iran. Iran has refused, for now, that dialogue. It won't be conducted in any other way, so, when you are in cafes and bistros in France, Vienna and Geneva, don't be looking for the U.S. representative meeting with an Iranian representative. You're going to know it when you have a dialogue with them, and you're going to know what we're talking about because we have made it very well-advertised.
DR. ZAKHEIM: Frankly, I don't care whether it's cosmetic. From the perspective of what is in the best interest of the United States, if there is any opening, whatever the intention, we should grab it. Therefore, I agree with what's been said.
The questioner should note that when the shah was in power, he had all the economic cooperation with the United States he wanted. That did not stop his being overthrown. A couple of business deals with a couple of oil companies are not going to change the momentum of what is going to take place in Iran. What these kinds of relationships do, however, is what they did to some extent, in the Soviet Union and in South Africa, which is to bring in the kinds of outside influences that mullahs of whatever ideological and religious ilk despise and fear. They do not like outside ideas. So Khatami is fighting it very seriously at every opportunity he has, and in my view, we should press ahead, even in cafes in Vienna. As long as the food is pretty good, which it usually is, it should be an opportunity to be exploited.
Q: Are things getting worse in Iran? Shouldn't that weigh in our calculus as we respond to the apparent opening?
MR. MARTY: I don't know how we can signal any more displeasure with Iran's behavior than we already have. There is probably not a sanction that has come out of this building that isn't applied to Iran. We do not have relations with Iran. We have signaled our displeasure very clearly. In fact, we're running rather low on our ability to come up with new ways of signaling displeasure, although I am sure we will think them up.
We're listening. You may not even have to be explicit and sure about what Khatami wants to do entirely to know that there's an opening, and we will remain open to it. We're listening. We're not going to get duped. Rafsanjani did what he did not just because the United States didn't like the Conoco deal and didn't accept other parts of what was seen to be an outreach. Rafsanjani had his own political pressure in his government. We have shown Khatami that we are listening, and we are going to continue to listen, and we will respond to positive behavior with positive behavior.
MR. FREEMAN: The Middle East Policy Council hopes to be part of any unofficial dialogue that may take place with Iran, and in doing that I think we are well aware that Americans, those of us in this room, those in the country at large, may have widely different views about Iran and what approach ought to be taken to it. And many of us have issues which we feel are vitally important to discuss with the Iranian authorities.
The same, I dare say, is true on the Iranian side. They have what they perceive to be serious issues with the United States which they will want to raise with us. And yet, again, on behalf of the Middle East Policy Council, I will say somewhat coarsely that in my view, agreeing with Ivan, there are two ways, I suppose, in which you can try to influence someone's behavior. You can stand outside church on Sunday morning on the other side of the street and give them the finger, and perhaps that will lead them to repent of their evil ways and accept your moral position. Or you can sit down with them over a cup of coffee and explain to them why they're wrong and why they ought to do something different in their own interest. Of the two, I prefer the latter.
Q: Why is Vice President Gore limiting his itinerary to Riyadh and Jeddah and Cairo? Why not Beirut and Damascus, dealing with the Lebanon question? The vice president is going to Israel to participate in the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel. That is the stated immediate purpose of the visit. My second question is, why should we not have a dialogue with Baghdad?
MR. MARTY: Let me just say that for the vice president to go to Damascus and Beirut at this point would be committing a lot of prestige to a process that seems still to be rather early in its development. When the time comes, please be assured that this government will put as much prestige on the line as is necessary to get what we want.
There is very little lack of understanding about motives and intent between the United States and Iraq. They know where we stand. We know where we stand, and it's not clear that talking is going to aid much of the friction between the United States and Iraq. The canonical line is that the dispute is between the international community and Iraq, and it's not because of petty misunderstandings between two governments.
DR. ZAKHEIM: One major difference between the Iran situation and the Iraq situation is that Iran actually elected its leader. Popular opinion in that country brought the shah down. Popular opinion is expressing itself. It just did with respect to the imprisonment of the mayor of Tehran. I haven't seen popular opinion in Iraq for a while, other than those who are being executed. So that's one fundamental difference. I think a dialogue with Iran will spur and enhance and encourage those who would like to change the regime the way the regime has already allowed them to express themselves through the ballot box and marching in the street. I don't think the same thing works in Iraq.
Secondly, as Joe said, there is something far more fundamental in terms of the short-term threat that Iraq poses as to Kuwaiti prisoners of war, for example, or as to Kuwaitis in general, for example. Clearly, we have in Saddam Hussein someone who is totally unrepentant about what he did seven years ago. That is a very different circumstance from what went on and is going on in Iran.
DR. TELHAMI: On the question of the Lebanon-Syrian front, I think that the administration is actually taking the right position in being cautious for two reasons. First, there is absolutely no incentive for Syria in the current negotiations on resolving the issue of Lebanon. And without Syria there will not be a Lebanese-Israeli agreement. Clearly, short of an unconditional Israeli withdrawal, the Israeli presence in Lebanon is an asset for Syria in the Syrian-Israeli negotiations. And, it is hard to imagine that any Syrian government will move forward on that, short of engaging the issue of the Golan Heights. Therefore, the negotiations are likely to be fruitless and to distract from the Palestinian-Israeli front, which is the one that needs addressing.
On the issue of dialogue with the Iraqi government, it is just not going to happen. The political sentiment in this town is not going to be changed, no matter what kind of logical argument you make in any foreseeable future. It's not on the agenda. No government here is likely to be able to advocate that as an option, so think about something else.
DR. ELAND: About the vice president's travels, I don't believe that U.S. policy is even-handed in the Middle East, and I think it should be more even-handed. I believe we should have a dialogue with Iraq because I don't think Iraq threatens our vital interests. Iraq is not the same country that it was before the Gulf War militarily. There are a lot of nasty regimes that don't look after human rights. Policy should be based on the fact that, if you engage countries, you're better off than if you don't. And I think we should try to engage all countries. We may not like what they do a lot of the time, but having a dialogue with them is better than containment.
As to Mr. Marty's point about the international community versus Iraq, we always dress these things up as the international community, to get backers, but it's always the United States. In the Gulf War, we provided the bulk of the military power, and it was really a showdown between the U.S. and Iraq. You can dress it up any way you want, but we should not do that anymore.
MR. FREEMAN: President Nixon once said, I believe, in response to suggestions that it was always better to talk than not to talk, that it made a big difference whether you knew what you were talking about. And in this case I accept that we do know exactly where we stand on issues connected with Iraq, and we have something to say.
That brings me to the second point, which causes me to disagree with some of my colleagues here and to agree with Ivan. Namely, there is a sound principle of military science that you never Jose contact with the enemy because you don't want to be surprised and because you want to maintain the pressure on the front. That principle also applies in diplomacy. Only a fool breaks off contact with an enemy; therefore, I think we should be engaged in a more active dialogue with Baghdad.
Q: I have two questions for Mr. Marty. I want to confirm the perception about US. policy vis-a-vis Iraq and the Gulf and in the region as a whole. It's not just that it is not serious. It is worse; it's vacillating, inconsistent and self-defeating. Also, according to my observations of the Middle East, there is a large overlap between the failures of the US. in the peace process and the failures of the US. in its Iraq policy. Does the U.S. administration hear this? Does it get it? If so, what are you doing about it?
Second, there have been many reports that there were diplomatic contacts between U.S. diplomats and Iraqi diplomats in Jordan just in the last few weeks. Could you please confirm if this is correct or not?
MR. MARTY: The answer to the last question is no. One of the difficulties you have in a big world with a lot of U.N. organizations and a lot of nongovernmental meetings and a lot of meetings like this is that, try as we might in the Iran case, ambassadors and first counselors of goodwill run into each other from Iran and the United States. We do not now, nor do we in the foreseeable future plan to have dialogue with the government of Iraq.
Do we get it was your bigger question. Yes, absolutely, we get it. We understand. There are people here who have worked on the peace process for decades in one form or another, and who know how difficult it is to make progress there. We have had much impetus to get action going on the peace process, absent any concern about the Arab view. We have had as much incentive to do that over the last several decades as we have now, and it has proven as difficult, as everybody knows in this room. It's not clear how a sharpened focus on its effect in the Arab world could speed efforts or produce any more success than we are having or not having now. I regret that, but we understand the effect.
We understand also that in the Arab world we sometimes have a hill to go up and we have to convince Arab leaders to take chances and to do what we ask them to join us in doing on Iraq and Iran. We realize that some of the reason for that is the impasse in the peace process. We take that very much into account.
Self-defeating? I will try to make this very quick. One of the things that perhaps has happened over the last several years is that there is an expectation by people in this room, by people in this building who work here as senators and staff, that there will be a military reaction after every face-off with Iraq.
We are thinking hard about this, but we're turning to the period we were in in 1994 and 1995 when people would just shake their heads at the latest Saddam act of intransigence because all that meant was sanctions would last longer. The expectation was lower that there would be carriers moved to the Gulf and wings of aircraft moved, etc.
That's not a bad place to get back to, where the reaction to Iraqi blocking of access for UNSCOM is more associated with extended sanctions, kicking off sanction reviews for three, six, nine, eighteen months. We think that's a more useful path, but getting down that road is going to require changing expectations in this country as much as it is changing our policy. We intend to go down that road. So the next crisis we're in, don't expect the threat of military force, which will always be present, to be the first thing out of our mouths.
DR. TELHAMI: Despite the fact that Joe is right, that there are people within government who read the regional sentiment in the same way that the questioner had recognized it to be, there are two structural barriers to having any serious resonance in the political system here on that issue. First, there is an ethos in this town that has been packaged as political realism which discounts the importance of public opinion in the Middle East. This is partly because there were exaggerated predictions before, particularly during the Gulf War, about the impact of Arab public opinion on governmental policies. A lot of people who have pushed that as a variable that affects the way Middle Eastern states behave have been discredited. So in Washington, there has been a tendency to discount Arab sentiment, thinking it doesn't really matter, you can still prevail. Maybe there has been some reassessment, but certainly not a full reassessment of this, whether it's right or wrong. It's probably not entirely right.
The second barrier, I think, is the feature that Tom Friedman wrote about yesterday [The New York Times], which is the imbalance of power. Our policies are self-defeating regarding American interests. But in the strategic picture, the degree of pain the U.S. is likely to feel is minor in the global context, whether it has to do with economic or political influence, in comparison to the immediate heat that any politician will feel domestically. Domestic politics will continue to play a dominant role in that policy, given the fact that the strategic situation is relatively comfortable.
DR. ELAND: U.S. policy is vacillating, and I think the problem started back in Desert Storm when we became the jail keeper for Saddam. We still play that role. And every time he rattles his cage we have to send over troops. If we did want to take military action in 1991 - and I was against that - we should have gone all the way. You either do it or you don't do it. You don't worry about what people think about it because they will get over it. You've done them a favor by taking out this problem. Of course, there are all sorts of drawbacks to doing that. You have to set up a new regime. You have to occupy the country a long time. All that has to be figured in.
There were people actually advocating a ground war to take him out this time. So I think there is going to be a lot of pressure, if he does something again, which he almost certainly will, that we've got to do something. That's the problem. We intervene, then, if we don't go all the way, there are all these problems down the road. A lot of times we intervene militarily, and we don't realize what all the implications are going to be.
Q: Mr. Marty, do we indeed share the degree of common interest that you implied with both the Russians and the French?
Also, for Dr. Telhami, are there not · alternatives to living with Saddam or overthrowing him? Is it not possible to muddle along in some middle way?
MR. MARTY: I may regret saying "grateful," but we viewed positively the pressure that we are certain Russia and France brought to bear in Baghdad. We felt that it was a necessary but not sufficient part of solving this problem. The element that we think played the biggest role in bringing Saddam to heel in the last challenge was the real threat of force that aided all the diplomacy that followed. Russia and France played a role in that, and we have been partners in keeping Saddam contained. To the extent that they pursued those efforts in Baghdad, we felt that that was helpful.
Did we subcontract our policy to Paris and to Moscow? I know that you're not saying that. That's a canard, and any serious viewer of this doesn't believe that. You asked whether they are just motivated by their own greed. They are motivated by a number of things. Anybody who has had the privilege of working with the French government knows that there are multiple reasons for what Paris does, but we know that the likelihood of Paris getting money back for the efforts that they have taken is relatively low. So, if that was Paris's only purpose for going down this road, they have chosen a lousy way to invest time and diplomatic efforts. We think that we have a lot more in common than not with Moscow and Paris when it comes to Iraq.
DR. TELHAMI: My suggestion has always been the third option, muddling along. This is really U.S. policy. My suggestion is that the way the previous crisis was handled increased the likelihood of the other choices over this third one. I don't think we have gotten to a point where the third one is dead. There is still flexibility in the system. A lot of it is going to depend on how Iraq handles the next crisis. There is a lot of leeway for Iraq to position itself so that those choices will be sharpened. We will be forced to choose one or the other. Iraq handled the previous crisis very cleverly; they didn't blunder.
The U.N. hasn't yet ascertained that they have complied, and there is no international consensus, even aside from the official position, that they have complied. They would have to come forth considerably for the choice to be sharpened.
Q: I am against an early resumption of diplomatic relations with Iran unless various conditions relating to human rights, including legal reform and the repeal of Islamic legislation in Iran, take place. Would Mr. Marty respond?
MR. FREEMAN: First, I would note, in fairness, before Joe responds, that I don't believe any of the panelists was advocating the early resumption of diplomatic relations with Iran. Rather, people were advocating an informal dialogue that might in time address the differences between the United States and Iran and could lead eventually to the resumption of diplomatic relations. But that, presumably, is some distance away.
MR. MARTY: You raise serious questions about human rights, as others have, and you know our position on that. That will matter, if and when we have a relationship with the government of Iran. Something can be done right now. I think your position should be relayed to the European governments and also to the Arab governments that do have embassies in Tehran. We don't need to wait until there are relations between the United States and Tehran for these matters to be discussed. There are people who are perfectly capable of doing that right now. There are ambassadors in Iran. We would encourage other governments who talk to the Iranian government to make those issues a separate part of their dialogue.
DR. ZAKHEIM: Getting an American presence into Iran is not just a matter of having offices. It means people inviting each other to dinners, ideas being circulated. That is what is so desperately needed there, encouraging those who have doubts about the regime, meeting with students, meeting with opposition groups, meeting with the kinds of people who at some point in the future might take to the streets again. Unless we can get on the road toward a formal relationship with Iran, we will not be in a position to do those things. Our strongest selling point is our ideas.
Q: To what extent are current leaders accountable to their publics? Second. are we paying due attention to the sources from which future leadership might spring?
DR. TELHAMI: The United States has policies it needs to implement, and it's much easier for the United States to feel the heat from Congress right here than it is from leaders in the Gulf. The taking-for granted isn't necessarily intellectual or even bureaucratic; it is functional. It's much easier for political leaders to swallow Gulf rejection or disagreement than congressional disagreement..
The problem has to do with an asymmetry of power. And we have to also recognize that there are no unanimous positions in the Gulf. There are divisions. Very often the views in the Gulf are not directly related to the top levels of government, but interpreted differently by bureaucrats within the government. Many disagreements come from the smaller Gulf states, and the U.S. does not give as much weight to them as it does to Saudi Arabia. That is almost inevitable.
Q: Might U.S. policies either inadvertently or deliberately result in the territorial division of Iraq? It's declared U.S. policy to preserve Iraqi territorial integrity, but what about the practical effects of the policy? Second, may we not inadvertently be nurturing a revanchist power similar to Germany after World War I, one which feels so aggrieved that the seeds of a future war in the region among Arab states are being sown? Third, does the United States, which does not have an embassy in Baghdad or much contact with Iraq, have a realistic appreciation of changes occurring in Iraq and of the views of the opposition with respect to the first two issues?
MR. MARTY: On the question about dividing Iraq, our policy hasn't changed. The U.S. government is very interested in maintaining the territorial integrity of Iraq. Nothing in our approach to the opposition groups should be read as desiring the split-up of Iraq, but everybody is a realist here. A better way of answering this, I believe, is that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have no interest in a split-up Iraq. Those are three countries, among others, along with Kuwait, that are critical of our Iraq policy, and none of them has an interest in breaking up Iraq. So, although there is the suspicion, if you just look at how we conduct Iraq policy, it's difficult to imagine how such a split-up would occur. We don't want that. We don't seek it.
As to the creation of Iraqi resentment, there was going to be a byproduct of a tough sanctions policy, and that's it. Some people have made the argument that among the Iranians there is resentment of the sanctions that we placed on the Iranian government. That is not something we sought, and it is something that could certainly be a problem. We have approached the oil-for-food program, in a way, to offset that. We think that is going to bear fruit. It's not showing a lot of fruit in the P.R. department now, although the food and medicine are moving a lot faster than the rhetoric is. So in about a year we hope to see some lessening of the argument that the sanctions themselves are responsible for starving Iraq.
That's a concern, the continuing resentment by the Iraqi people of the pressures that have been placed on them. We understand it is something we have to deal with.
DR. ELAND: When we do intervene militarily overseas or economically through sanctions, we think it will do one thing, but a lot of times it has inadvertent effects. Sanctions always have a "rally around the flag" effect among the population, but our hostility towards Iraq has been militarily carried out on several occasions. It could possibly lead to the division of Iraq. I agree with you, we don't really know what's going on in Iraq, and we consistently try to micromanage situations as the world's only superpower. And a lot of times we don't know enough about the regions we're meddling in. In this particular case, your point about revanchism is very well taken. It doesn't even have to be a nation-state that gets mad any more. Terrorism is a real threat, particularly from people in the Middle East. They don't even have to be Iraqis; they can be Arabs who are in solidarity with the Iraqi regime. Terrorist groups can get the chemical or biological weapons and bring the struggle right here on U.S. territory. So when we don't know what we're doing or what the outcome is going to be, our micromanagement is going to be very costly here at home.
DR. TELHAMI: I share your concern. In terms of the internal Iraqi situation, it's not just the potential inadvertent break up of Iraq but the disintegration of Iraqi society, the generational impact, which could lead to a Germany analogy.
I see that as a real problem, and it matters to me, not just as an analyst of the American interest but as a the member of the Board of Human Rights Watch Middle East, somebody who cares about what might happen to the population in the next generation. I also share your view that this is a point that matters in regional perceptions. This is one of the concerns that the people in the region have, including neighbors of Iraq.
People don't see this as a serious possibility in the political arena in Washington. And they are just not as fearful of that outcome.
DR. ZAKHEIM: It seems to me that there are too many interests arrayed against the idea of a break up of Iraq, beginning with the fear of what that might do to the power balance vis-a-vis Iran. Even the Israelis are against the breakup of Iraq. Unlike, for instance, Yugoslavia, which broke up essentially because the Germans took the initiative to recognize Slovenia, there is no one who is going to take the initiative to recognize an independent Kurdistan, for example. Moreover, the United States has been absolutely hopeless, as I mentioned earlier, in terms of what it has actually done for the Kurds. So we're not in a position to make Iraq break up. Inadvertently? You can't say there's a zero probability, but I think it is relatively low. There is just no one on the scene who wants this to happen, and I suspect there may be even those who would intervene if Iraq looked as if it were breaking up.
The revanchist issue is a very real one. The problem is that this is not a black-and-white issue, because there still are Kuwait's very legitimate grievances. One of the concerns, for example, is that there is hardly anyone in the Iraqi opposition who has renounced the idea that Kuwait is the nineteenth Iraqi province, and there is still the problem of the Kuwaiti POWs. So the question becomes, how do you keep the screws on Iraq and at the same time ease up on the Iraqi people?
There are some ways to do it. Have even tighter approaches vis-a-vis the military. I don't know why we can't have a no-tank zone, and not just let tanks go around wherever they please. The average Iraqi isn't going to care very much whether a tank is stopped from moving somewhere or not. I suspect many would like that to happen. So there are some more nuanced approaches that I don't think we have tried, and that do not involve sending 600,000 troops to downtown Baghdad.
On support for the opposition, I would say a more generalized support on the one hand and less meddling on the other might help. There is nothing wrong, in my view, with a Radio-Free Iraq. It might help, though it might not help. What we should avoid, and we haven't done this enough, is backing people who are sitting in the cafes of Europe claiming to be opposition leaders. We don't know where the opposition to Saddam is going to come from. We ought to say (a) we will work with anybody who gets rid of this guy and (b) we anticipate it will come from the inside. Backing exiles just doesn't seem to work.