In the past seven years, since the devastating defeat of Saddam Hussein's military in Desert Storm, a cat-and-mouse game of Iraqi challenge to the United Nations followed by a show of American force culminating in an Iraqi retreat have become an all-too-common pattern. I would argue that another limited military strike would not solve the problem; indeed, it might exacerbate the already tense situation in the Middle East to the detriment of American interests. I would urge a radical departure from the hitherto unsuccessful policy of boxing Saddam through economic sanctions, U.N. supervision of Iraqi military and industrial sites, and limited military strikes.
Post-Desert Storm policies have been based on three assumptions: that Iraq's territorial integrity is inviolable; that Saddam Hussein is prepared to abide by the terms of the U.N.-imposed surveillance and sanctions regime; and that Saddam Hussein is vulnerable to a coup. Policy makers in Washington and in the halls of the United Nations expected the continuing misery in Iraq to compel members of the Iraqi military, security, or political elites to overthrow Saddam Hussein. It was hoped that a general or senior member of the Baath party would replace Saddam Hussein while maintaining much of what had made Iraq a valuable ally in the 1980s.
The fact that Saddam Hussein is today more powerful than at any time since Desert Storm has given several countries cause to review their policies toward the Iraqi regime. Russians, who face severe economic difficulties at home, would like to recoup the $8 billion that Iraq owes them.1 As long as the sanctions regime continues, this is impossible. President Yeltsin is due to leave office in the year 2000, so the cost of the Iraqi situation would be born by his government while the potential benefits would accrue to its successor.
The French, too, are concerned about the $4 billion Iraq owes them .2 Moreover, French firms, like other European firms, are eager to enter the lucrative Iraqi market. In a post-sanctions period in which Saddam would continue to be the president of Iraq, American and British firms would not receive coveted contracts for oil, for rebuilding the Iraqi infrastructure, or for a myriad of consumer products. Considering that the Japanese government has acquiesced to American wishes and that Russian and Chinese firms are not competitive with the French, conciliatory gestures by French officials will enhance the opportunities for French firms in the post-sanctions period.3
The opposition to the sanctions from Arab countries is due to other factors. There is a genuine concern for the people of Iraq, who have been deprived of basic necessities. They are in the unenviable position of being both the target of Saddam Hussein's repression and subject to the economic deprivation caused by U.N. imposed sanctions.
In addition, many Arabs believe that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has pursued policies that have undermined both the peace process and the position of Palestinians. The Netanyahu government has (1) begun building settlements in the West Bank and in highly sensitive Arab East Jerusalem; (2) resumed confiscating Palestinian land and property and has vigorously driven Palestinians from Jerusalem; (3) refused to allow the newly completed Palestinian airport to be opened; (4) refused to allow the opening of a seaport in Gaza; (5) refused a corridor allowing free passage between Gaza and the West Bank; (6) refused to release approximately 5,000 Palestinian political prisoners, about 3,000 of whom have never been charged with a crime; and (7) allowed the opening of a tunnel close to the holiest Islamic site in Jerusalem and allowed several militant Jewish fundamentalist families to occupy houses in the heart of Palestinian East Jerusalem.
To add insult to injury, in the eyes of many Arabs, the Netanyahu government publicly demands that the police force of the Palestinian Authority forcibly quell the spontaneous uprisings that resulted from Mr. Netanyahu's provocative actions. Mr. Netanyahu has undermined the peace process and provoked the Palestinian public, and he now expects Mr. Arafat to assume the political repercussions of repressing the rioters.
President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and King Hussein of Jordan, who are among America's closest allies and pillars of the U.S.-sponsored peace process, are so outraged by Netanyahu's policies that they have reduced their contacts with Israel. For these pro-Western Arab leaders, a strong Iraq has become a necessary counterweight to an increasingly hostile and offensive Israel.
American inaction in response to aggressive Israeli actions and punitive U.S. attacks on Saddam Hussein for the most minute infractions have inflamed the public in much of the Arab world outside Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
These rumblings contributed to the atmosphere that led Saddam Hussein in November 1997 to launch his latest confrontation with the United Nations. Prime Minister Netanyahu's policies and American acquiescence have not only allowed a space for Saddam Hussein but also allowed Iran's fundamentalist elites to break out of their isolation. Unlike regional gatherings in the past five years that had blamed Iran and Islamic fundamentalism as the main enemies of the peace process, the recent meeting of the 55 member-states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which was held in Tehran, lambasted Israel in language not heard in a long time [see Ramazani article in this issue].4
Although Saddam Hussein has clearly overplayed his hand in challenging the United Nations, current policies have outlived their usefulness. Saddam Hussein has survived the limited allied military operations of the past seven years. Few believe that another round would change the situation in any measurable way, except to strengthen Saddam's position as the man resisting American power.
If a limited military attack is counterproductive, what should be the policy of the United States? Saddam Hussein presents a major threat both to the Iraqi people and to the neighboring countries. The evidence clearly indicates that he has not abandoned efforts to develop and stockpile weapons of mass destruction, including some of the most vile biological and chemical weapons available.5 Moreover, his Scud missiles are capable of reaching Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. Considering that Saddam Hussein has used chemical weapons against the Kurds and Iranians, killed his own relatives (including a son-in-law) and used his own people as hostages, he would have no compunction about using biological and chemical weapons against Kuwaiti, Saudi, or Israeli civilians.
While a unilateral American action could put out the fire in Iraq, it would spread the flames of hatred in the rest of the Middle East, with unpredictable results. Hence, it is essential for the United States to develop a comprehensive strategy for solving the major underlying problems in the region. The United States should (1) get tough with the Netanyahu government, (2) divide Iraq into four independent nation-states, and (3) reach an under standing with Russia and France regarding a comprehensive Middle East policy.
REASSESSING U.S. POLICY TOWARD THE NETANYAHU GOVERNMENT
During the Cold War, U.S. foreign policy goals in the Middle East included (1) supporting the state of Israel, (2) keeping the Soviet Union out, (3) undermining local communists and radicals,6 (4) maintaining pro-Western regimes in power, (5) safeguarding Western access to Middle Eastern oil at reasonable prices, and (6) protecting and expanding American investments and trade. Since the Cold War, Iran and Islamic fundamentalism have replaced the Soviet Union and communism as the major threats to American interests in the region.7 Now, as then, there is tension among these goals. For example, when Israel undermines the interests of Arabs or Muslims and the United States lends its support to Israel, pro-American leaders and regimes are called traitors by their opponents for collaborating with imperialists and Zionists.
The United States, on the one hand, has strengthened Israel's military and economy, and, on the other hand, has coaxed it to grant territorial concessions to Arabs and Palestinians. When the Labor party has been in power, there has been a semblance of harmony in American foreign policy. However, when the right-wing Likud has been in power, U.S. foreign policy has faced tough dilemmas.
With the exception of the 1973 war, when both the United States and the Soviet Union went on nuclear alert, the situation confronting the Clinton administration is more dangerous than any faced by earlier presidents. The apparent success of Middle East policy in the first Clinton administration was due more to policies created and pursued by the Rabin and Peres governments than to anything the administration did. The arrival of the Netanyahu government changed all that.
What should the Clinton administration do to recreate the status quo ante? In my view, the United States should pressure Netanyahu's government to abide by the agreements and promises the Rabin and Peres governments made. President Clinton should convey to Netanyahu that if he continues to pursue policies contrary to American interests and wishes, American support for Israel will be suspended. President Clinton, for example, could threaten to withhold the $3.5 billion annual U.S. aid to Israel.8 This money could be deposited in a special interest-bearing account, to be available only to a future Israeli government that would further American foreign-policy goals in the Middle East. An unnamed White House official could "leak" to the press that any Labor government or a coalition government with someone like Shimon Peres as foreign minister would automatically unfreeze the account.
The secretary of state or American ambassador to the United Nations could announce that the United States would refuse to veto Security Council resolutions that might impose international sanctions on Israel if Netanyahu's government continues to undermine American interests in the region.
Although these policies would have their domestic political costs, the necessity of preserving American interests in the region should outweigh such concerns. Indeed, in the past 45 years, whenever the national-security interests of the United States have diverged from those of Israel, Washington has pursued its own interests. In the Suez War in 1956, President Eisenhower actively opposed the invasion of Egypt by Israeli, British, and French forces. President Eisenhower made the unprecedented move of joining the Soviet Union-at the height of the Cold War, in the wake of McCarthyism at home, and on the eve of the U.S. presidential elections - in drafting and passing a resolution at the U.N. General Assembly condemning Western allies, thus compelling them to remove their forces from Egyptian soil.
In 1977, President Carter put an enormous amount of pressure on Prime Minister Menachem Begin to make concessions to Egypt, which culminated in the Camp David accords. Later, the Carter administration publicly declared Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be illegal. Facing no major emergencies in the Middle East, the Carter administration demonstrated a great deal of courage, foresight, and imagination in taking the initiative of forging peace through pressuring the Israeli government. The Oslo accords owe a great deal to the framework established at Camp David.
In 1982, the Reagan administration put pressure on Prime Minister Begin to stop the bombardment of Beirut. In the aftermath of the Madrid conference, Secretary of State James A. Baker III publicly criticized the Shamir government as the main obstacle to peace, condemned Israeli settlements, and refused American guarantees of a $10 billion loan from international financial institutions to Israel.
The Clinton administration itself has publicly criticized the Netanyahu government for the construction of a tunnel close to the holiest Islamic place in Jerusalem, the demolition of Palestinian homes, the revocation of residence permits of East Jerusalem Palestinians, and the construction of settlements in Arab East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
The United States can only have the support of pro-Western Arab leaders and the Arab public against Saddam Hussein if the United States is regarded as evenhanded in dealing with Saddam and Netanyahu. It is imperative that the Clinton administration go beyond words and follow with actions that show its displeasure with the Netanyahu government.
THE TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY OF IRAQ
Throughout much of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, European wars created countries composed of a single nation. Since the fall of communism, similar developments have occurred in the former Soviet Union, former Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and Ethiopia. Civil wars pitting one ethnic group against another have plagued much of Africa and the Caucasus. Whereas in the New World, identity politics has tended to give rise to civil-rights movements, in the Old World, identity politics has tended to produce demands for independent statehood.9
Iraq was created by the British in the aftermath of World War I. According to the principle of divide and rule, hostile ethnic and religious groups were placed within a single country. Today the Sunni Arabs, who constitute about 17 percent of the population, dominate the Shia Arabs, who account for approximately 60 percent, and the Kurds, who make up roughly 20 percent.10
The Kurds and the Shia Arabs have struggled to free themselves from ethnic oppression by the Sunni and have demanded recognition of their right to self determination. There is little doubt that they will continue to live under nondemocratic regimes. However, it is better to be oppressed by one's own ethnic brethren than by strangers. A multiethnic Iraq has no chance of becoming a democracy, whereas dividing the territory into four separate countries - one Shia, one Sunni, and two Kurdish - would create the potential for the development of democratic institutions.
Iraq's neighbors, Turkey, Syria, and Iran, have strongly opposed the creation of an independent Kurdish country for fear that it would serve as the core of irredentist movements encouraging the already restless Kurdish populations in their respective countries to secede. The pathetic behavior of the Kurds in Iraq in the past few years has amply demonstrated that Kurds suffer from internal divisions that they could not overcome even when the regimes in Baghdad, Ankara, and Tehran had declared their intention to undermine any Kurdish state.
As recently as 1997, one Kurdish faction in Iraq allied itself with the fundamentalist regime in Iran (a regime responsible for killing over 40,000 Kurdish civilians and another 5,000 Kurdish Pishmergah guerrillas)11 in order to defeat another Kurdish faction in Iraq. The second faction promptly allied itself with Saddam Hussein, who, in one instance alone, had used chemical weapons to kill over 4,000 Kurdish children, women, and noncombatant men in the village of Halabchah. In the course of 1997, an alliance developed between Masoud Barzani's Kurdish Democratic party of Iraq and the Turkish government with the explicit aim of driving the Kurdish Workers' party (PKK, an ultra-Stalinist party that has been very successful in organizing Kurds in turkey) out of northern Iraq.
The creation of two Kurdish mini states in northern Iraq would solve several problems at once. It would put to rest the internecine warfare between the two major Kurdish factions, whose conflicts are based on tribal and regional differences. The two new states should be gerrymandered so as to contain supporters of one faction in one state and to evenly divide the oil fields between the two. About 45 percent of Iraq's oil is located in the Kurdish regions, which should make both of the Kurdish states wealthy enough to entice their leaders to cooperate with the international community. Moreover, both Kurdish states would be land-locked. The best pipelines connecting them to the international markets would be through Turkey and Syria. If they are to develop, they have to calm the fears of Ankara and Damascus.
Although most of the Iraqi oil fields in the south are located where the Shia predominate, it would be wise to gerrymander the respective Sunni and Shia entities so that the Sunni country would contain some oil fields.
A fear in Washington is that a Shia country would be pulled close to Iran. This is very unlikely. The Shia in Iraq are Arabs, and the Shia in Iran are predominantly Persians, Azarbaijanis, Gilaks, and Mazandaranis. Less than 2 percent of Iranians are Arab, and many of Iran's Arabs are not Shia. It is widely argued that the Shia Arabs of Iraq consider themselves to be "Arabs first and Shiis after."12
The regime in Iran has been repressing the traditional Shii clerics.13 Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Taber al-Shobeir Khaghani, who was the highest-ranked Shii Arab cleric, was imprisoned after the ascendancy of the fundamentalists in Iran. Khaghani died in custody.14 Currently, the highest-ranked Shii cleric in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Mohammad-Hussein Sistani, who is of Persian descent, is highly critical of Khomeini and the fundamentalists in Iran. Sistani, like his predecessor Grand Ayatollah Khoi, advocates that as long as the twelfth Imam (Shii Islam's Messiah) is absent, the Shii clerics should avoid direct involvement in politics and dwell only on purely religious matters.15 Sistani's views are banned in the press in Iran, and radio and television are not permitted to carry his voice or picture.
Although some Shii Arabs in Iraq support the Iranian regime, most do not. Moreover, with less than 12 million people and with control over 6 percent of the world's known oil reserves, it is not clear why the Shii Arabs in south Iraq would want to share their wealth with the oppressive (and poorer) Iranian regime. The Shii Arab elite is more likely to develop foreign policies resembling those of Kuwait and the UAE (i.e., asking the United States to provide for their territorial security).
This is not to underestimate the danger of Iranian influence in the proposed Shii Arab country. The new governing structure would have to be carefully established. However, one should not overestimate the appeal and power of the fundamentalist elites in Iran either. The case of the newly independent states in the Caucasus and Central Asia is instructive. Fears in Washington, Moscow, and Ankara notwithstanding, the influence of Iranian fundamentalists in the Caucasus and Central Asia has been negligible, despite historical, cultural, ethnic, and religious affinities. Of all these countries, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan were considered most vulnerable to the influence of the fundamentalists in Iran.
Azerbaijanis on both sides of the border are Shia and have historically been strongly in favor of integration.16 The areas encompassing the Republic of Azerbaijan were part of Iran proper until they were lost to the expanding Russian Empire in the wars of 1804-1813 and 1826-1828. Iranian Azerbaijanis, over 25 percent of the Iranian population, were some of the most enthusiastic supporters of the revolution against the shah. Most Azerbaijanis, however, have opposed Khomeini and his followers. Grand Ayatollah Kazem Shariatmadari, the highest-ranked Shii cleric in Iran at the time of the revolution, opposed both the shah and Khomeini. Shariatmadari joined the overwhelming majority of Iranian political parties and opposed the fundamentalist-drafted constitution. He issued a fatwa condemning the proposed fundamentalist constitution as un-Islamic. After the fundamentalists declared that the constitution had been approved by 98.5 percent of the population, Azerbaijanis took over Tabriz, Iran's second largest city and the capital of the Azerbaijan province. Since the crushing of the Tabriz rebellion and the trial of Shariatmadari, Iranian Azerbaijanis have continued their passive resistance.17
Concerned about Azerbaijani ethnonationalism crossing the border, the fundamentalist elites in Iran supported Armenia, first covertly and then openly, in its war with the Republic of Azerbaijan.18 Today, the Iranian regime has virtually no political influence in the Republic of Azerbaijan.
The Tajiks are Sunni Muslims but have historically been enamored with Persian culture and literature.19 The Tajiks' initial attraction to Iran turned sour when they realized that the fundamentalist elites have repressed most of Iran's cultural icons, past and present: Ferdowsi, the tenth-century poet, Omar Khayyam, Nasser Khosrow and Hafez have been banned or de-emphasized by the state media and school textbooks.20 The overwhelming majority of Iran's singers and artists have fled to the West, the Tajiks get audio cassettes and video tapes of their favorite Iranian artists from recording studios in southern California.
The initial attraction of Shii Arabs in the Persian Gulf region to Khomeini was due to the fact that he was the only leader who publicized their oppression and supported them. Washington, too, could attract both the elites and the masses of Shii Arabs by defending their rights and advancing their interests.
There are two organizations among the Shii Arabs in Iraq that are closely allied with the fundamentalist regime in Iran: the Islamic Dawah and the Mujahidin. The Dawah, formed in the late 1950s, was linked to the shah, who, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, used the organization to undermine the Baathi regime. The Mujahidin came into existence after the Iranian revolution. Under the direction of Iranian fundamentalists, these two organizations met in Tehran in 1982 and formed the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). SCIRI has failed to take root in Iraq. Its activities are mainly concentrated among Iraqi exiles living in Iran.21 It appears that even Iranian officials have lost hope of using SCIRI to increase their influence in Iraq. Iran's policies have alienated Azerbaijanis, Tajiks, and Shii Arabs in southern Iraq. Intelligent policies by Washington could create a pro-Western Shia Arab country in this area.
The division of Iraq could be implemented through a Security Council resolution. Although it has been extremely rare for the international community to involve itself in redrawing international borders, it is not without precedent. The current borders of Iraq were drawn by the British, but they received their legitimacy through the League of Nations. The United Nations was directly involved in the independence of Namibia from South Africa. Both the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity have supported the right of self-determination of the people of Western Sahara against the wishes of the Moroccan government.
Territorial integrity and nonintervention are important principles in international law, as are self-determination and the protection of human rights (e.g., prevention of genocide). The international community has always weighed these conflicting principles with much unease.22
Most U.N. member nations are justifiably concerned with the prospect of allowing a handful of countries in the Security Council to divide a member state. However, by invading a sovereign country, Iraq violated one of the most cherished principles of the United Nations. Furthermore, the Iraqi regime signed armistice agreements that it continuously undermined. Finally, by their uprisings, the Shii Arabs and the Kurds have earned the right to demand recognition of their oppression and independent nationhood. In other words, Iraq's leaders have undermined the legal, moral, and political underpinnings of international law and of the U.N. charter upholding the territorial integrity of a member state. By establishing no-fly zones over two thirds of Iraq, the Security Council has already reduced the Iraqi government's sovereignty over its own territory. The proposal to divide Iraq into four independent countries is a logical conclusion of that process.
A Security Council resolution dividing Iraq into four independent countries could be followed by declarations of independence by these countries. Concomitantly, leaders of these countries could be seated in the General Assembly. Ahmad Chalabi, president of the Iraqi National Congress, could be declared the interim president of the Sunni country. Masoud Barzani, the chairman of the Kurdish Democratic party of Iraq, could become the president of one Kurdish state and Jalal Talebani, the chairman of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the president of the other. A provisional government in the Shii Arab country could be set up, composed of Shias hostile to both Saddam Hussein and Iran. A sine qua non of assuming governmental power should be a pledge that none of these governments would do anything to harm Iranian opposition groups in their respective territories.
As the uprising of Shii Arabs and Kurds in the immediate aftermath of Desert Storm clearly demonstrated, it is the military might of Saddam Hussein that has kept the Shia and Kurds subjugated. After initial U.N. military intervention, the establishment, armament, and training of the respective forces in the new countries would be required.
The only serious fighting would probably occur in the Sunni region, where Saddam's core support lies. In Desert Storm, when confronted by overwhelming force, Saddam's military surrendered rather easily. In order to further weaken the resolve of supporters of Saddam Hussein and enhance the legitimacy of the forthcoming regime, the Security Council resolution should indicate that the Iraqi National Congress would rule Iraq for a limited period (e.g., two years) after which there would be a U.N.-sponsored free election for the constituent assembly.
The losers in this proposal would be Saddam Hussein and the current Iranian regime. The winners would be the people of Iraq and the international community. Turkey and Syria would come out more or less even.
Turkey's Kurdish problem is a continuing concern. The best estimates suggest that there are somewhere between 10 and 12 million Kurds living in Turkey.23 In the past 10 years, over 20,000 people have died in the bloody conflict between the government and the Kurdish insurgents.24 The struggle against the Kurds has caused many deaths, drained the economy of billions of dollars, militarized Turkish society, hampered further democratization, and stained Turkey's human-rights record. If that war is going to end, the Turkish government may have no other option than to respect the Kurds' right to self-determination. In an era in which nation-states dominate the international system and nationalism is the dominant ethos of many peoples, one may wonder whether Ankara has any other option but to compromise with the Kurdish demand for nationhood. Before 1982, most Kurds in Turkey might have been content with limited regional autonomy (e.g., control over language, culture and police force). Today, perhaps, a confederation might still be acceptable. Ten years from now independence might be the only solution.
No government likes to see its sovereignty reduced. This could be made more palatable for Turkey by a promise from the European Union that granting Kurds their own autonomous region within a confederation or a federal system would reverse the Union's denial of admission to Turkey. The United States could also influence the Turkish decision by offering increased military aid, diplomatic help in resolving the Cypriot problem, and favorable trade agreements. For example, the United States could open up its markets to Turkish textiles and steel, products which are very competitive. The United States could also promise that it would invest in oil and gas pipelines connecting the huge reserves in the Republic of Azerbaijan to the Mediterranean. Indeed, the instability created by the Kurdish insurgency and the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan are the principal concerns depriving Turkey of the huge windfall profits of such pipelines. Granting the Kurds autonomy is a painful decision for the Turkish elites, but one that seems to be necessary for the stability of the region and the prosperity of Turkey.
REACHING A CONSENSUS WITH RUSSIA AND FRANCE
Full and even responsibility for Iraq's debts to Russia, France, and other countries should be assumed by the four successor states to Iraq. These four jointly own about 12 percent of the world's known oil reserves, which would easily allow them to repay Iraq's debts. However, international agencies should ease their burden by not only forgiving Iraq's loans from the World Bank and the IMF, but also providing them with grants and loans with favorable conditions. Also, it is imperative that these new states be helped by the development agencies in rebuilding their infrastructure. These four states should be viewed not as pariahs, but as victims of Saddam Hussein who deserve the protection of the international community.
Although Saddam Hussein presents an immediate danger, the fundamentalist elites in Iran pose the greatest challenge in the long run. They have created one of the most right-wing, reactionary, repressive regimes since World War II.25 Solving the problem of Saddam Hussein while leaving the Iranian regime intact is an invitation to further instability in the region. No matter how vile Saddam Hussein's domestic and international policies have been, he checked the spread of Khomeini's fundamentalism to the Persian Gulf region.
The United States should reach a consensus with France, Russia, Germany, and Japan on a long-term policy for the Middle East. The problems of the region are interrelated; lack of a consensus in the world community will cause one country to undermine the policy of another. When the United States, for example, attempted to limit Iranian efforts to develop its off-shore oil, the French firm Total took over the contract originally signed by CONOCO, an American firm. The French are quite aware that if Islamic fundamentalists came to power in Algeria, Morocco, or Tunisia, France Would be flooded with immigrants. At a minimum, this would be a spur to right-wing racist parties like Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front, which have long advocated draconian policies against immigrants and minorities. In addition, one might see a marked increase in terrorist bombings in France. Germany and Italy, too, would suffer if fundamentalists came to power in North Africa. However, in the short run, each one benefits from the lucrative contracts resulting from undermining the others.
By purchasing Iranian oil, France, Germany, and Japan are providing the fundamentalist elites the means to repress their domestic opponents. As long as Iran's major source of income - the international sale of oil and natural gas - is not threatened, there is no incentive to modify current policy. The international community might follow the model used successfully on Apartheid South Africa for constructing a comprehensive policy on Iran.
In my view, the major elements of a comprehensive policy on the Middle East should include (1) pressuring the Netanyahu government to conclude the final status negotiations by agreeing to an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza; (2) dividing Iraq into four independent states; and (3) constructing an international consensus to contain Islamic fundamentalism.
The benefits of my radical proposal are many. The region and the world would be rid of Saddam Hussein, who, if left alone, will develop weapons of mass destruction and wreak havoc on civilians in several countries in the region.
The implementation of the strategy would begin by giving Saddam Hussein a deadline to relinquish power and abide by the Security Council resolution establishing the four new states. If Saddam has learned anything from Desert Storm, he may not wait for an American first strike. He might use his major assets to launch a preemptive attack on either the American forces or neighboring countries. The world community should be most cautious. When the fighting begins, as in the case of Desert Storm, all major assets of present-day Iraq should be targeted by missile and aerial bombardment. After two or three months, a coalition of U.S. and other allied ground forces should liberate the south and north, (where no-fly zones have been established since 1991). If forces loyal to Saddam Hussein are still in power in Baghdad, ground forces should not enter the city. A prolonged siege in conjunction with relentless air attacks should be continued for many more months. If conditions permit, guerilla forces opposed to Saddam Hussein could be created of volunteer Shia, Kurds, or Sunnis.
This project seems necessary only because Saddam Hussein is able and willing to develop and use biological and chemical weapons against civilians in the region. With the easing of the U.N. monitoring regime, Saddam Hussein will have time to stockpile the lethal materials. He could announce his intention to use these weapons unless the U.N. sanctions are lifted. He would even be able to selectively use his weapons while feeling confident that no one could risk a major escalation. An American threat of retaliation by conventional or tactical nuclear weapons would be meaningless to a tyrant who has no concern for his own people. The international community would have little stomach for a game of chicken with Saddam.
The Clinton administration's policy of periodically bombing Iraq has not worked and will not work, giving rise to calls for the United States to directly overthrow Saddam Hussein. This proposal has many flaws. First, American ground forces would have to enter Baghdad and engage· in street shootouts. In all likelihood, this would result in the loss of hundreds, if not thousands, of American lives and thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians. Second, to keep the new regime in power would require the stationing of American forces throughout Iraq for years. Americans would become targets for any group that resents their presence.
Third, it would not be easy to keep the anti-Saddam forces united in the ruling government, as the fighting among the Kurdish factions in northern Iraq has demonstrated. With Saddam gone, there are even fewer incentives to cooperate and more potential rewards to be gained by undermining one's opponents. It would be the responsibility of the United States to keep the fractious governing coalition together. This would further mire the United States in Iraq's hostile ethnic, sectarian, ideological, and political struggles.
Fourth, abandoning Iraq to its own devices after Saddam has been overthrown would create a situation far worse than those in Lebanon or Afghanistan. The stakes in Iraq are much higher. With enormous oil deposits close to the borders of Turkey and Iran, these two countries have an incentive to grab territory. Fearful of a deteriorating balance of power, Arab governments would be tempted to interfere on behalf of the Sunni Arabs.
The cure of overthrowing Saddam Hussein could be worse than the disease. However, the fact that the status quo is untenable and that all available options to the world community are fast becoming untenable necessitates a radical departure from conventional solutions. The February 22, 1998, memorandum of understanding between U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and Saddam Hussein has provided a fortunate respite but not a solution.
The only solution, in my view, is the division of Iraq into four independent countries where each of the major factions could easily establish stable regimes. But the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be resolved first. American actions against Saddam Hussein, in conjunction with American acquiescence in the face of Netanyahu's intransigence, will appear to 170 million Arabs and 1.2 billion Muslims as unjust. It will confirm the views of many Middle Easterners, particularly Islamic fundamentalists, that the West is on another crusade to undermine the military capabilities of Islamic countries.
Without solving the Netanyahu problem, an American invasion of Iraq would set into motion a cascade of hostile actions against Americans and American interests in the Arab and Muslim worlds. With the proliferation of both weapons of mass destruction and missile technology in the Middle East and North Africa, a regional conflagration could result.
In the post-Cold-War period, the United States controls the most carrots and the biggest stick. An unjust use of this awesome power will propel other members of the international community to band together to resist American hegemony. However, a Middle East policy rooted in collective security, the rare and ethical use of military might, and respect for the legitimate rights of others would not only enhance American prestige abroad and create a more harmonious global community, but also increase security and prosperity at home.
1 The $8-billion figure is from CNN Headline News, November 12, 1997.
2 Iraq's debt to France stood at about $4 billion as of 1989, according to the French Consulate in Los Angeles.
3 See the remarks by Herve Magro, first secretary, embassy of France in Washington in Middle East Policy, vol. v, no. 2 (May 1997), p.11. French officials deny that mercantile considerations are the sole motivation in their policy.
4 See Iran Times, December 12, 1997.
5 William J. Broad and Judith Miller, "Iraq's Deadliest Arms: Puzzles Breed Fears," The New York Times, February 26, 1998.
6 Some have argued that, during the Cold War, the United States also undermined liberal democrats and nationalist forces whose policies might have hurt Western (oil) investments in the region. See Habib Ladjevardi, "The Origins of U.S. Support for an Autocratic Iran," International Journal of Middle East Studies, vol. 15, no. 2 (May 1983), pp. 225-239; and Mark J. Gasiorowski, "The 1953 Coup d’état in Iran," International Journal of Middle East Studies, vol. 19, no. 3 (August 1987), pp. 261-286. The CIA-organized coup overthrew Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh and established Mohammad Reza Shah as absolute monarch. Dr. Mossadegh was a civil libertarian who nationalized Iran's oil. The CIA coup brought to power several prominent Iranian fascists. General Fazlollah Zahedi, who had been arrested and imprisoned by the British during World War II for his attempt to establish a pro-Nazi government, was made prime minister in August 1953. Bahram Shahrokh, a trainee of Joseph Goebbels and Berlin Radio's Farsi program announcer during the Nazi period, became director of propaganda. Mr. Sharif-Emami, who also had spent some time in jail for his pro-Nazi activities in the 1940s, assumed several positions after the coup, including Secretary General of the Oil industry, president of the Senate, and prime minister. Daryoush Homayon, who was head of the SOMEKA (Iran's official Nazi party) storm troopers, became minister of information and culture, responsible for censorship of press, books and movies; Daryoush Homayon was appointed editor-in-chief of the third-largest daily and the theoretician of the Rastakhiz party (the shah's sole party in the mid-1970s).
7 For a discussion of this point, see Masoud Kazemzadeh, "Teaching the Politics of Islamic Fundamentalism," PS: Political Science and Politics, vol. 31, no. 1 (March 1998).
8 This figure is taken from Stephen Zunes, "The Strategic Functions of U.S. Aid to Israel," Middle East Policy, October 1996, p. 90.
9 Quebec is very much like the Old World. If the French-speaking Canadians were dispersed all over Canada, as the French-Americans, African-Americans, and Chinese-Americans are in the United States, the notion of territorial independence would be meaningless.
10 Congressional Quarterly, The Middle East, 8th edition (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 1994), p. 230.
11United Nations, Commission on Human Rights, Question o/the Violation of Human Rights...: Final Report on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran Prepared by the Special Representative of the Commission on Human Rights, Mr. Reynaldo Galindo Pohl, symbol number E/CN.4/1994/50 (February 2, 1994), paragraph 209. The guerrillas belonged to the Kurdish Democratic party of Iran. The noncombatants were killed by the government's indiscriminate bombings of residential areas. This U.N. report indicates that hundreds of Kurdish villages were completely destroyed or totally depopulated.
12 Hanna Batatu, "Shii Organizations in Iraq: al-Dawah al-Islamiyah and al-Mujahidin," Shiism and Social Protest, eds., Juan R.I. Cole and Nikki R. Keddie (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986), p. 197.
13 The six highest-ranked living Shii clerics - Grand Ayatollahs Haj Sayyed Hasan Tabatabai Qumi, Mohammad-Hussein Sistani, Mir-Mohammad Rouhani, Sayyed Mohammad Shirazi, Hussein-Ali Montazeri, and Yasub al-Din Rastgari-are in opposition to the ruling fundamentalists. Sistani is out of reach in Iraq; the five who live in Iran are under house arrest. Amnesty International, Iran: Human Rights Violations against Shia Religious Leaders and their Followers, June 1997; Iran Times, November 28, 1997.
1 4 Amnesty International, Ibid., p. 9.
15 Grand Ayatollah Abol-Qasem Khoi was the highest-ranked cleric in the Shia world from 1970 until his death in 1992. He was born in the city of Khoi, the province of Azerbaijan, Iran. See Joyce N. Wiley, "Khoi, Abol-Qasem," in The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, vol. 2, ed., John L. Esposito (New York and London: Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 423.
16 Among Iranian leaders who are of Azerbaijani origin are Mehdi Bazargan, the first prime minister after the revolution; Grand Ayatollah Kazem Shariatmadari, the highest-ranked Shii cleric during and after the revolution; Hasan Nazih, director of the oil industry and the first member of Bazargan 's cabinet to publicly criticize Khomeini; and Hasan Shariatmadari, leader of the Popular Republicans of Iran, a progressive liberal democratic party. The Safavid dynasty that ruled Iran between 1501 and 1722 was Azerbaijani, and the Qajar dynasty that ruled Iran from 1796 to 1925 was a closely related Turkic group [see Svante E. Cornell, "Iran and the Caucasus,'' Middle East Policy, vol. v, no. 5, January 1998].
17 Ali Rahnema and Farhad Nomani, The Secular Miracle: Religion, Politics and Economic Policy in Iran (London and New Jersey: Zed Books, 1990), pp. 193-199.
18 See Cornell, "Iran and the Caucasus,'' op. cite.
19 See Muriel Atkin, "Tajikistan's Relations with Iran and Afghanistan," The New Geopolitics of Central Asia and Its Borderlands, eds., Ali Banuazizi and Myron Weiner, pp. 91-117, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994).
20 Middle East Watch, Guardians of Thought: Limits on Freedom of Expression in Iran (New York: Human Rights Watch, August 1993), p. 123.
21 Hanna Batatu, "Shii Organizations in Iraq,'' op. cit
22 Gregory J. Ewald, "The Kurds' Right to Secede Under International Law: Self-Determination Prevails Over Political Manipulation," Denver Journal of International Law and Policy, vol. 22 (Spring 1994): paragraph 375-407.
23 Robert Olson, ''Turkey-Syria Relations Since the Gulf War: Kurds and Water.'' Middle East Policy (May 1997), p. 168.
23 Paul A. Kubicek, "Turkey's Kurdish Troubles: An Intractable Conflict?" Pew Case Studies in International Affairs. Case 473. Institute for the Study of Diplomacy Publications, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University. .
24 Masoud Kazemzadeh, "The State, Civil Society and the Prospects of Islamic Fundamentalism," Comparative Studies of South Africa, Africa and the Middle East, vol. 16, no. 1 (Fall 1996).