Neighbors, Not Friends: Iraq and Iran after the Gulf Wars

By Dilip Hiro | Go to book overview
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One of the first acts of Bill Clinton on his re-election as US president in November 1996 was to promote Madeleine Karbol Albright, then American ambassador to the UN, to secretary of state. This was bad news for Iraq. At the UN she had pursued an uncompromisingly hawkish policy on Baghdad. Nothing captured her stony-hearted attitude towards Iraq better than the statement she made during her interview with Lesley Stahl on Columbia Broadcasting Service (CBS) Television's "60 Minutes" program on May 12, 1996. "More than 500,000 Iraqi children are already dead as a direct result of the UN sanctions," said Stahl. "Do you think the price is worth paying?" Albright replied, "It is a difficult question. But, yes, we think the price is worth it." 1

So it came as no surprise when on March 26, 1997, Albright said, "We do not agree with the nations who argue that if Iraq complies with its obligations concerning weapons of mass destruction, sanctions should be lifted." UN sanctions, she insisted, would remain. 2 This was a reprise of what President Bush's Deputy National Security Adviser, Robert Gates, had said in the aftermath of the Second Gulf War: UN sanctions would remain so long as Saddam exercised power in Baghdad, and meanwhile, "Iraqis will pay the price." 3 So there was no incentive for Saddam to cooperate with Unscom. But unlike in spring 1991 his position was far from hopeless.

Indeed, in those six years, the balance of power had gradually shifted in his favor. Several attempts by the CIA and Iraqi opposition to topple him had failed. This in turn had discouraged Washington's regional allies from letting the Pentagon use their territory for military strikes against the Saddam government. After all, they shared the same region as Iraq, and they did not want to stoke up the hostility of Baghdad by participating in subversive or overtly damaging actions against its regime. The rulers in the Gulf monarchies were also aware of the increasing sympathy for the impoverished Iraqis shown by their subjects, who compared unfavorably Washington's unwaveringly harsh treatment of Iraq with its indulgent attitude towards Israel, which over the past decades had either ignored or flagrantly violated a series of Security Council resolutions with impunity.

At the UN Security Council, France, Russia and China openly and repeatedly disagreed with America and Britain on how to deal with Baghdad. As


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Neighbors, Not Friends: Iraq and Iran after the Gulf Wars


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