No Short Cuts with Saddam

By Goulding, Marrack | New Statesman (1996), February 27, 1998 | Go to article overview

No Short Cuts with Saddam


Goulding, Marrack, New Statesman (1996)


Military confrontation has been averted. But, Marrack Goulding argues, the UN must beef up its approach or risk losing credibility

Kofi Annan's expedition to Baghdad on "sacred duty" was a brave and risky venture. In the event he seems to have found a narrow passage between Scylla and Charybdis: if the agreement of 23 February is honoured, the result will be excellent for the United Nations, for the secretary-general himself and for the tormented people of Iraq.

It will also add spice to the debate about using the threat of force as an aid to negotiation. The threat seems to have worked this time, which rebuts critics of the military build-up. They had anyway been finding it difficult to define a convincing non-military plan for dealing with Saddam Hussein's congenital reluctance to honour the obligations he was forced to accept after the liberation of Kuwait in 1991. Given that reluctance, it is possible, perhaps probable, that sooner or later the government will again face the disagreeable realities it has faced in recent weeks.

The first of them is that the "Coalition of the Willing" did not finish the job in 1991, when they decided not to press on to Baghdad. This was a wise, indeed a necessary decision. But it denied the coalition powers the option of taking action to replace or remodel the aggressor regime. And it soon became clear that the Iraqi people themselves were unable - and probably, in the Sunni heartland of Iraq, unwilling - to take on the task.

Instead, the victors chose the Versailles option of imposing on Iraq obligations to destroy its weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), permit international inspectors to verify that they were not replaced and pay reparations to the victims of its aggression. These obligations were set out in Security Council resolution 687 on 3 April 1991. Iraq's acceptance of them was rewarded with a formal ceasefire. But the ban on the export of oil and the import of practically everything except food and medicine was kept in place as added pressure on Saddam to comply.

The second disagreeable reality is that Saddam has not abandoned his desire for weapons of mass destruction. His Iraq had by 1990 achieved the capacity to produce and deliver chemical and biological weapons, had already used the former against Iran and was within a year of producing a nuclear weapon. The nuclear capacity has now been dismantled. But the capacity to produce, and Saddam's desire for WMDs remains.

The third reality is that after seven years, SCR 687 has achieved only some of the results that its authors expected to be achieved in a matter of months. Iraq is still far from being in full compliance.

The fourth reality is that sanctions have not worked. They have brought terrible hardship to the Iraqi people but they have not changed the policies of Saddam Hussein, who is evidently not troubled by his people's hardship.

The fifth reality is that the 1991 coalition no longer exists, a situation that has been skillfully exploited by Iraq.

So what are the government's options? The over-riding objective, clearly, must be to stop Iraq rebuilding a capacity to produce and deliver WMDs. Significant progress has been made in recent years in negotiating a global web of treaties and conventions to bring WMDs under control. Nuclear-weapon-free zones have been established in most regions of the developing world. …

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