Iraq: Sanctions and Beyond

Iraq: Sanctions and Beyond

Iraq: Sanctions and Beyond

Iraq: Sanctions and Beyond


Cordesman provides a net assessment of the political, economic, energy, security (internal and external), and military trends in Iraq.


Iraq's current regime presents unambiguous security threats to the other states of the Gulf and to the West. While Iran's regime may offer some hope for constructive engagement, Iraq is virtually certain to be a revanchist and aggressive state as long as Saddam Hussein is in power. Even if Saddam and his coterie should fall from power, their immediate successor will most likely consist of another Sunni authoritarian elite, made up of other members of the Ba'ath party, senior military officers, or a combination of both.

It may well be a decade before any political transformation occurs in Iraq that produces a stable, moderate government. In the interim, Iraq may go through several short-lived regimes and even civil war. Its politics are likely to remain the politics of violence, many of its future leaders are likely to seek revenge for the Gulf War and its aftermath, and its political elites are likely to reassert Iraq's search for hegemony in the Gulf and seek to become the leading regional military power.

This does not mean that Iraq cannot change, and should not be encouraged to change. It does not mean that sanctions and isolation are the only way of dealing with Iraq, or that Iraq's people should be punished indefinitely for the actions of its leaders. It does mean, however, that the Gulf and the West must be realistic in shaping their policy towards Iraq, and must have a realistic understanding of its current regime and military potential.

The Policy Options for Dealing with Iraq

The West and the other states in the Gulf must find ways to live with Iraq, seek to moderate the conduct of its regime, and create a climate for positive political change. The basic issue for policy is how this can best be done. There are several major policy options that the West, other Gulf states, and other nations can pursue:

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