Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

With Kosovo on the Front Page, Congress Pursues the "Other War" with Saddam Hussain's Iraq

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

With Kosovo on the Front Page, Congress Pursues the "Other War" with Saddam Hussain's Iraq

Article excerpt

With Kosovo on the Front Page, Congress Pursues The "Other War" with Saddam Hussain's Iraq

America's spring campaign against Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic pushed the other war against Iraqi President Saddam Hussain to the back pages. Prior to the March 24 launch of the Serbian campaign, however, Iraq received congressional attention at hearings in the House on March 10 and 11, and in the Senate on March 17.

At the March 10 and 11 hearings before the House Armed Services Committee, chairman Floyd Spence (R-SC) made clear his disenchantment with the administration's policy, saying that "the lack of a clear and consistent Iraq policy deprives increasing U.S. military operations of a guiding purpose or rationale." On the second day he summarized the testimony of the first day's witnesses by saying that they "raised legitimate concerns over the coherence and direction of administration policy toward Iraq."

One of those witnesses, John Hillen, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that "containment" seems to be the official U.S. strategy toward Iraq, hoping to "keep Saddam in his box, such that he lacks the military capability to threaten his neighbors, develop weapons of mass destruction or destabilize the Persian Gulf region in some way."

CONTAINMENT NOT SUSTAINABLE

Hillen pointed out six reasons why the containment policy is not sustainable:

- "It is inconclusive, having not yielded even the glimmer of a solution to the Iraq problem for the past eight years."

- "Every indecisive round keeps pressure on Saddam, but also allows him time and breathing space."

- "The continued sanctions on Iraq give Saddam Hussain legitimacy and strengthen his hold on power over the suffering Iraqi people."

- "The policy...is expensive and demoralizing."

- "Containment fatigue is setting in, with allies and other powers tiring of the routine and wanting to resume normal and business relations with Iraq."

- "Finally, and, most importantly, the current containment policy leaves many parties other than the U.S. in charge."

In the Senate on March 17, before a joint meeting of the Foreign Relations and Energy committees, Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson and Undersecretary of State Thomas Picketing tried to defend the oil-for-food program against a group of senators who appeared more concerned about the possible negative effects of the program on their states' oil producers than on the plight of the Iraqi people. …

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