IRAQ'S Saddam Hussein can be bargained with in the Persian Gulf
crisis, and he should be bargained with, say some top negotiators in
the United States.
The process would "start with the condition that he doesn't get
anything that he couldn't have gotten by peaceful means," says Roger
Fisher, director of The Harvard Negotiation Project and author, with
William L. Ury, of the book, "Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement
Without Giving In."
"But given all that has happened, you also must now build that
proverbial golden bridge over which Saddam Hussein can retreat, and
this latter element doesn't appear to be on the agenda yet," he
Backed into a corner
"I'm very concerned," says Mr. Fisher, a professor of
international law who helped former Secretary of State Cyrus R.
Vance design the negotiating process used to achieve the Camp David
Middle East peace accords of September 1978.
"The West, including the action of the United Nations Security
Council, which includes the Soviet Union, has given the appearance
of escalating demands on Baghdad in a way that makes an acceptable
Fisher says he is also worried that the summit this weekend
between President George Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev
could back Saddam further into a corner.
"We know Saddam Hussein has blood on his hands. We know he is a
dangerous tyrant. But he isn't a Hitler. He's already indicated
that he can be flexible, by the recent arrangement with Iran. But
most of the negotiations so far have been through the media," Fisher
"What is urgently needed ... is for a competent negotiator to
draw up a list of promises that could be made to the Iraqi leader in
exchange for his willingness to pull his troops out of Kuwait and to
release all of the hostages."
Fisher says the list of proposals would need an endorsement from
the UN Security Council.
"I believe, frankly, that the man is now afraid that he will be
bombed even if he does pull out of Kuwait."
Mr. Ury agrees with Fisher. "Saddam Hussein is a classic bully.
He's calculating, he understands and uses power. He must be shown
there's no benefit to aggression. He must be shown that his best
alternative to a negotiated agreement is only a continued blockade
and possibly war. Of course, there's no certainty negotiation will
work. However, it must be tried," he says.
Saddam Hussein on Sept. 5 called for an Islamic holy war against
US forces in the Gulf, and urged Arabs to overthrow King Fahd of
Saudi Arabia and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.
Fisher says the Iraqi leader's heated rhetoric comes as no
surprise. "I would expect someone in his tight situation to be
saying something like that, especially the way Bush has been
building up our military. …