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AFTER THE BOMBING: IMPORT CONTROLS MAY BE THE ONLY HOPE FOR 'RADICALLY' IMPROVING SANCTIONS ENFORCEMENT AGAINST IRAQ
for Security Policy
22 December 1998
At present, it is unclear whether President Clinton's 'dog-wagging' bombing campaign against Iraq*1 actually did "degrade" Iraq's weapon of mass destruction (WMD) programs. It certainly did not accomplish the systemic change -- the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime -- that would be necessary for any bomb-inflicted degradation to be more than a temporary setback for the Iraqi despot.
What the seventy-hour air campaign did do, however, is: shatter the last vestiges of the Desert Storm-era coalition united in opposition to Saddam and end, apparently permanently, the on-the-ground inspections performed by the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM). As a result, it seems likely that the United Nations' mandated international sanctions regime -- a product of the former and renewed on the basis of unfavorable reports by the latter -- will not long survive.
If so, it will be a matter of time -- and probably not much time at that -- before Saddam is once again able credibly to threaten the use of missile-delivered chemical, and biological weapons, and possibly radiological or even nuclear ones. Such a prospect should alarm not only the likely targets for his regional aggression but those in Europe and even the United States who will, in due course, be placed in Saddam Hussein's cross-hairs.
Until Saddam is Gone, Sanctions Must Remain
The international sanctions regime is a cruel hardship to the innocent Iraqi citizens most affected by it. Yet, the threat posed by a Saddam once again granted unconstrained access to the world markets in WMD-related and other dual-use technologies leaves the U.S. and other responsible nations no choice but to perpetuate the embargo. As a practical matter, therefore, unless and until Saddam Hussein and his ruling clique are replaced with a government in Baghdad committed to living in peace with its neighbors, President Clinton is right to seek to sustain economic sanctions against Iraq.
More to the point, as British Prime Minister Tony Blair observed on 20 December, "We need, radically in my view, to improve sanction enforcement." Unfortunately -- all other things being equal -- enforcement will probably get much worse in the coming weeks, thanks to pressure from the Russian, French and Chinese governments (among others) and/or from their enterprises (some of whom will do business with Iraq as officially deniable "rogue" operations).
What Can Be Done to Improve Sanction Enforcement?
The following are among the steps that should be announced unilaterally by the U.S. government where necessary and, where possible, in conjunction with those (presumably including the British) who share Washington's concerns about an emboldened, re-armed Saddam Hussein:
The Bottom Line
American policy in the wake of President Clinton's long-delayed, too brief and politicized use of military force against Iraq must be promptly reoriented toward achieving the strategic objective of removing Saddam Hussein and his cabal from office. Toward that end, Washington should implement the multifaceted program laid out last February by a distinguished group of U.S. security policy-practitioners*2 and summarized in a column by Center for Security Policy Director Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. which appears in today's Washington Times.
Until such time as this strategy achieves its desired result, the economic embargo on Saddam Hussein's Iraq must remain in place and be rigorously enforced. Toward that end, the U.S. government must make discriminate use of American import controls and employ the other measures described above. Given Saddam's past record of WMD use and his perceived need to reassert his authority, the costs of doing otherwise will vastly exceed the short-term economic and commercial losses that might be associated with this course of action.
*1 - See the Center's Decision Brief entitled Get on with It: Clinton's Misguided Military Operations, Foreign Initiatives Argue for Accelerating -- Not Deferring -- Impeachment Proceedings (No. 98-D 200, 17 December 1998).
*2 - See 'Serious Consequences': If Clinton Means It, Here's the Alternative to His Failed Strategy of Containing Saddam (No. 98-D 33, 24 February 1998).
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