As of August 2006, Iraq Watch is no longer being updated.
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SWORD OF THE ARABS:
By Michael Eisenstadt
Published by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy
These programs are intended primarily to provide Iraq with a powerful deterrent capability by enabling it to threaten civilian population and economic centers of potential regional enemies, and a sustained warfighting capability in the event that deterrence fails. However, Iraq's strategic capabilities will also provide it with a means for conducting coercive diplomacy, to enable it to deal with Israel from a position of strength, and coerce and intimidate its smaller neighbors such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which cannot respond in kind.
One of the major consequences of Iraq's impressive strategic capabilities, and its acquisition of a credible strategic deterrent, is that since the conclusion of the cease-fire with Iran in August 1988 ending the eight year war between the two countries, Iraq has exhibited a new self-confidence that has impelled it to pursue an increasingly activist regional policy. Immediately following the cease-fire, Iraq initiated a brutal final offensive against its Kurdish population to once and for all end the Kurdish problem, applied pressure on Kuwait to grant long-term leases on two strategic islands flanking the entrance to its port of Umm Qasr, transfered large quantities of weapons to Lebanese army units fighting Syrian forces in Lebanon to punish Syria for its wartime support for Iran, and increased military cooperation with Jordan, thereby reversing its wartime policy of disengagement from the Arab-Israeli conflict.
In addition, the development of long-range strike systems capable of reaching Israel, and the acquisition of a credible retaliatory capability has led to the emergence of an uneasy deterrent relationship between Iraq and Israel. Israel now has to consider that a preventive strike against Iraq could prompt retaliation, producing unacceptable losses. Iraq's strategic deterrent thus provides a protective umbrella for its nuclear weapons program. As a result, diplomacy and covert action might be Israel's only viable options for disrupting or delaying Iraq's nuclear weapons program.
Finally, although Israel's capacity for massive retaliation is likely to deter Iraq from openly provoking Israel, there are a number of factors which could cause Iraq to miscalculate, or lead to an unintended clash with Israel and undermine this uneasy deterrent relationship:
Due to Iraq's increasingly activist regional policies, the heightened potential for a clash between Iraq and Israel, and the possibility of miscalculation, the U.S. needs to develop a policy for dealing with this new situation. The U.S. should pursue a dual-track policy in dealing with Iraq, consisting of the:
In addition, as a long-term goal the U.S. should attempt to broker a set of tacit arrangements between Iraq and Israel, similar to those which have long helped to regulate conflict between Israel, and neighboring countries such as Syria and Jordan. Such an achievement would not only have immediate benefits, in terms of reducing regional tensions and the likelihood of a clash, but it would have long-term benefits as well, by creating a stable, predictable framework of relations between the two countries that could help ease the transition to a balance of mutual nuclear deterrence, in the event that Iraq eventually acquires nuclear weapons.
As of August 2006, Iraq Watch is no longer being updated. Click here for more information.
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