The following is an edited text of the proceedings of a Capitol Hill conference convened by the Middle East Policy Council on March 5, 1997, in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Michael Collins Dunn, senior analyst at the International Estimate, was the moderator/discussant.
ROBERT S. DEUTSCH, Director, Office of Northern Gulf Affairs, U.S. Department of State
The United States will face a number of challenges in the Gulf as we move to the next century, owing primarily to two continuing realities. The first is the industrial world's continuing addiction to the internal combustion engine and the petroleum products required to run it. Demand for oil and gas will certainly increase, particularly in the Far East. Despite new discoveries and improved recovery methods, the Gulf will remain the low-cost producer and Saudi Arabia the largest single individual source, by far, of exportable reserves for a long time to come.
The second reality is the continuing ambitions and threats from Iraq and Iran in the Gulf region. Although six years have passed since the U.S.-led coalition liberated Kuwait, Iraq and Iran each continue to harbor the ambition of dominating the Gulf and its wealth. Each hopes to strengthen itself militarily, including through the acquisition and development of weapons of mass destruction.
Neither leadership is prepared today to coexist peacefully and cooperatively with the other six Gulf states. Without U.S. leadership in the Gulf, the ambitions of these two states ensure that there-will be no stability. Addressing these two major threats to stability is a major continuing challenge. The task is further complicated by some of the internal challenges in the other Gulf states: aging leaderships in several states, population growth and unemployment pressures, border disputes, disputes that require a certain environmental stability for the leaderships in those countries to address, as they have been attempting to in the recent past.
American policy on Iraq remains constant. We seek a demonstration by Iraq of its intention to live in peace with its neighbors and its citizens. Only an Iraq with clearly peaceful intentions can be reintegrated into the community of nations for the benefit of its people and the stability of the region. The steps Iraq must take are defined in a series of U.N. Security Council resolutions, notably Resolution 687 and 688.
Iraq must verifiably destroy its weapons of mass destruction and show by its cooperation with the U.N. special commission that it has abandoned the intention of reacquiring such weaponry. It must account for Kuwaiti prisoners and missing. It must return stolen Kuwaiti property. It must recognize the Iraq-Kuwait border. It must end its recourse to terrorism, and it must end the repression of its people. Six years after the end of the Gulf War, Iraq is close to compliance only with respect to the Kuwaiti border.
Few observers doubt that without U.N. sanctions Saddam would be actively rearming, rebuilding and remodernizing his armed forces and acquiring nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, as well as the missile systems to deliver them. In fact, Iraq has done everything possible to maintain its military capabilities even under sanctions. It has devoted scarce resources to maintaining its conventional military. Last year [Saddam's son] Uday led a major refurbishment campaign.
And in the nonconventional area, the regime has given up billions of dollars of revenue - as UNSCOM Chairman Ekeus repeatedly says - in order to conceal an operational missile force that is probably still armed today with chemical and biological warheads. Iraq's continuing efforts to deceive UNSCOM and the International Atomic Energy Agency are all the proof one really needs of Iraq's intent to maintain the capability for nonconventional offensive warfare.
Iraq has done no better in its semblance of compliance with other obligations. The regular meetings of a trilateral commission to investigate the cases of those missing in the occupation of Kuwait regularly demonstrate an absence of lraqi effort. The over 600 files submitted by Kuwait remain essentially bare of Iraqi response. Iraq's insistence that it has no data is an affront to common sense when we remember that most of those missing were carted off during the occupation, not in the fog of war.
While we can identify the stolen Kuwaiti military equipment actively deployed in Iraqi units, the Iraqi government denies that it has any such property. Instead of returning the real thing, the Iraqis dump at the Kuwaiti border equipment from the first Gulf War that has been reduced to rubble. The attempted ruse is so poorly disguised that the vehicles still contain Iranian registration papers and pictures of the Ayatollah Khomeini painted on them.
Iraq continues to harbor and assist terrorist organizations such as the Mojahedin-e Khalq, and there is ample evidence that it continues to target Iraqi oppositionists both inside the country and outside the country with terror attacks. On the Kuwaiti border, while Iraq has taken the steps necessary to have its parliament recognize that border following its military moves of 1994, we have ample information since that time to demonstrate that this is not really a firm commitment.
In 1995, according to the late Hussein Kamel, Saddam asked his military to look at the contingencies for a new move on Kuwait and asked them to draw on the lessons that they had learned from their 1990 and 1994 experiences. And just last summer, after we had expanded the southern no-fly zone, the Iraqi leadership threatened Kuwait again, criticizing the arrogance of its leadership and suggesting that there would be a price to pay.
And the poor suffering Iraqi people. From whole Kurdish villages that disappeared from the map last September in the attack on Irbil, to Shia towns drowned and burned in the destruction of the marshes, to Sunni tribes whose sons have been killed and mutilated for disloyalty, repression remains the base of the regime. There has been no response at all to the call in Resolution 688 for an end to repression and an open dialogue among all of the Iraqi people.
Instead, the regime has made its citizens into a propaganda tool in its effort to get out from under U.N. sanctions. Taking what few resources are available to protect the elite, rebuild the military, and build over 40 palaces to the greater glory of Saddam, the regime has left the Iraqi people to starve. The Iraqi people deserve a better lot.
Hopefully, the severest humanitarian distress will end, thanks to the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 986, which allows the sale of $2 billion worth of petroleum every six months with the proceeds used to purchase humanitarian supplies. Similar offers have been available to Baghdad since 1992, but it has refused this relief for the Iraqi people, claiming that it would be a blight on its authority.
Desperate circumstances and international pressure finally obliged Saddam to accept 986, and the United Nations set it in motion last December. The regime has tried to portray its acceptance of the resolution as a victory and the beginning of a full lifting of sanctions, but nothing could be further from the truth. Implementation of 986 has, in reality, strengthened the international coalition by removing the canard of coalition responsibility for the plight of the Iraqis.
The 986 process for sale and distribution has been tightly drafted to ensure that all Iraqis benefit and to limit abuse by the regime. There is transparency required at every step so that any Iraqi attempt to cheat or to smuggle forbidden items like military equipment will almost certainly be caught. This has not stopped Iraq from slowing implementation by testing the system at every step of the way.
They have continued to pose problems to the United Nations as it has established its monitors. They have continued to implement problems in their contracts to try and extract free resources. Iraq has been the principal element slowing the implementation of the resolution since December. But we have every expectation and every commitment that there will be strong supervision and that the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people will be addressed.
With Iraqi ambitions undiminished and Saddam continuing to rule in Baghdad ruthlessly and resiliently maintaining power despite coup attempts and shrinking family support, it is clear that the only feasible course for the United States and other responsible nations is to keep the box around Baghdad as tight as possible. We will continue to maintain the limits on Iraq's actions as long as it remains a threat.
We will work to keep the framework of sanctions in place. We will energetically support UNSCOM's verification, destruction, and ongoing control of Iraqi weapons capabilities, and we will maintain a sufficient U.S. military presence to deter and respond to Iraqi threats. Maintaining the U.S. containment policy on Iraq requires both resources and constant high-level attention, but we remain firm in our course.
Our challenge with respect to Iran may be even more complex given the lack of international consensus on how to deal with Iranian ambitions and the lack of a framework of constraining Security Council resolutions. There is, paradoxically, widespread international agreement on what is objectionable about Iran's policies: support for terrorism, particularly terror that seeks to undermine the Middle East peace process; its efforts to subvert friendly states in the Arab world as well as in Central Asia; its ambition to rearm, including the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction; and its disregard for the basic human rights of its citizens.
However, Europe, Japan and the United States differ on the best approach to secure modification of these objectionable policies. While Europe hopes to persuade Tehran through a dialogue that some describe as critical and others characterize as obsequious, the United States has chosen to send a clear and unambiguous message by embargoing trade and investment with Iran and seeking to extract an economic and a political cost for Iran's behavior. It's not that we oppose dialogue with Iran per se. In fact, we have tendered a longstanding offer to Iran for an authorized and above-board government-to- government dialogue that would permit face-to-face discussion of our differences. But such dialogue cannot be a mask for business as usual, and we would expect that any extended dialogue would begin to produce concrete results.
The objective of our policy is to change Iran's behavior, not to change its regime. The regime, as irresponsible as it is, remains reasonably stable. It benefits from the lethargy of internal opponents who are simply tired of revolution and from the absence of any credible organized opposition, internal or external. There are divisions among Iran's elite, but they are more oriented towards internal questions. The ruling mullahs appear to be united on the issues of concern to the United States even though none of Iran's aggressive policies are required by Islamic teaching.
There is no Quranic injunction requiring Iran to be more Palestinian than the Palestinians or to give material, political and financial support to an assortment of terrorist groups ranging from the Hizbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad all the way to Ahmad Jibril's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command, nor to support extremist elements in Bosnia or Algeria or to stir the pot in Afghanistan, Bahrain or Tajikistan. Indeed, there are important clerics in Iran whose voices have been silenced because they have criticized the theocracy on religious grounds.
But neither do these endeavors advance the well-being of Iran's own people, a well-being that is at risk from poor economic management, corruption, adventurism, and a rapidly growing population and unemployment. As so often, we must look elsewhere for the motivation, which some unhesitatingly attribute to religious extremism, to nationalism, to Persian expansionism and to other political ambitions.
Our policy aims to demonstrate that Iran's unacceptable behavior will bear a cost, that it is not in Iran's own best interest. The corollary that abandonment of adventurist behavior could bring positive results for Iran should also be evident. If it becomes clearer that its policies have a negative impact on the interests of Iranians, a rational regime should be willing to change the policies which are not essential for its survival. We can only hope that the inheritors of an evolving Islamic revolution will act rationally.
It is true that our approach to Iran would be more effective, that the cost Iran pays for its policies would be clearer, if there were a broader international consensus on the prescription as well as the diagnosis. Despite considerable international cooperation on key issues such as prohibiting nuclear cooperation with Iran, barring sale of military equipment, preventing Iran's acquisition of items useful for weapons of mass destruction, or sensitive dual-use technology for military uses, our efforts to produce a consensus on a broader approach have not produced significant movement.
It is our inability to obtain support for multilateral economic pressure that has left us to seek innovative means such as last year's enactment of the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act to deter investment in Iran's petroleum sector and limit the future revenues that Iran will have to invest in its adventurist policies. We will continue our efforts to make Iran pay a price for its actions and to convince our friends and allies of the benefits of a policy of economic pressure and containment.
Stability in the Gulf begins by countering the threats to our vital interests posed by Iran and Iraq. Only in the context of security from the threats of larger neighbors can the countries of the peninsula address the other issues confronting their development. There is no reason to believe that an active threat from Iran or Iraq will be permanent.
We look forward to the day when we can deal with a peaceful Iran and a peaceful Iraq as partners in regional stability on a basis of cooperation and mutual respect, but we will work to maintain containment through international cooperation and a U.S. military presence as long as those two countries remain the threats that they are today. The United States has resolved to continue working in the Gulf as a partner in security and peaceful development.
ANTHONY CORDESMAN, Co-director, Middle East Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
It used to be said of the Holy Roman Empire that it was not holy, it was not Roman, and it was not an empire. Today's subject is a "bridge from containment to stability," and I'm going to suggest that you are not going to get out of containment, you are not going to build bridges, and you are not going to achieve stability. Let me briefly explain why, and then talk about Iran and Iraq, the broader issues we face in the Gulf and in the way that the West and Asia will have to deal with the Gulf over time.
First, I do not believe that there is any practical prospect that the United States can end its efforts to provide military "containment" at any point in the near to mid-term. I should probably preface my remarks by saying that I oppose the present U.S. emphasis on the political containment of Iran and Iraq, and the way in which the Congress has applied economic sanctions. Those of us who grew up dealing with the Cold War perhaps are more used to the idea that we should talk to enemies and hostile regimes without demonizing them. Certainly, I believe that dialogue is better than total isolation, that we should seek forms of cultural and economic exchange that may moderate or alter the conduct of those regimes, and that we should maintain trade in areas that do not threaten us and that achieve our strategic interests. I think we have pushed the idea of dual containment from a broad, sensible policy to extremes that suit American domestic political agendas without suiting the American national interest. Yet I also believe that the only thing worse than a dual-containment policy which is all sticks and no carrots is a critical-dialogue policy which is all carrots and no sticks.
At the same time, there are several forms of military containment that I believe will remain necessary during the working life of most people in this room. We are not going to get out of the counter proliferation problem. We are not going to put an end to the problems of terrorism. And we are not going to eliminate conventional military threats.
Even if Saddam Hussein disappears, the "kinder, gentler" and more patient Saddam who is likely to follow is not going to be an end to the problems posed by Iraq.
Similarly, the shifts within a revolutionary Iran are not likely to produce a moderate, stable, friendly regime that gets along with its neighbors. In other words, the problem of military containment is not shaped by today's leadership elites in Iran and Iraq but rather by the broader political structures of two states.
There is one other fact that I would call to your attention. Most of the southern Gulf countries are essentially one-bomb countries. One use of a nuclear weapon or a highly lethal biological weapon in this region would change the character of the regime or even the nation. The problem of unconventional weapons, because the commitment to possessing them is so heavily institutionalized in Iran and Iraq, is something that all of us will have to live with.
Second, I don't think that we have any prospect of achieving the kind of "stability" that will allow the United States to make major reductions in its commitments to the Gulf. Even if we could ignore Iran and Iraq - and we can't - the Gulf has growing economic and demographic problems that in states like Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have already led to extremism, instability and violence. At the same time, the Energy Information Agency is projecting a massive increase in the world's dependence on Gulf oil exports.
Further, creeping proliferation has become a structural part of the military forces of Iran and Iraq. Frankly, I think the chance of arms control doing more than reducing or limiting the rate of proliferation is negligible.
Third, we have little chance of establishing the "bridge" of a unified policy by the United States, Europe, and Japan and its principal allies. We all may share a common interest in securing the supplies of oil and gas. We, quite evidently, have no agreement on how to do it and how to deal with the problem of investing in oil and gas facilities in nations like Iran and Iraq. Further, we have fundamental differences in how we approach the issue of trade and investment, particularly in the Northern Gulf. It is not surprising that the United States emphasizes military security and containment. We have American men and women on the ground; we are going to keep them there; and our conventional edge is threatened by the process of proliferation in the Northern Gulf.
In contrast, our European allies, with the exception of Britain, have no meaningful power-projection capability, have no one forward-deployed, and have strong interests in trade, investment and, in some cases, arms sales. These are not easy differences to bridge. Neither is it easy to bridge the kinds of controls over dual-use and other exports related to missiles and chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. The U.S. concern with this aspect of containment is much sharper than that of many other countries, particularly countries like Russia, China and other exporters of such technology.
We also aren't going to establish bridges that unite the Southern Gulf. It is, I think, a tragedy, but not surprising, that the Gulf Cooperation Council has made no meaningful progress as a military institution since 1990. Everything it has achieved has been offset by internal rivalries, misinvestments and failures in cooperation among the military forces of the Southern Gulf states. And politically, the divisions and feuds among the Southern Gulf states are growing. When you visit the region, you hear that the Kuwaitis are somehow arrogant and uncooperative, which is often translated into "maybe we need Iraq as a counterbalance to Iran, or maybe we simply don't wish to make a commitment to the defense of the upper Gulf." For the first time in years, you hear discussions of problems between Oman and the UAE and between Oman and Saudi Arabia. I hardly need point out the level of progress that has occurred in Bahrain's relations with Qatar. If we go back to last year's coup attempt - and I am afraid that Qatar may insist on turning these events into a public set of trials - the effort of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE to support a coup by the old emir is scarcely a model for bridges in the region. All of the countries in the Southern Gulf have begun to divide over how to deal with Iran and Iraq and over how to best play the Northern Gulf state that is most threatening to them off against the other.
There are also no bridges in the Arab world. It is not simply our European allies whose power-projection capabilities are steadily vanishing - and the speed with which they are vanishing has become much more apparent in the last few months. The Damascus accords never made the slightest sense. Syria's contribution to the Gulf War was limited to showing up. And Egypt failed to meet its military objectives during most of the advance into Kuwait. As a result, the United States will remain the only nation that can be the bilateral or multilateral guarantor of a disunited Southern Gulf.
I wish all of these things weren't true - and they're not prophecies. There are other trends that may change things. Nevertheless, I think they are far more likely to be the reality than the various attempts to find easy solutions to difficult problems.
Let me note a couple of other factors that tend to be forgotten when we focus on today's problems and dual containment. Very few experts on the Middle East casually peruse the tables the Energy Information Agency issues on future energy forecast, or those of the International Energy Agency. But, if you take them seriously, they project something on the order of a 70-percent increase in Gulf oil production by the year 2010. You may argue the realism of such estimates, and you may have good reason to do so, but they are official U.S. estimates. Saudi Arabia is projected to increase its production from about 8.5 million barrels a day to 14.9 mbd by the year 2010, making the stability of Saudi Arabia absolutely critical to the world's economy. While we just heard that the U.S. government is "united" in its policy towards Iran and Iraq, the fact is that the Department of Energy is evidently not aware that the State Department exists or that we have a dual containment policy. Its energy projections indicate that we have not had such a policy since 1994 and, indeed, that enough investment in Iranian and Iraqi oil facilities has taken place to ensure they can steadily increase production and exports. The Department of Energy projects that Iraq will be an oil producer that will pump 4.4 mbd in the year 2000 and 5.7 mbd in the year 2010. Iran not only maintains its current rate of oil production but somehow raises it to 5.5 mbd. I'm not here to argue those projections, simply to point out that there is no coordination between U.S. energy policy and the dual-containment policy, and that our energy forecasts and projections of energy prices depend on Iran and Iraq being stable oil producers, as well as Saudi Arabia.
Most of the increased demand for this oil, incidentally, will be in Asia. But when you send oil or gas to Asia, it moves by ship, not pipeline. So in this volatile region, the number of tankers steaming out of the Gulf and Gulf of Oman by the year 2010 will be over 250 percent of the current number, with an increase in demand for on-time delivery and reduction of risk.
Another point I would like to raise, because so little attention is paid to it, is the economic trends in the Southern Gulf. The recent rise in oil prices has disguised the failure of Southern Gulf governments to create stable plans for economic development and diversification. But if you look at World Bank, IMF and other figures, the performance of the Gulf in broad economic terms is dismal by global standards. It is far below the performance of every region in the world except Sub-Saharan Africa and, according to the IMF, even by the standards of other Arab states. We are talking about "stability" in the Southern Gulf where a lack of diversification, a dependence on welfare economies and a high population growth rate have cut per capita income to less than half (in constant dollars) of what it was at the peak of the oil boom.
Saudi Arabia's per capita income has shrunk from a peak of $20,000 to a maximum of$7,000. No matter how you read the five-year plans of the Southern Gulf countries, this situation will not get significantly better without massive changes in economic policy and without controls on population growth and foreign labor. One indication of this fact is that there is usually an amazing amount of dissent in economic forecasting and analysis in Middle Eastern studies. In this particular area, there are few dissenters. All of the international agencies that do the forecasts are producing the same numbers.
Things are much worse in the Northern Gulf. In the case of Iran, revolution and war have taken a peak per capita income of about $11,000 and reduced it to between $2,000 and $3,000. Iraq's per capita income peaked at $14,000. The Iraqi government cut it by 60 percent long before any sanctions were ever imposed, and it is now probably below $1,000.
Another thing to remember is demographics. It takes only about 60 percent of the time to double the population in the Gulf that it does in the developing world as a whole. Regardless of rhetoric, a population problem has developed which can't go away for a generation. More than 40 percent of the population of the Gulf is under 14 years of age. To put that in perspective, 25-30 percent of the population would logically leave home in the next five years, get married and have an independent existence. If you count both disguised and real unemployment, we are talking, among young males, of unemployment rates of25- 40 percent.
Many of the young men in even the wealthiest Gulf states have meaningless, dead-end jobs in government. If half of them disappeared tomorrow, the productivity of most Southern Gulf government offices would actually increase. There has also been a decline in educational standards. It is a massive one in Iran and Iraq and a serious one in the Southern Gulf. In the case of Saudi Arabia, the educational system was allowed to deteriorate because of poor-quality contract teachers, and it was largely turned over to the Islamists in order to buy them off politically. No Gulf state, however, can afford to train its people simply to be "Arabs" or "Islamists." Jobs are global. If you wish to employ native labor in an oil-driven economy, people must be able to compete in education and productivity and work ethic with the developing nations of East Asia.
In short, we have problems we are going to have to live with, and assuming they will go away is naive. For the foreseeable future-, we will have a "containment" policy that cannot fully succeed in containing, and we will attempt to build "bridges" that will never quite span the distance. We may not have less "stability," but we are highly unlikely to have more.
HERVE MAGRO, First Secretary, Embassy of France
I will try to give you some idea of French thinking about this region, even if my remarks represent primarily my own views and "not necessarily those of the French government." (Those would, of course, be expressed in French.) While I will sometimes talk about the European Union, I am not speaking on behalf of the other European nations, many of whom are represented here.
As the previous speakers have stressed, the Gulf region is of utmost importance, particularly from the European point of view; geographically, because it is in an area very close to us, the Near East, and, historically, because it is the birthplace of the three monotheistic religions that directly influence our culture. Needless to say, especially for France, where there are more than four million Muslims (between 8 and IO percent of the population), relations with those countries, the problems that are affecting them, and their evolution have an important impact.
Economically, I don't have to remind you of the importance of a free flow of energy from the countries with the largest reserves in the world, nearly 50 percent of the total. In fact, more than 22 percent of Europe's oil imports come from this region. And, finally, the six members of the GCC account for 40 percent of the total trade of the European Union with the Arab countries. The GCC is the sixth largest client of the European Union, which is the leading supplier of these countries. Europe is the second foreign investor in the region, and it is a region which receives the greatest volume of Arab foreign investment.
For France, trade with this region represents 2.5-3 percent of our total trade. In the Gulf area, Saudi Arabia is our first client and first supplier; the United Arab Emirates is our second client; Iran our third client and our second supplier, and Kuwait is our third supplier. There, lie the three largest energy reserves - in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq; there, lie the most revered holy places of the Muslim world-Mecca, Medina and Kerbala - and countries with an important intellectual influence on the Sunnis and the Shiites.
There, lies a very populous country, Iran, with more than 60 million people at the crossroads of all future energy routes from Central Asia. This is part of the reason why one of the two pillars of our policy in the Middle East is to ensure stability, development and security in the Gulf - the other being the success of the peace process, without which there will be no lasting peace in the region.
At the same time, no one can underestimate the threats and challenges that this region faces, and I think that Tony [Cordesman] perfectly presented all of them. In this respect, we share many of the concerns expressed by our American friends. With regard to Iraq, it is clear that the implementation of Resolution 986 is not the end of the sanctions. After five years of the most comprehensive sanctions regime that was ever implemented, we felt very strongly that there was a need for some humanitarian support for the Iraqi people, and this is why we initiated and supported this resolution. But there is no question that full and strict compliance with all U.N. resolutions, especially Resolution 687, will be needed to help us restore normal relations with Baghdad.
The special commission's announcement of positive conclusions on the Iraqi obligations with respect to weapons of mass destruction is the prerequisite for lifting the oil embargo, in accordance with Paragraph 22 of the Resolution 687. As was done again during Tariq Aziz’s last visit to Paris in mid-January, we strongly press for progress on the humanitarian issues, especially the Kuwaitis and Saudis who disappeared during the Gulf War. At the same time, we will not tolerate any threat from Iraq against its sovereign neighbors, be it Kuwait or Saudi Arabia. We showed this determination not only during the Gulf War, but also during the October '94 crisis, when French troops in Djibouti were put on alert and French boats sent to the troubled waters of the Gulf.
It is true that some loud voices in France are pressing to unilaterally break the embargo and allow French companies to do business with Iraq. This is not new. I remember when I arrived in Washington in late 1 9 4, in my first contacts, especially here on the Hill, everybody was asking me when the French would break the embargo. Contrary to the expectation, we stick to our obligations vis-a-vis the Security Council resolutions, and we hope that other permanent members will do the same when the time comes to implement Resolution 687.
Iran is a different challenge because there are no international sanctions, simply unilateral American sanctions. In this case, too, we share a lot of the Americans' concerns regarding the Iranian government's policy. There is a strong commitment among us, especially the G-7 countries, to very closely monitor Iranian efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction and to stop any kind of transfer of dual-use equipment or dangerous technologies.
We are concerned by the Iranian position toward the peace process in Israel, their relations with some terrorist organizations, their regional policies, and their human-rights record. Needless to say, the Salman Rushdie case is one of the most important questions in our dialogue with Iran. As we've said repeatedly, it is a flagrant violation of the conception we hold of human rights and freedom to express one's thoughts.
In our difficult discussions with the Iranians, we raise all these issues, and we make clear that there will be no further development of our relations short of a real change in Iranian behavior. It is obvious, nevertheless, that while we share the concerns and objectives of our American friends, we don't agree with their solutions for dealing with these problems.
We do not believe in unilateral embargoes, and there is no proof that this can help us achieve our primary goal, which is to change the behavior of the regime. It is usually not the regime that pays the price for this kind of policy, but the population. We think that this very strong weapon can only be used in a specific legal framework; that is, on the decision of the international body which has competency to make this kind of decision, the U.N. Security Council.
We can discuss endlessly the real impact of American sanctions on Iran. am not sure that, in denying the Iranians the resources for their development, we are helping things out. The conventional wisdom in Washington, and we heard it here today, is that Iran will have to choose between its wrong policies- its nuclear program and its support for the groups opposing the peace process - and the welfare of its citizens. But what if this assumption is false? Iran is an old country with a deep consciousness of its past and a perception of its future that doesn't necessarily correspond with ours. Needless to say, we strongly oppose secondary boycotts, which are contrary to the elementary rules of international life and only complicate the Euro-American relationship.
I don't like slogans; the expression "critical dialogue" is as bad as "dual containment." I would rather talk about realism. France is sometimes suspected of being motivated solely by mercantile considerations or of being accommodating towards tyrants or even terrorists. It is not true. What is clear is that the two countries will stay where they are on the map; rather than letting our feelings dominate our policies, let us face reality. There is no indication that the regimes in place in Iraq or in Iran will go soon. Like it or not, we will have to deal with them in the foreseeable future. It is evident that any regime that will follow Saddam Hussein's will be concerned by the unity of the country, by the difficult balance between minorities, by its role in the Arab world, and by the vital question of access to the waters of the Gulf.
Will any regime in Iran have different views regarding its place in the region or the terrible memories of the war with Iraq? It was the shah, not the mullahs, who launched the Iranian nuclear program with the blessing of the Western countries, and the original disputes that we witnessed in the Gulf were initiated well before the Islamic revolution in Iran.
This is why we think that, if we want to try to solve the long-term problems of the region, we need to find another way besides isolating and demonizing the two largest countries. It is obvious that our military presence will be needed for a long period of time to ensure the security of neighboring countries, and France is committed to this important role. In fact, we have a defense agreement with the Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar, and very close relations with the others. And it should be clear to both Iran and Iraq that we will not tolerate any threats to their neighbors, but this must be supported by a much more open approach. The Middle East is already the most militarized zone in the world. We must offer a new project to the region, not something that we will bring to them as a gift, but something that we will think out with them.
One example of this approach is the Euro-Mediterranean Initiative launched in Barcelona in November 1995 with the countries of the southern shore of the Mediterranean. It will be a long and difficult process, but at least we are providing these countries a forum where they can meet and exchange ideas. As you know, one important aspect of the three components of this initiative is a stability pact in the Mediterranean that corresponds to a vision that requires the establishment of confident and close relations between the two sides of the Mediterranean.
The other two covenants are the development of economic relations, with an assistance package of nearly $6 billion for five years, coupled with the establishment of cooperation agreements and the strengthening of our cultural and human relations. In this framework, we see the Gulf region as the natural continuation of the Near East. A cooperation agreement has been in place since 1988, and we are studying the establishment of a free-trade agreement. The last meeting between the 6 and the 15 was in Doha last January, and we look forward to strengthening and developing this relationship.
France has very strong bilateral relations with the Gulf countries, especially the Emirates, Oman and Qatar, and values very much its political and economic cooperation with all of them. At the same time, we think that there is a need to diminish the tension in the region. An aggressive posture would simply reinforce the Iranian perception that we represent a real threat to them and that our only goal is to condemn them to perpetual underdevelopment. The regime is not insensitive to pressure, but it reacts only to a certain extent, because its historical self-image, political face-saving, and continuous propaganda that Iran will never again give in to foreign pressure remain strong elements of its policy.
We need to show our determination to face an Iranian or Iraqi threat to the region, but at the same time, we ought to leave the door open for their future reintegration into the international community. This ultimate goal is the only way to enhance significantly the security of the Gulf and to ensure that any solution will last. It is obvious that it is impossible to do this without the United States. It is only by Europe and the United States joining their efforts in close cooperation with our friends in the Gulf that we can put in place a different type of balance, not one of threat of hostility, but one of mutual interest and peace. This may sound too optimistic for the time being, but we have to be prepared for the changes of the future. What is more important, we have to show the people from the southern as well as the northern part of this region that we will not be surprised by those changes because we are ready to face them.
I am optimistic that this will happen one day. I see that the American administration is capable even of a dialogue with the Taliban in Afghanistan. They have recently violated a U.N. building in Kabul and arrested two Frenchmen from non-governmental organizations who took refuge in it. The simple fact of the ability of the Americans to talk with the Taliban can be an important asset for us and help us secure the fate of our countrymen. I hope that this example will help our American friends understand the value of keeping a channel of communication open, as difficult and sometimes discouraging as it is, to deal with interlocutors that we wouldn't necessarily have chosen.
WILLIAM A. RUGH, president, America Mideast Education and Training Services (AMIDEAST); former U.S. ambassador to the UAE
I congratulate the Middle East Policy Council on holding a discussion of a very important topic. I hope that there is a discussion going on inside the administration, as there is here outside in this particular public forum, because some adjustments need to be made in our policy. Now that I'm retired from the Foreign Service, I can speak out a little more than I used to when I was representing the official line.
I agree with the basic threat assessment that Mr. Deutsch has outlined and that others have talked about this morning. The threat to U.S. interests posed by Iraq and Iran is substantial and serious. Iraq is well-known for threatening and even invading its neighbors. Iran is a threat as well, and during my time in the UAE I had many discussions with senior officials who shared my view and the U.S. administration's view that Iran is a clear threat to the region and to our mutual interests. You only have to look at what is happening on Abu Musa, what is happening in the Iranian conventional-weapons procurement program and other weapons-of-mass-destruction programs to recognize that, in addition to the political statements the Iranian regime makes, Iran has hegemonic ambitions that threaten its neighbors.
The threat to American interests by Iran and Iraq has to be considered within the context of American relations with the other states of the region - an obvious point, but one that is sometimes overlooked. Iran supports terrorism in the region and violent opponents to the Middle East peace process. These are important reasons for the United States to be concerned.
The internal questions that are often raised in discussions of threats to American interests-questions of Iran's and Iraq's internal policies and political systems - are secondary to our assessment of American national interests. This doesn't mean that Americans should be unconcerned about democracy and human rights throughout the world. We are and we will remain concerned. But I think it is a mistake to give them such primacy that we mislead people in the region and elsewhere to think that the United States would intervene for the sake of influencing domestic political issues even in Iran or Iraq.
You can argue that we have intervened along with the international community in Iraqi internal affairs to a considerable extent, but if you look at the history of American policy in the region and elsewhere, I think we will not be likely to intervene because of domestic political issues. You can look at the case of Iran and the departure of the shah to see that the United States took no direct military or other intervention to keep the shah in place in 1979.
We have attached a bumper-sticker slogan, dual containment, to our policy. I think it is misleading. It has led people in the Gulf, for example, to believe that we are equating our policy toward Iran with our policy toward Iraq. In addition, containment itself is attractive to many people in this country because they believe that our containment policy toward the Soviet Union was a great success. But they have to remember that it took some 45 years, and, if it was partly responsible for bringing about changes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, it did so with a unified West. There is no unified Western policy toward the Gulf.
The intention of our containment policy is to use economic and other measures to bring about change in the behavior of the two regimes. We have sometimes been confused about the question of whether Saddam Hussein is part of our intention, whether he should remain or not. I think the fall of Saddam Hussein is a derivative of our policy toward Iraq, which is to bring about a change in the regime. It's fairly clear that we cannot achieve a change in Iraq's behavior without the fall of Saddam, but it is a derivative, not a primary goal.
The U.S. policy toward the Gulf has changed since 1990-91; containment has been escalated and economic screws tightened without political objectives having been achieved. Saddam Hussein, contrary to expectations, has not left the scene or changed his attitude toward compliance with the U.N. resolutions. And we have growing disquiet among our friends in the Gulf about the suffering of the Iraqi people. When I was out there as a representative of American policy, I frequently used to argue that the suffering of the Iraqi people was caused by Saddam Hussein, that he was responsible for the distribution of food and medicine, and that the blame should be put on him for the suffering of the Iraqi people. I didn't get disagreement, but that argument didn't satisfy the people in the Gulf, who were increasingly concerned about the fact that our policy was not working. It was not bringing about a change in the regime or a change in Saddam's behavior.
Over the last five or six years, we have also escalated our policy toward Iran by increasing economic pressure, without appreciable results. The Iranian economy is in difficulty, and American economic measures have contributed to that, but these economic difficulties have not led to a substantial change in Iran's political behavior.
By the same token, we have taken extensive military and economic measures against Iraq. The United States, as Dr. Cordesman has well pointed out, carries almost the entire burden of dealing with Iraq and of maintaining its military pressure. But sending cruise missiles into Baghdad and maintaining the southern no-fly zone is costing the American taxpayers a great deal without bringing about a substantial change in Saddam's behavior. It has tied his hands behind his back to an extent, it has infringed on Iraqi sovereignty, and yet he is still there.
There has been an evolution of our policy to where we are tightening the screws unilaterally without substantial support from our friends and allies. In fact, there has been a gradual erosion of support that will lead eventually to policy failure. Our European friends, our Russian friends and others would like very much to trade with Iraq. They are already trading with Iran. The Gulf countries are talking more and more openly about the problems of continuing the embargo on Iraq because of the suffering of the Iraqi people. Even Sheikh Zayed recently spoke in this vein. I believe it is fair to say that he is not a friend of Saddam Hussein. But he shares the disquiet of many people in the Gulf that our policy is not working. If our European friends and our Gulf friends desert us, we are left with a unilateral policy. And unilateral embargoes do not work.
The Gulf states, to some extent, see our massive military presence as the only interest the United States has in the Gulf. The myth has grown up in the Gulf and elsewhere that the United States is only interested in keeping the tension high and that we could bring Saddam down if we really wanted to. After all, we are the sole superpower. We must want to see him continue in power because this creates a market for American weapons. That is a myth. Another is that the United States would like to keep Iraq divided, to perpetuate the current de facto division in order to keep Iraq under control. But it is largely because of Saddam Hussein's mistakes that we have been able to keep the coalition together.
The U.S. policy toward Iran is eroding; the Iranian regime has made a number of commercial agreements with Turkey, Malaysia, Tajikistan and others. When the U.S. government blocked an agreement between the Conoco Company and Iran a couple of years ago, others took advantage of that. So American companies and the American economy are losing commercial advantages without winning the political result that the government was looking for.
Dr. Cordesman comprehensively described the serious problems in the Gulf that we will continue to face in the coming years. I don't completely agree with his pessimistic assumption, so let me offer a few suggestions about ways in which we might be able to cope with the continuing threat to our national interests (see my article in Middle East Policy, Vol. V, No. 1, January 1997, for details).
First of all, I think the most urgent problem we face in the Gulf is our failure to resolve the confrontation with Saddam Hussein. I'm convinced that the only way to begin to resolve it is with his departure. I don't have a plan, and the Iraqi opposition has been shown to be feckless. But I would suggest that the key to Saddam's survival is an elite group of Iraqi senior leaders around him who have a vested interest in his survival. They are convinced that if he goes, they will go. They are the only people who have access to him and could bring him down. We should try to break their mutual dependence. One way to do that would be to declare that those senior lieutenants would be given amnesty in the event of Saddam's departure.
Secondly, we should back off from our intense, unilateral, economic measures against Iran for the time being. Our European and other friends have not supported us in this policy. It has not brought about a change in Iran's behavior, and we are only hurting ourselves economically. I would suggest, therefore, reducing those economic measures that have, in effect, banned all trade and commerce between Americans and Iran. In the process, we must maintain our focus on the priority of our concern, which is in the area of Iran's threat to its neighbors, its development of weapons of mass destruction and the means of their delivery, and its support for terrorism.
I believe it is possible to distinguish between those policies we abhor and the blunt and ineffective instrument, because it's unilateral, of our total economic embargo of Iran. We need to leave the door open. The Conoco deal a couple of years ago could have been a trial balloon. Opposing it hurt those in Tehran, where a debate constantly goes on about relations with the United States, who wanted to relax the hostility to the "Great Satan." It is beneficial to those in power in Iran to have an enemy. They can serve their national interests and their revolutionary interests at the same time by working with everybody else in the world, especially the Europeans, while demonizing the United States.
Finally, we ought to focus on those issues which affect our national interests, the foreign policies of Iran and Iraq, rather than their domestic policies. American policy makers and officials like to list a long series of charges against regimes that we don't favor. Included in the indictment are not only threatening your neighbors, developing weapons of mass destruction, and supporting terrorism, but also failure to implement democracy and human rights.
We're dreaming if we think we can achieve many changes in Iran and Iraq in the near term. We ought to concentrate on those issues that directly affect American national interests and give secondary priority to the domestic policies of both countries. If Saddam falls tomorrow, he's not going to be replaced by Thomas Jefferson. He's going to be replaced by an Iraqi, who will not necessarily be a democrat, but he will not be the megalomaniac that Saddam is. There's nobody in Iraq - Saddam has seen to it - with the ambition and the power base that he has. We ought to be prepared now to work with a successor and support his focus on domestic development and on being a good enough neighbor.
Finally, I think we should elevate the level of American diplomacy in the region. The American military is very visible in the Gulf. American business representatives go there frequently. But the level of American political and diplomatic attention lags way behind. Gulf leaders often resent the fact that American officials come through with their hands out asking for money and don't take the time to consult on issues of mutual concern, such as the measures taken against Iraq and Iran. They deserve better; they live there. Sometimes we act as if it's our neighborhood.
We also need to pay more attention to encouraging our French and European and Japanese friends and others to work with us. The dialogue that the Europeans have had with Iran has not worked; American unilateral containment has not worked. We have to get together and agree on a common policy, because unanimity will at least enhance the possibility of its success.
MICHAEL DUNN: This is an Iranian presidential election year. The conventional wisdom seems to be that Mr. Nateq-Nouri is the leading candidate and that he is rather worse than Mr. Rafsanjani in terms of his attitudes toward the United States and his hard line on internal and economic issues. Is there any opportunity here for the United States, or are we simply going to move into an even more difficult situation vis-a-vis Iran?
DR. CORDESMAN: I have seen no firm evidence that there is a major split between pragmatists and extremists within the Iranian national security council. The foreign minister of Iran, Rafsanjani and representatives of Ayatollah Khamenei have all been directly involved in the decisions that we don't like about terrorism, the Hisbollah and the rejection of the peace process. The differences between them have been largely domestic and in terms of how you deal with Iran's economic policies. Nateq-Nouri has just come out with the idea that he is an economic reformer. Economic reformers in the Middle East are usually people who are economic reformers until they achieve power. But if he's at all serious, there may be an opportunity there to exploit. You may not be able to influence his external policy, but you may be able to use trade, investment and other policies to put some kind of leverage on Iran. Here perhaps we're talking about 1998, given the nature of the Congress and the Iranian election.
Q: I was struck by the almost militant tone of Mr. Deutsch's presentation. In the larger American policy context, there are many other countries with which we have fairly close relations, such as China, North Korea and Zaire, that have many or even all of the characteristics you attributed to Iraq and Iran. What accounts for the wide discrepancy in American policy towards these two Middle Eastern countries and the others?
MR. DEUTSCH: I'm not convinced of the similarity. Zaire has lots of problems, but they don't have a significant chemical/ biological weapons program and they're not threatening their neighbors. In fact, if anything, their smaller neighbors are threatening them. China is a different case. It is one of the world's superpowers, part of the nuclear-weapons club that we have to deal with. l think that the difference in Iran and Iraq is that they are threats to vital U.S. interests.
Q: North Korea is not?
MR. DEUTSCH: I'm not sure that there is a great difference between the way we deal with Iran and Iraq and the way we deal with North Korea. We have no relations with North Korea. We are engaged in the beginnings of a dialogue with North Korea because they have shown an interest in abandoning their threats in exchange for fuller integration into the world community. It's no different than the way we approach Iran or Iraq. If we were to be convinced of changed behavior on their part, we could begin to change our approach.
AMB. RUGH: I agree that we ought to have a dialogue with both Tehran and Baghdad. But remember that those in power in Tehran really don't want a dialogue with the United States on an open basis. The Reagan administration tried to have a secret dialogue. That didn't work. The offer to talk is on the table by the U.S. administration, as I understand it, but they're not interested.
As far as Baghdad is concerned, that is more problematic because of the history of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and what followed it. But I think there is ample opportunity to have a political dialogue even there. If you accept my suggestion about how to deal with Saddam, however, I'd rather wait until next year, when he's gone.
MR. MAGRO: We object to some Iranian policies. We know exactly what they are doing and their relations with the Iranian opposition. We continue to think that, if we stopped talking with them, it would not change their behavior in any way and that the only way to try to make them understand that it's not acceptable is to discuss it with them and to tell them what we think about it. The best description of the critical dialogue was given by the American administration, because what they want to do with the Iranians is exactly what we are doing: addressing the problems that we have with Iranian behavior, especially in the field of human rights and support of terrorism.
Q: What has the United States done to support progressive democracy-seeking groups here in the United States?
MR. DEUTSCH: As far as the various groups of exiles in opposition are concerned, there is a myriad of them, and that is the first problem with their credibility. There's no unity. It seems that every three or four Iranian exiles think that they should form their own party.
The second thing is that none of the significant exile groups seems to have a major presence inside the country or credibility with the Iranian population.
Q: Dr. Cordesman, some years ago, you wrote that there is no conceivable way Iran and Iraq can be barred from obtaining weapons of mass destruction. They already have some chemical weapons, and they're procuring parts of nuclear technology from Russia, Kazakhstan, Pakistan. How do you see this ending? And after a few years, if Iraq, with its conventional weapons, makes a thrust, or Iran has nuclear weapons and biological weapons, do you think that, in view of Gulf War syndrome, Americans could marshal an international coalition as they did in 1991?
DR. CORDESMAN: No one in the United States has ever had the illusion that you can totally stop the process of creeping proliferation in Iran and Iraq. What you can do is slow it down, and I think we have had considerable success in doing this. For all the differences we sometimes have with our European allies, they, too, have stepped up their enforcement procedures. There will always be problems. For example, in December, we found Iran was attempting to import materials for the production of V-agents, a nerve gas, from the United States through Dubai. This kind of Iranian and Iraqi effort is not going to go away. There is also the problem that efforts to contain nuclear weapons development in Iran and Iraq may lead them to step up their biological efforts. Iran seems to be beginning to deploy biological weapons, something the CIA cited this summer.
We have the military power and counter proliferation capabilities to continue to contain such efforts, but a great deal depends on future American resolve. For all the debate over Gulf War syndrome and the supposed reluctance of Americans to take casualties, I think American military resolve in the Gulf is very high. I don't think people in the Gulf have any particular reason to distrust us, provided they will show some resolve. If anything needs to be questioned, I think it would be the resolve of the Southern Gulf countries, the failure of nations like Saudi Arabia to make realistic commitments to the defense of Kuwait and their own northern border.
In terms of the other military aspects of dual containment, there have been some fairly major successes. Iran was importing over $3 billion worth of arms a year during the Iran Iraq War, with a far weaker economy than it has today. Its recent imports have been about $400 to $500 million a year. A lot of that is a result of U.S. dual containment, in cooperation with Europe and other states. Iraq was importing $4 billion worth of arms a year on average between 1980 and 1990. Its imports now, mostly on the black market, are probably around $60 million to $80 million a year. That has had an immense impact on Iraq's conventional capabilities.
Where does our role end? It doesn't, of course. We may see a day in which eight lovable regimes emerge in the Gulf that cooperate, protect human rights, and are moderate and stable indefinitely into the future. But until it happens, we will face the problem of military containment.
And while there have been no major breakthroughs in the cost of producing nuclear weapons, one thing is absolutely certain. Every year for at least the next decade, it will become dramatically easier to produce biological weapons with theater-nuclear lethality, and every year the need to both control those technologies and provide active U.S. military counter-proliferation capabilities in this region will probably grow. That is an unpleasant fact of life. Nothing we do with the sanctions regime, or to the economies of Iran and Iraq, can prevent them from proliferating at this level of lethality in the long run.
Q: MR. DEUTSCH, is there any evidence of Iranian terrorism? How is their support to South Lebanon groups different from their support to the Afghan Mujaheddin or Hamas? The Netanyahu government came to power opposing the peace process, and he has in the coalition people who oppose it. How is this different?
MR. DEUTSCH: I think there is ample evidence of Iran's support for terrorism. Several courts in Europe have heard from their own prosecutors the descriptions of Iranian government decisions to pursue terrorist acts in Europe. We describe as terrorism and support for terrorism Iran's support for organizations that conduct acts of violence against innocent civilians to pursue political ends. Hisbollah and Hamas have both pursued such activities. Both receive significant support from Iran.
Q: I'm a businessman and have lived here with my family since the beginning of Mr. Rafsanjani's presidency. When there was an open-door policy for Iranian entrepreneurs and industrialists to go back and revitalize the private sector, I was among one of the first to go back. I'm now convinced, Mr. Deutsch, that the economic sanctions of the United States toward Iran are reinforcing and unifying the regime. Since you mentioned that it is not the policy of the United States to change the regime but to change its attitude, why not go along with Ambassador Rugh's suggestion to open up the economic relationship, not to work against American's business opportunities. As Mr. Magro suggested, if the regime understood that it is not the intention of the American regime to overthrow them, there would be a better dialogue.
MR. DEUTSCH: Until 1995, we had a certain level of economic exchange with Iran, and the attitude towards the United States was pretty much the same as it is now. The American economic sanctions serve two purposes: first, to demonstrate to the Iranian regime that it will pay a price and that the United States is willing to exert leadership and bear a cost for our convictions. The second objective is to limit the resources that Iran has to put behind its policies. The difficulties that Iran experiences in gaining access to international capital does have an effect on its ability to pursue its nuclear program and its conventional military program. Unfortunately, terrorism is relatively cheap. But we think that the policy of sanctions does serve to limit the threat from Iran.
DR. DUNN: For some 40 years, the United States strongly opposed the Arab boycott of Israel. One of the strongest arguments was that the United States opposed all secondary boycotts. We seem to be engaging in secondary boycotts all over the place right now, threatening European and other companies that do business with Iran. Has the United States suddenly decided that secondary boycotts are legal and acceptable in international law, after having said for some 40 years that the Arab boycott of Israel was illegal because it was a secondary boycott?
MR. DEUTSCH: The Iran-Libya Sanctions Act is focused on specific behavior of companies whose provision of capital to Iran augments a direct threat to vital U.S. interests. It is not a global secondary boycott.
Q: Amb. Rugh, you suggested that, if we backed off in our aggressive policy and allowed moderates to step forward in Iran, we could do business with them and gradually diffuse the situation. We have had the most moderate of all mullahs, Hashemi Rafsanjani, in power for 16 years. For eight years, he was speaker of the parliament, when the parliament was very powerful. Then he became president and made the presidency very powerful. He's now jockeying to become the deputy to Khamenei, the supreme leader, where he again will be very powerful. And there has never been any diminution of Iran's hostility toward the United States, its use of terrorism or its nuclear-weapons program.
AMB. RUGH: I don't claim to be an expert on Iranian politics, but people who are tell me that there are differences of opinion within the Iranian leadership about foreign as well as domestic policy. I'm told that there are differences of opinion within the Iranian leadership, and Rafsanjani may well be one of the most moderate. I think that if we have any chance of making this confrontation less dangerous, we should leave some doors open. We slammed the door on the Conoco deal. That must have disheartened those in Tehran who wanted to open channels to the United States, including perhaps Mr. Rafsanjani. It was an unusual gesture for the Iranian regime to work with an American company on development of their petroleum resources. Opening commercial doors may not suddenly lead to a new attitude in Tehran, but unless we do open some doors, we won't see an improvement in relations.
Q: Mr. Deutsch, I noticed a subtle change in rhetoric. You mentioned the evolving Iranian revolution. Two weeks ago Senator D'Amato and Senator Lott sent a letter to President Clinton asking for a change in public diplomacy towards Iran and, in particular, support at least from the bully pulpit of the White House and from the State Department for democracy and human rights. Is your phrase perhaps a response to that? And what is your response to the letter from Senators Lott, D'Amato, Lieberman, Levin and others?
MR, DEUTSCH: The reference to "an evolving revolution" was merely an analytic point. The revolution of today is not the ideological revolution of 1979. Revolutions all evolve; they lose revolutionary fervor; they become more pragmatic. Some of that evolution has taken place in Iran. Hopefully, over time, the evolution will move toward a more rational, more peaceful policy. I think that we have taken certain steps to try and support those elements within Iranian society that speak out in favor of values that the United States recognizes: freedom of speech, freedom of religion and democracy. The options for being more vocal and aggressive are somewhat limited. The bully pulpit, however, as you suggest, is always there, and the State Department, for instance, has noted the numerous cases of human-rights abuses and curtailment of the right of expression in Iran.
Q: In the Middle East the United States continues to practice the most flagrant form of selective morality. We condemn something in Country A while ignoring it in Country B. The second aspect of this is the arrogance with which the United States looks at the Middle East. I am concerned, having lived and worked in Baghdad, about the American conviction that Saddam Hussein's departure will immediately lead to democracy in that country. It is very likely to lead to an instability that will advance no one's interests. There's likely to be a bloodbath, as in Bosnia and Lebanon. How can you announce U.S. support for the people who depose him without undercutting them in the eyes of the Iraqis?
AMB. RUGH: I don't think democracy will emerge from a post-Saddam regime very easily. But I think it will be a more benign regime, less hostile to its neighbors. It will not threaten American and Gulf Arab interests as it does today. It may destabilize Iraq for Saddam to be removed, but so be it. That change is necessary for the region. There may be struggle indeed, but I don't think it would lead to the break-up of Iraq. Iraq's neighbors don't want it to break up. There won't be a Kurdish state, because none of the neighbors who have Kurdish minorities want to see that. There won't be a southern Shiite state because the neighboring countries, even Iran, don't want to see that. I would guess that a post-Saddam Iraq would serve American and its Gulf neighbors' interests better than the current situation.
As for selective morality, the search for consistency in American policy around the - world is for academics. I wouldn't put too much emphasis on it. Each relationship that the United States has with each country has to be looked at in its own context; we have different priorities in different countries. When internal political issues rise too high on the priority list, we distort our interests and mislead people.
DR. CORDESMAN: The idea of reversing U.S. policy to keep Saddam in power as long as possible, to prevent the inevitable collapse of Iraq, isn't a very logical policy. I also don't believe Iraq is all that fragile. Saddam's suppression of the Shiites has built up a massive internal-security structure, which has about as many people as the regular Iraqi military forces. His intervention with the Kurds in 1996 has also helped create a mix of internal forces where the Sunni elite around him probably can make the transition to power after Saddam much more safely than it could have in 1990 or 1991. I'm not sure that "Saddam the lesser" will really be all that much better, but I cannot believe that a policy of supporting Saddam for stability in Iraq is in the interests of the United States or anyone in the region.
Q: Ambassador Rugh, both Europe and the countries of the Gulf have waited for the United States to craft a policy vis-a-vis the Iraqi regime that would get rid of Saddam with the least amount of disturbance, yet there hasn't been such a policy. Is this lack of U.S. leadership a cause of the disenchantment in the Gulf and in Europe? I have heard that when the Saudi delegation recently raised the issue of the future of Iraq, they were told that the U.S. administration had absolutely no intention of adopting a stronger policy.
AMB. RUGH: There is disenchantment in the Gulf over our policy, but, to be fair, nobody has come up with a constructive alternative. The United States thought, in 1991, '92, '93 and '94, that the policy would work and that we would bring about a change in the behavior of the Iraqi regime. I think the leaders in the region thought it would change. They were as surprised as we were that Saddam is still there. Some people now claim that they knew all along that he would survive. I didn't hear those voices very much back in '91 and '92. The problem is that we keep hoping American policy will work, and you can argue that it is working because the U.N. resolutions get passed periodically and because nothing has dramatically changed. But my concern is that it's going to erode rapidly in the next couple of years if we don't do something now. I would like to preempt that erosion. We need some leadership. It's easy if you're sitting in the administration to say, "It's still okay." But pretty soon, it won't be okay.
Q: Last week, there were some parliamentary members here from Kuwait who said there are over 500 Kuwaiti prisoners and many other prisoners of war still being held in Iraq. I was wondering if a more open policy like the French have has helped in the release of some of these war prisoners.
MR. MAGRO: The critical dialogue is with Iran. With Iraq, there is a commission that is working on the issue of the Kuwaitis, and the Americans, the Europeans and others are part of it. This is one of the subjects that we are looking at very closely. When Tariq Aziz was in Paris, it was one of the issues that we raised with him. This is a very important issue, but it's not the same thing that we are doing with Iran. With Iraq there is a clear venue in which to address this issue, and we are working with others in the United Nations to address this very important point.
Q: Have you been successful?
MR. DEUTSCH: There are 600 cases of Kuwaiti missing. I would not call them prisoners because I think there is very little hope that they are alive somewhere in Iraq. The Kuwaiti families deserve a full accounting of what happened to those 600 people carted off from Kuwait during the occupation. The international community, through the International Committee of the Red Cross, is actively involved in a multilateral commission to try and resolve those cases and to get additional information. It is one of the requirements in the U.N. resolutions, and we continue to press it - not just the Americans, the international community more broadly. It is one of the areas where the Iraqis do not choose to cooperate.
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