The Heritage Foundation

Executive Memorandum #277 on Middle East

August 6, 1990

August 6, 1990 | Executive Memorandum on Middle East

How to Stop Iraq's Saddam Hussein


(Archived document, may contain errors)

8/6/90 277

HOW TO STOP IRAQ9S SADDAM HUSSEIN Iraq's Saddam Hussein is giving America and its allies a first glimpse of the post-Cold War world. It is a sobering vision of a world in which Soviet power may be in d ecline, but where the - democracies face well-armed barbarians, apparently enamored of power and unfazed by human suf- fering. Saddam and other aggressors can be stopped, but not by America alone. The Iraqi attack is George Bush's first test in post-Cold W ar diplomacy, the diplomacy of American leadership with responsibility shared among the United States, its allies, and other states with an interest in stopping aggression. If Bush is to lead, he will have to set clear objectives and design a plan for ach i eving them. Ile immediate objectives of U.S. and allied efforts should be to: stop further Iraqi aggression; prevent global oil shortages; and pressure Saddam into withdrawing his forces from Kuwait and restoring Kuwaiti sovereignty. In pursuit of these o b jectives, the U.S. should lead an international effort to: blockade Iraq economically; deploy to the area U.S., allied, and Arab military forces capable of defending Saudi Arabia; send the clear diplomatic message to Saddam that he is isolated and that fu r ther aggression will be met by American and allied military forces. Economic Measures. The centerpiece of the U.S.-led international effort should be an economic blockade of Iraq and occupied Kuwait, designed to force Saddam to withdraw his forces. The Ir a qi economy depends on oil. If Iraq cannot export oil, its economy will be in danger of collapse and Saddam's political position will be threatened. - Iraq is vulnerable. Only three choke points must be blocked in order to stop the flow of Iraqi and Kuwait i oil onto world markets: a pipeline through Saudi Arabia; a pipeline through Turkey; and Kuwaiti ports on the Persian Gulf. To shut the flow of Iraqi oil, America will need the cooperation of Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Turkey is a NATO ally, but has been he s itant to support U.S. policy in the Middle East. Now, however, Turkey is nervous about planned U.S. force cuts from Europe and looking to curry favor with Washington. Ile U.S. should make this a key test of Turkey's commitment to its alliance with America . As for Saudi Arabia, U.S. military support should be conditioned on full Saudi willingness to block the pipeline. As the next likely target of Iraqi aggression, Saudi Arabia has an interest in stopping Saddam, but understandably is afraid to confront him . The Saudis face Iraws minion-man army and 5,500 tanks with about 50,000 soldiers and 500 tanks of their own. If Saudi Arabia is to stand up to Saddam by participating in a blockade, Saudi leaders will have to be reassured of U.S. and other allied militar y backing. To complete the blockade, U.S. and other NATO warships must blockade the Straits of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf to prevent ships leaving Kuwaiti ports from carrying their oil to world markets. To compensate for the loss of Iraqi and Kuwaiti oil, Saudi Arabia would have to increase its production - it has tremendous excess capacity and easily could do so - to keep world markets supplied and prices stable.

Military Measures. The first principle for American military action should be t hat America will not act alone. If Arab states and U.S. allies do their share, Washington can dispatch air and naval power to counter an Iraqi move into Saudi Arabia. There is of course some danger in this. U.S. surface ships and aircraft would have to fa c e an Iraqi airforce of over 550 planes equipped with French Evocet and other missiles; Iraqi air defenses now also may include sophisticated U.S. Hawk missiles supplied to Kuwait. U.S. carrier-based aircraft therefore would have to be supplemented with su c h U.S. fighters as F-15 Eagles and F-16 Fighting Falcons along with air-refueling tankers and other aircraft deployed to bases in Saudi Arabia. Together this force could control the air over an Iraqi-Saudi battlefield and attack Iraqi forces on the ground , which will become increasingly vulnerable as their supply lines stretch out across the desert. This effort would require the fun cooperation of Saudi Arabia, which will have to provide bases for U.S. planes. U.S. F- I 11 bombers also could be based in th e Middle East for strikes on targets deep in Iraqi territory, including nuclear plants and chemical weapon and ballistic missile facilities. It would be logistically difficult and politically unwise to send American ground forces to defend Saudia Arabia. G r ound forces must be supplied by the Arab countries, and their willingness to supply them would be the best test of whether these countries are serious about stopping Saddam. Egypt, which on August 5 began mobilizing its army of half a million active force s and 600,000 reserves, is the most likely candidate for the mission. American Air Force C-5 Galaxy airlifters could be sent to Egypt to help transport Egyptian troops and equipment to Saudi Arabia. Diplomatic Measures. Diplomacy should be viewed primarily as a means of backing up and reinforcing military and economic measures against Saddam. The main diplomatic message to be sent is that further aggression will be met not only with international opprobrium, but military force. Ongoing steps at the U.N. to i solate Saddam should contiriue. Ile important diplomacy, however, will be that between the U.S. and those Arab states willing to fight Saddam, and between the U.S. and its allies willing to send warships and to help enforce an economic blockade. As part o f this effort, Bush should convey publicly and unambiguously to Saddam that aggression against Saudi Arabia, or such other Iraqi neighbors as Jordan, will be met by U.S. military force. If Saddam is permitted to swallow Kuwait, he will pose a permanent thr e at to Saudi Arabia and could dictate Saudi oil prices. This would put him in control of about 40 percent of the world's oil reserves, allowing him to control world oil prices and squeeze the West, perhaps sending Western economies into a tailspin. From th i s position he would be tempted to threaten Jordan and then Israel. Saddam Hussein can be stopped, and pushed back. An economic blockade can bring the Iraqi economy to a standstill and force Saddam to bring his armies home from Kuwait. Deployment of substa n tial U.S., allied, and Arab military force to the region can enforce the blockade, reassure Saudi Arabia, and stop Saddam if he sends his armies on the march again. Diplomacy can reinforce these actions. Action means risks. For the U.S. the immediate risk is to the lives of American citizens in Kuwait taken hostage by Iraqi forces. Saddam should be warned that he, personally, will be the target of U.S. military retaliation if American hostages are harmed. The success of the plan to stop Saddam depends on i n ternational cooperation. For this, the U.S. will have to make it clear to its allies and the Arab world that America is not prepared to act alone. The test for Bush will be his ability to use his skill to persuade and pressure the international community to rally behind American leadership in opposition to aggression. If he succeeds, he will have established a precedent for defending America's interests in the post-Cold War world. Jay P. Kosminsky Deputy Director of Defense Policy Studies

Policy Analysts Doug Seay and David Silverstein contributed to this report.

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