April 4, 1991 | Executive Memorandum on Middle East
Dangerous Signa1s. But Bush is wrong in not grounding Saddam's helicopters and in other ways restrict- ing the regime's ability to crush the rebels. There is an important distinction between taking sides among the various factions -opposing Saddam (something America should not do) and taking action to prevent Saddam from surviving ( s omething America should do). While the Administration prudently has refrained from overreaching by expanding the war to impose a government, on Iraq, it seems to have lost sight of the goal of removing Saddam from power. By passively accepting Saddam's re p ression of Iraqi rebels, Washington signals dangerously that it has accommodated itself to Saddam's survival. This reduces the chances that the greatest potential threat to Saddarn!s power, the Iraqi army, will turn against hinL And by allowing Saddam to s core a morale-raising military victory over the rebels, the Bush Administra- tion enables Saddam to gain glory and credibility that he surely will invoke to keep his military loyal to him. It is puzzling that Bush seems to think that the Iraqi military wi l l be more inclined to topple Saddam after Saddarn leads the military to victory over the rebels. Military leaders try to topple regimes following military humiliations - not after military victories. Arming the Iraqi rebels may not be advisable due to the opposition of U.S. friends in the region. Saudi Arabia fears a successful Shiite rebellion more than it fears the weakened Saddam Hussein because a Shiite victory would enhance Iran's power in the Persian Gulf and possibly incite Saudi Shiites, which make up almost 10 percent of the Saudi population. Turkey objects to an independent Kurdish state be- cause this could become a beacon that could aggravate unrest among Turkey's 10 million to 12 million Kurds. Turkish President Turgut Ozal since January has so u ght to accommodate Kurdish moderates by moving towards recognizing the existence of the Kurdish people, formerly referred to by the government as "MountainTurks," in easternTurkey. Ozal, who announced on March 11 that Turkey had opened high- level politic a l discussions with Iraqi Kurds, may be seeking to cultivate the Iraqi Kurds as a means of dis- crediting the radical Kurdish Workers Party, which has waged guerrilla warfare against the Turkish govern- ment for the last seven years. This tentative change i n Turkish policy eventually may enable the U.S., in close cooperation with Turkey, to arm Iraqi Kurds committed to autonomy within a democratic Iraq. Until then Washington should provide the Kurds with humanitarian aid such as food and medicine.Moreover, n ow that Turkey has established direct contacts with the Iraqi Kurds, Washington should follow suit. Ile State Department formerly had shunned political discussions with the Kurds out of deference to Turkey. No More Sucker. The U.S. also should enforce the strictest possible interpretation of the provisional ceasefire agreement with Baghdad. General Norman Schwarzkopf made an oral agreement on March 3 to permit the Iraqi government to use helicopters to transport government officials and supplies. Schwarzko p f now maintains that he was "suckered" by the Iraqi regime, which intended all along to use the helicopters to attack its rebellious population. This is an extraordinary admission by a victorious general. If he was suckered on March 3, there is no reason f or the White House to insist that he remain suckered. The U.S., which never agreed to permit helicopter gunship attacks, now should wam Baghdad that any such future attacks will prompt U.S. air attacks not only against the attacking helicopters, but again s t all Iraqi helicopters throughout Iraq. Because the provisional ceasefire technically is a "unilateral suspension of hostilities," as Schwarzkopf made clear when he met the Iraqi representatives, the U.S. is within its rights to resume hostilities unilat e rally if the Iraqis violate the U.S.-dictated terms. Shooting down Iraqi helicopters signals that the U.S. has not reconciled itself to Saddams continued rule and will continue to force Baghdad to pay a heavy price as long as Saddam is in power. It will s i gnal that Iraq in 1991 will not become George Bush's Hungary of 1956. By'denying Saddam these tools of repression, the U.S. can reclaim some of the moral authority that it lost by failing to aid the faltering Kurdish and Shiite uprisings against Saddam. B y underscoring Saddam's weakness, rather than hinting that it can accommodate itself to Saddam's survival, the Bush Administra- tion can give the Iraqi army maximum incentives to overthrow Saddam.
James A. Phillips Deputy Director of Foreign Policy Studies}}