By Basel Kasaby
Yes, we can invade Iraq quickly, but how soon can we get out? What would be the price? These questions are being mulled inside and outside the government, with mixed reactions from U.S. officials as well as from our friends and allies.
The war with Iraq has never stopped. What Gen. Schwarzkopf signed with the Iraqis in the tent on February 1991 was no more than a cease-fire or a truce at best. In April 1991, the terms of the cease-fire were spelled out in U.N. Resolution 687, mandating that Iraq destroy all its weapons of mass destruction, without conditions. Resolution 687 was passed under the auspices of Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, allowing the use of force if the resolution is breached or otherwise not implemented.
Indeed, force was used against Iraq in 1993 in response to troop deployments threatening Kuwait. Iraq was hit again in 1994 in retaliation for the assassination attempt on George Bush Sr. In 1998, the campaign against the Iraq and the frequency of strikes intensified after U.N. Resolution 1205 was passed. This resolution considered Iraq to have violated Resolution 687 by not allowing U.N. weapons inspectors back into the country to resume their work. In short, there are sufficient violations of the terms of the cease-fire to justify continuing U.S. military action.
However, what is being planned here is an invasion to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein. Can the United States find a sufficient legal basis for that particular purpose? I believe so, given Iraq’s open defiance of the terms of the cease-fire and subsequent Security Council Resolutions. What are we waiting for then? Well, a few problems still need to be addressed.
In the first place, the question is one of moral justification. For one thing, the pretext of getting rid of Hussein and implementing a democratic regime does not have the support of our European and Arab allies.
But there is also some dissent on the issue inside the Bush administration and within the ranks of Congress for various reasons. Even Republicans are questioning the impact of such a move on the war in Afghanistan. Many more are worried about the possibility of implicating Israel in the conflict and throwing the whole region into a nuclear conflict.
Colin Powell, relying on support from Republican realists, is trying to convince more Hawkish elements, such as Cheney and Rumsfeld, to take a more balanced approach towards Iraq and to think carefully before leaping into a full-scale invasion. After all, other avenues can be explored. For example, we have not given adequate support to internal opposition. We can also or apply more diplomatic and military pressure, short of invasion.
In addition to the political wrangling, we need to ask what would be done if Hussein, fearing the worst, decides to use chemical or biological weapons against our allies, such as Kuwait or Saudi Arabia? What if he desperately attempts to strike or retake Kuwait? How far can Hussein be pushed before he can rationalize such actions? Hussein has used chemical weapons against Kurds when he was confident he would not have to suffer any consequences. What would he do if knows his end is near?
Most importantly, who is going to pay the bill, especially if there is a high cost of American lives? In 1991, the Saudis and Kuwaitis compensated the U.S. generously for its protection. For one thing, we enjoyed a decade of record low oil prices. Nowadays, the Saudis are singing a different tune. We can comfortable assert the Saudis are not refusing to foot the bill for the love of Hussein. More likely, the Saudis, as well as our European friends, are concerned that a major attack on Iraq could destabilize the region, to everyone’s chagrin.