DIURNALS

 

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DIURNAL - 49

Options for Iraq

Anwar Al-Ghassani
Iraq List, September 14, 2002

During the past few weeks and days I have been thinking about the options and alternatives Iraq is being confronted with these days. Here are my conclusions. Please note that I am trying to understand our situation, to see things as they are, free from illusions and dogmas. I don't exclude that I might be in error in some of what I see or think.
Anyway, please read. If you find what I have written worthy of your time and attention, send your comments to the list. Express your opinion freely and objectively. That is what this list needs. Please avoid subjective arguments that lead to acrimonious exchanges and personal attacks that this list doesn't need and wouldn't accept.

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Recent Iraq-related developments are sad, paradoxical, and perplexing.

Sad because war will kill innocent people and destroy further the already miserable infrastructure of Iraq.

Paradoxical because the Arab street considers Bush, who says he wants to liberate Iraq from dictatorship, an aggressor and hypocrite while Saddam Hussein is being hailed as champion of freedom and fighter against imperialism.

Perplexing because the options and alternatives Iraqis have right now are either utopic, unfeasible or would inevitably lead to war.

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What are the options and alternatives? I mean realistically, from the perspectives of an uninterested and unbiased observer?

What are the forces involved in the Iraq situation and how do they present themselves and options for the future of Iraq?

1. The US, UK, and some parties and groups of the Iraqi opposition

Position

They want to change the regime of Saddam Hussein by force and replace it by a democratic regime based on the western model of democracy, free market and friendly relations with the US and the west.

Argument

Even if Saddam Hussein allows unrestricted weapon inspections, there is no guarantee that he wouldn't start producing weapons of mass destruction in the future.

Current sanctions can't be maintained forever. If they are lifted, Saddam will use Iraq's vast oil resources to acquire weapons of mass destruction. After the painful events of September 11, the US can't live with such a perspective. Saddam Hussein must go. It is unrealistic to think that Saddam will accept UN Security Council resolution 688 of April 5, 1991 and would permit free elections under UN supervision, and thus relinquish power peacefully. There is no other alternative but to force him out of power.

Problem

The use of force has to be legitimised.
The cost of regime change by force in terms of deaths and destruction could be very high. Little is known about the plan that will be put in place after the regime change. In what ways the interests of Iraq's nationalities and those of opposition parties, those currently opposed to this option, will be accommodated.

2. The European Union, most countries of the world, Arab countries

Position

Do not attack Iraq. The Iraqi regime should accept the return of weapons inspectors. Iraq should not impose any restrictions on the activities of inspectors.

Argument

International law prohibits the change of regimes without UN permission.

Problem

The option doesn't offer a clear perspective about the future of Iraq. It maintains the status quo (let's solve the current crisis and see what happens next).

3. Civil society worldwide, some Iraqi opposition parties and organizations

Position

No to war, no to Saddam Hussein's dictatorship

Argument

Apply resolution 688; organize UN supervised elections and change the regime by peaceful means.

Problem

The regime has rejected that resolution. How will the UN convince the regime to accept the resolution? Who will enforce it? If the regime has rejected it, who will oblige the regime by force to accept this resolution?

4. The regime of Saddam Hussein, the Arab street, some parties and organizations in Arab countries

Position

No regime change, no war, no aggression. All sanctions must be lifted.

Argument

The US is an imperialist power. It wants to dominate Iraq and its oil as part of its plan to dominate the world.
Iraq opposition parties that support US policy towards Iraq are mercenaries and traitors.
Iraq is a sovereign state. Only the people of Iraq have the right to determine their internal affairs.

Problem

Modern world powers do not apply methods of classical colonialism (invasion, occupation and plundering of raw materials). Despite all principles invoked by the argument, the reality is that the people of Iraq live in "silent captivity" (Bush, UN speech, September 12, 2002). Since the regime has no plans for reform or change, this option offers no hope to Iraqis or an alternative to their current slavery and misery.

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Discussion

So, where do we go from here?
I have no sure answer except what I personally think of all this:

Except Iraqi regime top level officials, opportunists who benefit from the regime, religious fanatics, and those who, for some reason or another, deliberately hate the US, and those who hate the US out of ignorance (I mean those who hate, not those who may legitimately criticise the US for this or that), all these people see no need for change or reform of the regime. The rest of the world wants some sort of change since the regime has been in power since 1968 with his current president in power since 1979. In the world of today, no government can remain in power for such a long time.

The people of Iraq, kept in "silent captivity" by the regime, buried under problems and suffering and occupied with daily struggle for survival, are so weakened that they will not be able to bring about the change they desire and long for, not even in ten or twenty years from now.

Natural laws of evolution and change do not apply to the Iraqi regime. If the regime is left alone, it will continue to be what it is now and has been during the past three decades. Since Iraq is a despotic monarchy disguised as a republic, Saddam Hussein has been preparing his sons to take over power after his death. So there will be no change even after his death.

Does the regime have any other option other than rejecting change and reform ideas? No, it has no other options. Its history, the logic of its policies, its power structure are based on the fact that once things start to change, the head of the regime will be exposed to all sort of accusations and attacks by his many enemies. The regime and Saddam Hussein himself can only survive by continuing their suppression of all Iraqis. It has long ago crossed over the point of "gentle" compromises such as offering Saddam Hussein and his top officials quiet exile in some neighbouring country. They have lived with the sword in the hand and so they will remain until the bitter end.

After the tragic events of September 11, the US has changed. It feels seriously threatened and has decided to defend itself and to go after all terrorists worldwide, individuals, organizations and states. Thus, the Iraqi regime, thanks to its foolish policies, has brought itself to the attention of the US anti-terrorism policy.

These are the facts. This is not to argue whether the US is right or wrong. It is in fact irrelevant to discuss whether changing regimes by force is right or wrong. It is also irrelevant whether there are other goals behind all this. The fact is that the regime has already been labelled "terrorist state", and the US has the power and the will to change it. The regime's destiny has been decided and sealed and is doomed to vanish.
Does the US have other options? These are the options from US perspective:

- The regime is unwilling to renounce its anti-US policy.
- If the US lets the regime alone, it fears that the regime, alone or in alliance with some terrorists, will be, sooner or later, shooting at them.
- Conclusion: regime change.

All other ideas about solving the crisis, noble as they may be, seem to be impractical since they advocate peaceful solutions without specifying enforcement and change mechanism. Since the regime does not accept any change, these ideas are doomed to fail.

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All this puts the Iraqis between the anvil and the hammer. It is sad and painful to observe that they seem to have no other option.


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