ALTHOUGH the latest standoff with Iraq has been resolved, at least temporarily, the specter of renewed war against Iraq remains. How should the United States and United Nations Security Council respond to the continuing provocations of Saddam Hussein?
The current policy of threatening military attack at each act of Iraqi defiance is counterproductive and makes the US and its allies pawns in Saddam's political games. Baghdad's refusal to comply with UN resolutions is indeed unacceptable, and pressure is needed to ensure Iraqi compliance, but this is not a justification for renewed bombing. The use of military force is not a proper or effective solution to the current problems.
The best way to apply pressure on Baghdad is to continue and strengthen economic sanctions. The current embargo against Iraq has been effective in diminishing Saddam's warmaking capability and weakening his economy. Saddam has been and remains isolated.
His government is cut off from the community of civilized nations. By tightening the economic sanctions, we can intensify this isolation and further limit his industrial and military potential. The sanctions should be rigorously maintained until Baghdad complies fully with UN resolutions.
To bolster economic sanctions, urgent attention must be given to halting the flow of unauthorized trade into Iraq through Jordan. According to news reports, trucks have been carrying up to 6,000 tons of goods each day along the Amman-Baghdad highway. The Wall Street Journal reports that a third or more of this cargo consists of military supplies. This gaping hole in the economic embargo must be plugged if sanctions are to be effective.
Jordan and other countries can be persuaded to enforce the sanctions through a carrot-and-stick approach. To compensate Jordan for the heavy cost it is bearing because of the sanctions against Iraq, Amman should be provided with substantial amounts of economic aid and financial assistance.
In providing such aid, however, the UN should make it clear that if Jordan does not comply strictly with the embargo, economic sanctions will be applied against it as well. Economic incentives and the threat of a secondary boycott should be applied against any country that refuses to enforce strictly the UN embargo.
While strengthening the economic sanctions against Iraq, we must recognize the need for humanitarian assistance to the people of Iraq. Food and medicine are exempt from the current embargo, and they should remain so. Unfortunately, Saddam has callously refused to accept UN plans for the distribution of humanitarian assistance. The government in Baghdad has also obstructed the efforts of Roman Catholic Relief Services and other private groups attempting to aid the Iraqi people.
According to reports from the voluntary organizations, humanitarian conditions among people in the Baghdad region are beginning to improve, but the situation in the northern and southern parts of the country remains desperate. The Security Council should address these humanitarian concerns by distributing food and medicine to the people of Iraq directly, perhaps through a humanitarian airlift.
Bombing raids will not ensure proper weapons inspections, or resolve negotiations over the border with Kuwait. Nor will military violence lessen Baghdad's oppression of its own citizens. Renewed war is what Saddam wants. It fits with his system of militarism and repression. The resumption of warfare will only deepen the resentment of the Iraqi people against the West and make it even harder to resolve future disputes in the region peacefully.
The use of military force in the Persian Gulf is also risky politically. It could split the US-led coalition in the region. Many of the nations that supported the previous effort to force Iraq out of Kuwait are not enthusiastic about the use of force for lesser offenses. Turkey has signaled its displeasure by announcing it would not allow the use of its air bases for strikes against Iraq. The use of military force also could poison the more hopeful atmosphere for peace talks that now exists in the Middle
We can be tough with Saddam without resorting to war. The UN should bolster the economic sanctions against Iraq and maintain diplomatic and political pressure against Baghdad, but we should avoid the use of military force. Over the long run such a policy will be more likely to succeed than military violence and will be far less costly in dollars and human lives.