President Clinton has declared that Saddam Hussein's Iraq must not be allowed to have weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Clinton is entitled to do this and, if necessary, to enforce it under the terms of the agreement following Desert Storm. At that time Iraq agreed to renounce such weapons and permit UN inspections to determine compliance.
Much is at stake. Israel has a monopoly of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. Western intelligence sources estimate that Israel's stockpile of nuclear warheads is now somewhere between 150 and 200. Israel also has delivery vehicles capable of reaching any target in the Middle East. Hence, Israel has long enjoyed the ability to wipe out all Arab countries.
That ability now is in question. It will be confirmed if Clinton succeeds in getting Saddam to disclose and give up any nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons he may have or may be capable of having.
The reverse of this is that a weapon of mass destruction in Saddam's hands would be a deterrent against Israel's use of its own nuclear weapons. This could largely cancel out the weight of Israel's weapons in the military balance in the area. In other words, Clinton is denying Arabs the right to obtain a deterrent against Israel.
The United States also is trying to restrain Iran from obtaining a deterrent weapon. Washington has been urging China to refrain from providing nuclear technology and equipment to Iran.
When Dwight D. Eisenhower was president and John Foster Dulles was his foreign policy executor, US policy toward the Middle East was described as being "evenhanded" between Israel and Arabs. It would be "evenhanded" today to try to persuade all parties in the Middle East to renounce weapons of mass destruction.
But there is no pressure on Israel to give up its arsenal of nuclear weapons. The US, therefore, is pursuing a pro-Israel and anti-Arab policy in the Middle East. Under current policy, in fact, Washington is trying to restore to Israel a monopoly in weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.
This helps to explain why the Arab countries tend to look on the US as an enemy. The US arms Israel and consistently tries to prevent Arabs from obtaining a deterrent against Israel's weapons. It is not surprising that Arabs plant bombs at such places as New York's World Trade Center. They are striking back by the only means available to them.
Hardly a day passes without an Arab being killed by an American bullet fired from an American gun in the hands of an Israeli soldier or settler on territory that, by UN decision, has been deeded to the Arabs.
The US is, in fact, neither evenhanded nor neutral in the continuing struggle between Israel and the Arabs over the land of Palestine.
When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Washington recently, he was urged to be more flexible in his discussions with the Arabs. But the pressure put on him fell far short of the pressure President Eisenhower put on Israelis at the time of the Suez crisis. Ike simply said he would suspend all further transfer of funds from the US to Israel until and unless the Israelis took their troops out of Egypt. They complied.
* Joseph C. Harsch is a longtime newspaper reporter and former columnist for the Monitor.