U.S. must lead effortto oust Iraq’s Hussein

Now that the United States’ bombardment of Iraqi military forces has calmed for the moment, there is a growing perception in Europe and the Middle East that Saddam Hussein has once again trumped the United States with his largely successful incursion into the Kurdish north. Not only has the Iraqi dictator emerged virtually unscathed from a series of American missile strikes, he has also managed to corrupt allied support for U.S. actions. Even worse, the ill-defined and perilously insolvent U.S. policy toward Iraq has left our military entirely dependent on the unpredictable leader’s next move.
President Clinton’s passive assent to the uncomfortable stalemate is unacceptable. Instead, the president — almost certain to retain the White House in November — must commit his administration to working with our Western and Arab allies to establish a tougher and more clearly defined policy toward Iraq. A stern resolve to make Hussein pay a more painful price for violating the peace agreement established after the end of the Persian Gulf War should serve as the necessary starting point for an exacting interventionist policy toward Iraq.
U.S. foreign policy toward Iraq has always stopped short of explicitly prioritizing the toppling of Hussein. Despite fears that eliminating Hussein will generate a political vacuum in the region, he is the primary problem in the Gulf and must be identified as such. Hussein’s reliance on domestic terrorism is only one of the many pressing justifications for striving to bring down his oppressive regime. His dictatorial domestic policies exacerbate chronic social and economic suffering among Iraqi citizens. Public health in Iraq has seriously declined since the end of the Gulf War, and a sizable percentage of the people rely on humanitarian assistance. Meanwhile, Hussein’s family has profited from covert sales of Iraqi oil and dominance of the black market where U.S. intelligence has discovered most of the money donated for medicines and food is channeled.
Although a more hard-line approach fosters little support among Western and Arab leaders, forceful diplomacy on top of Hussein’s hold on valued oil reserves will almost certainly nourish multinational efforts to eliminate Hussein. Europe and Japan are both dependent on Middle Eastern oil. As it becomes more and more apparent that Hussein continues to hold the upper edge in the region, many of the nations critical of U.S. air strikes will almost certainly be willing to back carefully crafted, security-minded efforts to oust the dictator. Rekindling threats against Kurdish enclaves in northern Iraq continue to threaten both Kuwaiti civilians and American military personnel, providing further evidence of the need for an even more debilitating multinational response to Hussein’s assault on the peace agreements.It’s unlikely that the Clinton administration will set aside the time and energy to work with other nations to develop a solvent policy toward Iraq until after the election. Nevertheless, the president should make it clear now that he intends to pressure our Western and Arab allies into formulating a sturdy agenda for the region. Removing Hussein’s regime from power should serve as the ultimate goal of a stronger, multinational strategy.