February 25, 1998
BENJAMIN A. GILMAN
HOUSE INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
U.S. OPTIONS IN IRAQ
The Committee will come to order. The subject of today's hearing
is U.S. options in confronting Iraq.
When we planned this hearing we thought we would spend most of
our time today exploring the risks and rewards associated with
military action against Iraq. But the agreement reached in Iraq
two days ago by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has changed the
equation. Military action remains a distinct possibility down the
road, but for the time being President Clinton has committed our
nation to seek in good faith to implement the Secretary General's
Many of us are extremely skeptical of that agreement. Saddam
Hussein has broken his word to the United Nations many times
before. Perhaps this time he means to honor his commitments, but
we tend to doubt it.
There are several provisions within that agreement that are
deeply troubling. It obligates the U.N. weapons inspectors to
quote "respect the legitimate concerns of Iraq relating to
national security, sovereignty and dignity." Close quote. That
sounds an awful lot like Saddam Hussein's description of what the
dispute was about in the first place.
The agreement changes the composition and structure of the U.N.
inspection agency in ways that may reduce its effectiveness. The
agreement then goes on to direct the reconstituted inspection
agency to carry out its work in accordance with quote "specific
detailed procedures which will be developed given the special
nature of the Presidential Sites." Close quote.
We don't know what these specific detailed procedures will be,
but if they are designed to respect the legitimate concerns of
Iraq relating to national security, sovereignty, and dignity, as
defined by Saddam Hussein, they are bound to be a problem.
Most troubling of all is the question of whether this agreement
commits us to a course that will, in short order, render the
continuation of international sanctions on Iraq untenable. Make
no mistake about it, the sanctions regime that has been in place
against Iraq since 1990 has been our most effective tool in
containing the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.
In this connection, we should recall that during Congress's 1991
debate over whether to authorize President Bush to use military
force to expel the Iraqi army from Kuwait, a significant minority
of this institution held the sanctions regime in such high regard
that they urged us to rely on it to the exclusion of military
force as the means most likely to restore freedom to Kuwait.
It would indeed be tragic if the net result of the saber rattling
we've witnessed over the last several weeks was to speed up the
lifting of international sanctions on Saddam Hussein. For all
these reasons, many of us were surprised when President Clinton
rushed to embrace the agreement negotiated by the Secretary
Some have suggested that the Administration may have developed
second thoughts about the military course to which it was
committed until two days ago. Whether that course was a wise one
is a subject we hope to explore today. For example, was the
confrontational course adopted by the Administration warranted by
changes in Iraqi behavior over the last several months, or was
Iraq simply behaving as it has since the war ended in 1991?
Was the Administration's strategy of using air power to coerce
Iraq into complying with Security Council resolutions likely to
succeed, or would it have isolated us internationally without
advancing our objectives in Iraq?
Finally, I think we all agree that our country needs a more
comprehensive strategy to deal with the real problem in Iraq --
Saddam Hussein's continued grip on power. What are the necessary
elements of such a strategy, and does the Secretary General's
agreement with Iraq make it easier or harder for us to carry out
such a strategy? These are all topics that I hope our witnesses
will address this morning.
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