Global Policy Forum

Unexplained Strategies on Iraq



New York Times
March 3, 1999

Without ever saying as much, the White House seems to have shifted its military strategy in Iraq to advance the goal of toppling Saddam Hussein. The change has become clear in recent days as Washington escalated its air strikes against Iraq. The bombing raids appear designed to punish the Iraqi military in hopes that disgruntled officers will lead a rebellion against Mr. Hussein rather than suffer further losses of men and equipment.

If this is the new American strategy, President Clinton or Defense Secretary William Cohen should let the American people and Congress know. The air raids are no secret in Iraq, and the potential threat to Mr. Hussein is no doubt well understood in Baghdad. Many Americans might support an effort to unseat Mr. Hussein. But the application of American force overseas should never be a matter of mystery and speculation at home or exempt from Congressional consultation. One of these days an, American or British pilot may be captured or killed, and the reasons for placing him in danger ought to be explained before that day arrives.

It no longer seems plausible to suggest, as the Pentagon does, that the daily air attacks are merely a response to Iraqi efforts to shoot down American and British planes. Iraq has challenged the flights, but the expanding American rules of engagement give pilots greater latitude to strike an assortment of air defense, communications and other military targets.

The White House also needs to answer reports that American spies manipulated the United Nations weapons inspection program in Iraq. The latest account was provided yesterday by The Washington Post, which reported that Americans had secretly wired a U.N. microwave transmission system to allow Washington to monitor a wide range of secret Iraqi military communications without the knowledge of U.N. officials. Washington's desire to collect information on Iraq's military is understandable, but data should not be gathered in a way that compromises the UN's independence. That will only make it harder to carry out disarmament under international authority in the future, and will hinder American efforts to counter the spread of prohibited weapons worldwide.

More Information on Sanctions Against Iraq

More Information on the Iraq Crisis


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