Sunday, March 30, 2008

Add it to the list: Another expert warning about an invasion of Iraq in 1999

The invasion and ensuing civil war in Iraq has been a windfall for journalists - the Bush war machine goes back so far it has provided fodder for an entire generation of aspiring Pulitzer prize winners. Below is just one more foreboding commentary from a regional government minister (this time, the Oil Minister in Kuwait). It came up on a google search I was doing for 'social welfare systems in the Middle East' - the fact that it barely mentions the terms 'social,' 'welfare' or 'Middle East' (excepting of course, talk of invading Iraq) is indicative of the absence of serious social provisions in all but the GCC states - and even then only for the 10% of the population that has citizenship. But, back to the point. This is an interview from the Middle East Forum - I only reproduce the really great parts here, but you can find the entire text here.

MEQ: Do you see an end to Saddam's pattern of breaking his word, then at the last minute backing down?

Al-Sabah: Iraq has been jerking around the Security Council, the United States, and the whole coalition. We saw this back in February, when it at the last moment backed down from a confrontation and signed an agreement with Secretary-General Kofi Annan, thus narrowly avoiding war. The Clinton administration indicates that it has no more patience with such behavior; if that's so, a serious confrontation appears likely.

MEQ: You have confidence in this administration?

Al-Sabah: Look, I have full confidence in it, as we had in the previous administrations. But that's not even the main issue now. It's not what the administration wishes; it is rather the whole United States of America, plus the coalition, our partners, and the Security Council.

We are on the right course. Iraq did back down in February and again this month. Saddam vowed UNSCOM would never return to Iraq and he had to go back on this; but they're back and they're in business.

MEQ: What's to stop this from happening all over again?

Al-Sabah: It will be a different ball game next time around. Just watch.

MEQ: You have said that a weak Saddam Husayn is less threatening to Kuwait than some other regime.1 Please explain what you mean.

Al-Sabah: We don't see a viable alternative to Saddam Husayn emerging, one that would fulfill our desires to have a democratic and peace-loving Iraq for a neighbor. Given this pessimism, Saddam Husayn is perhaps less threatening than the alternative, which I see mainly as a civil war that would consume Iraq. Once Saddam falls, I expect a major civil war would erupt in Iraq. The Kurds in the north, Shi‘a in the south, and anti-Saddam Sunnis in the middle of Iraq will be busy settling scores. I also fear that a massive civil war would go beyond the borders of Iraq and create chaos in the region, where all the neighboring countries would get involved in it, as they did in Lebanon. Civil war in Iraq would make civil war in Lebanon look like a stroll in the park. We are extremely concerned this civil war could also spill over into Kuwait.

MEQ: Would it be fair to say that the security of Kuwait ultimately depends on American public opinion?

Al-Sabah: It remains very important.

MEQ: Do you worry about a softening in American public opinion?

Al-Sabah: Not really. I was in Houston the other night having dinner with President Bush, Governor Bush, and others. The conversation turned to some people talking about the sufferings of the Iraqi people. I said fine, we all sympathize with the sufferings of the Iraqi people, but doesn't anyone really sympathize with the sufferings of the American people? I look at the sufferings of those tens of thousands of soldiers who have to be apart from their families during the holiday season. When you see those young men and women leaving their loved ones behind, crying and kissing, hugging each other, boarding military planes, going to fight a war—that's more suffering than anyone else experiences. Thanksgiving is coming up, then Christmas and New Year's, and they'll spend it in the front-lines, not knowing whether they'll be coming back or not. This is the suffering we should be talking about.

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