WORLD

THE DARKENING CLOUDS OF WAR

THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL STEPS UP ITS ECONOMIC STRANGLEHOLD ON IRAQ WITH AN AERIAL BLOCKADE

JOHN BIERMAN October 8 1990
WORLD

THE DARKENING CLOUDS OF WAR

THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL STEPS UP ITS ECONOMIC STRANGLEHOLD ON IRAQ WITH AN AERIAL BLOCKADE

JOHN BIERMAN October 8 1990

THE DARKENING CLOUDS OF WAR

WORLD

The changes, by almost any historical measure, have been stunning for the speed with which they developed and for the profound realignments they have achieved. Since Iraq’s lightning strike against Kuwait on Aug. 2, Washington and Moscow, which less than two years ago seemed to be implacable enemies, have stood shoulder to shoulder in condemning the invasion. The United Nations Security Council, which only months ago was a largely impotent agency, has assumed unprecedented authority. Canada, for the first time since the Korean War, is sending warships and fighter jets to a potential combat zone. The radical Syrians have joined the U.S.-led multinational force in the Persian Gulf, and the Saudi royal family has

THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL STEPS UP ITS ECONOMIC STRANGLEHOLD ON IRAQ WITH AN AERIAL BLOCKADE

turned on its traditional ally, Jordan. Then, last week, in a breathtaking departure from postwar pacificism, Japan announced that it, too, will send troops to the Gulf.

The Japanese will perform a strictly noncombat role, providing logistics, communications and medical services. But their deployment, subject to parliamentary approval later this month, reflects a dramatic and fundamental policy departure. Indeed, Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu reassured his countrymen and their neighbors, many of whom harbor bitter memories of Japanese aggression in the 1930s and 1940s, that “Japan will never become a military power.” Meanwhile, the Security Council tightened its economic stranglehold on Iraq by extending the existing sea blockade to include aerial cargoes.

At the same time, the Iraqi government appeared to be desperately seeking new strategies. It threatened foreign diplomats with execution if they continued to shelter their nationals in embassy compounds—but then it withdrew the threat after a storm of international outrage. But reports indicated that the hundreds of thousands of foreigners stranded in Iraq and Kuwait remained in danger. From Oct. 1, the Iraqis said, they would no longer provide foreigners with coupons to buy even basic food rations. Clearly, such a move could lead to mass starvation. A black market does exist, but supplies are severely limited and few foreigners would be able to afford inflated black-market prices. However, on Saturday the government said that, after all, foreigners

would continue to receive the coupons on the same basis as Iraqi citizens.

The Security Council session, which approved the aerial blockade by 14 votes to 1, with only Cuba opposed, highlighted what many analysts said was a significant shift in Kremlin policy. “War may break out in the Gulf region, any day, any moment,” said Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze. With that, he appeared to warn Moscow’s onetime client, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, that the Soviets were now prepared to support the use of UN-sanctioned force to secure Iraq’s unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait. Said William Quandt, the senior Middle East expert at Washington’s Brookings Institution: “It is unbelievable that the Soviets are moving as far and as fast in collaborating with the United States.”

The passage of the Security Council’s eighth successive resolution condemning Iraq coincided with an extraordinary personal attack on Jordan’s King Hussein. Prince Bandar bin o Sultan al-Saud, the Saudi ambassador 0. to Washington, condemned Jordan’s

0 diplomatic and moral support of Iraq.

1 In open letters published in The Wash" ington Post and The New York Times,

Prince Bandar pointedly noted that Saudi Arabia had given Jordan billions of dollars in aid over the past 12 years.

The prince also criticized the holding of a conference of radical Palestinian leaders in Amman, the Jordanian capital, in mid-September. He declared, “I hope you are proud of your new friends—Saddam Hussein, Abu Abbas, Abu Nidal, [George] Habash and [Nayif] Hawat-

meh, and the rest of the unholy crowd.” The Saudi government had already expressed its displeasure by cutting off oil shipments, which account for about half of Jordan’s needs, and expelling 20 Jordanian diplomats. Amman responded by recalling its ambassador.

Iraq’s threat to execute diplomats who gave sanctuary to foreigners was contained in an official note circulated to most Western missions (not including Canada). It demanded the names of nationals inside embassies and referred to an Aug. 26 decree making it a crime punishable by death to harbor foreigners. U.S. Secretary of State James Baker said that his government would ignore the note. Said Baker: “It’s repugnant, and we reject it.”

An estimated 4,800 Westerners, including 100 Canadians, nearly all of them men, are trapped in Iraq and Kuwait. Almost two million Asian and Arab foreigners are also in the two countries, but up to 12,000 of them are leaving daily, with most going to Jordan.

After Kaifu unveiled the draft legislation to dispatch Japanese troops to the Gulf, he met President George Bush in New York City before embarking on a five-nation Middle East tour. Washington has pressed Japan, as a principal consumer of Gulf oil and one of the world’s wealthiest nations, to provide troops and money to support the Gulf operation. Tokyo had already pledged $2.15 billion for the multinational force and the same amount to help states, including Egypt, Turkey and Jordan, that are suffering economic hardship because of the sanctions. But Kaifu stressed that Japan’s troops will be under civilian control and will comply with the postwar U.S.-drafted Japanese constitution, which, strictly interpreted, forbids participation in international conflicts.

Meanwhile, to curb concerns over rising oil prices, which have doubled since the crisis began, Bush announced that he would sell five million barrels from the 590million-barrel U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve. And in Paris, a representative of the International Energy Agency said that it would likely ask its 21 member nations to draw on their own reserves. The U.S. reserve allotment is tiny in comparison to overall demand, but experts said that it could have an important psychological effect in stabilizing the market.

Bush also said that there is “no justification” for recent price increases. And a senior White House official, who declined to be named, added, “From a political point of view, as well as an economic standpoint, we cannot let this go on.” That attitude may soon also apply to the military standoff that is becoming more dangerous each day as the multinational force in the Gulf swells in strength and the opposing Iraqis reinforce their growing defensive positions.

HILARY MACKENZIE

JOHN BIERMAN with HILARY MACKENZIE in Washington and correspondents’ reports