WORLD

‘NO RETREAT’

HUSSEIN REMAINS DEFIANT IN THE FACE OF GROWING INTERNATIONAL OPPOSITION TO HIS KUWAIT INVASION

JOHN BIERMAN October 1 1990
WORLD

‘NO RETREAT’

HUSSEIN REMAINS DEFIANT IN THE FACE OF GROWING INTERNATIONAL OPPOSITION TO HIS KUWAIT INVASION

JOHN BIERMAN October 1 1990

‘NO RETREAT’

WORLD

HUSSEIN REMAINS DEFIANT IN THE FACE OF GROWING INTERNATIONAL OPPOSITION TO HIS KUWAIT INVASION

Step by step, and in varying ways, the international opposition to Iraq’s Aug. 2 invasion and annexation of neighboring Kuwait solidified last week. In Beijing, the Olympic Council of Asia barred Iraq from participating in the 36-nation Asian Games, which opened on the weekend. In Buenos Aires, the Argentine government, reversing its traditional neutrality, became the first Latin American government to join the multinational force confronting Iraq in the Persian Gulf. And in New York City, the UN Security Council prepared to pass its eighth resolution condemning Iraq—adding an air blockade to the existing land and sea embargoes against the country. But despite Presi-

dent Saddam Hussein’s almost complete isolation, he remained defiant. His ruling Revolutionary Command Council declared: “This battle is going to become the mother of all battles. There is not a single chance for any retreat.”

The Gulf confrontation continued to preoccupy officials in Washington, spearhead of the multinational force. With the approval of President George Bush, Defence Secretary Richard Cheney fired air force chief of staff Gen. Michael Dugan for saying that if war breaks out, American planes will bomb Baghdad and target Hussein, his family, his senior commanders— and even his mistress. His remarks, said Cheney, showed “poor judgment at a very sensitive

time.” Meanwhile, criticism of Bush’s Gulf policy, once muted, increased on Capitol Hill. Congressmen resisted administration requests to spend billions of dollars in allied contributions without waiting for legislative approval. And they attacked a Bush plan to forgive $8.2 billion in military debts owed by Egypt, a participant in the Gulf operations, which is suffering economic hardship as a result of the suspension of trade with Iraq.

At the same time, several congressmen were openly critical of what they claimed was Washington’s permissive policy towards Baghdad before the invasion, an approach that some analysts say encouraged Hussein to invade Kuwait. The Ronald Reagan administration supported Iraq during its eight-year war with Iran. More recently, Bush’s government played down the Baghdad regime’s widely criticized human rights record.

Bush also opposed congressional attempts to legislate trade sanctions against Iraq because of its continuing attempts to develop nuclear and chemical weaponry. During committee hearings last week, Representative Lee Hamilton, an Indiana Democrat, told assistant secretary of state for Middle East affairs John Kelly: “You left the impression that it was the policy of the United States not to come to the defence

of Kuwait.” And Bush himself conceded that he “absolutely” regretted his administration’s favorable treatment of Hussein in the past. It is now clear, he acknowledged, that those policies did “not make much sense.”

Bush has repeatedly said that it is not just America but almost the entire world that opposes Hussein. The decision by the Olympic Council of Asia to ban Iraq from the Asian Games and Argentina’s dispatch of two warships to the Gulf supported his claim. “No one can condone [Iraq’s] action,” said council vicepresident Roy De Silva as he announced the exclusion of Iraq by 27 votes to 3, with five abstentions and one invalid vote. And Argentine President Carlos Menem declared, “Argentina cannot remain again on the sidelines of an international decision like it did in the Second World War.”

The expected UN ban on passenger and cargo flights to and from Iraq and Kuwait was contained in a resolution drawn up by the five

permanent members of the 15-nation Security Council. The only exceptions would be aircraft flying such humanitarian missions as transporting medical supplies for civilians or bringing out foreign refugees. The resolution was largely symbolic, however, because most air traffic between Iraq and the outside world has ceased since Aug. 2. But the resolution left open the possibility of further measures, including the cutting of postal and telephone links.

Although experts said that the Security Council could eventually authorize military intervention under Article 42 of the UN charter, Bush suggested last week that the United States might not wait for such authorization. He repeated UN demands for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait, restore the previous government and free all Western hostages. Added Bush: “If Iraq does not meet these non-negotiable conditions, we are, as I have said before, prepared to take additional steps.” Underlining American preparedness for war, the air force began lifting the first of 60 Fuchs anti-chemicalwarfare tanks from Ramstein, Germany, to the Gulf. The tanks, on loan to U.S. forces, have equipment that draws in minute traces of chemical agents in the atmosphere and subjects them to computer analysis.

Still, Washington was careful not to appear eager for a shooting war, and the firing of Dugan seemed intended to reinforce that perception. The air force chief had told reporters that heavy bombing of Baghdad would be the most effective way to force the Iraqis out of Kuwait. As a result, Dugan became the first top-ranking U.S. general to lose his job since President Harry Truman fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War for threatening the use of nuclear weapons against China.

In Jordan, another crisis eased after authorities, aided by international relief organizations, brought a major refugee problem under control. They closed two camps in the no man’s land between Iraq and Jordan as charter planes began flying home more Asian and Arab refugees than were arriving from Iraq and Kuwait. Two remaining camps, closer to Amman, with a combined capacity of 60,000, were housing only 25,000 last week. And those refugees, mainly Indians, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans and Filipinos, finally had enough food and water. But Prince Sadruddin Khan, the UN-appointed relief co-ordinator, warned that if a war began, hundreds of thousands more refugees may arrive from Iraq. Added the prince: “It’s still an explosive situation.” Even that may have been an understatement.

JOHN BIERMAN

ANDREW PHILLIPS

MARCI McDONALD