JOHN BIERMAN September 10 1990



JOHN BIERMAN September 10 1990




United Nations Secretary General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar was in Jordan talking to Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz. Jordan’s King Hussein was in London talking to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Thirteen foreign ministers of the 21-member Arab League were in Cairo, also talking. U.S. President George Bush and Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev arranged a Sept. 9 summit meeting in Helsinki. But, for all that, the Persian Gulf crisis seemed at week’s end to be as far from peaceful resolution as at any time since Iraqi troops stormed into neighboring Kuwait on Aug. 2. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had apparently closed off all options for compromise by insisting that he would never surrender Kuwait, which he formally declared Iraq’s

19th province. The only bright note came at the weekend with an international airlift from Baghdad of hundreds of Western and Japanese women, children and ailing males, including Canadians, who had been held in Kuwait and Iraq as part of a human shield against attack.

The airlift began, after anguished doubts and delays, following a decision by Saddam Hussein to let women and children, but not men, leave his beleaguered nation. Two dozen Italians were the first to fly out; then 69 Japanese; next, two flights in Iraqi and West German airliners bearing more than 600 Europeans and Americans and about a dozen Canadians. But the dangers to hundreds of hostages left behind, including women and children waiting for flights, caused acute concern in Western capitals. Officials in the external affairs department revised their estimate of trapped Canadians downward—to 275 in Kuwait and 175 in Iraq, including about 150 women and children in Kuwait and 25 in Iraq.

As well, hundreds of thousands of Asian and Arab guest workers were massing at Iraq’s borders with Turkey and Iran in a frantic attempt to escape.

About 90,000 more were stranded in

Jordan, creating a refugee problem of huge proportions. But, in London, Thatcher said that hostages would not

protect Iraq. Said the British prime

minister in a television interview: “I am afraid we would have in fact to take

the necessary action which we feel vital to stop a dictator, even though he still held hostages.” As the massive U.S. military buildup continued, thousands of additional troops and the first consignments of main battle tanks added to the formidable land force already deployed under

Operation Desert Shield (page 32). Said Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of U.S. forces in the Gulf: “Every day, I feel less threatened because we get stronger and stronger. If the Iraqis are dumb enough to attack, they will pay a terrible price.” In the United States, a poll by The Los Angeles Times showed that nearly 75 per cent of respondents support Bush’s decision to send troops to the Gulf, but more than half of those interviewed expressed concern that Washington could become “bogged down in another Vietnam” (page 35).

At the Royal Palace in Amman last Friday, de Cuéllar held two unproductive rounds of talks with Foreign Minister Aziz. De Cuéllar had arrived in the Jordanian capital stressing that he had no authority to offer concessions, and that he could only urge Iraq to obey the five tough UN Security Council resolutions passed since the invasion. The council has demanded that Iraq withdraw from Kuwait and allow the restoration of its monarchy.

It has also invalidated Iraq’s annexation of the sheikdom, mandated wide-ranging economic sanctions and authorized the use of limited force to stop ships carrying cargoes to or from Iraq. “These are not my resolutions,” said de Cuéllar on arrival in Amman. “I cannot make any concessions on these.” Aziz arrived in a clearly defiant mood, declaring, “Iraq will achieve victory despite the international conspiracy against it.” But after the second day of talks, while describing the situation as “dramatic” and complicated, he said, “It needs quiet diplomacy and patience.”

As Aziz and de Cuéllar began their discussions, King Hussein was in London trying to convince Thatcher to support his own peace plan. Under that proposal, Iraqi troops would pull out of Kuwait in return for a withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign troops from Saudi Arabia and their replacement by a UN force. Thatcher refused to endorse the plan, insisting, like other Western leaders, that Iraq obey UN resolutions unconditionally.

Jordan was one of eight members of the Arab League to boycott a foreign ministers’ meeting in Cairo, which issued a renewed demand for Iraq to pull out of Kuwait. Also absent from the

meeting were Iraq, Algeria, Tunisia, Sudan, Yemen, Mauritania and the PLO. But mainstream Arab states maintained a united opposition to the Iraqi annexation. Those countries included Egypt, Syria and Morocco, all of which have sent troops to the Gulf, in addition to Saudi Arabia and the smaller Gulf states. Even radical Libya attended the Cairo meeting, and later espoused a peace plan similar to Jordan’s.

Meanwhile, Bush arranged his meeting with Gorbachev to discuss the Gulf crisis and other matters. He continued his frequently interrupted vacation at Kennebunkport, Me., where he

played host to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and family. Before leaving, Mulroney publicly praised the President’s “remarkable achievement” in forging a worldwide consensus on the Gulf issue. Later in the week, Bush asked for help from his allies in covering the enormous costs of confronting Iraq. He announced that he would send Secretary of State James Baker and Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady on fund-raising missions to West Germany, the Gulf states and Japan. Said Bush: “We are more than ready to bear our fair share of the burden, but we also expect others to bear their fair share.”

Baker and Brady are seeking pledges for up to $26 billion to help pay for Operation Desert Shield and compensate such countries as Jordan, Egypt and Turkey that are suffering economic hardship by applying sanctions against Iraq. A Pentagon spokesman had earlier estimated the cost of U.S. military operations in the Gulf at nearly $3 billion by the end of September.

Officials in Washington were clearly encouraged by a decision last week by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to allow its members to pump more oil. That OPEC decision was likely to lead to the production of an additional four million barrels a day, making up for almost all of the embargoed Iraqi and Kuwaiti oil.

Meanwhile, foreign women and children, the wives and offspring of mainly British and American hostages held at strategic locations around Iraq, were awaiting exit visas to leave. One British woman, who declined to

give her name, reflected their

mounting impatience and anxiety. Many of the children were sick with dysentery, she said, and “we can’t get much food into them.” Added the woman: “A plane for the children is all we ask. That’s not too much to ask, is it?” At week’s end, such pleas began to be answered. But, for thousands of people—foreigners, Iraqis and Kuwaitis alike—the looming menace of war remained an urgent danger.

JOHN BIERMAN with HILARY MACKENZIE in Saudi Arabia, KATHY EVANS in Dubai and E. KAYE FULTON in Kennebunkport