RAE CORELLI January 28 1991


RAE CORELLI January 28 1991




From the beginning, it was like no other war in history. For one thing, it broke out on schedule: the United Nations had set a deadline for the forces of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to leave Kuwait—or else. The war was announced by a confident U.S. President on prime-time television shortly after it started at about 6:30 p.m. EST on Jan. 16. But in the days that followed, Iraq’s resistance ended early hopes of a swift victory. The computerized conflict, fought under the relentless eye of spy satellites, still ran the risk of ending in devastating trench warfare in the sands of Kuwait. In an era celebrated for the Cold War thaw, millions of people outside the war zone were transfixed by reports of the U.S.-led coalition’s bombing of Baghdad, of rockets and tracer fire lighting up the night sky, of the Scud missile attacks on Israel. At week’s end, while most of the death and destruction was still out of view, Middle East experts speculated that the worldwide political consequences of the UN-sanctioned mission against Hussein might be more unnerving than the war itself.

The fight had enormous implications for many nations and hundreds of millions of people, including the embattled Israelis and Palestinians. Iraq’s apparently inevitable defeat by U.S.-dominated forces, some Middle East experts said, was likely to strengthen anti-Western Islamic fundamentalism and endanger moderate Arab governments. And regardless of when and how the war ended, the menace of terrorism might haunt the West for months or years. Iraq’s capitulation would also create an alluring power vacuum for Baghdad’s neighbors, especially Syria, Iran and Turkey. And because the United Nations had approved the use of force, small nations could regard the world body even more as a superpower club and be less inclined to support it. Said Arab Canadian economics professor Atif Kubursi of Hamilton’s McMaster University: “The United Nations will be a casualty.”

At the weekend, the most compelling issue was the possibility of Israel joining the conflict. Hussein had said on several occasions that if the coalition attacked Iraq, his forces would strike Israel. Washington had appealed to Israel not to respond, fearing that retaliation could drive its Arab coalition partners, particularly Syria, into the Iraqi camp. U.S. officials repeated their appeal after the first Iraqi Scud missiles struck Tel Aviv and Haifa on Friday, causing some minor injuries. But in Jerusalem, hard-line Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Arens declared:

“We have said, publicly and to the Americans, that if we were attacked, we would react. We were attacked.” Then, on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, three more missiles struck Tel Aviv, injuring at least 16 people.

After two telephone conversations between President George Bush and Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, a senior U.S. official said that the Israelis had agreed to refrain from retaliating immediately.

For Canada, the fighting promised to challenge a nation that has not been at war since the Korean conflict four decades ago. On Thursday, a Canadian Forces Boeing 707 aerial tanker refuelled two U.S. fighter jets, likely saving them from ditching in the Gulf. Then, on Friday, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney ignored opposition critics and ordered the 24-plane squadron of CF-18 fighters, stationed in the emirate of Qatar, to escort and protect the American, British and other forces in bombing runs over Iraq (page 30 and page 34). The new role was to begin last weekend. Meanwhile, officials tightened security at airports and oil refineries across Canada to prevent terrorist attacks (page 36).

Gains: Throughout Thursday and Friday, financial markets around the world rose and fell almost hourly in reaction to the news from the Middle East (page 40). But they ended the o week with substantial gains. In New York City, g the Dow Jones industrial average at the Friday | close was up 145 points from the previous ^ week, the largest weekly climb in its history. ^

The Toronto composite index was up 28 points q for the week. Oil prices, which some experts § had predicted would hit $60 (U.S.) a barrel or je higher if war broke out, fell to below $20 a barrel for the first time in six months, comU.S. fighter pilot returns from a mission; Khafji oil depot (above): fireworks

pared with $32 shortly before the UN deadline expired.

Action: Meanwhile, for the more than one million Iraqi and coalition troops facing each other across the Arabian peninsula, the battle that began in part over oil was quickly joined. The initial U.S.-led attack took place less than 19 hours after the UN’s Jan. 15 deadline for Iraqi troops to withdraw from Kuwait, which they occupied on Aug. 2. And it followed eleventh-hour diplomatic efforts by UN Secretary General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, the French government and several Arab leaders, none of whom was able to shake Hussein’s intransigence. Many troops seemed anxious to get into action and end the fighting as quickly as possible. “It’s almost a relief that the dam has finally burst after more than 160 days in country,” said Maj. Baxter Ennis of the U.S. army’s 82nd Airborne Division, the first to _ arrive in Saudi Arabia last

1 August.

^ Launching so-called de£ fence suppression missions,

2 U.S. planes tried to cripple “ Iraqi radar and command

centres in Baghdad and elsewhere. They were followed by waves of American, British, Saudi, Kuwaiti and Italian fighters and fighterbombers. The warplanes struck military airfields in Iraq and Kuwait, a presidential compound in Baghdad, other government buildings, the telecommunications centre of the Iraqi capital and widely scattered launching sites for Iraqi Scud missiles. President Bush learned from a television report that the assault was under way—and he remarked later


that it had begun 20 minutes ahead of schedule.

Three TV correspondents for the Atlantabased Cable News Network watched the initial bombardment from their ninth-floor Baghdad hotel room. They provided hours of dramatic telephone commentary as bomb blasts and anti-aircraft fire brightened the predawn sky over the ancient capital (page 43). Maclean ’s Correspondent John Holland, who was also in the hotel during the raid, reported that after the first attack, “all the lights were off and phone lines were down, and an acrid smell and smoke hung over the city”

(page 28).

Hiroshima: The U.S. command later said that one American, one Kuwaiti and two British planes were lost in the first day’s attack; the Iraqis claimed to have shot down 55 coalition planes. Weapons experts said that the first air assault hit Baghdad with 18,000 tons of high explosives— which is IV2 times the destructive force of the atomic bomb that the United States dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945. The Iraqis did only minimal damage in reply, striking the Khafji oil depot in northern Saudi Arabia. In a television address later that day, Hussein invoked God’s help, characterized the United States as satanic and again promised to wage “the mother of all battles.”

In Washington, Defence Secretary Richard Cheney and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Colin Powell, tried to dampen first-

day optimism. Their warnings soon proved to be justified. Allied jets resumed their attacks on missile sites and began carpet bombing the Iraqi and Kuwaiti encampments of Hussein’s well-trained, 150,000-member Republican

Guard. But the Iraqis launched their missiles at Tel Aviv and Haifa, the two major population centres on Israel’s Mediterranean coast.

Israeli radio reported that 12 civilians were injured and property was damaged. The worst-

hit area was a poor, working-class district of south Tel Aviv. Rivka Shillian, a 50-year-old mother of two teenage children, told Maclean ’s as she stood in the rubble of her tiny home: “I have lived through three wars, but I have never seen anything like this.” Menachem Cohen, who lives near the site of the explosion, collected souvenir shrapnel. Said Cohen: “I want it -so that I shall never forget Saddam Hussein.” Another Scud flew towards the huge Saudi Arabian base of Dhahran, near the Kuwaiti border, but a U.S. surface-to-air Patriot missile intercepted it.

The Gulf battles swiftly intensified antiwar protests in Canada and around the world (page 42). The major preoccupation of law-enforcement agencies in Europe and North America, however, was the terrorism that Saddam Hussein had threatened. In Detroit, which has the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the United States, Mayor Coleman Young declared an antiterrorist state of emergency and asked for Michigan National Guard troops to protect vital services. In Washington, the state department warned Americans to be vigilant at home and abroad. In New Delhi, a bomb exploded in a building housing 2 an agent of American Airlines, and in £ Manila an Iraqi man was killed and I another wounded when a bomb they were apparently trying to plant at U.S. offices exploded prematurely.

Stalemate: Meanwhile, some military experts and Middle East specialists estimated that the war would last a month or less, although France’s armed forces chief of staff said it might go on for three months. Some analysts said that if Iraq refused to surrender, the allied forces might begin prolonged bombing of Iraqi industries. Others said that Hussein could try to stall

the coalition with grinding trench warfare and sap its will to fight. “He thinks we don’t have the stomach for ground warfare,” said Lawrence Korb, an analyst at the Brookings Institution, a nonpartisan Washington think-tank. “He believes that he can make casualties high. He thinks that it will be a First World War stalemate.” Added Korb: “I think he’s wrong.” Regardless of the outcome, the peace is likely to be troublesome. One major issue will be the Palestinians. For nearly half a century, hundreds of thousands of them have nursed the hope of one day returning to their long-vanished homes in present-day Israel from Jordan and Lebanon. More than 1.7 million of them live in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Many Palestinians, said Rani Kabbani, a London-based specialist on the Middle East, believe that their last chance of gaining their own homeland lies with Saddam Hussein. “Any crushing victory for the anti-Saddam coalition,” said Kabbani, “will allow Israel to dictate a solution to the Palestinian problem.”

Crushing: Already, Israel has made it clear that PLO chairman Yasser Arafat’s support for Iraq has eliminated any chance that he would be involved in talks on the future of the Palestinians. Said Israeli deputy foreign minister Binyamin Netanyahu: “Are we destined to live in a world that says it doesn’t make any difference what the PLO says, it doesn’t make any difference what the PLO does, we will always try to make Israel negotiate the un-negotiable? We cannot negotiate our existence.”

A crushing Iraqi defeat would also have a profound psychological impact on millions of other Arabs. Said Philip Robins, an analyst at London’s Royal Institute of International Af-

fairs: “An inglorious rout would leave the Arab world more divided, cowed, insecure and weaker than ever, fanning resentment that could last a generation.” On the other hand, French commentator Alain Prévost said that if Hussein held out for a week “against a sustained air and land assault, he will win a hero’s place in the Arab storybook.” Added Robins: “If Saddam survives the war with dignity, he wins.”

If he does not, the result could be new power struggles among the nations of the Middle East. Syrian President Hafez al-Assad is Hussein’s sworn enemy, and his own designs on Arab leadership may have led him to join the coalition. But Basma Kadmani-Darwesh of the

French Institute for International Relations in Paris said that Syria must also realize “that an Iraqi rout puts it in greater danger from Israel.”

The allies’ postwar policies could be a key element in the regional equation. Col. Andrew Duncan of the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies said that the United States should not station an occupation force in Iraq or force Baghdad to pay reparations to Kuwait. He added: “The coalition must leave some form of administration and military structure in place, if only to keep the vultures— Syria, Iran and Turkey—from trying to fill any power vacuum, and to prove that we are intent not on punishing the Iraqi people but on nailing Saddam Hussein.”

'Turmoil’: Another dangerous result of a humiliating Iraqi defeat could be the rapid spread of vengeful Moslem fundamentalism. McMaster’s Atif Kubursi said that “humiliation and frustration” would drive many Arabs into the arms of Islam’s spiritual hard-liners, who revile the West. Said Kubursi: “The Moslem world will be anti-West, a very unsafe and undesirable world.”

That view appeared to be widely held. Hadia Dajani-Shakeel, a Toronto-based Islamic scholar, said that Iran’s theocratic rulers might try to seize the “spiritual leadership” of the Islamic world. A Cairo-based diplomat who has been in the Middle East for 15 years, and who asked to remain anonymous, said that the war would touch off “tremendous turmoil and strains throughout the region.” Although U.S. officials have argued that a swift victory over Iraq would strengthen Arab moderates, some area analysts are skeptical. Said one diplomat: “The Americans are prone to wishful thinking.” It is impossible to predict, he said, how much instability would follow in Jordan, North Africa and the Gulf.

For generations, the vast, storied and troubled land from the Mediterranean to the Gulf has been a mystery to outsiders—and to many people who five there. French political commentator Edgar Morin wrote in the Paris newspaper Le Monde last week: “The Middle East is arguably the world’s most earthquake-prone area because it is the place where East and West, North and South, collide; the cross0 roads of Islam, Christianity and Juda-

0 ism; the dividing line between secular| ism and religion; between modernism ^ and fundamentalism. At some mo5 ments, the sound of a dropping pin will

1 rock the region. At others, the most I thundering crash will hardly ripple the

surface.” Now, the world has witnessed the thundering crash of war.

But it seems unlikely that the consequences will be limited to a ripple.

RAE CORELLI with ERIC SILVER in Jerusalem, ANDREW PHILLIPS in Dhahran, HILARY MACKENZIE in Washington, PETER LEWIS in Brussels and MARY NEMETH in Toronto