Kenneth M. Pollack: Containment Works no Longer in Iraq

Novinite Insider » INTERVIEW | January 16, 2003, Thursday // 00:00

Kenneth M. Pollack is director of research in the Saban Center for Middle East Policy in the United States. His expertise includes Iraq, Iran, Gulf and Middle East affairs, Middle East militaries. Pollack's last book - The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq, was published in October 2002.

On January 16, Kenneth Pollack answered questions of Bulgarian and Slovak journalists during a videoconference. The following interview includes questions of and some other media.

Introductory Words

I have spend basically my entire career working on Iraq and at least in the last eleven years of that career I spent my time trying to make the policy of containment work. And I would say that the containment was a perfectly reasonable policy towards Iraq and it could have worked better if the U.S. and particularly our allies have done things different. Unfortunately, that path was not taken and today containment is no longer a viable policy towards Iraq.

In the mid-1990s, containment began to fail. And it failed ultimately because the rest of the world let it fail. Only the U.S., Great Britain and a handful of other countries, a few NATO allies, actually stood up and tried to make international containment work.

And now we are simply too far down the road. Today the case is that Iraq is able to smuggle oil outside the Oil-for-Food Program and uses the money to re-build its weapons for mass destruction. This year Iraq is expected to make nearly USD 3 B of smuggled oil.

After the Gulf War, the U.S. government and our allies started to receive very disturbing information about Saddam Hussein. What we learnt is that he apparently believed that once he had acquired a nuclear weapon no country ever, including the United Sates, will dare to stop him if he attacks another country in the Persian Gulf region. In fact, he believes that the biggest mistake he made in 1990 is not invading Kuwait but. He thinks it is not waiting until after he has acquired a nuclear weapon.

This makes Saddam Hussein unique in modern history. For example, North Korea does not look at nuclear weapons in the same way. All world experts seem to agree that North Koreans want a nuclear weapon for defense purposes. Saddam is the only leader who wants them for offensive purposes. This makes him extraordinary dangerous. Today there is consensus among Western intelligence services that he has all the means to build a nuclear weapon - it is simply a matter of time, most probably four or six years. Therefore, the U. S. have no choice but to lead an international coalition at some point in the next years to prevent Saddam Hussein from doing so.

Q: What are the exact differences between the United States and North Korea?

A: One might assume that both courtiers should be treated in the same way as both are ruled by dictators. But the point is that North Korea has not attacked anyone in fifty-two years. Iraq, over the last twenty-two, has attacked five of its neighbors and threatened others. North Korea is also surrounded by very powerful neighbors - South Korea, Russia, China, Japan. They can defend themselves against North Korea without assistance. Iraq is surrounded by weak countries. The only country that can actually stand up to Iraq is Turkey.

Q: Let's assume Saddam is removed. What happens next?

A: The Bush administration is now getting down to work to ensure that a war against Iraq does not creates more problems than it solves. The reconstruction of Iraq will take place under the auspices of the United Nations. And this is absolutely critical. It might look like Kosovo, it might look like Bosnia. There will be a very strong U.S. component - but, generally, it will be the United Nations. The U.S. will be an international security force that will be responsible to keep Iraq under the authority of the special representative of the UN Secretary General.

Q: A very basic question. Will there be a war in Iraq and when?

A: What can be heard from people inside the government, shows that President Bush has not still made his mind. On one hand, he would avoid war, he would have Saddam resign peacefully. On the other hand he is very skeptical that Saddam would do so and all the evidence we have speaks he wouldn't go peacefully. So I think if there is going to be a war, it will not happen in the next couple of weeks. I think it will take a little bit longer because the Bush administration will try to give Iraq one last chance to comply with UN resolutions.

Q: Do you think that a possible attack on Iraq will encourage anti-American attitudes across the Islamic world?

A: I think it could, especially in the short term. But the most important thing is whether they will continue over the long term. The bigger issue is whether a U.S. operation in Iraq will further deepen the anti-American attitudes and drive more people towards terrorism and more people into openly attacking the U.S. I think the question of the long term is the question of how the U.S. handles the reconstruction of Iraq. I think if we go there and install nothing but a dictator or leave the country in chaos, it would definitely generate a lot of anti-Americanism. We spent a great deal with Arab people and they say we talk a lot of free markets, democracy and freedom but we keep them impoverished and do nothing to help. I think if the reconstruction is done in the way the Bush administration projects it and if the Iraqi people see the U.S. for the first time pour the recourses and invest massively to create a stable, prosperous society, they will be very happy. This could be a chance to change a lot of the Arabs opinions.

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