Dubious solutions that add to confusion

The West celebrated with glee its victory over Saddam Hussein in the 1991 Gulf war. There were those at that time who asked why the coalition forces did not proceed to Baghdad and oust the cause of all the misery in the Gulf - Saddam Hussein. They wanted a Noriega type of action. The answer to the critics was that the mandate does not encompass such an action. Saddam lay low licking his wounds like a wounded animal. He embarked on attacks against his own countrymen in the South. Last year, he moved men and armor toward the Kuwaiti boarder and got an appropriate licking.

No-fly zones which were established by the United States were not adhered to and the top guns of the United States Air Force made sitting ducks of his vintage air force.

However, it seems that Saddam does not learn. Involvement in the Kurdish squabble has once again earned him the wrath of the United States which is hell-bent on mowing down Saddam's forces. That may be fine and, as Clinton critics say, may earn the U.S. president points especially in a campaign period - yet it brings death and destruction to the poor Iraqis. The Kurdish issue is a thorny one. It is compounded by the fact that the Kurds are a proud people who yearn for independence - a thought not palatable not only to Iraq but to other countries that have a sizable Kurdish population.

The Kurds did gain sympathy after the Gulf war and safe havens were provided for them. However, the sympathy withered when internecine warfare erupted among them. It seems that the leaders of the KDP and the PUK are as hotheaded as ever. To gain political power, they have resorted to the bullet and not the ballot. And into this bloody Kurdish drama two other actors plunged themselves - Saddam and the United States.

The first one did so to re-impose his authority over what Iraq considered a land under its its sovereignty. The other to show its resolve that it is a protector of people. 

All these actions have added confusion, especially among Western ranks. While many praised the United States and Clinton, an equal number were critical of this John Wayne approach.

Critics pointed out that Saddam was the second biggest recipient of Western and American aid after Israel. As Amir Taheri, the noted Gulf political columnist, pointed out, that President George Bush "went out of his way to force the U.S. banks to provide credits and guarantees for Iraq that few countries had access to."

The Iraqi murderous attack on the Kurds in which thousands were gassed was overlooked by the West and, in the Arab world, some newspapers described the reports as a "Zionist propaganda." Pleasing megalomaniacs makes them more dangerous. Saddam's appetite knew so bounds and he crossed the international boundary into Kuwait. Events after that are well recorded in our minds.

While the Americans are patting themselves on their backs while bemoaning lack of political support from their allies and Security Council members, Saddam seems to be reveling in self-adulation. He is oblivious to the fact that his actions have brought more misery to his own people. The oil-for-food plan is now on hold. Dwindling resources are causing hardship.

CNN showed Peter Arnett commenting on widespread support by Iraqis for Saddam. These may or may not have been stage-managed. But reports coming from Iraq speak of utter hardship and misery. However, the United States, by its missile attacks in the south have introduced cracks in the Western coalition. The U.N. Security Council has failed to endorse the attack on Iraq. Also, according to Russian President Boris Yeltsin, " the US is acting like a bully boy". It has also brought claims from Saddam of widespread support for him. It may also send a wrong signal to the Kurds to go ahead and carve out a state for themselves. 

European critics of U.S. actions also pointed that perceptions in the Arab world may change as the United States may be viewed as unnecessarily punishing not only Iraq but the Iraqi people.

Some Arab papers went as far as to point out that the United States is bombing Southern Iraq when the trouble is in the North simply because it wanted to expedite the partitioning of Iraq. A well known Arab columnist said: "The election raid on Iraqi targets was to be expected but its justifications is dubious and so are its results. Clinton's unilateral extension of the no-fly zone to the outskirts of Baghdad with recourse to the U.N. Security Council has earned him criticism from many."

The latest actions have further added to the existing confusion. The Arab people are now becoming wary and suspicious of every move by foreign powers. The recent developments in northern Iraq should be viewed in its entire context in the light of involvement of foreign powers which in turn may further complicate the present dangerous situation.

These are the same foreign powers like the United States which failed to condemn Israel's bombardment of South Lebanon when 100 innocent refugees were killed. This is the hypocritical U.S. which is bending the United Nations resolutions to keep Iraq in eternal misery while allowing Israel to oppress Palestinians and continue building settlements in occupied lands.

Against the back ground of this sorry drama, the GCC foreign ministers' communiqu issued after its last meeting which affirms its solid stand that Iraq's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity be protected comes a breath of fresh air.

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