BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Persian Pashto Turkish French

BBC News UK Edition
 You are in: World: Middle East  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
From Our Own Correspondent
Letter From America
N Ireland
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Friday, 24 January, 2003, 11:18 GMT
Viewpoint: Disarmament not containment
BBC News Online has asked a range of contributors to comment on the Iraq crisis.

Here, Patrick Clawson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, argues that the US should accept no more stalling over Iraq.

The moment of truth about whether Saddam Hussein has complied with resolution 1441 is approaching.

If the US has no option but to go to war with minimal contributions from others, I suspect it would be prepared to do that - and I think that would be wiser than having President Bush give up his goal of disarmament

But, as the weapons inspectors prepare to report to the UN Security Council, a number of European countries - in particular France - are insisting that the inspection process needs more time.

They want to see the current inspections evolve into an enhanced - or tighter - containment process.

But, this would only delay Saddam Hussein's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and long-range missiles.

And this is not the assured and prompt disarmament that resolution 1441 promises and that the Bush administration has demanded.

Containment won't work

Over the past few years, the Europeans indicated that they are much more comfortable with the idea of containment of Iraq.

Now, this argument is being made again - by the very same people who for years during the 1990s undercut the inspection process.

If we give up [on disarmament], it will suggest to a fair number of other countries around the world that they can proceed quite nicely thank-you

The French Government insisted for years that the inspections should be done quickly. Then they undercut the process. They resisted efforts to give the inspectors greater authority.

Now, there is nothing to say that there is the political will to sustain containment over a period of years.

Nuclear proliferation

It certainly appears that France doesn't have that political will - if it is prepared to make political judgements about what to do without even waiting for the inspectors' report.

Enhanced containment is not designed to disarm Iraq - it is designed to contain an Iraq whose weapons programmes are kept small enough so that you don't have to worry too much about them.

I suspect that the regime is doomed one way or another - doomed if it cooperates, doomed if it doesn't

But since 11 September, the US has felt more vulnerable to attack and President Bush, in particular, has been concerned that this process of containing the problem, rather than disarming, is a risk. He is not comfortable with that degree of risk.

His stated goal is disarmament. If he were to accept a lesser goal of containment, he will have to provide a very convincing explanation. Either that or he will have to carry through with his clearly articulated threat to use force if necessary.

The administration has put its prestige behind the goal of disarmament. If it has no other option but to go to war with minimal contributions from others, I suspect it would be prepared to do that.

And I think that would be wiser than having President Bush give up his goal of disarming Iraq.

If we give up that goal, it will suggest to a fair number of other countries around the world - considering proliferation - that they can proceed.

Take Iran, for example. Recent satellite photos show that it is building very troubling facilities that could be used for nuclear weapons programmes, and might decide that it, too, could proceed with proliferation.

If we start having a world where there are more and more nuclear powers, it would be a very dangerous place to live.

If Saddam were, by some miracle, to start cooperating with the UN and disclose full information about his WMD, that would undercut his domestic position and he would soon be overthrown, anyway.

So I suspect that the regime is doomed one way or another. Doomed if it cooperates, doomed if it doesn't.

Patrick Clawson is deputy director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

He was talking to BBC News Online's Kathryn Westcott.

Send us your comments:


Your E-mail address:



Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.

I quiet agree with Mr Clawson. Saddam Hussein has already used his weapons of mass destruction against the Kurds and the Iran. Having already massive war material and maybe as well long range missiles, nuclear weapons, etc it is quiet improbable that these provision are only for the country's protection but it rather imposes itself that they are for attack.

Allowing such regimes to endanger the world's so far political stability would be like opening Pandora's box
Tina, France

I dislike Bush and most everything he stands for, but he's right on Iraq. And shame on France, Russia and Germany! Is this all about oil? It sure is to the French and Russians! Who else has systematically weakened containment and inspections in the 90's?

If it was wrong for America to support Saddam in the 80's, what makes it right for other nations in the 90's and today? Besides, other than war, what other option is there, other than a stupid game of jerking around inspectors and ignoring Saddam's crimes.
Eric, USA

Who developed nuclear weapons in the first place? Who is the only one who used them so far? Who equipped and financed Saddam Hussein? Who equipped and financed the Taleban? Who killed the second largest (after Germany) number of civilians outside of its own territory during the 20th Century? Who backs and backed many third-world dictatorships for its own interests? The answer to all this questions is: The United States of America.
Benno Beck, Germany, "Old Europe"

I am right with Bush on this one. We cannot let Saddam get a hold of nuclear weapons, we will have another even more dangerous North Korea to deal with. We need to disarm Saddam, and we have do it now!
Arun Thenabadu, Sri Lanka

What will the Americans do if Iran makes nuclear bombs? I think it is after Saddam because it feels he can be easily defeated. It is scared to touch North Korea, Iran, Pakistan etc.
Sri, India

Patrick Clawson seems to understand the fact that Iraq/Iran developing nuclear weapons pose a danger to us and our children, but what about the US and Israel? Don't Arabs feel insecure and in danger having a hostile nuclear power sat in their midst's, or are their children too insignificant to care about. A Middle East free from WMDs means exactly that, including Israel.
Imran, UK

The biggest obstacle to world peace are the Americans, specifically the American administration. Whilst banging on about Iraq, North Korea seems strangely to be brushed to the side, even though their rhetoric is far more pronounced. A lack of oil perhaps!

And what right does America have to pursue issues regarding morality, democracy and human rights given their record. Vietnam being a perfect example of one country's tunnel vision view of it's own righteousness. An alternative way forward - a team created to inspect America's arms and weapons of mass destruction. I would venture to suggest UN-led, but in the face of American pressure and vetoes this would not amount to much....
Chris Moore, UK

Giving time and another chance to Saddam will be a danger for the future of world. A US strike on Iraq will free the people of Iraq to freedom, even though oilfields will be controlled by US. People who oppose war will be sorry later if US and UK do not take proper action.
Nicky, India

Mr Clawson's ideological defence of Bush's war-mongering reeks of hypocrisy and ubiquitous American arrogance, and conveniently sidesteps the real issue. Saying that "His stated goal is disarmament" is self-serving duplicity, as he, as well as everyone else knows that the real goal is oil. Shame on those apologists for criminality.
Patrick Boase, Canada

What the Bush administration is doing is wrong. This is not about disarming, its about controlling the acres of untouched oil fields in Iraq. As an American, I feel this war will only bring more hate to the citizens of my state caused by the immoral actions of U.S foreign policies. War is not the answer and never will be. Peace to all.
Mark, United States

Why should England join in this war with Iraq. If America can defeat Iraq all by themselves then why are we joining them. If your answer is to unify countries against the oppressive Iraqi regime then what does this unification do for Britain and countries like France, Germany, China and Russia. Particularly France and Germany, members of the EU, who Tony Blair is supposedly establishing in Britain as a strong player.
Rachel S Potter, England.

I strongly disagree with the American action against Iraq. I believe that America is the obstacle of world peace and security. And what about the weak Iraqi innocent civilians if war may occur, who was it that imposed sanctions over the last decade?
Nor Omar Idan, Somalia

Today's polls show that 75% of the American public believe that the Bush administration must allow the UN inspectors as much time as they need to complete their work. The American people are still committed to the value of using international institutions to defuse crises and prevent war, and the Bush administration and its minions ignore that fact at their own peril.
Rich, USA

There are an awful lot of Americans who're coming to really loath the constant Euro-whining that goes with trying to solve any problem anywhere in the world.

Do you think that Americans want to have to deal with Iraq? No we don't. You can pretty much ask anyone, and they'll tell you, we don't want the expense or the responsibility of it. We'd really like it if Iraq just treated its citizens and neighbours decently and went on it's way.

Unfortunately, we've been stuck paying for a 10-year long epic morass that's done little except bleed money from our pockets. This because we keep trying to be concerned about an endless parade of bystanders' concerns.

This thing with Saddam needs to be over. There's been plenty of opportunity for all the people who're the most critical of the US to solve the problems there. They haven't solved the problems there, and with a decade-long record of expense with no resolution, for the US to bother to listen to the complaints of those who're unwilling and unable to do anything other than impede progress is foolish.
Tim Scanlon, USA

We have here very attractive country to be conquered by USA: Iraqi life is cheap, and there is oil to be had. Remove one factor and the US would not even put Iraq on its radar screen.
Nabil El-Tai, Canada

Who gave America the "God given right" to be the policeman (read Bully) of the world. Is it not up to the United Nations with backing from it's member states (who are mostly against this "war"), to decide what action to take against Saddam?

Iraq is not the only country in the world which is ruled by a vicious dictator, (Yes, I am thinking of Zimbabwe). But I do not see Uncle Sam bothering about Mugabe. The Middle East is more unstable thanks to Israel's policy of "homeland defence" against the Palestinians, but I don't see Uncle Sam bothering about that issue. Uncle Sam is only too interested in its own issues or selected world issues. If mainland Europe was attacked, would the US help us track the culprits? I think not, Europe doesn't have enough oil reserves to interest the US.
John , Scotland

The US should handle the threat as it perceives it. France and Germany are not in so much threat as the US is. If the US fails to disarm Saddam, it may wait for the re-writing of Pearl Harbour.
Joseph, Uganda

I agree with the rest of the civilised world that war is always the last option. However I believe that is the only option left in the case of Saddam Hussein, who has always use force as his first option.

He murdered his way into power, ruthlessly oppresses even the most minor opposition with torture and murder, and has used chemical weapons on numerous villages in his own country. He invaded his neighbours Iran and Kuwait, and was certainly poised to invade Saudi Arabia before being stopped by the coalition forces. He launched missiles into Israel in a vain effort to rally Arab support.

In short, he has always been every bit as evil as his means allow. The UN has passed resolution after resolution to no avail, Saddam simply ignores them because he truly believes they are of no consequence. Military force is always the last resort, but there is no alternative left in the case of Saddam Hussein.
Michael, USA

When will the "oil" argument be dismissed as sheer fantasy? We in the U.S. have been attacked repeatedly. It's about time we did something about it. To disarm ones enemies is always far more preferable than genocide don't you think? Oil is not the driving motive here, it's the need for stability and security for those that Saddam and other terrorists would do to the U.S. and indeed any other country that they feel is not doing what they feel is right.
Vince M., U.S.A.

I live in New York City for part of the year and witnessed the destruction of the WTC towers first hand. This atrocious destruction still does not warrant the US to wage war for the sake of profits. I am saddened by the lack of foresight and wisdom by the US Administration (not it's people).

There are lots of double standards being thrown around. The primary culprit in this entire mess is Israel, for not leaving the occupied territories. Given that simple withdrawal would alleviate the vast majority of the tensions that we have now. And secondly, Americans should start walking more and not driving bigger and bigger cars every year...
Esteban, Spain

How can Mr Clawson say "It certainly appears that France doesn't have that political will - if it is prepared to make political judgements about what to do without even waiting for the inspectors' report"?

It is clearly the Americans and the British who have gone ahead and made political judgements without waiting for the inspectors' report. Having already invested millions in order to send close to 100,000 troops and supporting military equipment to the area, the Bush administration has clearly indicated that it is both financially and politically committed to war.

They have done this without any convincing evidence that Iraq has WMD. It seems like an expensive bill to pay in order to "put pressure on the Iraqi regime". Let's call it like it is, Bush is hell bent on war.

The inspectors are only half way done their inspections, let them finish and uncover these alleged weapons. If they do then the international community will decide together how to take action and disarm him.

If the US chooses not to stand together with the free world, and instead unilaterally declares itself international judge and jury and insists that its vision of freedom, the pursuit of the almighty dollar, and the belief that its values and ideals are the only right ones, the US itself will soon become the threat to democracy in the eyes of the world.
Alex, Canada

Key stories





See also:

21 Jan 03 | Middle East
16 Jan 03 | Middle East
09 Jan 03 | Middle East
19 Dec 02 | Middle East
02 Jan 03 | Middle East
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Middle East stories are at the foot of the page.

 E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Middle East stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | World | UK | England | N Ireland | Scotland | Wales |
Politics | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology |
Health | Education | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |