|The Gulf War of 1998 never happened, but
precisely because it was a virtual war, it was a victory for the Western
by Gerald Segal
The United States and its allies were the clear winners. The allies
wanted the UN inspectors (UNSCOM) to be free to investigate what they want,
when they want. Saddam had refused all that, but now concedes it all. Iraq
wanted promises that inspections would soon cease and that sanctions would
soon be lifted. He was promised none of that. Saddam wanted to prove that
the West did not have the stomach for a fight and that the UN Security
Council was divided. As it turned out, he was the one who ducked and ran
from a fight, in part because the Russians and French finally fell into
line and told Saddam he had no choice but to accept UNSCOM's freedom of
action. Iraq seems to have been granted a fig leaf in the form of diplomats
to accompany (but not obstruct) some UNSCOM inspections. It is true that
Saddam remains in power, but his removal was never a realistic goal of
air-strikes. The allied coalition merely wanted to defend UNSCOM operations
to uncover and destroy Saddam's deadly arsenal. To do so without loss of
life and nerve is a triumph for the US and its allies.
What happens next?
IN the short term one thing happens and another does not. Diplomats
in the UN Security Council will now try to translate the Secretary General's
agreement in Baghdad into a formal Resolution. If nerves hold, the Resolution
will contain a clause authorising "all necessary means" to support UNSCOM.
The US and its allies want a "standing order" to thump Iraq if it hinders
UNSCOM in the future. The idea is to prevent Saddam from being able to
drag out diplomacy as he did this time. Sadly, Russia, China and France
are unlikely to sign such a standing order.
What will not happen is the withdrawal of allied military forces.
So far we only have Iraq's promise to capitulate - the proof is yet to
come. Allied troops will stay in place until it turns out that UNSCOM really
can do its job. If Iraq co-operates, at least for a while, then forces
will gradually be thinned out. It is not especially costly to keep moving
around troops that are paid and exercise anyway: that is one virtue of
the US and UK having professional armed forces. The real costs, human and
financial, would have risen if the million-dollar cruise missiles had to
Will it happen again?
ALMOST certainly. The struggle to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction
will continue. The war is being won, but it is far from won. Saddam's usual
trick is to wait until attention wanders and he perceives division among
the great powers in the UN. He will try to develop his weapons of mass
destruction in secret and then test the West again. France, Russia and
China will no doubt wobble yet again. The same voices in the Arab world
and in Western democracies opposed to military action will be heard again.
It will remain true that so long as Saddam is in power, Iraq will continue
to be a major problem.
The diplomatic challenge is to learn the lessons of the past few
weeks. Those who counselled against threatening the use of force have been
proven wrong. As the UN Secretary General said on Monday, diplomacy is
good but diplomacy backed by force is even better. If the critics of Western
policy in the past few weeks had got their way, Saddam would now be free
to develop his weapons of mass destruction and UN credibility would have
been shot to pieces.
Saddam chances his hand when he sees a divided opposition so only when
he consistently hears the same message is there a chance of his compliance.
But it is only a chance. In truth, Saddam will continue to believe he can
outlast his opponents and that the West is ultimately weak. There will
always be voices in the Arab world and in Western democracies that will
give Saddam confidence. The challenge for those who want to uphold international
peace and security is to prove him wrong by holding firm, and by supporting
forces in Iraq that will overthrow the regime. This is a long game requiring
firm resolve and steady nerves.
Gerald Segal is the Director of Studies at the International Institute
for Strategic Studies and co-author of Anticipating the Future (Simon &
© Associated Newspapers Ltd., 24 February 1998
This Is London