Iraq: December 12, 2001

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What To Do About Iraq, And How To Do It?- Many assume that Iraq is next on the list of terrorist nations to be brought down after Afghanistan. While links between Saddam and al Qaeda are tenuous at best, and nobody has been able to tie the anthrax attacks to Iraqi intelligence, Iraq has been a sore thorn in the US side since the Gulf War ended prematurely in 1991. But what, actually, might be done?

@ an invasion by US troops from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait is out of the question. There are not enough US troops available without mobilizing entire National Guard combat divisions, and the Saudis won't back such a plan.

@ There is plenty of airpower available to give Saddam a good pounding and, perhaps, force him to accept UN arms inspectors (for all the good that would do). But does George W Bush want to have to answer the same question his father didn't want to answer: "Looking back on ten years ago, don't you wish you had gone ahead and eliminated Saddam Hussein?"

@ An Afghan-style campaign, with a few special forces troops calling in air strikes for local forces to drive Saddam out of the country seems far-fetched at best. There simply are no local forces (other than an entirely too small and badly divided force of Kurds) and Iraq does not have the tradition that Afghanistan has of local warlords changing sides when the wind changes direction.

@ If outside troops are needed, and if the US cannot provide them or all of them, and if the Saudi's do not want to support such a drive, that leaves the US with only one option: Turkey. The Turks were in charge of Iraq until the end of World War I. The Turks have a problem with Kurdish rebels, who can function only because they have bases inside Iraq. Turkey is a strong country lacking only one thing: oil. It has been discussed for months that the US might offer Turkey the northern Iraqi province of Mosul (a province that is Kurdish), but perhaps it might be considered to give them the entire country? The large Turkish Army, backed by the US Air Force and a division or two of US armor, might easily overwhelm Saddam's forces. If it is still politically valid to keep the Iranians away from the Saudi Border (and it is) then Turkish troops might shield the Saudis just as well as Iraqis. Turkey would have to agree to US conditions that much of the oil revenue be used to economically develop impoverished areas of Iraq, something the Turks would have to do if they wanted to be seen as liberators rather than foreign conquerors. Turkey would be forever changed by the sudden inclusion of tens of millions of non-Turkish Arabs (Shiites and Sunni) and Kurds, perhaps requiring some kind of federal system or protectorate status. The plan would probably work, but it is doubtful that any serious consideration might be given to it. And there is a serious risk. If Turkey and the US invaded northern Iraq, Iran might take the opportunity to gobble up southern (Shiite) Iraq before the Turks could get there. Faced with defeat, Saddam might even invite the Iranians in (even if this eventually led to their removal of his regime), which would speed up their advance. This could result in two possible outcomes, neither of which is good: Iran on the Saudi border, or a general war in the region between Turkey and Iran.--Stephen V Cole

 

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