Washington Watch

by Fred H. Lawson
published in MER168

House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Lee Hamilton (D-IN) offered the first criticism by a Washington insider of the Bush administration’s handling of the Gulf crisis when, on September 18, 1990, he blamed Assistant Secretary of State for Near East and South Asian Affairs John Kelly for not sending a firm signal to Iraq that the United States would come to the defense of Kuwait if it were attacked. Kelly had told the committee two days before the Iraqi invasion that the US had no formal commitment to protect Kuwait from outside threats.

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Syrian Kurdish Cards

by Denise Natali | published March 20, 2012

Upheaval in Syria has given Kurdish groups new opportunities to advance their nationalist agendas while serving as proxies for neighboring states. In Turkey, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK has taken advantage of the rift between the regime of Bashar al-Asad and the Turkish government by turning to the former to help it launch its armed operations. In Iraq, after some delay, Kurdish elites have entered Syrian opposition politics as well, highlighting the ironies and internal tensions of their own position. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is keen to persuade Turkey, its key regional patron, that it can contain the PKK elements based in Iraqi territory and moderate Syrian Kurdish demands, while also assuring its Kurdish brethren that it will support their claims. And in Syria itself, Kurds have created the Kurdish National Council in parallel to the main opposition body, the Syrian National Council (SNC) -- a reaction to the possibility that the SNC will morph into a successor regime led by Muslim Brothers under Turkish influence.

Khalil, Republic of Fear

by Peter Sluglett
published in MER167

Samir al-Khalil, Republic of Fear: Saddam’s Iraq (California Press, 1989).

This book, first published a year ago at a time when -- with a few honorable exceptions -- most criticism of Iraq and its president was strangely muted, is a sophisticated and brilliantly savage denunciation of Arab populist politics, a politics of hate, lies, fantasy, brutality and despair. It shows how the larynx becomes a people’s mind, its consciousness and the mainspring of its action, how individuals are suborned, coerced, made instruments, stripped of will and dignity.

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Iraq Since 1986: The Strengthening of Saddam

by Marion Farouk-Sluglett , Peter Sluglett
published in MER167

In June 1986, we wrote that the situation in which Iraq found itself “underlines the vital need for the establishment of democracy...however broadly this may be defined.” Four years later, this plea has become more urgent; the regime has become even more powerful and repressive and has now extended its rule to Kuwait, initiating a crisis whose possible consequences for the region, if not the world, are fearful to contemplate.

Continuity and Change in Soviet Policy

The Gulf Crisis and the Islamic Dimension

by Alain Gresh
published in MER167

The day after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze and US Secretary of State James Baker announced what they termed “an unusual step.” They issued a communique “jointly urging the international community to join them and suspend all supplies of arms to Iraq on an international scale.” The Gulf crisis, the first major post-Cold War international crisis, provides a concrete measure of changing Soviet strategy in the Third World. While Soviet policy can be explained in large part by a desire to maintain good relations with the United States, one cannot disregard, in the short or the long run, the weight of Moscow’s relations with the Middle East and how they affect its strategy and tactics in the region.

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Why War?

Background to the Crisis

by Joe Stork , Ann Lesch
published in MER167

Since August 5, 1990, we have seen the most extensive and rapid US military mobilization since the end of World War II. As of early October, more than 200,000 US troops in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf region are drawing combat pay. President Bush declares this deployment was necessary to defend Saudi Arabia, but the size and composition of the US forces clearly pose a threat of offensive military action against Iraq.

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Al Miskin

published in MER168

The first “instant book” on the Gulf crisis has already reached stores across the United States. In his October 22 column in The Nation, Alexander Cockburn related how Judith Miller of the New York Times sought unsuccessfully to induce Samir al-Khalil, the pseudonymous author of Republic of Fear, to collaborate with her on a shlockbuster version for the American public. Instead we now have Saddam Hussein and the Crisis in the Gulf, which Miller co-authored with Laurie Mylroie, until recently an assistant professor of “government” (i.e. political science) at Harvard.

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Iraq's Military Power: The German Connection

by Jochen Hippler
published in MER168

Even before the current confrontation in the Gulf, Iraq was an extremely militarized country, preoccupied with internal and external “security threats. ” When I traveled to Iraq in early 1990, I was struck by the extent of militarization in parts of the country. The whole of Iraqi Kurdistan was covered by a net of military and paramilitary installations. It was difficult to drive or walk more than a few hundred yards without seeing or being seen by soldiers in an outpost, or in a military installation of considerable size. Traveling south of Basra, I found the Fao peninsula completely honeycombed with military camps. In the Umm Qasr area, security was so tight that I was not even allowed to get out of the car, much less to take pictures.

Of "Instructors" and Interests in Iraq

by Reidar Visser | published August 22, 2011

The Obama administration repeatedly declares that it is “on track” to withdraw all US military forces from Iraq by the end of 2011, in keeping with candidate Barack Obama’s signature promise to “end the war in Iraq.” But, even as the White House avows this intention, policymakers in Washington repeatedly express their hope that the Iraqi government will ask some US troops, perhaps 10,000 or more, to stay past December. In an ideal world, US strategists would like the Iraqis to decide to extend the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed in late 2008, which provides legal cover for the US military presence in post-invasion Iraq. A series of summertime developments in Iraq have now made it clear that no such straightforward extension is forthcoming.