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U.S. Policy Toward Iraq, Libya and Iran

U.S. Policy Toward Iraq, Libya and Iran

NSC Director Riedel's Speech at the Mddle East Forum

Remarks focused on US policy toward Iraq, Iran and Libya

Source: U.S.I.A., Washington File, 26 April 1999.

Washington -- United States foreign policy toward Libya, Iraq and Iran were the focus of a speech given by Bruce Riedel, special assistant to the President and senior director, Near East and South Asian Affairs, National Security Council, April 23 at the Middle East Forum.

"The Libyan case is a success story for determination and persistence," said Riedel, noting that two U.S. presidents worked hard to uncover the truth behind the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 and to finally bring two suspects to trial in a European court under Scottish law this year.

"An important message has also been sent -- compliance with the will of the international community is a path that can bring change," Riedel said about the Pan Am 103 case. He also said that "cooperation and compliance with UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs) bring about positive results" to a country, referring to the lifting of U.N. economic sanctions against Libya for turning over the two suspects for trial.

Even though the international community support's Libya's decision to release the two suspects for trial, Riedel said, "we will keep a close and continuous eye on Libyan behavior with regard to terrorism, cooperation with the trial and full compliance with UNSCRs.

"There can be no going back to support for terrorist groups and acts of terror," he said. "We want justice and we want to end Libya support for terrorism and we have made considerable progress in achieving these goals," Riedel said.

The case for Iraq is different in many respects than Libya, he noted. "U.S. policy today is to counter the threats Iraq poses until there is a change of regime and a new leadership that demonstrates it is prepared to accept the requirements of the UNSCRs and live at peace with its neighbors and its people," said Riedel.

He remarked that almost eight years after the international community laid out a series of requirements that would end the sanctions imposed in 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait -- halt support for terrorism, give up its programs for developing weapons of mass destruction and long range missiles, accept Kuwait's sovereignty and independence, and account for the people and property abducted from Kuwait -- Iraq is still refusing to comply.

"We are engaged in a full court press to squeeze the Iraqi leadership from every point of the compass, to keep containment in place, to deny Saddam the money to build weapons, and ultimately to bring about a change of regime," Riedel said.

"Our message is simple -- if Saddam stays in power, then Iraq will remain a pariah and an outcast with its finances in United Nations hands and its airspace compromised," he maintained.

However, if change should occur in Iraq with a new responsible government, then the United States would be an active partner in rebuilding Iraq, ending economic sanctions, easing the terms of the country's $100 billion war debt, and help reintegrate Iraq back into the international community, Riedel said.

"Change in Iraqi leadership can only come about by Iraqis. We cannot and should not impose a new leadership on the Iraqi people. We can help Iraqi opponents of Saddam organize themselves and give them aid, but we cannot put them in power," he asserted.

The United States has drawn clear redlines for Saddam Hussein not to cross, Riedel said. "If we detect new Iraqi efforts to rebuild its WMD capability, we will act. If we see Iraqi forces moving to threaten its neighbors, we will act. If we see a move to strike the Kurds, we will act."

Turning to Iran, Riedel said that "Since the Islamic revolution in Iran twenty years ago, our two countries have been engaged in a long and difficult period of confrontation." He noted in particular Iran's support for terrorism and murder, its violent opposition to the peace process and its efforts to acquire Weapons of Mass Destruction.

"We have worked with nations around the world to put pressure on Iran to change its ways," he said. "We have had some success in doing so: dangerous arms sales to Iran have been cut off from China, Eastern Europe and other states; we have slowed technology transfers from Russia and elsewhere and Iran's ability to find arms dealers and pay for new arms has been significantly undermined."

Riedel also acknowledged that some changes have occurred within Iran "and we have not ignored them." The U.S. will continue to seek a direct dialogue with the Iranian government, he said, pointing out that two Presidents have supported government-to-government talks with Iran. ... "The offer has yet to be accepted but it remains on the table," he stated.

"We will work with our friends to ensure our militaries are fully capable of working together to deter aggression," Riedel said. He noted that this year the Clinton Administration has proposed the creation of a regional missile early warning system similar to those that exist with NATO, Japan and Israel to "ensure our friends in the Gulf have the best possible information on the potential missile threat."

Riedel stressed that "The United States has no problem with the people of Iran, Iraq or Libya. Our quarrel has always been with the actions of their governments. We welcome better ties with the people."

"Nor do we have any quarrel with these states because they are Muslim," he added. "We have demonstrated this year dramatically that our NATO allies and we are prepared to use force against a non-Muslim government that persecutes a Muslim minority."

Following is the text of Riedel's speech, as prepared for delivery:

(Begin text)

By Bruce O. Riedel, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director, Near East and South Asian Affairs, National Security Council for the Middle East Forum, April 23, 1999.

U.S. Policy Toward Iraq, Libya and Iran

Thank you. It is a pleasure to be here today in my hometown to have this chance to speak to you on the subject of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. It is particularly pleasant to have been invited here by a long time colleague and friend, Daniel Pipes, who I have known for well over a decade and whose work on Middle East issues I have always enjoyed and learned a great deal from.

I would like to focus my remarks today on three particular Middle Eastern states that have posed serious challenges to the United States for over a decade -- Libya, Iraq and Iran. Since at least the beginning of this decade the policy of the United States has been to contain all three and to try to build coalitions to prevent them from threatening 'the stability of the region and our goal of securing a comprehensive peace in the area.

The critical point I want to stress before talking about each of the three is that we have always adapted our containment approach to the particulars of the challenge at hand. Containment has never been a catch-all approach, applying the same rules to each state. We have always differentiated in approach and dealt with specific countries on their own merits. We have also adapted our approach as events have warranted to deal with changed realities and new opportunities.

Let me start with Libya. More than ten years ago Pan Am 103 was blown lip in the skies over Scotland. After exhaustive investigation we determined that the explosion was probably the work of Libyan intelligence officers. This crime capped a long series of terrorist incidents in which the Libyans were implicated in the Middle East, Africa and Europe. The United States engaged in a prolonged effort to persuade Libya to get out of the business of terror and foreswear the use of terrorism. President Reagan authorized the bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi in 1986 after the Berlin disco bombing. Unilateral sanctions were imposed on the Libyan economy and great diplomatic pressure was developed to isolate Qadhafi. Despite all these efforts, Libyan support for terrorism continued unabated and culminated in the destruction of Pan Am 103 and a French jetliner over Niger, UTA flight 772, in September 1988.

The multilateral sanctions imposed on Libya in 1991 and 1992 in response to these crimes took time to work but they had a serious impact on Libya. According to Libyan accounts the sanctions cost their country 26 billion dollars over the last ten years. The World Bank estimates the impact at 18 billion dollars. We should not underestimate the sanctions' effect in weakening the Libyan military, eroding its economy and creating a sense of siege for the regime that became increasingly difficult for Qadhafi to ignore.

Last year, at the suggestion of many of our Arab and African friends, the British and we agreed to hold the trial for the two prime suspects in a Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands under Scottish law. We orchestrated diplomatic pressure on Tripoli to agree to this proposal. With the help of UN Secretary General Annan, President Mandela, President Mubarak and the Saudi leadership, Libya was finally persuaded to accept this outcome and on April 5th the two were handed over to the Secretary General and delivered to the Scottish court where we now have a chance to see justice served. In turn the multilateral sanctions on Libya have been suspended -- not lifted -- by the UN Security Council. U.S. unilateral sanctions remain in place.

The Libyan case is a success story for determination and persistence. Two Presidents worked hard first to uncover the truth behind the bombing and then to bring the suspects to trial. Now a judicial process is underway to determine guilt. An important message has also been sent -- compliance with the will of the international community is a path that can bring change. Changed behavior on the part of governments that have engaged in unacceptable activity leads to a willingness to see a change to sanctions by the international community. Cooperation and compliance with UN Security Council Resolutions brings about positive results.

Some have alleged we made a secret deal with Qadhafi to get the two suspects turned over that protects him from prosecution. There is no deal with Qadhafi. The arrangements made in no way limit the prosecution of the trial from pursuing evidence no matter where it leads. As the Attorney General has said, "the evidence will speak for itself."

At the same time, there is also no hidden agenda for the United States vis-a-vis Libya. We want justice and we want to end Libyan support for terrorism and we have made considerable progress in achieving these goals.

We will keep a close and continuous eye on Libyan behavior with regard to terrorism, cooperation with the trial, and full compliance with the UNSCRs. There ran be no going back to support for terrorist groups and acts of terror. Our strategic determination to keep Libya out of the terrorism business is as firm now as ever. We will keep the pressure on for Libya to comply fully with all the requirements of the UNSCRs.

We will also continue our efforts to ensure that Libya does not develop weapons of mass destruction, especially chemical weapons. Over the last decade, with the help of others, we have pursued an effective policy of shutting down Libya's efforts to build large chemical weapons production plants and we will continue to do so.

The case of Iraq is different in many respects from Libya. Like Qadhafi in 1991, the international community also gave Saddam Hussien's Iraq after Desert Storm a chance to change its behavior. In UNSCR 687 the international community laid out a series of requirements that would end the sanctions imposed in 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait -- halt support for terrorism, give up its programs for developing weapons of mass destruction and long range missiles, accept Kuwait's sovereignty and independence, and account for the people and property abducted from Kuwait.

Almost eight years later Iraq is still refusing to comply with these simple requirements. Its track record is well known. Iraq tried to assassinate President Bush and the Amir of Kuwait in 1993; it threatened to invade Kuwait in 1994 and again in 1995; it has consistently refused to divulge the truth about its WMD programs; it has refused to cooperate with the UNSCOM inspectors sent to destroy its WMD arsenal and instead created an elaborate concealment mechanism to hide its weapons; it has refused to answer Kuwaiti families' questions about their loved ones and it has refused to return property looted from Kuwait in 1990. These sad results were confirmed yet again in the reports provided to the UN Security Council this month compiled by Brazilian Ambassador Amorim.

At the same time, Iraq's record at home is as deplorable as its record with the international requirements. This is a regime that has used chemical weapons not just abroad but also at home.

The United States has lead an international effort since 1991 to press Iraq to comply fully with all the UNSCRs. Since 1991 we have used a combination of sanctions, diplomacy and force to keep this dangerous regime contained and to limit its ability to threaten the peace and stability of the region. Sanctions alone have denied Saddam access to over 120 billion dollars in revenues since 1990. We have worked hard to tighten enforcement of these sanctions. For example, since Desert Fox we have choked off illicit oil exports through the Gulf.

U.S. policy today is to continue to counter the threats Iraq poses until there is a change of regime and a new leadership that demonstrates it is prepared to accept the requirements of the UNSCRs and live at peace with its neighbors and its people. We are engaged in a full court press to squeeze the Iraqi leadership from every point of the compass, to keep containment in place, to deny Saddam the money to build weapons., and ultimately to bring about a change of regime.

The elements of that policy are working. In the Security Council we are determined to see Iraq comply in full with all Security Council resolutions. We refuse to contemplate any lifting of sanctions until Iraq has met that standard. And we will only support the return of UN inspectors to Iraq if we are certain that they will be able to disarm Iraq and not simply he manipulated by Iraq.

Meanwhile we will also continue to exert direct pressure on Iraq. We will continue to enforce the two no fly zones which deny him control of 60% of his airspace and provide useful buffers and early warning of any move on his neighbors north or south. We have already flown over a quarter million sorties to enforce those zones. We will continue to support the efforts of the Iraqi opposition to highlight Saddam's crimes, indict his henchmen and organize against his regime.

Our message is simple -- if Saddam stays in power, then Iraq will remain a pariah and an outcast with its finances in UN hands and its airspace compromised. On the other hand, if Saddam is replaced and a new, responsible leadership comes to power that is willing to work with, not against, the international community, then the United States will be an active and determined partner in rebuilding Iraq, ending economic sanctions, easing the enormous 100 billion dollar war debt Saddam accrued in the 1980s and reintegrating Iraq into the family of nations.

Iraq can be an important part of a better, peaceful and stable Middle Fast. The Iraqi people have too long been ruled by a regime that has repeatedly used weapons of mass destruction as an instrument of policy, attacked five neighboring Middle Eastern states, and which still threatens the leadership of moderate regimes throughout the region. But an Iraq at peace with its neighbors could be an enormous positive element in building a better Middle East and a strategic partner for the United States.

Change in Iraqi leadership can only come about by Iraqis. We can not and should not impose a new leadership on the Iraqi people. We can help Iraqi opponents of Saddam organize themselves and give them aid, but we can not put them in power. We do have the power to make clear to Iraqis that they face an important and simple choice -- stay with Saddam and there is no light at the end of the tunnel; change leadership and the United States will work with you for a better tomorrow.

The only way that the United States can realistically contribute to change in Iraq is through careful planning and preparation. History is all too clear that this is a regime prepared to use the most ruthless measures and force to stay in power. And we want to see an Iraq that remains united, with its territorial integrity intact. We do not want to see another Afghanistan or Lebanon at the top of the Persian Gulf.

The way to bring about change in Iraq is through patience, determination and perseverance. There is no simple answer to the problem nor quick, easy fixes. The President and the Congress are determined to keep the pressure on as long as it takes. We have drawn clear redlines for Saddam. We know he will challenge us again. It we detect new Iraqi efforts to rebuild its WMD capability, we will act, If we see Iraqi forces moving to threaten its neighbors, we will act. If we see a move to strike the Kurds, we will act.

While containment remains in place we also need to take every possible measure to ensure that the Iraqi people are provided the humanitarian relief they need. Saddam is quite prepared to starve his own people to garner support for lifting sanctions without compliance. We cannot let him win that propaganda victory or the entire policy of containment and regime change will collapse. That is why the Bush Administration first proposed the oil-for-food arrangement in 1991 and President Clinton has sought since to increase its effectiveness.

Much has been accomplished since Saddam was finally pressured into accepting oil-for-food in 1996. The caloric intake of the average Iraqi has increased from 1275 calories per day in 1996 to over 2000 today. Particularly in the north where the UN directly administers the program the situation has gotten better for average Iraqis. More still needs to be done. That is why Vice President Gore announced several months ago that we would support raising the ceiling on Iraqi oil revenues sold to accommodate further legitimate humanitarian needs for Iraqis.

Oil-for-food is not a step toward lifting sanctions, nor does it reward Saddam. In fact, oil-for-food is his worst nightmare, because it makes sanctions sustainable. This is why Saddam refused to accept Resolution 706 -- the first oil-for-food resolution adopted in 1991 -- until 1996 when he was faced with the collapse of the Iraqi economy, and it's why his spokesmen relentlessly campaign against any extension of oil-for-food. It is also why oil-for-food is a critical part of our overall approach to Iraq.

Finally, let me turn to Iran. Since the Islamic revolution in Iran twenty years ago our two countries have been engaged in a long and difficult period of confrontation. Iran's support for terrorism and murder, its violent opposition to the peace process, its efforts to acquire WMD and its human rights policies have required successive Administrations to take action to seek Tehran to curb these behaviors, We have worked with nations around the world to put pressure on Iran to change its ways.

We have had some success in doing so. Dangerous arms sales to Iran have been cut off from China, Eastern Europe and other states. Conventional arms transfers have dropped dramatically to Iran. We have slowed technology transfers from Russia and elsewhere. We have put considerable pressure on the Iranian economy via ILSA and other measures. Iran's ability to find arms dealers and pay for new arms has been significantly undermined.

Two years ago we also began to see signs of change within Iran itself. The election of President Khatami marked an important moment in the nation's history. Iranians sent a clear message that they were dissatisfied with the policies that had isolated and weakened their great nation. They reaffirmed that message this year with the vote in the municipal elections. They have called for change.

Some changes have occurred and we have not ignored them. We were impressed by Iran's handling of the Islamic summit in 1998. We have seen the change in Iran's relations with Saudi Arabia and we welcome it. We have welcomed President Khatami's call for people-to-people dialogue with Americans. We have encouraged travel to Iran by many Americans. We have welcomed Iranian wrestlers, academics and others to our country. We will continue to do so. We have seen Iran take action to curb drug smuggling and we have removed Iran from the narcotics list. We have seen changes in Iran's intelligence apparatus and hope it will lead to an end to support for terror. We have worked in parallel to support UN efforts to halt the war in Afghanistan.

We will also continue to seek a direct dialogue with the Iranian government. Two Presidents have supported government to government talks with Iran because that is the only way to deal effectively with the problems that divide our two countries. The offer has yet to be accepted but it remains on the table. Secretary Albright has laid out a roadmap to get us to dialogue.

But we are also not ignoring other noises from Iran like the Shahab missile and support for enemies of peace like Hizballah and Hamas. We will continue our global full court press to deny Iran access to dangerous technologies that can fuel its WMD arsenal and its missile capability. We will ensure that our friends in the Gulf have the defensive military capability to discourage any adventurism. We will work with our friends to ensure our militaries are fully capable of working together to deter aggression. This year we have proposed creation of a regional missile early warning system similar to those we already have with NATO, Japan and Israel to ensure our friends in the Gulf have the best possible information on the potential missile threat.

With Iran patience and determination are still the key. We should stand firm in opposing those Iranian actions that violate international norms while offering a path forward when we see signs of positive behavior. A different Iran that forswears terrorism and WMD and ceases to export its revolution would be a major step forward for a more stable and prosperous Middle East. We could work in parallel on many issues of mutual concern.

Let me close with one other observation. The United States has no problem with the peoples of Iran, Iraq or Libya. Our quarrel has always been with the actions of their governments. We welcome better ties with the people.

Nor do we have any quarrel with these states because they are Muslim. We have demonstrated this year dramatically that our NATO allies and we are prepared to use force against a non-Muslim government that persecutes a Muslim minority. The canard that we are engaged in some kind of war of civilizations with the Islamic world is just that -- a canard. This President has been clear and unequivocal on this issue on many occasions -- we have the greatest respect for Islam.

In sum, U.S. policy toward these states is consistent, steadfast and firm while also being differentiated and adaptable. We respond to changed behavior with changes in our tactics. Our goal is a prosperous and stable Middle East for the twenty-first century that is at peace with itself and with us.

Thank you.

(End text)

 

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
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