January 26, 1998
The Honorable William J. Clinton
President of the United States
Dear Mr. President:
We are writing you because we are convinced that current American policy toward Iraq is not succeeding, and that we may soon face a threat in the Middle East more serious than any we have known since the end of the Cold War. In your upcoming State of the Union Address, you have an opportunity to chart a clear and determined course for meeting this threat. We urge you to seize that opportunity, and to enunciate a new strategy that would secure the interests of the U.S. and our friends and allies around the world. That strategy should aim, above all, at the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime from power. We stand ready to offer our full support in this difficult but necessary endeavor.
The policy of “containment” of Saddam Hussein has been steadily eroding over the past several months. As recent events have demonstrated, we can no longer depend on our partners in the Gulf War coalition to continue to uphold the sanctions or to punish Saddam when he blocks or evades UN inspections. Our ability to ensure that Saddam Hussein is not producing weapons of mass destruction, therefore, has substantially diminished. Even if full inspections were eventually to resume, which now seems highly unlikely, experience has shown that it is difficult if not impossible to monitor Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons production. The lengthy period during which the inspectors will have been unable to enter many Iraqi facilities has made it even less likely that they will be able to uncover all of Saddam’s secrets. As a result, in the not-too-distant future we will be unable to determine with any reasonable level of confidence whether Iraq does or does not possess such weapons.
Such uncertainty will, by itself, have a seriously destabilizing effect on the entire Middle East. It hardly needs to be added that if Saddam does acquire the capability to deliver weapons of mass destruction, as he is almost certain to do if we continue along the present course, the safety of American troops in the region, of our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab states, and a significant portion of the world’s supply of oil will all be put at hazard. As you have rightly declared, Mr. President, the security of the world in the first part of the 21st century will be determined largely by how we handle this threat.
Given the magnitude of the threat, the current policy, which depends for its success upon the steadfastness of our coalition partners and upon the cooperation of Saddam Hussein, is dangerously inadequate. The only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction. In the near term, this means a willingness to undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing. In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power. That now needs to become the aim of American foreign policy.
We urge you to articulate this aim, and to turn your Administration's attention to implementing a strategy for removing Saddam's regime from power. This will require a full complement of diplomatic, political and military efforts. Although we are fully aware of the dangers and difficulties in implementing this policy, we believe the dangers of failing to do so are far greater. We believe the U.S. has the authority under existing UN resolutions to take the necessary steps, including military steps, to protect our vital interests in the Gulf. In any case, American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council.
We urge you to act decisively. If you act now to end the threat of weapons of mass destruction against the U.S. or its allies, you will be acting in the most fundamental national security interests of the country. If we accept a course of weakness and drift, we put our interests and our future at risk.
Elliott Abrams Richard L. Armitage William J. Bennett
Jeffrey Bergner John Bolton Paula Dobriansky
Francis Fukuyama Robert Kagan Zalmay Khalilzad
William Kristol Richard Perle Peter W. Rodman
Donald Rumsfeld William Schneider, Jr. Vin Weber
Paul Wolfowitz R. James Woolsey Robert B. Zoellick
May 29, 1998
The Honorable Newt Gingrich
Speaker of the House
U.S. House of Representatives
H-232 Capitol Building
Washington, DC 20515-6501
The Honorable Trent Lott
Senate Majority Leader
United States Senate
S-208 Capitol Building
Washington, DC 20510-7010
Dear Mr. Speaker and Senator Lott:
On January 26, we sent a letter to President Clinton expressing our concern that the U.S. policy of "containment" of Saddam Hussein was failing. The result, we argued, would be that the vital interests of the United States and its allies in the Middle East would soon be facing a threat as severe as any we had known since the end of the Cold War. We recommended a substantial change in the direction of U.S. policy: Instead of further, futile efforts to "contain" Saddam, we argued that the only way to protect the United States and its allies from the threat of weapons of mass destruction was to put in place policies that would lead to the removal of Saddam and his regime from power. The administration has not only rejected this advice but, as we warned, has begun to abandon its own policy of containment.
In February, the Clinton Administration embraced the agreement reached between the UN Secretary Koffi Annan and the Iraqi government on February 23. At the time of the agreement, the administration declared that Saddam had "reversed" himself and agreed to permit the UN inspectors full, unfettered, and unlimited access to all sites in Iraq. The administration also declared that the new organizational arrangements worked out by Mr. Annan and the Iraqis would not hamper in any way the free operation of UNSCOM. Finally, the administration stated that, should Iraq return to a posture of defiance, the international community would be united in support of a swift and punishing military action.
According to the UN weapons inspectors, Iraq has yet to provide a complete account of its programs for developing weapons of mass destruction and has continued to obstruct investigations. Sites opened to the inspectors after the agreement had "undergone extensive evacuation," according to the most recent UNSCOM report. UN weapons inspector Charles Duelfer has also pointed to significant problems in the new reporting arrangements worked out by Annan and the Iraqis, warning that these may have "important implications for the authority of UNSCOM and its chief inspectors." And, in the wake of these "Potemkin Village" inspections, the Iraqi government is now insisting that the inspections process be brought to an end and sanctions lifted - going so far as to threaten the U.S. and its allies should its demands not be met.
In the face of this new challenge from Saddam, however, the President's public response has been only to say that he is "encouraged" by Iraq's compliance with the UN inspections and to begin reducing U.S. military forces in the Gulf region. Unwilling either to adopt policies that would remove Saddam or sustain the credibility of its own policy of containment, the administration has placed us on a path that will inevitably free Saddam Hussein from all effective constraints. Even if the administration is able to block Security Council efforts to lift sanctions on Iraq this year, the massive expansion of the so-called "oil for food" program will have the effect of overturning the sanctions regime. It is now safe to predict that, in a year's time, absent a sharp change in U.S. policy, Saddam will be effectively liberated from constraints that have bound him since the end of the Gulf War seven years ago.
The American people need to be made aware of the consequences of this capitulation to Saddam:
-- We will have suffered an incalculable blow to American leadership and credibility; -- We will have sustained a significant defeat in our worldwide efforts to limit the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Other nations seeking to arm themselves with such weapons will have learned that the U.S. lacks the resolve to resist their efforts;
-- The administration will have unnecessarily put at risk U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf, who will be vulnerable to attack by biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons under Saddam Hussein's control; -- Our friends and allies in the Middle East and Europe will soon be subject to forms of intimidation by an Iraqi government bent on dominating the Middle East and its oil reserves; and
-- As a consequence of the administration's failure, those nations living under the threat of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction can be expected to adopt policies of accommodation toward Saddam. This could well make Saddam the driving force of Middle East politics, including on such important matters as the Middle East peace process.
Mr. Speaker and Mr. Lott, during the most recent phase of this crisis, you both took strong stands, stating that the goal of U.S. policy should be to bring down Saddam and his regime. And, at the time of the Annan deal, Senator Lott, you pointed out its debilitating weakness and correctly reminded both your colleagues and the nation that "We cannot afford peace at any price."
Now that the administration has failed to provide sound leadership, we believe it is imperative that Congress take what steps it can to correct U.S. policy toward Iraq. That responsibility is especially pressing when presidential leadership is lacking or when the administration is pursuing a policy fundamentally at odds with vital American security interests. This is now the case. To Congress's credit, it has passed legislation providing money to help Iraq's democratic opposition and to establish a "Radio Free Iraq." But more needs to be done, and Congress should do whatever is constitutionally appropriate to establish a sound policy toward Iraq.
U.S. policy should have as its explicit goal removing Saddam Hussein's regime from power and establishing a peaceful and democratic Iraq in its place. We recognize that this goal will not be achieved easily. But the alternative is to leave the initiative to Saddam, who will continue to strengthen his position at home and in the region. Only the U.S. can lead the way in demonstrating that his rule is not legitimate and that time is not on the side of his regime. To accomplish Saddam's removal, the following political and military measures should be undertaken:
-- We should take whatever steps are necessary to challenge Saddam Hussein's claim to be Iraq's legitimate ruler, including indicting him as a war criminal;
-- We should help establish and support (with economic, political, and military means) a provisional, representative, and free government of Iraq in areas of Iraq not under Saddam's control;
-- We should use U.S. and allied military power to provide protection for liberated areas in northern and southern Iraq; and -- We should establish and maintain a strong U.S. military presence in the region, and be prepared to use that force to protect our vital interests in the Gulf - and, if necessary, to help remove Saddam from power
Although the Clinton Administration's handling of the crisis with Iraq has left Saddam Hussein in a stronger position that when the crisis began, the reality is that his regime remains vulnerable to the exercise of American political and military power. There is reason to believe, moreover, that the citizens of Iraq are eager for an alternative to Saddam, and that his grip on power is not firm. This will be much more the case once it is made clear that the U.S. is determined to help remove Saddam from power, and that an acceptable alternative to his rule exists. In short, Saddam's continued rule in Iraq is neither inevitable nor likely if we pursue the policy outlined above in a serious and sustained fashion. If we continue along the present course, however, Saddam will be stronger at home, he will become even more powerful in the region, and we will face the prospect of having to confront him at some later point when the costs to us, our armed forces, and our allies will be even higher. Mr. Speaker and Senator Lott, Congress should adopt the measures necessary to avoid this impending defeat of vital U.S. interests.
Elliot Abrams William J. Bennett Jeffrey Bergner
John R. Bolton Paula Dobriansky Francis Fukuyama Robert Kagan
Zalmay Khalilzad William Kristol Richard Perle Peter Rodman
Donald Rumsfeld William Schneider, Jr. Vin Weber Paul Wolfowitz
R. James Woolsey Robert B. Zoellick