The Rewards Of 'Restraint', January 24, 1991'Mother of Wars' May Beget Peace, February 28, 1991
The Race Is On, March 8, 1991Does Deterrence Work?, March 13, 1991
The Importance of Being Sure, April 19, 1991Arms Control in the Middle East, May 17, 1991
Taming the Wild Middle East, May 31, 1991Saddam's Bomb, July 5, 1991
Peace Talks: Two Tracks, One Train, October 18, 1991
LIKE most other Israeli citizens, the people on my block are well disciplined in times of national emergency. In between attacks and false alarms, all of us are trying to continue normal lives and to prevent giving Saddam Hussein and his backers the satisfaction of pushing us into panic.
While this would drive any other society mad, we seem to have accepted the absurd and macabre scenes of going to work, visiting our friends and going shopping carrying gas masks. According to an informal poll I conducted at our local market this week, most people also accept the government's policy of "restraint," at least for now.
In exchange for supporting the government's decision to postpone Israel's promised military strike and a swift end to this terror, however, we have great expectations. My neighbors, like most Israelis, know that the successful pursuit of the war against Iraq will end the threat of missiles and chemical attacks against all the countries in the region, including Israel. The nightmares of chemical warfare, with the gas masks and rows of water hoses outside hospitals to wash down victims, will never be erased, but they can be diminished from our memories.
The end to this threat, in itself, is a significant and important goal, but for many the payoff for tolerating the terror of the past few days must extend far beyond this. After living with a series of wars and continuous terrorism for decades, Israeli nerves were already frayed at the edges. The fact that we are able to lead almost normal lives despite all this stress does not mean that we are unaffected. No other modern society has any notion of the daily stresses of life in Israel.
This war must not simply end with the continuation of the other forms of terror inflicted on Israel. Some of America's allies, such as the Syrians and Saudi Arabia, still maintain a state of war with Israel. This must end, and part of the overall peace agreement at the end of the war with Iraq must include explicit acceptance of the presence and legitimacy of Israel.
Syria also has an arsenal of chemical weapons and missiles; after the war with Iraq is over, the threat to Israel posed by these weapons must not be allowed to remain. Having lived with this threat once, no Israeli is going to tolerate a repetition.
The daily terror faced by most Israelis is caused by the Palestinians. The residents of Kiryat Shmona and other parts of northern Israel have been subjected to attacks by Soviet-made Katyusha rockets fired by Palestinian terrorists in Southern Lebanon for years. Throughout the country, Palestinians, supported by many of the Arab states, including Syria, plant bombs, stab Israelis in the streets, and lead raids on schools, beaches, and other places.
This daily terror has taken a far greater toll than Saddam Hussein's missiles. The PLO and other sponsors of this terror are received in the capitals of the world and given legitimacy at the UN.
ONCE THE war with Iraq is over, a regional peace process must begin. The enthusiasm with which the PLO supports Saddam Hussein and his attacks on Israel has certainly disqualified this group from participating in the postwar Middle East peace process. Like Saddam Hussein, the PLO and other sponsors of terror must have no part in the postwar negotiations.
In his speech of January 18, following the first missile attacks on Israel, U.S. President George Bush expressed his outrage at Iraqi behavior, and expressed support for Israeli restraint. This is an extension of the "low profile" which Israel has maintained since the beginning of this crisis.
For months, Israel refrained from initiating the pre-emptive destruction of the Iraqi missiles, even though this would have reduced the immediate threat of attack. Thus, Bush's promise that, following the war, a "new order" for the Middle East would be established, is an important, albeit belated, recognition of Israel's position.
This new international order must provide a framework within which missiles and weapons of mass destruction in the region will be effectively banned. For this effort to succeed, all of America's Arab allies must end the state of war with Israel.
At the same time, the immoral sale of technology and weapons to countries like Iraq must end. The Iraqi chemical weapons and extended-range Scud missiles used to terrorize Israel were sold by German firms (making a mockery of German moral claims and anti-war demonstrations). France sold billions of dollars in advanced aircraft and technology to Iraq, including the nuclear weapons plant which Israel destroyed in 1981.
Until the last minute, President Mitterand sought to find a "diplomatic" exit at Israel's expense which would have legitimized Saddam Hussein's aggression and kept his deadly arsenal intact. Israel's restraint now must be met by unambiguous and irrevocable commitments by America and its European partners to end the supply of advanced weapons and technology to all states which refuse to make peace.
If these actions are taken, a new order in the Middle East will indeed be created. Israelis, as well as the rest of the world, will not again face the trauma of mad dictators armed with chemical, biological and nuclear weapons provided by the West. The horror of daily Palestinian terror, stabbings and bombs, will also decrease and international support for it will end. As a result, we will be able to justify our "restraint" in the face of gas masks, midnight sirens, and missile attacks to ourselves and our children.
During the Nazi "blitz" of World War II, the citizens of London sought to go calmly about their daily lives and defy Hitler's efforts. They were rewarded by the establishment of a new "European order" and over 45 years of peace to date.
Similarly, Israelis are prepared to meet the terror of
Saddam Hussein and his allies with "blood, sweat and tears." In return for
tolerating our terrifying "blitz," we demand nothing less than a real peace and
the right to live in our country like normal people.
IN the Middle East, the terms and conditions at the end of one war have generally determined the starting point for the next. The 1967 war ended with the defeat of the Egyptian and Syrian armies, but left the regimes and military infrastructures intact. As a result, Nasser, who led the war, was able to survive, rearm, and begin the next round in 1969 (the War of Attrition). And when that war ended, in turn, with a ceasefire, the Egyptian forces immediately moved anti-aircraft weapons to the front lines, which provided them with a major advantage when the 1973 Yom Kippur War broke out.
In the current war, Saddam Hussein sought to arrange a ceasefire which would have left his huge land army still intact and his regime in power. Just as in the case of the end of the war with Iran, this would have allowed the Iraqi tank and artillery forces to regroup, and turn their attention to the next war, probably against Israel.
Had the American government accepted the Soviet-Iraqi proposals for a ceasefire, it is also possible that the 140 Iraqi combat aircraft which were moved to Iran to escape American bombing would have been returned to Iraq. These aircraft, including the Su-24 heavy bombers and French Mirage F-1s, could have done far more damage to Israel than the Scud missile warheads used so far.
Even though the chemical, biological and nuclear weapons production plants have reportedly been destroyed in the air attacks, Iraq still has thousands of artillery shells and bombs with chemical and biological agents in storage which could have been saved for the next war as well. Thus, despite the five weeks of heavy bombing, the Iraqi military could have ended the war with a significant capability intact.
However, the American rejection of this proposal and the decision to launch a ground war will severely limit the ability of the Iraqis to prepare a major military move in the foreseeable future. In the ground war, the allied forces are able to destroy, damage, or capture most of the thousands of Iraqi tanks and artillery pieces, as well as the entire arsenal of unconventional weapons.
In addition, the direct confrontation with the Iraqi forces will seriously weaken or perhaps destroy the military infrastructure. The officers and supporters of the regime will be killed, captured, or forced to flee. As a result, the Iraqi ability to wage war could be reduced or destroyed for many years.
DESPITE THE strength of the Israeli military and its successes, the IDF has always been too small to undertake this kind of operation. (The effort to destroy the PLO and expel them from Beirut in 1982 was very costly and not particularly successful). In contrast, however, the American-led coalition has the military, economic, and political resources to destroy the Iraqi army.
As a result, the regime led by Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi Ba'ath Party, which was based on the support and control of the military, is also unlikely to survive.
If George Bush and the American forces pursue the Iraqi army and Saddam Hussein to the end, this will not only make it difficult for the Iraqis to prepare for the next war, but could also break the cycle of wars in the Middle East. Since the Peace Treaty with Egypt, the major danger to Israel has been from an attack involving a combination of Arab states, including Syria and Iraq. Without Iraqi arms and support, Syria will have great difficulty mounting a major attack against Israel. Having witnessed the tremendous destructive power that the Americans were able to use against the Iraqis, the other states in the region will be forced to think twice before beginning a future war.
In a broader sense, the total defeat of Saddam Hussein could also force his enthusiastic Arab and Islamic supporters, including the Palestinians, to re-examine their mythologies. In past wars with Israel, partial defeats could always be called victories, and preparations for revenge and the next round could begin immediately.
After each of the Arab-Israeli wars, the Arab leaders and masses produced a new rationalization to explain their defeat, and this provided them with the hope for the next round. This time, it is clear that despite the huge investment ($50 billion in 10 years, and the formidable arsenal assembled by Iraq, including missiles, chemical weapons, and advanced technologies), the Iraqi military was unable to mount significant offensive operations. Instead of the calls for revenge, this realization might lead to a reassessment of the policies that led to the continuous cycle of wars and destruction over the past four decades.
Any form of ceasefire which allows the Iraqi dictator to
survive with a large part of his army intact would provide the foundation for
Saddam's efforts to exact revenge. In contrast, the destruction of the Iraqi
ability to wage war will end the cycle of wars in the region, and provide the
foundation for the "new order" in the Middle East which the American government
has declared to be its goal in the area.
THE "NEW regional order" which the Bush Administration has declared to be its major policy goal now that the war is over is heavily dependent on arms control. President Bush and Secretary of State Baker have emphasized the need to limit the flow of arms in the Middle East in order to provide stability and prevent another and more violent war.
Now, as in the past, these goals will be very difficult to implement. There are many eager suppliers of weapons, including the U.S. itself, and the tensions and inherent conflicts in the region still encourage largescale arms races. Instead of arms control and "a new order," the Middle East seems already to be in the first stages of a major new arms race.
In the week which has elapsed since the end of fighting in the Gulf, the U.S. has already announced two multi-billion dollar arms deals with Egypt and Saudi Arabia. These two states were part of the anti-Iraq coalition, and the advanced aircraft, precision munitions, and other weapons are part of the rewards of victory.
However, other countries in the region, including Syria and Israel, will naturally feel the need to keep pace. Syria has already taken the billion dollars in "reward money" it received from the Saudis to purchase advanced weapons. If reports of Syrian purchases of improved Scud missiles and mobile launchers from North Korea are accurate, the stage for the next war in the region will already have been set.
Israel, of course, follows these developments closely. Given the trauma of the recent war in which 39 missiles were launched at Israel over a period of six weeks, the Syrian effort to obtain new missiles is a major source of concern. Syria also has a known chemical-weapons capability, and its proximity to Israel increases the threat. Unless the U.S. can lean on its coalition partner, (or on North Korea, perhaps through Japan), and prevent this deployment, a new arms race and increased instability will follow.
By agreeing to supply Egypt and Saudi Arabia with advanced weapons, Washington will have great difficulty in restraining other eager suppliers to adopt a policy of restraint. Why should French, British, or Soviet firms be shut out of the lucative arms market in the Middle East while American firms rake in the profits? In addition, while Egypt and Saudi Arabia do not represent a current threat to Israel, the long-term fear of revolutions in these states which could result in a situation in which these weapons would be turned towards the Jewish State is ever-present in Israel.
Israeli fears have been increased by the cold responses to requests for assistance. Emergency aid to cover the costs of the war has been reduced to $650 million, and payment for the Patriot missiles is still under negotiation. Israel has no more funds for increased defense expenditures, and a continuing regional arms race will force a major reassessment of defense policy, with renewed emphasis on pre-emption. This policy will also not contribute to the American goal of regional stability and prevention of warfare.
In other words, now that the war is over, it seems that
business is still business, and that the arms race is still on, and with renewed
intensity. If the U.S. is serious about creating a "new regional order," it will
have to alter its policies radically.
THE WAR in the Gulf has raised a number of questions regarding the validity of the theory of deterrence in the Middle East. In theory, deterrence is designed to dissuade one state from attacking another, or from bombing civilian targets, by threatening unacceptable retaliation. This theory is widely viewed as the core of modern military strategy and international relations, providing a basis for stability in a highly precarious situation. According to many analysts, the U.S. and Soviet Union managed to avoid nuclear war during the Cold War by following policies based on mutual deterrence.
In the Middle East, with its chronic wars and overlapping nationalist-religious-ethnic hatreds, deterrence also seemed to be the only way to prevent total catastrophe. As many countries in the region armed themselves to the teeth with thousands of tanks, modern fighters and bombers, ballistic missiles and an arsenal of unconventional weapons, the fear of "mutual assured destruction" was seen as the only basis for survival.
Questions were raised about the viability of this "hope" when Iraq used chemical weapons in the war against Iran and against Kurds within Iraq, but these were dismissed with the argument that neither Iran nor the Kurds had their own chemical weapons with which to respond. Iran could not seriously threaten Iraq's civilian population or its leadership, so fears of "mutual assured destruction" did not exist.
Israel has based much of its military doctrine on deterrence. According to foreign sources, over three decades ago the Israeli government began to develop nuclear ability and advanced missiles to deter a full-scale combined assault by the Arab states who have not reconciled themselves to the existence of Israel. The mere possession of such a deterrent, and the ability to destroy the attacking Arab states, were expected to prevent such an assault from ever taking place.
Saddam Hussein may not have read this literature or studied the theory. For months prior to his "mother of wars" against the U.S., 23 allied states and Israel, he seemed to be uninterested in or incapable of avoiding collision or miscalculation.
Even before the war began, Saddam Hussein created the perception that if he could not win, he would choose to emulate Samson and end the fight with a spectacular suicide, taking with him most of his military, a large part of his nation, and whatever else he could. Iraq repeated threats to use weapons of mass destruction - chemical, biological, and even nuclear - frequently. Saddam called on the Iraqi people and his supporters in the Arab world to sacrifice themselves in a "Holy Jihad." This is not part of deterrence, and the theory, as well as the policies which are based on this theory, cannot deal with such self-destructive objectives.
To be effective, deterrence requires a combination of threats and promises, which are exchanged between the parties. Instead of deterring, some threats can trigger a violent preemptive or preventive response. For months prior to the outbreak of the war, Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi spokesmen threatened to use chemical, biological, and even nuclear weapons against Israel.
In April 1990, the Iraqi leader declared his intention to "incinerate half of Israel," and this threat was repeated many times in the middle of the war.
Official Iraqi announcements and war communiques also repeatedly warned of the imminent use of a "new and terrible weapon," and declared that the al-Hussein missiles could carry chemical, biological, as well as nuclear weapons.
SINCE SADDAM had developed a reputation as a man who delivers on his threats (before the war, he repeatedly announced that in the event of an American attack, the first missiles would fall on Tel Aviv), these threats were granted a certain degree of credibility. In other words, rather than deterring, Iraqi signals and declarations could have triggered an Israeli preventive strike.
At the same time, in the war, Iraq never used any chemical or biological weapons. Despite losing Kuwait, as well as most of his military force, and, ultimately, his power, Saddam did not fire these weapons at the coalition forces or civilian targets in Israel or Saudi Arabia.
It now appears that despite the initial indications, the Iraqi leader was not suicidal, and sought to avoid threats to his personal survival, as well as that of his regime. This might seem to indicate that deterrence, and the threat of massive retaliation, did work after all.
The evidence for this claim is, however, at best, unclear. The Iraq air force had no chance to launch an attack and use its chemical bombs. Local commanders did have authorization to use chemical weapons in the ground war. It is possible that they never had time or sufficient artillery pieces to fire the chemical rounds (or perhaps the weather did not allow for their use. )
As for the Scuds, there is no clear evidence that the Iraqis solved the technical problems involved in producing and fitting chemical warheads on the missiles. In other words, the case for deterrence is not convincing.
Implications for Strategic policy
Immediately after the first Iraqi missiles landed in greater Tel Aviv, Israeli analysts, including academics, journalists, politicians and military strategists, began debating the implications for deterrence policy. Did the fact that Saddam was continuing to launch missiles at Israel mean that deterrence had failed? Would a failure to retaliate mean that Israeli deterrence with respect to Syria and other Arab states would be weakened as well?
In favor of deterrence, it must be recognized that the war was so unique as to make it difficult to learn any lessons from it. The primary objective of the Iraqi missile attacks was political, rather than military.
Rather than attempting to prevent an Israeli attack, Iraq was attempting to provoke one, in the hope that this would lead to a collapse of the coalition. In addition, once Israel was attacked, the "massive" response which had been promised was not a useful option.
In addition, given the intensity of the American attack, whatever destruction Israel could add would not have affected the outcome of the war. In any other situation, it should be clear to all that the Israeli military would have responded massively after the first missile attack. Thus, it might be argued that it is not useful to draw conclusions from this single and extremely anomalous event.
If there is a direct war involving, for example, Syria and Israel, it is possible that direct attacks on cities and other civilian targets might, as in the past, be avoided through mutual deterrence.
Alternatives to deterrence
Even if deterrence did prevent Saddam from using chemical and biological weapons in this war, this provides slim hope for the future. The dominant perception is that deterrence is uncertain, at best, and can lead to disaster. In a region in which religious and ideological wars are indigenous, and large-scale civilian casualties are considered acceptable, deterrence cannot be expected to be very effective in the long term. If political and religious leaders in the region are perceived as willing to sacrifice large numbers of their followers for a chosen cause, deterrence is not a practical policy, and other options must be sought.
For Israel, the trauma of over a month of missile attacks accompanied by the constant fear of chemical weapons, and the resulting economic and psychological damage, will effect future policy in a major way. If most of the Arab states continue their state of war with Israel, and acquire and deploy missiles, long range heavy bombers, and chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, Israel can be expected to re-emphasize policies of preemptive and preventive attack.
Deterrence will be considered too uncertain to prevent attacks against Israeli population centers. In the absence of a fundamental change in relations with Syria and other states which pose significant military threats, Israel can be expected to return to a policy based on destruction of the unconventional weapons and long-range delivery systems before they can be used.
The most desirable course for the region is the development of stable political structures which include arms control measures.
Israel and Egypt have already indicated their willingness to participate in such measures. Before the Gulf war and the Iraqi missile attacks, it was possible to consider measures and mutual restraints which might have involved some risk, but might also have led to increased security. Now, however, Israel is not likely to take any such risks.
Ironically, the conditions necessary for arms control are the
same as those for deterrence. For either policy to be effective, the leaders as
well as the public in all the states must come to recognize the costs of mutual
assured destruction, and must decide to seek alternatives. As long as some
states are perceived to be immune or indifferent to such threats, and are
perceived to be willing to accept massive casualties and destruction in pursuit
of national or religious goals, deterrence will remain uncertain.
THE MOST important aspect of the cease-fire agreement signed between the government in Baghdad and the American-led coalition is the requirement that Iraq destroy its entire unconventional military capability. Iraq has 15 days from the signing of the agreement in which to provide the UN with a full list of the locations and contents of existing stockpiles of ballistic missiles and launchers, as well as all chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. Within 45 days, the Secretary-General of the UN is to report on the establishment of a commission responsible for verifying that these materials, stockpiles, and manufacturing facilities no longer exist.
It is clear that Saddam Hussein has no intention of voluntarily disposing of his deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. As long as the U.S. military forces occupied a large section of Iraq, American pressure might conceivably have forced Baghdad to comply. Now, however, as the Americans rush to complete their withdrawal from Iraqi territory, there is little hope that this key aspect of the cease-fire agreement will, in fact, be implemented. The issue has not even been mentioned recently by any administration official.
No one expects the toothless UN forces to fight their way into fortified storage areas and production plants, and sanctions will soon be forgotten. Indeed, according to a number of reports from Washington and Jerusalem, Iraq has already reassembled a number of Scud launchers, and is working to salvage components of the chemical, biological and nuclear efforts.
Saddam's ability to openly defy the U.S. on such an important issue constitutes a major failure for the Bush Administration - a failure which, in many respects, is even more damaging than the Kurdish disaster. The most important goal of American policy in the Middle East is stability. Regional stability ensures the unimpeded flow of oil to the West and generally serves the broader global objectives of the U.S.
In discussing the "new world order" which they claim to seek, President Bush and Secretary of State Baker have placed primary emphasis on ending the cycle of conflicts and creating a basis for stability. Before and during the war, American leaders stressed the importance of destroying the Iraq non-conventional arsenal as a prerequisite for regional security and stability. Without the implementation of this requirement, postwar stability is impossible.
THE AMERICAN failure to eliminate Saddam Hussein's missile threat is having a major effect on perceptions in Israel. Initially, the uncompromising American position regarding the invasion of Kuwait and the massive air attacks which began on January 16 surprised many Israeli analysts and policymakers. Statements comparing Saddam Hussein to Hitler and the U.S. decision to send massive forces and become involved in a war in the Middle East, seemed to demonstrate a recognition of the dangers in the region and a willingness to commit resources and forces to contain those dangers. This constituted a major alteration in U.S. policy, and led to policy changes in Jerusalem as well.
Just before the war, the Bush Administration pressed Israel not to launch a preemptive strike against Iraqi missiles, (thought to be armed with chemical warheads). In return, it promised to destroy the launchers in the first hours of the war. The U.S. Air Force did try to fulfill this commitment, but failed. Israel sat quietly through six weeks of traumatic missile attacks and the terror engendered by the fear chemical attacks, because it believed in the American pledge to eliminate the Iraqi capability to attack Israel for the foreseeable future.
The American failure to redeem this pledge has effected Israeli policy. Although the U.S. bombers and fighters dropped tens of thousands of warheads on Iraqi targets and achieved a great technical victory, Saddam Hussein is still in power, and his military forces are being rebuilt. Many Israelis are again questioning the depth of the American understanding of the continued threat.
Now, as many commentators in Washington realize, the U.S. has lost vital credit and trust. This is the first time that the Israeli political and military leadership was willing to trust anyone else to safeguard its security; and the U.S. didn't deliver. As a result, Israelis will now be even more reluctant to take security risks or entrust their interests to American promises.
The continued Iraqi threat will also have a major impact on Israeli willingness to take risks and make concessions in negotiations with the Palestinians and the Arab states. While Israelis were spending nights in sealed rooms and wearing gas masks, Palestinians were rallying support for Saddam Hussein and dancing on the rooftops. The U.S. declared that the PLO was no longer a partner for negotiations. With the U.S. involved in a war against Iraq, there were expressions of understanding for Israeli anti-terrorism measures, and the expectation that these would be intensified with American support. The distortions of Arab propaganda and the willingness to risk the lives of countless civilians seemed to become clear in Washington.
However, terrorism returned and even increased after the war, and the PLO's spokesmen in Jerusalem are meeting with Secretary Baker. The threat of chemical weapons and missiles still exists, and the Israelis are angry. American requests to "trust us" no longer have the credibility they had before the war in January, or even toward the end of the war in March.
The failure to destroy the Iraqi missiles and remaining unconventional capability also weakens America's ability to influence its Arab coalition partners. Syria is armed with a significant ballistic missile force, as well as chemical warheads, and has used the billions of dollars it received for participating in the anti-Iraqi coalition to buy more weapons, including missiles. Had the U.S. followed through on its pledge to eliminate all Saddam Hussein's remaining missiles and chemical capability, Damascus would have understood that the possession of these weapons is extremely dangerous.
Arms control was also high on the U.S. agenda and an integral part of the new regional order and stability. The verified destruction of the Iraqi ballistic missiles and launchers used in the war, as well as the facilities with which Saddam threatened to "incinerate half of Israel" and "create rivers of blood" were assumed to be a prerequisite for significant arms control negotiations. As long as the Iraqi strongman retains such weapons, arms control is impossible.
Before the war, President Bush and Secretary Baker declared
that in order to create a new regional order and bring stability to the region,
Saddam Hussein must be disarmed and his weapons of mass destruction destroyed.
If, in their haste to bring the U.S troops home, Bush and Baker allow the Iraqi
capability to survive, other American objectives in the Middle East will become
far more difficult to achieve.
IN THE wake of the Gulf war, President Bush and Secretary of State Baker announced a goal of creating a "new regional order," designed to end the cycle of war throughout the Middle East.
A system of arms control covering both non-conventional weapons and the massive stockpiles of conventional arms is an essential component of this policy. As Baker continues to work to develop the broad structure of the peace process, the State Department has been active in discussing arms control options with the governments in the region, including Israel.
In the abstract, arms control seems to be an important element of peace and stability. The recent war highlighted the dangers posed by the continued transfer of weapons. If missiles, as well as chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons could be effectively banned on the basis of mutual agreement, the citizens of all the states in the region would be far safer.
Arms control played an important part in diminishing the mutual fears of the Cold War. The first agreement, the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty, came in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which was the most dangerious and unstable period of the conflict between the two superpowers. Other agreements, such as the Salt I treaty in 1972, and the INF Treaty in the mid-1980s, demonstrated what could be achieved through detente. As a result of these successes, there is a strong tendency in Washington to base efforts in the Middle East on the experiences of negotiations with Moscow.
However, in this, as in many respects, the Middle East is different from other contexts; simplistic approaches to arms control here could harm security, rather than enhance it.
The U.S.-Soviet arms race was essentially confined to the two superpowers, while military conflicts in the Middle East involve Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Israel, Libya, and even extend to include Algeria. The core of the U.S.-Soviet confrontation was largely ideological, but the wars in the Middle East are based on the explosive combination of ethnic, nationalist, religious, and cultural conflict.
It is also important to recall that Moscow and Washington maintained diplomatic links throughout the Cold War, and that, despite the distrust and threat of conflict, multiple channels of communication existed. In contrast, with the exception of Egypt, all the Arab and Islamic states in the region maintain a state a war with Israel, and refuse to acknowledge the existence of the Jewish State. In such an atmosphere, it is both politically and logistically difficult to even discuss issues pertinent to arms control.
THE PROCESS of arms control is further complicated by the overlapping nature of the conflicts in the region.
In the wake of its war with Iran, Iraq was able to to purchase billions of dollars in weapons and military technology, and this arsenal was later turned against Kuwait and Israel. The Iranian and Iraqi threats led Saudi Arabia to spend billions of dollars on new weapons and technology, including American F-15 combat aircraft, and Chinese intercontinental ballistic missiles. For Israel, however, these weapons represent a potential threat, based on previous Saudi contributions to the Arab wars in 1967 and 1973. In other words, no single aspect of the Middle East can be isolated, and arms control must be wide-ranging.
The region is also characterized by extreme asymmetry in the geopolitical situation and military forces. Israel's very small population and geographic area have led to a major emphasis on advanced technology and an offensive strategy. The major Arab states, such as Iraq and Egypt, have much larger populations, and have traditionally based their military forces on quantity, including the development of very large ground forces. The massive oil revenues which some states in the region receive enable them to spend large sums on weapons and military deployments, while other states, and Israel in particular, lack these resources and must seek alternatives.
Before the recent war, Iraq had over one million men under arms, equipped with over 5,000 tanks, hundreds of aircraft, and thousands of artillery launchers. Such a large force, even if entirely conventional, could have posed a major threat to Israel. As a result, effective arms control must not only limit the unconventional weapons of all sides, but must also prevent the Arab states from deploying massive conventional forces.
Perhaps most important is the fact that the Middle East constitutes the largest and most lucrative arms market in the world, and large profits are to be made, particularly by selling to the oil-rich states. In the decade following the 1973 war, the U.S. delivered more than $65 billion in military equipment and services to help the oil producers "recycle" their wealth. During the 1980s, Iraq alone spent over $40 billion on weapons and military technology, largely from the USSR, Europe, and the U.S. Such sums have also encouraged other suppliers, including China, Brazil, North Korea, Argentina and India, to seek sales in the Middle East. The multiplicity of potential suppliers adds another dimension to the problems of arms control in the Middle East.
As a result of all these complicating factors, successful arms control in the Middle East requires a number of major breakthroughs. In this issue, direct, face-to-face talks are indispensable, and require the participation of all the Arab and Islamic states, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Algeria. Missiles and chemical or nuclear warheads from these states pose as much danger to Israel as those from Iraq or Syria. There can be no mere "observers" in this process.
Limitations on the acquisition of weapons and a broad spectrum of technologies (including those with civil as well as military applications) must be independently verifiable. Previous efforts which sought to rely on the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna for monitoring of nuclear weapons and materials were clearly inadequate for the Middle East. Iraq is a member of the IAEA's Board of Governors, yet was able to operate a widespread nuclear weapons development program without interference.
To assure Israel that Iraq is not developing nuclear weapons, Israeli inspectors must be allowed to monitor sites and investigate reports throughout Iraq. The elements of such a system are being discussed in the UN within the framework of a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone for the region. While this type of arrangement is clearly remote, anything less would endanger Israeli security and render any arms control agreements meaningless.
The current American proposals reportedly attempt to limit missiles, as well as chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. They apparently do not include limits on massive buildups of conventional weapons in the Arab states.
Instead, the Bush administration is marching in the opposite direction by sanctioning the sale of billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Citing this precedent, the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia have sought large contracts from Syria. As predicted, France is reported to be willing to sell Jordan $1 billion in advanced aircraft (knowing that they might end up in the Iraqi arsenal). These new weapons are not going to increase Israeli security, and will effectively destroy any hope that Israel might find other control measures to be useful. In the Middle East, curbs on unconventional weapons are inseparable from restraints on conventional sales (and profits).
An effective system of arms control in the Middle East will
take a long time to develop, and must overcome substantial hurdles. Only
carefully constructed and realistic measures, which include all the countries in
the area, take into account the complexity of the relations among them, and
limit all forms of weapons, have any chance of success. Efforts which ignore or
oversimplify these obstacles will be counterproductive, and could actually
reduce security and stability.
AFTER A SERIES of delays and false starts, the main elements of the Bush Administration's Middle East arms control program have been revealed. As expected, the American initiative emphasizes the control of weapons of mass destruction - chemical, biological, and, most importantly, nuclear weapons - as well as the missiles used to deliver them.
This effort was primarily motivated by the belated realization that the Iraqi arsenal of weapons of mass destruction threatened the U.S. Saddam Hussein threatened to use chemical weapons and Scud missiles to "drown American troops in rivers of blood." If he had a few more years, the Iraqi dictator would have succeeded in developing nuclear warheads; and many American analysts have argued that, had Iraq possessed such weapons when it invaded Kuwait, the U.S. would not have attacked.
The American arms control proposal, however, goes well beyond the immediate issue of Iraq. Other countries, including Libya and Syria, have massive stockpiles of chemical weapons, and the ballistic missiles and long-range bombers to deliver them. Iran and Algeria have acquired some of the technology to develop nuclear weapons, and Libya, Syria and Egypt are seeking similar capabilities.
The U.S. is using the opportunities presented by the outcome of the Gulf war to try and stop these threats to its own interests, and to regional stability.
ALTHOUGH THE direct threat is from the Arab states, Israel is in many ways most directly affected by the Bush proposal. To influence Syria, Libya, Egypt, Iran, etc., the U.S. has brought Israel into the picture. In a simplistic and misleading way, much of the media attention following the Bush speech focused on Israel's "bombs in the basement." The Arab states justify their own acquisition of unconventional weapons by pointing to Israel.
In the Paris Conference on the Limitation of Chemical Weapons, which took place in January 1989, Arab representatives argued that they need these weapons to offset Israel's alleged nuclear capability. This was a convenient way for the Iraqis to avoid responding to the fact that they used these weapons against Iranian troops and the Kurds; and it again focused attention on Israel. To develop a framework designed to curb the Arabs, the U.S. has sought to include Israel.
In addition, the American approach to non-proliferation has always been global, with no allowance for specific situations or requirements, including Israel's. Washington has never really understood or approved of the Israeli nuclear option. To the officials in the State Department who developed this proposal, a broad regional initiative seemed like a good way to "rein Israel in." They were supported by Egypt's President Mubarak, who raised the issue of a regional ban on nuclear weapons (primarily affecting Israel) directly with President Bush. So, although Israel is not the main target of the American proposal, the Israeli capability could in fact be most directly affected.
THE EFFORTS to freeze and eventually eliminate weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East is in the Israeli interest, but also poses a dilemma.
If the U.S. can force the Arab states to permanently give up all chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and facilities, as well as the missiles that can be used to deliver them, the threat to Israeli cities will end. The collective trauma caused by six weeks of Iraqi missile raids, embodying the threat of chemical attack, demonstrates the potential value of an effective ban on these weapons. This is an offer which will be difficult to refuse.
However, arms control is a political process which involves considerable risks, and the Israeli government sought to delay the Bush initiative in order to discuss these concerns. Without a broader peace agreement, arms control could effectively weaken Israel while allowing the Arabs to develop a military edge.
In the 1930s, Japan exploited loopholes in naval arms control agreements to build "pocket battleships" which were used effectively against the U.S. In isolation, arms control is likely to be ineffective or counterproductive.
Even if the Americans can succeed in imposing an effective ban on weapons of mass destruction among all the Arab and Islamic states, including Iran, Algeria, and perhaps Pakistan, Israel will resist measures which could limit its own nuclear option. The nuclear capability was initially developed precisely because Israel is very small and vulnerable to Arab conventional attack.
As the neighboring states purchased massive numbers of tanks, artillery, aircraft, and the accompanying ammunition, the conventional danger to Israel increased.
To meet Israel's concerns, Middle Eastern arms control must include effective limits on conventional weapons, but in this area, the Bush proposal is conspicuously ambiguous. This is not surprising, because the U.S. is now the major supplier of weapons and technology in the region. Although Bush attempted to distinguish between offensive and defensive weapons, this is a matter of perspective. The same tanks can be used for both purposes. A broader arms control program would mean that America would have to forego the multi-billion dollar arms deals recently concluded with Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Limits on conventional arms sales would also require cooperation of the other major suppliers - France, the Soviet Union, and China.
As a result, the Israeli government has urged that these issues be included in the American proposal. However, given the large economic interests involved in the sales of these conventional weapons to the major Arab oil producers, as well as political pressures and perspectives in the U.S., it will be difficult to gain much consideration of the Israeli perspectives in the White House.
THE BUSH proposal seems to have been developed by the Middle East teams in the State Department and National Security Council, and not based on an extensive analysis among experienced arms-control professionals. As a result, it is quite vague with regard to enforcement and verification.
There are many existing limitations of the sale of technology for making missiles, as well as nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Nevertheless, the Germans succeeded in supplying billions of dollars in formally forbidden technology to Iraq and Libya, China has sold a nuclear reactor to Algeria, and, in many cases, even the Americans failed to enforce their own laws.
Arab states have billions of dollars to offer for this technology, and to understate the case enforcement of any international agreement will be difficult. The history of similar efforts in the past provides ample grounds for skepticism.
Arms control experts also recognize that even if Syria, Egypt, Libya, Iran, etc., all publicly accept a ban on the development of missiles and weapons of mass destruction, there is no guarantee of compliance. Most of these Arab states, including Iraq, have already signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and agreed not to develop nuclear weapons. These signatures did not prevent Saddam Hussein from using every possible avenue to acquire nuclear weapons.
Verification of the terms of the NPT has been the responsibility of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is affiliated with the UN and suffers from many of the UN's failings. Like a fox guarding the henhouse, Iraq is a member of the IAEA's Board of Governors, and this organization's verification efforts in the Middle East are very inadequate. For arms control to proceed, a better system, based on mutual verification, is required, but there is no mention of this in the Bush proposal.
HOW, THEN, should Israel respond? Despite the flaws and potential risks, the governmnent can endorse the effort, emphasize the positive aspects of the program, and suggest improvements. (Jerusalem is also waiting to see whether the U.S. honors the commitment made during the war to destroy the Iraqi missiles, chemical weapons, and nuclear materials and facilities. )
The improvements will focus on the issue of conventional weapons and verification. The Israeli government argues that given the asymmetries and vulnerabilities, arms control in the Middle East must include significant limits on the sales of conventional weapons to all states, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia. (The U.S. can set an important example here by freezing its recent sales to these states).
The U.S. and Nato always linked Soviet demands for reduction of nuclear weapons with an agreement to balance the conventional forces in Central Europe, and it was only when Moscow accepted this link that negotiations proceeded. The same principle applies to the Middle East and Israel's situation, and the U.S. should be able to understand the problem.
Israel also insists that arms control be based on direct negotiations with the Arab states, and verification can only be effective if it includes mutual inspection arrangements, whereby Israeli teams inspect Arab states, and the reverse.
This approach has been endorsed in a 1990 UN report, which explicitly acknowledges the limitations of applying the IAEA system in the Middle East. If the Arab states reject direct talks and mutual verification, there is no hope for effective arms control.
The Israeli perspectives and concerns make sense and are understood by some in Washington. A number of arms control proposals have been discussed in Congress, and these make provisions for the issues which are of concern to Israel, including conventional weapons. Critics will note that, in its present form, the Bush initiative is similar to the arms control proposals which, until Gorbachev, the Soviet Union presented to the U.S., and which the American leaders, including Ronald Reagan and George Bush, consistently rejected.
It is ironic that Bush and Baker are pressing Israel to accept terms such as unbalanced conventional forces and inadequate verification that they found unacceptable in dealing with the USSR.
If the loopholes can be closed, the balances restored, and the process linked directly to direct peace negotiations between Israel and the Arab states, the initiative can serve as a useful beginning which can benefit Israelis as well as Americans and even broad Arab interests in survival.
If, however, the U.S. government is unable or unwilling to
address these issues, this exercise, like similar efforts, could be
counterproductive, and lead to another conflict between Jerusalem and
FROM THE first week of the Gulf war, when large parts of the Iraqi Air Force sought refuge in Iran, it should have been clear that Saddam Hussein was ready to concede this battle and prepare for the next round. The next time, Iraq would not only have chemical and biological warheads for its missiles, but nuclear explosives.
Saddam managed to hide or protect many elements of his many-faceted nuclear program during the war, and as soon as the bombing stopped, work began again. Within a short time, according to the Iraqi dictator's plan, Iraq would have a nuclear force, and by invoking the fear of atomic destruction, would be able to deter external threats.
While some strategic analysts sought to alert the American government to this development, Bush, Baker, and their advisers were too involved in self-congratulation to recognize the remaining threat. After six weeks of a very one-sided war, they simply could not imagine that Saddam had not "learned his lesson."
Surely, the suffering inflicted by the B-52 bombers and the Tomahawk cruise missiles, the mastery of the skies and the technological wizardry of the F-117A Stealth, and Norman Schwarzkopf's humiliation of the Iraqi ground forces had sobered the Iraqi dictator and weakened his hold on the regime. They were sure that no one, not even Saddam, would dare to risk further damage to Iraqi cities, roads, electricity, water and industry.
For four months, Saddam was again able to exploit American arrogance and naivete. The U.S. government was in a hurry to "bring the boys home," and dismissed all the obvious signs that Saddam was dodging the terms of the ceasefire from the beginning. The agreement, embodied in UN Security Council Resolution 687 and signed on April 3, 1991, called for the full and verified destruction of all Iraqi unconventional weapons within 120 days. The first step required Iraq to provide a precise list of unconventional weapons facilities and their locations. The original list was obviously incomplete (Iraq claimed to have no nuclear weapons program) and was rejected. A few days later, a somewhat amended list was provided, and despite the evidence that it was still incomplete, the Americans were in a hurry and let the matter rest.
The second phase began with the appointment of a UN commission to inspect and supervise the destruction of all the facilities and materials. By mid-May, the commission was in Iraq, and began to look for nuclear material in the known locations.
After overcoming initial Iraqi resistance, most of the known nuclear material was accounted for and preparations began for removing it from Iraqi territory. Some centrifuges were still unaccounted for, but they would be located soon, or perhaps forgotten. The American government told skeptics that Saddam was indeed cooperating. The early August deadline for compliance with the terms of the ceasefire might not be met for technical reasons, but the State Department was confident that the Iraqi chemical, biological and nuclear capabilities would be inoperative and his missiles and launchers destroyed.
In early June, however, a scientist from the Iraqi nuclear program defected, and told his interrogators of another large and entirely secret Iraqi nuclear weapons program. In addition to the reactor program (effectively destroyed by Israel in 1981) and the centrifuges for enriching natural uranium, Iraq also had a functioning electromagnetic isotope separation plant. This technique is considered to be highly inefficient, but it nevertheless provided the Iraqis with the capability of manufacturing fuel for nuclear weapons. The physically large and readily detectable program had apparently gone completely unnoticed. Nobody had looked for it.
Armed with the defector's information, another UN team was sent to inspect, and was again refused entry to the nuclear facilities. This time, Iraqi guards fired shots over the heads of the inspectors, who saw the components and materials being carted away on heavy trucks.
BY THIS time, the evidence was too overwhelming to be casually dismissed. The Bush administration, which had focused most of its attention on the critical threat posed by a handful of Israeli caravans on a Samarian hilltop, was forced to confront Saddam again.
Even after the evidence of Iraq's continued nuclear effort became clear, White House and State Department officials actually argued that continued sanctions would force Saddam to change course. Just as the Iraqi dictator has apparently not "learned the lessons" of the invasion of Kuwait, the Bush administration, too, does not seem to have learned much. If sanctions did not force Saddam out of Kuwait, they certainly would not affect his nuclear ambitions.
Even if the U.S. resorts to military action against the known nuclear facilities and materials, it will be difficult to ensure that the entire capability has indeed been destroyed. The U.S. had great difficulty assessing the results of its aerial bombing campaign during the war, especially against underground and fortified facilities. Without knowing how much enriched uranium has actually been produced by this program, it will be impossible to know how much still exists. In addition, if the Iraqis succeeded in hiding all evidence of this program, how many others might still be operating, undetected? And how many Scud missiles and launchers are still being hidden by Saddam?
Fearing the political and military costs of occupying Baghdad and the rest of Iraq, the Americans had hoped that a display of firepower would be sufficient to force Iraqi compliance after the end of the war. But the war ended with Saddam alive, still in command, and a continuing threat to Kuwait, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. What the Americans see as a decisive victory has already been dismissed as a temporary tactical setback for the Iraqi regime.
The U.S. and the rest of the world helped Baghdad amass a huge
arsenal of weapons, including missiles and chemical weapons, and failed to watch
as he built massive concrete structures and underground facilities for launching
missiles and producing nuclear weapons. In the absence of a full-scale
occupation, the U.S. and the rest of the world will have to continue to monitor
Iraqi activities in detail for signs of resurgence - including missiles and
nuclear weapons. When these signs are found, these countries, including Israel,
must be prepared to act quickly and decisively to destroy the threat.
THE American effort to convene an international peace conference to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict is formally based on what is called "the two-track approach." In Secretary of State Baker's initial proposals, one track was to deal with the relations between Israel and the Arab states - diplomatic recognition, security arrangements, the Golan Heights, arms control and the Arab economic boycott. The Palestinian issue and the future of Judea and Samaria were to be discussed on a parallel but separate track.
In this plan, progress on one issue was contingent on progress on the other; if Syria and Jordan dragged their heels on ending the state of war with Israel, the pace of discussions on autonomy for the Palestinians would be slowed to match. If, on the other hand, the Arab states showed that they were willing to end the decades of war and hostility, Israel would be expected to make concessions to the Palestinians.
As the opening of the peace talks gets closer, the first track has essentially disappeared; the peace talks now seem to be focused almost exclusively on the Palestinian issue. As a result, the Israeli government and the majority of the public no longer see much chance that this conference will indeed lead to an end to the conflict and the threat of war and destruction.
The Arab states have focused all their efforts on the second track. The Syrian, Egyptian, and Saudi governments have gained American help in pressuring Israel on the issues of settlements, the representation of the Palestinians, and the role of the PLO. At the same time, the anti-Israeli hostility from these states has not abated.
The only incentive for Israeli participation in peace talks is the promise, or at least the hope, of an end to war. An international conference which fails to end this threat gives Israel nothing to increase its security. Instead, the Shamir government, and the majority of the Israeli population, seems to have concluded that this conference will endanger Israeli security and even national survival.
Without Syrian cooperation, there can be no peace in the Middle East. However, since the end of the Iraqi war, Damascus has purchased billions of dollars in weapons, including large numbers of tanks and combat aircraft. In addition, the Syrians have received Scud missiles from North Korea and are seeking modern Chinese ballistic missiles.
PERHAPS MOST importantly, the U.S. seems to have forgotten about the first track and has focused all its energies on the Palestinian issue. While Baker and his entourage have visited Syria many times over the past year, they have not persuaded Syria to slow its arms purchases. The U.S. has also failed to end the threat to Israel from Iraq. (The American claim and belief that it had ended this threat was a basic condition for beginning efforts to negotiate a peace agreement in the first place. )
In this atmosphere, it is difficult for Israel to be generous or take the possibility of peace seriously.
The Saudis may have a small military role, although serving as a potential armaments warehouse for a general Arab attack against Israel, but their political role was a significant part of the first track. The Saudi government is one of the major sources of anti-Israel propaganda and religious hostility. Ironically, activities in Israel have served to highlight the Palestinian issue and to divert attention from the vital Israeli interest in the inter-state negotiations. By creating new settlements, particularly in Jerusalem, and stressing the Israeli position in public appearances, Shamir and the Israeli government have increased the salience of this issue.
The fundamental concerns regarding the military buildup in Syria, the American failure to end the threat from Iraq and the unending hostility of the Arab and Islamic nations have been neglected. Ultimately, however, these issues reflect the fundamental Israeli interests and will have to be the focus of Israeli policies in the peace process.
Thus, Israeli signals are confused at best and in many ways counter-productive.
THE PROSPECTS for the success of the conference and progress in the peace efforts are small, but still not zero. Israeli participation and willingness to make concessions and take risks will depend on the degree to which the hostility and threat from the Arab states is diminished.
If the peace talks begin with a handshake between Assad and Shamir and pictures of the Israeli delegation seated next to the Syrian and Jordanian representatives are beamed around the world, the first track will be revived.
However, if everyone allows the settlements and the Palestinian issue to remain the exclusive focus of negotiations, and the first track remains dormant, the entire effort is doomed to failure, and the conflict will continue.