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Regime change in Iraq isn't optional

Artikel i International Herald Tribune

Let's face it: There can be no going back when it comes to the confrontation over Iraq. There are understandable apprehensions about a war - at best we shall see four to six weeks of difficult regime removal followed by four to six years of even more difficult regime reconstruction. Great humanitarian and economic rehabilitation challenges will have to be faced. There are all the reasons in the world to try to find a better alternative than war. But it must not be going back to where we were. The policy (although that is a generous name for it) that has been pursued since the end of the Gulf War has been a miserable failure both for the people of Iraq and for the international community. It has been far more a posture than a policy. As they normally do, sanctions have solidified support for the local dictator, brought suffering to ordinary people and destroyed some of the foundations for a normal economy and society in the possible post-dictatorship period. Many have criticized the policy as immoral. Others should add that it has been ineffective - probably even counterproductive. And sanctions have hurt not only ordinary people in Iraq but also the region as a whole. Countries like Jordan and Turkey have had to shoulder the heavy burdens of this policy. In addition to sanctions, there have been the legally dubious no-flight zones with occasional bombings. This has hardly had any effect on repression in the south, and has only prolonged an unsustainable situation with a fractious Kurdish proto-state in the north. Again, more a posture than a policy. No one should have an interest in going back to this situation. Everyone, not least the region of which Iraq is a part, should have an interest in the present situation leading to abandonment of a policy that has so obviously failed. There is simply no way in which sanctions against Iraq will be lifted as long as Saddam Hussein is in power. This was the implicit policy of the previous U.S. administration, and has changed since then only in becoming more explicit. And when the Security Council in Resolution 1441 said that Iraq "has been and remains in material breach" of its obligations after the Gulf War, it said in effect that this regime has a record such that whatever it does will never be rewarded with the lifting of sanctions. Thus, the only way to get out of a policy that has failed is to remove the Saddam Hussein regime in Baghdad. The countries of the region, worried as they are over the prospect of a war, should have a profound interest in achieving this. While the focus of the international effort is on securing respect for UN resolutions on weapons of mass destruction, the interest of the region should be securing the regime removal that will pave the way for the ending of sanctions and the return to some sort of normalcy in the region. To this end, the buildup of military pressure is essential. But buildup in general terms will not be enough. It must also be clear that if the far preferable ways of achieving regime removal do not succeed, the less preferable way of war will have to be undertaken. The alternative of just backing down, returning to the profoundly failed and damaging policy of the past and waiting for the next eruption of tension could not be seriously contemplated by any sensible actor. The main burden in the weeks to come will be on the different states of the region. They have two strong interests. One is to avoid a war. The other is to prevent a return to the policy that has failed. The way to reconcile these two interests is to pursue as active and as all-encompassing an effort at regime removal in Baghdad as possible. Messages to this effect coming from the region itself might have greater force in key segments of Iraqi society than messages from farther away. If the regime is removed, the restoration of Iraq will be a concern primarily for the region but also for the wider international community. Massive problems of debt and underinvestment will have to be tackled. We must not be blind to the humanitarian suffering of the people of Iraq. There must be some sort of constitutional settlement for the Kurds. Remains of the programs of weapons of mass destruction must be cleared away. For the peoples of Iraq, there has been war on an almost daily basis for the last two decades. I don't think anyone in Iraq would see sanctions, a devastated economy and regular bombings as peace. Removal of the Saddam Hussein regime is the only way peace can be achieved. The next few weeks should be the beginning of the end of decades of war for the peoples of Iraq and for the region.

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