Barak On Iraq

Former Israeli PM Ehud Barak has an exceptionally good article on why an attack on Iraq is a good thing, both for the United States and for the Middle East as a whole.

Saddam Hussein’s nuclear-weapons program provides the urgent need for his removal. His previous violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions already provide the legal ground and legitimacy to remove him before it becomes too late. But at the end of the day, given the world as it is, a Security Council resolution is a must. Every choice has its risks, but ignoring the Security Council in this case would make the goal of removing Saddam Hussein much harder to achieve.

Such a resolution should not, however, paralyze the Bush administration. The timetables for compliance by Iraq should be short and the deadlines nonnegotiable. The risks of a resolution would be minimized by a clear American message that the United States will be ready to act and will expect the Security Council to back it if immediate and full Iraqi compliance is not forthcoming. If the United States does need to act, it will be in a much stronger position for having consulted first.

Even if the US goes to the Security Council and gets a new inspections regime, it cannot be on Baghdad’s terms, which include the lifting of sanctions and increased oil sales. Rather it must be on the strictest of American terms, allowing absolutely unfettered access to any and all facilities at any time. Like the demands placed on the Taliban to turn over bin Laden, it is unlikely that Hussein will agree to them. In that case, the United States must then resort to the judicious use of military force – with or without international support. Barak gives the example of the Israeli attack on the Osiraq reactor in 1981, an action that was met with international condemnation but proved to be the wide move in the long term.

For a successful invasion of Iraq, two operational options are basically valid: a surgical operation to hit the core of the regime, and a full-scale operation to include major airborne and ground forces, perhaps 300,000 soldiers.

The interrelationship between these two options should be well understood. The surgical operation needs high-quality and timely intelligence and superb quick-response operational capabilities. The right thing to do is to have this option ready to go, because no one can know when or if the right moment will come to execute it.

If a surgical operation is launched and somehow fails, the point of no return has been reached and the United States will need to launch the wider operation immediately. When you launch a surgical operation, you must already be well deployed to follow it through with larger forces. That complicates matters: you need to be ready for a full-fledged campaign on the operational level and have the diplomatic backing lined up as well.

This is why the US is preparing for an invasion now. Even if we don’t launch a full-fledged invasion, we dare not be caught unprepared for whatever Saddam decides to throw our way. Already Israel is making preparation for biological and chemical warfare, and the United States should also take similar precautions.

I won’t quote the rest of the article, but he ends the article with an analysis of why removing Hussein will have positive spillover effects across the Middle East. Yes, it may inflame the Arab street for a while, but it will also show that the United States is resolved to end all threats to its survival and the survival of its allies. Failing to show strength when attacked only cements the resolve of those who would use force against use. Barak knows well that the costs of coddling terrorist regimes far outweigh the temporary safety of appeasement.

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