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Total Neutrality: Hajarian's analysis of Iran's strategy in Iraq's Crisis

By Saiid Hajarian, Teharn
Translated by Roya Monajem
Source: Iran Newspaper

That why America intends to disarm and change the regime in Iraq and what will be Iraq position in this regard are not our concern in this writing. Here I like to concentrate on probable scenarios that can take place and what may be the most rational position of our country in this regard. We can imagine four scenarios for extensive presence of American military force in the region and the accompanying psychological war:

1- Deployment of American military forces and her allies in the region can convince Iraq that American threats are real. As the result, Iraq would surrender to disarmament in order to maintain its regime. According to some political experts and analysts in international affairs, Iraqi regime is already willing to choose this option and it has been negotiating in this regard. Iraq's concern here is that it can not trust America to keep its words and promises. Iraq is not sure that if it does disarm, America will no longer try to overthrow Iraqi regime. Baghdad's rulers believe that possession of all those disputable armaments can deter American and its allies to attack Iraq. Some believe that if Saddam Hussein could believe that America will not try to overthrow his regime after disarmament he will surrender to this option.

2- Extensive presence of American military forces and her allies has provoked and encouraged certain rulers of the region to convince Saddam to leave Iraq with his close associates. According to them, this is the best option for both Saddam and Iraq. Here too, Saddam is not sure that if he chooses this option, he will not be killed or tried in the international court of war criminals. Nevertheless if he would be given enough assurance, it is possible that he might accept this option although it seems improbable.

3- Deployment of American military force in the region and the accompanying psychological war and also the attempts that Americans and some rulers of the countries of the region have shown to contact certain Iraqi military officers and commanders can convince the latter to attempt a coup d'etat in order to avoid civil war and bloodshed and save their country from an impending doom. Considering the way Saddam is protecting himself by his different security and military circles, this does not seem to be a plausible scenario, though it can not be totally ruled out.

4- In case none of the above options are materialized, American army and its allies will attack Iraq. In this case there are two possibilities:

a- American military forces can overthrow Saddam's regime in a very short time and with the least amount of casualties.

b- American military forces and its allies fail to overthrow Saddam's regime in a very short time and with the least amount of casualties.

Of course this is not to deny other intermediate state of affairs.

In relation to the position of the countries of the region toward the above four scenarios, we can say that Arab states and Turkey prefer the second and third option as the structure of power will not undergo a radical change in the region and their interests will be secured. Turkey will willingly and Arab States somehow unwillingly can support the first option as well. In this case too the structure of power will not change radically and thus Turkey need not to worry about possible autonomy and independence of Iraqi Kurds. In case of the fourth scenario, there will be a radical change in both the structure and power of Iraqi regime and the position of Iraqi Shiites and Kurds in the central government will increase. As it is quite hard to anticipate the probable regional effects of these changes, Turkey and Arab States show no inclination for the outbreak of a war in the region. Nevertheless if they conclude that the war is definitely going to break, then they will try to look for ways to assure their maximum interests here.

In relation to our own country, no doubt that the continuation of the present status quo is the most favorable one for us due to the long enmity between the two countries in the past years. Following the second gulf war, America has been controlling the speed of Iraq's regime in reconstruction of its military power (particularly in regard to unconventional armaments, missile systems and conventional advanced armaments). However, it seems that the continuation of the present status quo is no longer possible and therefore it is vitally important for us to explore our options in relation to Iraq's crisis.

As an observer I see four policies that we can adopt here:

1- Minimum Policy: The supporters of this option believe that we should stay neutral in this war. We should ask Iraq to observe the decision of Security Council of UN, surrender to disarmament while America should also surrender to UN decisions too. Our maximum demands in return to this minimum amount of cooperation is securing of the rights of Iraqi Shiites and establishment of a friendly or at least non-hostile state in Iraq. We have no special demands from America in this position. Our approach will be very similar to that we adopted in the second gulf war.

2- Minimum policy plus +: The supporters of this option believe that in addition to what was said above we should demand the security of our own interests from America in return to more cooperation. Release of our blocked assets in America and removal of economic sanctions should be our main demands here.

3- Optimistic maximum policy: The supporters of this option believe that we should make maximum use of the present situation and pay attention to and examine all our important problems with America. The supporters of this option reason that it is not in our interest to lose time here as after Iraq, America will attempt to deal with us and then we have to approach the problem from a weaker position.

4- Maximum opposition policy: The supporters of this option believe that America intends to surround us militarily and there is no logical justification for a policy of passive approach to the important regional events, including Iraq's crisis and we should involve our strategic enemy, that is America, in every possible way (for example in Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan and...) by adoption of an active approach. I agree with certain points of the above four policies and disagree with some other points and thus formulate what to me is the most rational approach in the form of a fifth option.

5- Separate Two steps policy: Considering the present state of affairs and the forces and dangers involved, it seems that we should adopt a two steps policy here.

Apparently Iraq has 14-18 (or perhaps 14-24) Scud missiles that can carry biological and chemical bombs. Israel with her two anti-missile Arrow systems, and extensive medical preparation, equipping all her citizens with special protective masks against chemical and biologic attacks, is properly prepared for the war. American military forces are also fully armed with the same necessary equipment. America is even trying to deploy anti-missile Patriot system in Turkey. Though America claims that it has the power to destroy all the missile launchers of Iraq in the first few minutes of the war, but the preparations going on in Israel and Turkey shows that they are considering other possibilities as well. In case of military attack on Iraq, there is no doubt that Saddam and his regime will be overthrown. Saddam knows that and thus it is not implausible at all that he will try to die heroically by showing maximum resistance against American military attack and revenge all those countries that have helped America in this respect. So it is not improbable that he will try to attack Israel and countries such as Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iran and... Considering the fact that we are not at all prepared in any ways to confront such an attack, I do not see that it is in our interest to cooperate with America in any ways in this first stage (before or during the war). The maximum advantage that we can obtain here is limited to the promises that Americans might give us in regard to the future such as removal of economic sanctions, release of our blocked assets, etc that they can readily violate. America is not even ready to start serious negotiation in relation to removal of economic sanctions in return to our cooperation in the gulf war. The removal of these sanctions depend on other factors such as a change in our foreign policy in regard to Israel.

None of the guarantees that Americans may give us are comparable to the probable expenses that we may pay in case Tehran is hit by a biological or chemical missile. So our best interest demands us to stay completely neutral before and during the war. This is quite logical and prudent, even if we give additional guarantees to Baghdad. The basis of our diplomatic approach to Iraq under this situation should neither be from the position of power, nor weakness or opportunism. An approach based on trust in this short time prior to resolution of Iraq crisis is what can guarantee our national interests. We should not forget that our situation and position in regard to Iraq is totally different from other neighbor countries and powers. From this perspective, it was not only right to welcome Naji Sabri, but also necessary. Even if respectable members of our parliament invite their counterparts in Iraqi parliament, it will not be an irrational act. Similarly it is not prudent to have Iraqi opposition coming to this country nor is it to our interest to support them in any ways. Unless we find out that Saddam can not use biological or chemical missiles against us. In that case our position toward both Iraq and America can change.

In relation to our position after the war (second stage), some people claim that if we stay neutral before and during the war and do not take a risk in any ways, we can not expect to have any voice in the future regime of Iraq. In other words, America will limit our sphere of influence to a minimum. Considering the views of the present rulers of Pentagon particularly in regard to the Middle East and Persian Gulf, our cooperation or non-cooperation (despite the promises that British politicians and other regional and world politicians and official and non-official American authorities make honestly or dishonestly) will make no difference in the possibility of our influence in the future regime of Baghdad. What is important is the existing infrastructure of our influence in Iraq (such as our relations with Iraqi Shiite, our relation to highest Iraqi parliament, the presence of Shiite leadership in Najaf, our relationship with Iraqi Kurds, our knowledge of Iraqi society and culture and...). No doubt if we decide to have a rational influence in the future regime of Baghdad, not only America can not decrease our rational sphere of influence here, but on the basis of the discussions going on these days in public media and among American politicians, it will surely be interested in increasing our constructive rational role here. Therefore, the most important factor in our role in the future regime of Iraq is not our cooperation before and during the war, but the presence of the necessary infrastructures of our influence in Iraq that will force American politicians to accept our rational role here. It should be mentioned that what may prevent Americans to accept such a role in the future of Iraq is if we try to disrupt the stability of Iraq in the future, challenge American forces in any way, support radical Iraqi groups, impose the ideological dialogue to Iraqi Shiite, attempt to disrupt Iraq oil export in any ways and...

It seems that through this two steps policy we can assure our interests under the existing circumstance with the least amount of risks and dangers.

... Payvand News - 3/7/03 ... --

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