At times like this, What would Saddam do? | Charles Duelfer

At times like this, What would Saddam do?

Among the various rationales expressed for a military strike on Syria is that need to make Bashir al-Assad pay a price for using CW. But what does Bashir value?

We learned from debriefing Saddam that his value structure was much different than ours. For example, he did not think he “lost” the war in Kuwait. He had taken on the last superpower and survived. In his mind, that was an accomplishment. What other Arab leader had done that? Saddam saw value in struggle itself. Being attacked by the United States gave him internal support in some ways.

Among the many uncertainties about attacking Syria is that we don’t really know for sure what will hurt him.

In December 1998, President Clinton ordered a 4-day bombing campaign against Iraq to cause Saddam to pay a price for insufficient cooperation with UN weapons inspectors. He did this despite the fact that the UN Security Council did not agree on this action–and then Russian Ambassador (now Foreign Minister) Sergei Lavrov was particularly vociferous in denouncing it. The targets, which were a bunch of buildings loosely associated with possible WMD programs, were not seen by Iraq as particularly important.

After that operation, I spoke with the Iraqi ambassador to the UN with whom I had a long relationship with (as Deputy Head of the UN inspection team UNSCOM). He said, “If we had known that was all you were going to do, we would have ended cooperation with the weapons inspectors long ago.”

It was not clear then what the objective was for the bombing other than something had to be done as a consequence of Saddam not complying with the demands of the inspectors. Following that bombing inspectors were not allowed back in Iraq. Saddam was happy with the outcome. The US felt like it did something. And the Security Council attended to other matters.

This feels like a moment when there is no consensus on the primary objectives, but a general feeling that we (the US) should do something and that something usually means blowing something up. Hopefully it won’t make things worse. But know one can really predict.

Who knows how Bashir al-Assad will react to whatever set of targets the US comes up with.

This entry was posted in Intelligence, Syria CW, United Nations, WMD and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Spam protection by WP Captcha-Free