Amid talk of a negotiated settlement of the Persian Gulf crisis, the Israeli government expressed concern this week that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein might emerge unscathed and, in fact, more of a danger than ever.
Hussein “is the invader of Kuwait,” chief government spokesman Yosef Olmert said Tuesday, “and whatever the solution to the gulf crisis, (he) must come out weaker rather than stronger.”
He said Hussein “is obviously a very dangerous, destabilizing force in the whole region, and unless (he) comes out of this really weak, it will mean much trouble for all his neighbors.”
Olmert and other officials sought to reinforce the views of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Defense Minister Moshe Arens that Hussein, as Arens put it, “represents a threat and a danger not only to Israel but to the region and to the entire world.”
Israel’s concern has been heightened by word that Javier Perez de Cuellar, the U.N. secretary general, will meet today in Jordan with the Iraqi foreign minister in an effort to resolve the crisis touched off by Iraq’s seizure of neighboring Kuwait.
If negotiations succeed, Israeli analysts, in and out of government, are contemplating this possible scenario:
Hussein agrees to withdraw his forces from Kuwait but insists that some of his demands be met by Kuwait--election of a new government, damages for “slant drilling” into Iraqi oil fields and the leasing to Iraq of the island of Bubiyan, which would give Iraq greater gulf access .
The United Nations accepts the plan, and since Iraq has agreed to evacuate Kuwait, the international embargo is lifted. Pressure mounts to withdraw the U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia. Hussein proclaims his retreat a great victory, condemns the aggression of imperialistic Americans and denounces the traitorous Arabs who sided with Washington and the perfidious Zionists.
“He might well get away with that line,” a specialist in Arab affairs said. “While the Arab masses don’t like a loser, (Hussein) has an effective propaganda machine that has roused the sympathy of the Arab have-nots east of Suez.”
“And if he can do a successful about-face in giving back all he won from Iran, as he has done, why should he not be able to do the same with Kuwait?”
Thus, in the Israeli view, Hussein could return his forces to Iraq as strong as ever, resume pumping oil and continue to build toward a nuclear weapons capacity.
Hussein “would still be in a position to blackmail Kuwait and the gulf states,” one official suggested, “and who knows whether the U.S. would come to the rescue another time around, particularly if force is not used? Meanwhile, the same countries that sold him weapons and chemical warfare ingredients might do the same again. And next time Israel might be first on his hit list rather than an Arab state.”