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WAR WATCH : Linkage Would Be Iraqi Victory

<i> Mel Levine (D-Santa Monica) is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. On Thursday, War Watch will hear from Rep. Anthony C. Beilenson (D-Los Angeles). </i>

Washington and Baghdad hurl threats across the continents. Is it all talk, or a real run-up to war? The Times asked some California congressmen to interpret the signs as the days count down to President Bush’s Jan. 15 deadline. As Secretary Baker meets today with Iraqi Foreign Minister Tarik Aziz, the European Community appears poised to hand Saddam Hussein a major victory by linking an Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait to the Arab-Israeli conflict. President Bush must not acquiesce in this. It would be a grave mistake and a clear reward for Iraqi aggression.

Any linkage would constitute a significant Iraqi victory and help ensure its dominance in the region at the expense of American interests, diminish our influence in the Middle East and whet Hussein’s appetite for further aggression.

The Administration’s ability to resist any linkage has already been cast in doubt by unprecedented U.S. support of U.N. resolutions critical of Israel and especially by American readiness to do so before the Kuwaiti crisis has been resolved. In this sense Bush may have already shown a dangerous willingness to agree to Hussein’s demands.

Unless the no-linkage message is part of what Baker conveys to Aziz, the chance of war in the region now or in the future will have increased, not diminished.

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