Accessibility links

Breaking News

Special Report on Gulf War

This week France, Russia, and Germany vowed to reject a new United Nations Security Council Resolution, which would pave the way for military action against Iraq. As permanent Security Council members, France and Russia have said they might veto a new resolution sought by the U.S. and Britain. Britain says it is trying to work out a compromise to gain Security Council approval of a new resolution. China says it sees no need for a new UN measure.

Meanwhile, as the world braced for war in Iraq, some people were asking, will this conflict end the same way as it did in 1991 with Saddam Hussein still in power?

VOA correspondent Laurie Kassman takes a look at then -- and now.

On the 12th anniversary of the Gulf War, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein addressed his nation.

“Baghdad, its people and leadership, is determined to force the Mongols of our age to commit suicide at its gates.”

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s defiant tone is reminiscent of speeches in 1990 when he refused UN demands to pull his troops out of neighboring Kuwait. It took a U.S.-led international coalition to oust his forces from Kuwait.

When it was over, the United Nations demanded that Iraq scrap its arsenals of toxic and nuclear weapons and submit to punishing economic and diplomatic sanctions.

Twelve years later, Saddam Hussein still has not satisfied all UN demands to disarm. UN inspectors returned to Iraq to get results.

And once again Saddam Hussein finds himself faced with a massive U.S. military build-up on his border. President George W. Bush:

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH “It appears to be a rerun of a bad movie.”

Saddam Hussein has not attacked a neighbor this time. But Washington says Iraq’s continuing military threat must be eliminated.

How that is accomplished presents a very different challenge for the United States and its allies.

A dozen years ago, the United States had little trouble forging a coalition of some 40 nations to oust Iraq’s troops from Kuwait.

Former Secretary of State James Baker was in charge of U.S. diplomacy at the time.

“In 1990 and 1991 we were under a mandate from the Security Council to eject Iraq from Kuwait. We had pulled together what at that time was an unprecedented international coalition to support that effort.

You have to remember that the Cold War was still on and, to the extent that the Soviet Union still existed, this was the first time that the Security Council of the United Nations ever authorized the use of force, with both the United States of America and the Soviet Union voting in favor.”

NATURAL SOUND: (protests)

This time, public opinion polls in the United States and Europe show widespread opposition to the prospect of war. And, many allies are publicly reluctant to join a U.S. led war without solid UN approval.

Farouk Logolu is Turkey’s ambassador to Washington.

“This time we are facing a different situation. We are facing a country that is under the obligation to comply with the United Nations Security Council resolutions in order to disarm. And there is a process in place, at the present time, to see whether there are weapons of mass destruction. Until we see what happens with that process, a lot of countries will not make up their minds.”

Even after U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell presented evidence of Iraq’s pattern of deception, UN members still called for giving inspectors more time to verify the information before considering the use of force to disarm Iraq.

Unlike 1991, no government has expressed even lukewarm support for Saddam Hussein. But U.S. officials say isolating him is no longer good enough.

Washington says Iraq is hiding biological and chemical weapons and trying to build a nuclear arsenal despite UN efforts over the years to find and destroy them.

Especially after the 2001 attacks in New York and Washington, the U.S. and other governments worry about what could happen if toxic or nuclear weapons fall into the hands of terrorists.

Disarming Iraq may not be easy. Iraq’s offensive capabilities have diminished since the last Gulf War. But U.S. military planners worry that Iraq could unleash toxic weapons against invading troops or its neighbors.

On the humanitarian front, there are fears of a repeat of the 1991 crisis when tens of thousands of Iraqi Kurds fled into the snow-filled mountains in the north and across the borders. Iraqi businessman Rubar Sandi:

“People were just throwing away their babies because they didn’t know what to do. Iraq from this side was attacking them and from this side it was the cold weather and all of that, they had to cross the border. The old people were left behind, people were hungry and cold.”

The UN, Red Cross, and other relief agencies are already stockpiling water and food and building temporary shelters to prevent a humanitarian disaster.

Finally, what are the goals of this confrontation? In 1991, the mandate was to push Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, not from power. Again, former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker.

“We were not about to take the war beyond what the Security Council resolution had authorized and what we promised the rest of the world.”

Many Iraqi dissidents say the goal now should be regime change. They cite the deadly chemical attacks Saddam Hussein unleashed to crush the Kurds in the 1980’s.

And his move after the last Gulf War, to drain the southern marshlands, displacing thousands of Iraq’s Shiite Muslims.

NATURAL SOUND: (battle noises)

Barham Salih, Co-Prime Minister of the autonomous Kurdish government in northern Iraq:

“The last Gulf War, in a way, was termed Desert Storm and it was truly a storm in the desert. The dunes in the sand shifted here and there but the basic landscape remained. This time it must not be a Desert Storm. It must be a fundamental change of Iraq's political system to ensure that the new system of government prevents dictators from rising to power again.”

Unlike the last Gulf War, a confrontation this time would dramatically alter Iraq’s political future.