Strategic Implications for U.S. Policy in Iraq: What Now?   [open pdf - 347KB]

Currently, the underpinning of United States policy toward Iraq is based on a U.S. desire to enforce United Nations Security Council resolutions enacted against Iraq's government, and more specifically against Saddam Hussein's regime, at the conclusion of the Gulf War. Since 1991, the U.S. government's strategy has been to contain Iraq through a combination of diplomatic, economic, informational, and military means. Despite these means, which include enforcing no-fly zones over Northern and Southern Iraq, diplomatic pressure backed up by occasional missile strikes, and an economic embargo , Saddam Hussein remains recalcitrant and the U.S. continues to be concerned about Iraqi non-conventional weapons programs. Terrorist attacks against America at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in September 2001 have given the Bush administration cause and public support to reevaluate U.S. policy toward Iraq. On one hand, it is possible that Saddam Hussein's regime is supporting, and possibly sponsoring, terrorism. On the other hand, there is a very real concern, especially throughout the moderate Muslim world, that expanding the fight against terrorism to include Iraq would undermine President Bush's fragile anti-terrorism coalition, possibly leading to a clash of civilizations. Therefore, the war on terrorism should be considered a catalyst for redefining U.S. national policy and strategy toward Iraq. This paper discusses the evolution of current U.S. policy toward Iraq, assesses key issues concerning the use of military force to meet national security objectives, and evaluates criteria likely to influence success or failure once the decision to use force has been made. The paper concludes that, as a result of the ongoing War on Terrorism, a number of strategic factors currently exist that support the use of military force to overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime.

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