Managing Strains in the Coalition: What to Do About Saddam?

  • November 01, 1996
  • Dr Stephen C Pelletiere

For 5 years U.S. policy has managed to steer a coalition of states which share broad interests in regional stability and free trade. Yet below these common interests, the United States has walked a tightrope stretched between competing objectives vis-à-vis Iraq, e.g., undermining Saddam while preserving Iraq as a counterweight to Iran; protecting the Kurds while not promoting their independence. Time, however, has a habit of eroding international coalitions and exposing seams in the details of policy. Iraq's September 1996 actions in the Kurdish north found such a seam in coalition objectives, or, to return to the original metaphor, shook one anchor of the U.S. policy tightrope. Dr. Stephen Pelletiere examines how the Kurdish crisis developed, why--most disturbingly--the key coalition members divided in response to U.S. actions, and what factors might guide future U.S. policy. He concludes that U.S. policy needs reanchoring if we are to achieve our paramount interests in this vital region.