TFF logoFORUMS Meeting Point

The Iraq Conflict 2002:
A TRANSCEND Perspective



Johan Galtung and Dietrich Fischer

co-directors of TRANSCEND, a peace and development network

TFF associates

The USA has argued that a military attack on Iraq is justified because the Saddam Hussein regime has assisted, even hosted, Al Qaeda and that there is a clear and present danger of Iraq attacking Israel or others with weapons of mass destruction. But it has not been able to convince either world public opinion nor the UN and the Security Council (except for the UK). This raises the question whether the US military build-up around Iraq and the plans for a regime change under US military occupation (as in Japan) has other motives:

Saudi Arabia, up to now one of the United States' key allies in the Gulf region, looks increasingly unreliable, given that 15 of the 19 suspected hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi nationals, and Saudi money is believed to be a major source of financing for Al Qaeda, with which it shares a common ideology, Wahhabism. So Iraq could become a political and military substitute in the region. This would also give the US access to Iraqi oil instead of (or in addition to) Saudi oil; it would liberate Israel from the perceived Iraqi threat; and a war with Iraq might serve as a cover for Israel to transfer Palestinians from Palestine into Jordan, with a regime change.

To gain support for a military attack the USA promises veto powers in the UN Security Council (France, Russia, China) access to Iraqi oil.

But a war with Iraq could have disastrous consequences for the region. The 1991 Gulf war caused about 300,000 Iraqi casualties, and bringing the war to Baghdad would hardly produce less suffering to a people that has already suffered enormously from inner and outer foes. It could unleash a civil war along many fault-lines (for and against the Hussein Baath-Tikrit regime; Sunni-Shia; Iraqis-Kurds; Kurds-Turks). Other armies in the Middle East could be drawn in. The hatred of US/UK foreign policy in Arab countries and among the world's Muslims in general would reach new levels, at best only leading to a long economic boycott of US/UK goods and services, at worst to massive violence. The fragile tissue of world order would suffer enormous rifts.

There are alternatives to war! The UN inspection team led by Hans Blix can be enlarged to find and destroy any Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, to control potential production and storage facilities, and to prevent their future acquisition. Of course, this raises the question why similar inspections should not also be conducted in other countries in the region.

From 1994 to 2001, 54 nations negotiated a treaty to verify the 1972 biological weapons ban and reached unanimous agreement, with the sole exception of the Bush administration, which wrecked the treaty. The US would be in a much stronger position to demand inspections in another country if it signed that treaty.

The UN has successfully ended wars in Cambodia, Namibia, East Timor and elsewhere by facilitating and supervising free and fair elections by secret ballot. Only the Iraqi people--no outside powers--have the right to change their regime, and they should be given the right to do so if they wish. But it is awkward for the US to demand supervised elections, given that the US Supreme Court stopped a recount of the questionable ballot in Florida in the 2000 Presidential elections.

Equality before the law is a basis for world order, not as a utopian principle but as an order that derives legitimacy, and hence compliance, from treating equal cases equally.

For conflict resolution, the UN Security Council should appoint a Wise People Commission, e.g. with Nobel Prize winners Carter-Gorbachev-Mandela, to assess the goals of the parties, trying to bridge legitimate goals of all.

A significant step towards the end of the Cold War was the 1973-75 Helsinki Conference, which gave rise to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Similarly, the UN Security Council (four Christian and one Confucian country in the permanent nucleus) could cooperate with the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) representing 56 Islamic countries to sponsor an open-ended Conference on Security and Cooperation in the Middle East (CSCME), to consider:

- A joint UNSC/OIC inspection regime for weapons of mass destruction in the region, opening Iraq for inspection and UN supervised elections;

- A joint UN/OIC democracy/human rights campaign in the region;

- Outstanding issues from the Iraq/Iran and Iraq/Kuwait wars;

- Moving forward on the Kurdish four-countries issue;

- The European Community as a possible model for a Middle East Community of Israel-Syria-Lebanon-Palestine-Jordan-Egypt.

The more parties are involved in negotiations and the more issues are on the table, the more likely is it that mutually satisfactory solutions to conflicts can be found, because each party can gain something dear to it in return for concessions on something it considers less important.



© TFF & the author 2002  


Tell a friend about this article

Send to:


Message and your name





Photo galleries

Nonviolence Forum

TFF News Navigator

Become a TFF Friend

TFF Online Bookstore

Reconciliation project

Make an online donation

Foundation update and more

TFF Peace Training Network

Make a donation via bank or postal giro

Menu below












The Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research
Vegagatan 25, S - 224 57 Lund, Sweden
Phone + 46 - 46 - 145909     Fax + 46 - 46 - 144512

© TFF 1997-2002