Air strike: Danger to allies or Iraq?

There is a sense in Britain and elsewhere in Europe that the recent air strikes against Iraq pose less danger to Iraq than to US allies in Europe. The bombing lends credence, at least in the Arab world, to Saddam Hussein's worldview in which he leads a confederation of Arab nations in opposition to western imperialism. And it reinforces a picture of the Bush administration as insecure, aggressive, and prone to drag allies along into conflicts they have no mandate to engage in.

Meeting with Mexican President Vicente Fox on February 16, Mr. Bush referred to the air strike as "routine." This is clearly not true, as the operation was approved at the highest levels of British and American governments, and deployed two dozen strike aircraft firing missiles at targets close to Baghdad -- hardly a routine operation. The US and Britain have justified the missile attacks as protecting pilots in the no-fly zone over Iraq. Some observers have suggested, however, that there is no legal basis -- in UN authorization or international law -- for the existence of the no-fly zones. British spokesmen have referred to a humanitarian mission to protected Shiite muslims in the south of Iraq, and the Kurds in the north. The real crisis for the Kurds was ten years ago, and the Shiite population has been effectively suppressed by Saddam Hussein despite international attempts to prevent it.

France and Russia have condemned the action, and Germany has not supported it publicly. Factions within the Russian parliament have expressed support for lifting sanctions against Iraq. Eqypt and Syria, allied with the west during the Gulf War, issued sharp condemnations of the air strikes.

As the Guardian (UK) recently suggested, the air attacks on Iraq have no basis in law or rationality, do nothing to help end Saddam Hussein's regime, reduce the chances of success for UN talks on weapons inspections, do nothing to prevent oil from continuing to be smuggled out of Iraq, undermine Colin Powell who may have been seeking support for more limited sanctions during his visit to the Middle East, and increase tensions in an area of the world already on edge from Ariel Sharon's election victory in Israel, and the Palestinian response. Moreover, the recent attacks inexplicably did not target chemical or biological weapons facilities.

George Galloway, a Labor Party member of the British Parliament from Glasgow, and Arab scholar, compared Friday's attack to "Hitler marching into Czechoslovakia" in 1939. "What the British and American governments are doing is reckless, lawless and murderous. If they are not already working for Saddam Hussein then they might as well be because for every bomb that is dropped, Saddam is getting stronger."


"This Man Is Dangerous," The Guardian 19 Feb. 2001.

White, Michael and Richard Norton-Taylor, "Doubts over Iraq air strikes," The Guardian 19 Feb. 2001.