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The Consequences for the Middle East and Iraq (October 31, 2002)

Much of the contemporary debate over this brewing crisis, indeed much of this Forum's first two days, has focused on assessing Iraq's threat to international stability and to American security goals. Yet the Bush Administration has made it clear that it wants a "regime change" in Iraq. Thus contemporary analysts, and members of our Forum, must contemplate not only the possibility of a new Gulf War, but also the future -- a future Iraq and Middle East without Saddam Hussein.

Ahmad Dallal, Associate Professor of Middle East History at Stanford, discusses the aftermath of an American military campaign, with an eye toward its impact on the larger Middle East. Noting a curious paradox, Dallal points out that while Saddam Hussein's regime is notorious for its abuses, and while Iraq has few allies among its neighbors, only the United States, Great Britain and Israel have vocally supported a regime change in Iraq. What explains this difference in global opinion? And why, in particular, do so many Middle Eastern governments find themselves at odds with the United States? In some cases, these governments do not necessarily see Hussein as posing a legitimate military threat, given that he appears to lack the ability to project his power beyond his borders. In other cases, these governments question the United States’ real motivations. (The desire to control strategic oil reserves ranks higher, some argue, than the desire to rid the Middle East of a destabilizing force.) Meanwhile, some other governments find it hard to back the Bush Administration’s insistence that Iraq comply with UN resolutions, when the United States has never asked Israel to do the same. But what perhaps best explains Middle Eastern resistance to American war plans is the fear of the consequences – the fear that war and violence, breaking out along ethnic and religious lines, could spread throughout the region; the fear that a humiliating defeat of Iraq will further radicalize the region, undermine the unfinished War on Terror, and provide terrorist organizations with new recruits; and the fear that a U.S. invasion of Iraq will only exacerbate – not solve – the main problems currently facing the region: inhumane poverty, lack of democratic reforms, and lingering national conflicts.

A world without Saddam Hussein appears extraordinarily appealing to most American policymakers. Stability in the region; easier and cheaper access to Middle Eastern oil; and the establishment of a moderate, if not democratic, Arab state as a model for the entire region all seem to flow from Hussein's departure. James Noyes, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution who has been long involved with U.S. security policy in the Gulf, recognizes the appeal of such a scenario. Yet policymakers should put away their rose-colored glasses, Noyes claims, because a post-Hussein Middle East might prove more troubling than at first meets the eye. Any Iraqi regime installed by the United States would be horribly weak, almost by necessity. Expatriate Iraqi opposition groups, the kind likely to be favored by Washington, are in Noyes's words "badly divided, feckless, and without doubt penetrated by Saddam's intelligence organizations." They are a "very weak reed to lean on," he says, and moreover the country they seek to lead has no democratic foundation to speak of, making it all the more likely that, despite Washington's best intentions, a new authoritarian regime could spring from the ashes of war. A weaker and less stable Iraqi government might prove the ultimate result of an American strike. Iraq, so destabilized, could provide new al-Qaeda sanctuaries instead of assisting the U.S. War on Terror. These problems must be squarely faced, Noyes argues, before any airy predictions for a democratic and moderate Iraq hold sway in Western capitals. For if we misunderstand our future goals in Iraq, we cannot possibly pursue the proper course of action today.

Forum Format:
  • You can view the lectures presented by today's speakers by clicking on the links found in the "Lectures" section below.
  • After viewing each talk, please join your fellow participants and the Forum moderator on the Discussion boards. (Simply click the word "Discussions" on the left-hand side of this page.)
  • On the Discussion boards, participants can also pose questions to the faculty lecturers. Starting tomorrow, you can return to this session to find their responses posted in the "Professor Commentary" section below. Please note that because of the large turnout, the professors will not be able to respond to every question.
Ahmad Dallal lecture, "An Iraqi War and its Impact on the Middle East", taped on October 23, 2002
You may access the lecture in any of the following formats:
audio video(High Bandwidth) video(Low Bandwidth) transcript

James Noyes lecture, "What Next? What Happens to Iraq after a War?", taped on October 23, 2002
You may access the lecture in any of the following formats:
audio video(High Bandwidth) video(Low Bandwidth) transcript

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Professor Commentary:

Professor Dallal and James Noyes will respond here to questions posed by participants on the Discussion boards. Commentary will be posted here on November 1, 2002. To review, click the following link: Professor Commentary

Recommended Resources:

Resources Recommended by Professor Dallal

The Case for Iraq's Qualitative Disarmament by Scott Ritter (June 2000)
Former weapons inspector and chief of the concealment unit for UNSCOM, and the author of Endgame: Solving the Iraq Problem Once and for All, Ritter suggests that the success of the UNSCOM monitoring regime may hold the key to unlocking the current stalemate between Iraq and the Security Council. He argues that if the Security Council redefines Iraq's disarmament obligation along more meaningful qualitative standards, it would be possible to rapidly come to closure on all outstanding disarmament issues.

The Case Against a War with Iraq by Stephen Zunes (October 2002)
As Chair of the University of San Francisco's Peace and Justice Studies Program, Professor Zunes offers an impassioned plea for greater democratic participation from the American people in this looming crisis.  President Bush campaigned for greater American "humility" in world affairs during the 2000 election, Zunes argues, but the present policy towards Iraq offers nothing but a greater militancy.  It is up to the American people to put away their fear of participating in a foreign policy crisis, and to play the participatory role assigned them in a functioning democracy.

Iraq: Too Soon to Stop Thinking by Faleh Jabar (October 7, 2002)
Jabar, a Research Fellow at Birkbeck College, University of London, offers a plea for further diplomacy in the face of an imminent, costly, full-scale invasion and occupation of Iraq, arguing the need to put pressure on those world leaders who will listen, to alter the structure of the campaign into a longer-term political strategy, backed, if necessary, by military muscle.

Oil Economics Lubricates Push for War by Thomas Ferguson and Robert A. Johnson (October 16, 2002)
Ferguson, Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston; and Johnson, former managing director of Soros Funds Management and former chief economist of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, clarify why oil and the dollar inevitably loom so large in any resolution of the Iraq crisis.

Resources Recommended by James Noyes


al-Khalil, Samir; Republic of Fear: The Inside Story of Saddam's Iraq (Pantheon Books, 1990).
A detailed and pointed account of the rise of Hussein's Ba'th Party to power in the years before the Gulf War, this book is especially useful for understanding Iraqi politics in the time before sanctions, before the No-Fly Zone, and before Iraq became a focal-point of global attention. 

CARDRI; Saddam's Iraq: Revolution or Reaction(Zed Books, 1989).
This anti-Hussein tract was composed before the Gulf War by the Committee Against Repression and for Democratic Rights in Iraq (CARDRI), an anti-Hussein group. 

Cockburn, Andrew and Patrick; Out of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein (HarperCollins, 2000).
In this detailed account of Iraqi politics during the 1990s, these two veteran journalists of Mid East politics explain Hussein's remarkable staying power.  His adversaries needed to make innumerable mistakes for Hussein to retain control.  And make them they did, by authorizing economic sanctions that harmed only Iraq's people and Hussein's opponents, and by pitting Iraqi insurgents against the country's military, thus curtailing anti-Hussein elements within the military and thwarting their own plans for a coup.

Devlin, John F.; The Ba'th Party; A History from Its Origins to 1966  (Hoover Institution Press, 1976).


"U.S. Strategic Options for Iraq: Easier Said Than Done" by Michael W. Isherwood (March 2002)
Writing for the respected Washington Quarterly, Lt. Colonel Isherwood (USAF) presents a persuasive argument for a policy of containment, rather than confrontation, in dealing with Hussein's Iraq.

Note: you will need Acrobat Reader to read this article. If you don't have it installed, click here to download. If you open this document and the print is too small, you can enlarge the print by changing the number appearing in the box in the upper left hand corner. Adjust to 100%.

Getting Serious About Iraq by Philip H. Gordon, Michael E. O'Hanlon and Martin S. Indyk (Autumn 2002)
Senior Fellows in Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution, Gordon, O'Hanlon, and Indyk
(a former U.S. ambassador to Israel) outline the challenges and costs of regime change in Iraq, arguing that what is at stake is not just the issue of military tactics but also of strategy, diplomacy and what to do in Iraq once the military battle has been won.

Note: You will also need Acrobat Reader to view this article. See instructions immediately above.

The Price of Stability by Michael O'Hanlon (October 22, 2002)
This New York Times opinion piece, written by O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, examines the potential costs of stabilizing Iraq during a postwar occupation.

[Note: Access to this article requires registration with The New York Times. Registration is free.]

Other Suggested Readings

Arnove, Anthony and Abunimah, Ali (eds);  Iraq Under Seige: The Deadly Impact of Sanctions and War (Southend Press, 2000).
A critical appraisal of the American-led economic sanctions program imposed since the Gulf War, this collection presents the perspectives on the Iraqi crisis from numerous anti-war activists, including Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and Voices in the Wilderness (a British group opposed to the use of economic sanctions against Iraq).  The collection carries its bias on its sleeve, but serves as an oft-needed counterpoint to Bush Administration hawks. 

Hamza, Kidhir and Stein, Jeff; Saddam's Bombmaker: The Terrifying Inside Story of the Iraqi Nuclear and Biological Weapons Agenda (Touchstone, 2001).
A first-person account (written more as a spy novel than as an historical or journalistic text) of the inside working's of Iraq's weapons program, as seen through the eyes of a leading Iraqi weapons designer now in exile in the West.  As one reviewer in the Washington Post put it, the book "is not only stranger but frequently bloodier than fiction."

Faculty Profiles:

Ahmad Dallal is Associate Professor of Middle Eastern History at Stanford University. Educated at the University of Beirut (B.E.) and Columbia University (PhD), Professor Dallal has edited a forthcoming anthology, Islam in the Modern World to be published in Arabic, English, and French. His other works have focused on medieval Islamic history and the impact of the Enlightenment on Islamic thought.

James H. Noyes is a research fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution. He is an expert in Middle East affairs and is currently researching U.S. foreign policy toward the Arab-Israeli conflict and Persian Gulf security policy. Noyes's recent work includes an assessment of threats to U.S. security interests in Southwest Asia over the next fifteen years, prepared at the invitation of the U.S. Army's Strategic Studies Institute and presented in June 2001; and an essay in the quarterly journal Middle East Policy, June 2000, "Fallacies, Smoke, and Pipe Dreams: Forcing Change in Iran and Iraq." Noyes received his BA from Yale University in 1950 and his MA in political science from the University of California at Berkeley in 1954.