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By Lord (David) Owen

Lord Owen is a former foreign minister of Great Britain.

-- One of the most hopeful signs for global stability since Sept. 11 last year is that the United States, Russia and the United Kingdom are willing to underwrite and join together on military action against international terrorism. Of course, action on all fronts is necessary -- diplomatic, economic and military -- but it is the readiness to fight that is the new and ultimately crucial factor.

Without Russian support a U.S. military presence would not have been established in Uzbekistan, a crucial logistics base for Afghanistan. The military operation in Afghanistan would also have been far harder for the United States and the United Kingdom had the Russians not helped to arm the Northern Alliance. There will come a time soon when all three countries will be required to help Uzbekistan in the Fergana Valley where Tajikistan, Kyrgystan and Uzbekistan meet. It has now probably the largest concentration of Al Qaeda forces. It is also in China’s interest that this focus of terrorism be contained.

In all of these areas the human rights situation is pretty dire. It is very tempting to argue that as a consequence there should be no military involvement, when asked by the recognized government, until the situation is corrected. This is a recipe for disaster. International terrorists seek out areas of the world that have bad governance, knowing that there they can best prosper. Also by becoming involved in the security situation we will have a better chance to influence the political climate.

It is for these reasons perfectly proper for the United States and other countries to indirectly help Russia now with its problem of international terrorists operating in Chechnya from the remote Pankisi Gorge in Georgia. The danger of inaction is that Russia will act unilaterally. It would be very destabilizing for the Russian Federation to take any military action unless asked to do so, and even then it would be wisest for it to be international action. President Vladimir Putin, against internal opposition, accepted the United States sending 150 military advisors to Georgia. Russia should now be able to count on an additional deployment of U.S. military special fighting forces and aircraft to help President Edvard Shevardnadze root out these terrorists, whose presence threatens not just Georgia. Shevardnadze has already invited international monitoring of the border area, and for this a mixed multilateral force should be assembled, best designed by calling on only nations not contributing fighting forces inside Georgia.

As part of the overall strategy President George W. Bush should be able to rely on Russia acquiescing in the Security Council resolution, which Britain has been drafting, that will spell out that Iraq is in serious breach of past U.N. resolutions, in particular the cease-fire Resolution 678, which is still being violated. Any new resolution has to cover a new regime of intrusive and coercive inspection backed by a U.N. military presence. If, as I suspect it will, after having involved the United Nations, it becomes necessary for a military attack on Iraq, led by the United States with the United Kingdom, both countries should not be looking for a quick exit. We have to be willing to stay until a federal democratic government is in place, and this would be the first in the Arab world. We should openly say now that there would be an amnesty for all in the regime who lay down their arms and cooperate, except for Saddam Hussein. We should declare that Saddam Hussein would be put on trial for using gas on his own people in a Special U.N. Court established under the 1948 Genocide Act which the United States ratified in 1986.

There will be no question of freezing Russia out just because it is not contributing to any military action. A post-Saddam Hussein government must be encouraged by the United States and United Kingdom to continue to trade with Russian companies. Russia would be encouraged to play a full part in the subsequent search for stability and peace in the Middle East. With so many former Russians in Israel, Russia could help build on the so-called ‘‘two-state solution.’’

A new Iraq would be of immense help in countering international terrorism. It could help the process of reform and modernization in Iran. It could help Jordan come into a closer association with a new Palestinian state, giving it viability and greater geopolitical stability. It could establish real autonomy for their Kurdish population and thereby give greater stability for the Kurdish problems in Turkey and Iran.

(c) 2002, European Viewpoint. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate International, a division of Tribune Media Services.
For immediate release (Distributed 9/24/02)

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