WASHINGTON (Aug. 2)
Jewish organizations praised President Bush on Thursday for moving swiftly to impose economic sanctions against Iraq after its troops invaded Kuwait.
They also urged that U.S. allies join Washington in freezing all Iraqi assets in their countries and banning all trade with Baghdad.
“If Iraq is not isolated immediately, it will be a clear signal that it has free reign to continue a policy of aggression and destruction,” said Melvin Salberg, national chairman of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.
Iraq’s ruler, Saddam Hussein, “must be stopped, not only as a way of supporting Kuwaiti sovereignty, but to restrain him from striking at some other Arab oil-producing state and to prevent him from carrying out his threats against Israel,” said Seymour Reich, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
At the same time, the Jewish organizations saw the invasion as further proof that the United States must maintain the military strength of Israel as the only democratic and reliable ally in the Middle East.
Sholom Comay, president of the American Jewish Committee, said that the invasion “reminds us of America’s continuing need for strong, dependable allies around the world.”
In this connection, “the importance of maintaining and strengthening the strategic relationship between the U.S. and Israel is clearly underlined,” Comay added.
Arden Shenker, chairman of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, said that Iraq’s invasion, as well as Hussein’s “recent threat to ‘incinerate’ Israel, clearly make the Iraqi leader the primary enemy of peace and stability in the Middle East.”
Robert Lifton, president of the American Jewish Congress, said that Israel was “the only reliable bulwark against the expanding appetites of the Iraqi government.”
Bush imposed the economic sanctions after Iraqi troops crossed over the border into Kuwait early Thursday morning and easily routed the outnumbered Kuwaitis. Causalities were reported as heavy.
“There is no place for this sort of naked aggression in today’s world,” Bush said.
He also froze Kuwaiti assets in the United States to keep them from any government Iraq might install.
Kuwaiti’s rulers fled to Saudi Arabia after the invasion. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States still considers them the “legitimate” government.
He called a “fraud” Iraq’s assertion that it had gone into Baghdad at the request of a revolutionary group in Kuwait.
Iraq had been threatening Kuwait for weeks because Hussein claimed that Kuwait had been hurting Iraq’s oil revenues by keeping the world price of oil low by glutting the market.
“We would like to have military assistance in order to survive,” Kuwaiti Ambassador Sheikh Saud Nasir al-Sabah told a news conference here Thursday.
“I think U.S. intervention at this stage is of paramount importance.”
But Bush and other administration officials indicated that the United States would not go beyond economic sanctions and moral support at this time.
SHIPS SENT TO PERSIAN GULF
However, Bush ordered the giant aircraft carrier Independence along with six escort ships to the Persian Gulf from the Indian Ocean. They will join eight U.S. warships already in the gulf.
Secretary of State James Baker, who was visiting Mongolia, where he was to have stayed until Sunday, was ordered by Bush to return Friday after first stopping in Moscow, where he will issue a joint statement with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze condemning the Iraqi action.
Jewish groups were quick to point out that the invasion of Kuwait demonstrates that Hussein’s threats cannot be ignored. Reich called him the “new Hitler of the Middle East.
“It is Hussein, after all, who brazenly violated international law with the use of chemical weapons both against Iran during the eight-year-long war and Iraq’s own Kurdish minority,” said Comay, of the AJCommittee.
“It is the very same Hussein who more recently threatened to use those same weapons against Israel,” Comay said.
Reich also said that the Iraqi action “makes clear” that the Middle East peace process must include all the Arab states and not focus just on the Palestinian issue.
“Israel can conclude no settlement with the Palestinian Arabs while its neighbors persist in refusing to come to the peace table,” Reich said.
Meanwhile, Bush’s economic sanctions drew support in Congress, but many said the Bush administration should have acted long before the invasion.
Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R-N.Y.) said the State Department had been “mommy-coddling” Iraq, and that others in the administration had appeased Hussein during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war because they believed Iran was the greater threat.
The administration had opposed the sanctions bill introduced by D’Amato in the Senate and by Rep. Howard Berman (D-N.Y.) and Daniel Glickman (D-Kan.) in the House because they said it would not be effective unless other countries also impose sanctions.
D’Amato’s bill was adopted last Friday by the Senate. The House, by a 416-0 vote Thursday, approved a much more sweeping sanctions bill similar to the sanctions ordered by Bush.