Force Should Be Used Against Iraq Only As a Last Resort, Says Rabin

The United Sates and other countries opposed to Iraq’s annexation of Kuwait should use force only as a “last resort,” former Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin said Sunday.

Instead, there should be a political solution without concessions to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Rabin said here at an American Jewish Congress symposium on the Persian Gulf crisis.

“Any attempt to please Saddam Hussein, to give something for agreeing to withdraw from Kuwait will be detrimental to stability in the region. It will give encouragement to more vio- lence, aggression and the emergence of leaders like Saddam Hussein,” he argued.

Rabin expressed concern even with humanitarian shipments of food or medicine to Iraq which he said would allow that country to persevere for “far beyond” the beginning of 1991.

Iraq already has enough arms and spare parts to last a long time, he added.

Rabin, whose Labor Party now leads the parliamentary opposition in Israel, said the Gulf crisis has yet to reach its most critical point, but he did not say what that would be.

The focus is now on having Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev attempt to persuade Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait, Rabin said, referring to Sunday’s superpower meeting in Helsinki, Finland.

How the crisis is resolved will decide “the rules of the game on the international scene of the world in the post-Cold War period,” he predicted.

At the Helsinki meeting, President Bush gave Gorbachev time to work politically to seek an Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait, Rabin said.

Should Gorbachev succeed. “I don’t know what will be the price of the delivery,” he said.

CALLS FOR SOVIET INVOLVEMENT

But Rabin said he felt reassured by Bush’s statement Sunday that the United States opposes linking resolution of the Iraqi conflict with the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Rabin said the Soviets should from now on be involved in discussions on resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict, but not as a participant in an international peace conference, as Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze reiterated recently.

Rather, the United States should consult with the Soviets in its efforts to bring about direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Rabin blamed the advent of Iraq’s military power not only on years of Soviet armament, but on U.S. support of Iraq in the decade-long war between Iran and Iraq.

He said the United States had the right idea when it shipped TOW missiles and other weaponry to Iran during the Iran-Contra affair.

Rabin argued that no substantive discussions should occur on the Arab-Israeli peace process until the Iraqi crisis is resolved. But he said when the diplomatic process resumes, there should not be a push for an international peace conference on the Middle East or even a meeting between Israel and the various Arab countries technically in a state of war with the Jewish state.

One of the problems in lumping all the Arab countries together is that Iraq would use its leverage over Jordan to sabotage such a negotiating process, he said.

But Rabin said he views Syria “totally differently” as a result of its support of the economic sanctions and blockade against Iraq. He said he opposes any U.S. aid to Syria, but would support U.S. efforts to bolster Syria politically.

On another subject, Rabin dismissed as “total nonsense” the argument that continuation of the Palestinian uprising in the West Bank and Gaza Strip will at some point pose a threat “to the very existence of Israel.”

That statement appeared to partially contradict one made earlier by Henry Siegman, AJCongress executive vice president, who argued that problems posed by the territories are at least more threatening, if not “infinitely more threatening” to Israel’s security than “perpetuation of the status qua.”

NEXT STORY