WASHINGTON (Feb. 21)
Iraq’s announced agreement to withdraw from Kuwait under the terms of a Soviet initiative raised new questions about whether Saddam Hussein would emerge from the Persian Gulf war with his armed forces defeated but still a major menace to Israel.
The Iraqi agreement to a “full and unconditional withdrawal of its forces from Kuwait” was announced in Moscow early Friday morning local time after Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev met for more than two hours with Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz.
Under the agreement, Iraq said it would begin withdrawing its forces on the second day after a cease-fire and would complete the withdrawal in an unspecified “fixed time period.”
But the agreement also calls for a lifting of all economic sanctions against Iraq once two-thirds of the forces are out of Kuwait, and a nullification of all pertinent U.N. Security Council resolutions once the forces are out entirely.
President Bush, who was informed by Gorbachev of the agreement in a telephone call Thursday evening, told the Soviet leader he had “serious concerns about several points in the plan,” White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said.
He said the United States would consult with its coalition partners to formulate a response to the Soviet-Iraqi agreement.
But meanwhile, Fitzwater said, there had been “no change in our schedule for prosecution of the war.”
Earlier in the day, it appeared that Iraq had decided not to surrender and was bracing for an imminent ground assault by U.S.-led coalition forces. In a speech broadcast on Baghdad Radio, Hussein had declared that the Iraqi people are willing to continue the war until they reach martyrdom.
“In vowing to continue the war, (Hussein) once again demonstrates his determination to maintain the aggression against Kuwait and the absence of compassion for his people and his country,” Fitzwater said shortly after the speech.
‘TIGER DID NOT TURN INTO A CAT’
In Jerusalem, Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy told Israel Radio that he was not surprised by the bellicose tone of Hussein’s speech.
Hussein is a danger to his own people and his megalomania will bring disaster to them and ruin Iraq, Levy said. He expressed the hope that the Iraqi people would finally realize where Hussein is leading them.
Levy spoke hours before Aziz informed Gorbachev of Iraq’s willingness to accept the Soviet plan. But at that point, he said told Israel Radio that if the Soviet initiative were allowed to succeed, it would result in the constant threat of instability in the region.
Hussein would continue inciting the Arab masses, Levy said, and other Arab leaders would imitate him and endanger moderate regimes.
In New York, Israeli Consul General Uriel Savir said the world should remember that “the tiger did not turn into a cat.” He said Hussein had “opted for war three times in this decade–Iran, Kuwait and Jan. 15 — and he’s opting for war again.
“The danger for the area, for his country and for the Arab-Israeli conflict is the combination of the devastating conventional and non-conventional armaments, and the cruel nature of his regime. The outcome of this conflict must find a solution to both,” Savir said.