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U.S. SHOULD GIVE UP AGGRESSION IN IRAQ AND FOCUS ON CONTAINMENT

SHARE U.S. SHOULD GIVE UP AGGRESSION IN IRAQ AND FOCUS ON CONTAINMENT

While the attack on the Baghdad headquarters of the Iraqi intelligence service is symbolically important - demonstrating that President Clinton is prepared to use force and to do so independently - a larger vision and further action are required.

Our policy toward the Persian Gulf has been in limbo since the cease-fire in 1991.It has been shaped largely by the hope that the limited use of force combined with the United Nations's sanctions and embargo will force Saddam Hussein from power.

But it is by no means certain that this pressure can bring Saddam down. He could be felled tomorrow during internal struggles with his closest supporters or his senior military officers.

Or he could last for years, responding to U.N. and U.S. pressures by forcing new sacrifices on the Iraqi people, provoking new confrontations to arouse Iraqi nationalism and increasing the ruthlessness of his oppressive regime.

U.S. policy cannot be based on hope and a war of attrition or the fate of one man who may be replaced by an equally aggressive leader. It needs clear and achievable goals.

This means Clinton must shift from a policy based on driving Saddam from power to one based on long-term containment that the United States, our allies, in and outside the region, and the United Nations can live with.

Our policy goals might take this form:

- The Kurds. The United States evidently has quietly opposed a formal Kurdish autonomy agreement with the regime because it felt such an agreement would help Saddam stay in power.

The United States should make it clear that while it does not support an independent Kurdish nation, it does insist on the kind of formal agreement on autonomy that protects the Kurds' legal and cultural rights, and their access to a fair share of Iraqi oil revenues, that Iraqi leaders have proposed for 25 years.

- Kuwait's security. Clinton needs to make it clear that there can be no new relationship and real easing of tension and U.N. sanctions without Saddam's formal agreement to Kuwait's sovereignty and Kuwait's new boundaries.

- The Shiites in the south. The United States should accept the fact that a no-fly zone does nothing to protect the Shiites in southern Iraq, who already are firmly under the control of Saddam's army and internal-security forces. It should acknowledge that the 3,000- to 5,000-man rebel force is no more than an Iranian proxy and cannot overthrow Saddam.

The administration should make it clear that it would end the no-fly zone in exchange for formal Iraqi agreement to the new Kuwaiti border and recognition of Kuwaiti sovereignty.