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Iraq Decision Makers: The Committee For The Liberation Of Iraq.

Formed quietly in Washington last month, the CLI is a powerful bipartisan body pressing the case for the removal of Saddam Hussein and a strong commitment to rebuilding Iraq after his fall. George Shultz is the Republican patriarch behind it and his prominent involvement suggests the committee is more than just another Washington lobbying outfit. CLI President Randy Scheunemann is confident that Iraq after Saddam will emerge as a federal democracy and this will include "the 4m or so Iraqis in the diaspora". Of these, there are highly educated Iraqis with overseas investments worth more than $70 bn.

It is said that, once the Saddam regime has been overthrown, the CLI will act as a "shadow government" for Baghdad. But it will limit itself to policy matters and will not deal with details. It will, eventually, press for a "competitive petroleum production sharing regime" which could make OPEC irrelevant to Iraq's oil output or supply decisions.

The Financial Times (FT) on Nov. 21 quoted Shultz as saying in an interview: "A committee like this gets a lot of impetus from the White House", suggesting that the committee's purpose is to serve as a public outlet for the more private thinking within the hawkish realms of the Bush administration. "It is an outside group which can be briefed and sound off".

Iraq, post-Saddam, could become the world's biggest oil exporter and the main supplier to the US. On Nov. 20, the US Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in its annual forecast that growing US demand for oil will drive petroleum imports to 68% of American needs by 2025, against 55% in 2001. US oil demand will rise from 19.8m b/d in 2001 to 29.2m b/d by 2025. By then, it said, US demand for natural gas will have risen by more than 50%.

Even as the White House publicly backs the UN weapons inspectors and the possibility of a peaceful disarmament of Iraq, the CLI is designed to ensure Washington does not weaken its resolve to remove Saddam Hussein. Its bipartisan membership includes Newt Gingrich, a republican and former House speaker, who is also a key member of Richard Perle's Defense Policy Board which advises the Pentagon on defence policy; James Hoffa, the powerful Teamsters union leader; and Senators John McCain, a Republican, and Joseph Lieberman, a Democrat.

The CLI was the brainchild of the Bush administration. It was inspired by a lobbying committee designed to sway US public and political opinion in favour of expanding the NATO alliance.

When Shultz addressed the UN General Assembly in 1982, the newly sworn-in US secretary of state set out what he saw as the three fundamental elements of US foreign policy: realism, strength and diplomacy - in that order. The Bush administration has followed his prescription in the past few months.

First it published a national security strategy describing the threats to US interests and establishing the doctrine of pre-emption. Then it sent aircraft carriers, special forces and 600 staff from General Tommy Franks' Central Command in Florida to sit in Qatar - on Saddam's doorstep - as a menacing reminder of US strength. Finally the White House navigated its way through what the FT called "the reefs of the United Nations" to secure a forceful resolution returning weapons inspectors to Iraq.

The principal actors in Bush's government, including the president, have at some stage been schooled by the 81-year-old Shultz. He remains close to the Bush cabinet, saying: "They are all very close friends of mine". Now he is an academic with the Hoover Institution at Stanford, on the outskirts of San Francisco. The walls of his corner office are lined with photographs and cartoons from Shultz's public service career which stretched from the Eisenhower years to the last presidential campaign.

Vice-President Dick Cheney and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld reported to Shultz when he was Richard Nixon's treasury secretary. Secretary of State Colin Powell worked at the National Security Council when Shultz was Ronald Reagan's secretary of state. Paul O'Neill, until recently the treasury secretary, worked for Shultz when he ran the Office of Management and Budget. When George W. Bush was in California ahead of his 2000 presidential campaign, Shultz hosted a day of policy brain-storming at his home. Condoleezza Rice, then a fellow academic at the Hoover Institution, was there. Now she is the national security adviser.

Given Shultz's close ties to top administration figures, the FT noted, his opinions are seen as "tracer fire, illuminating the direction of White House thinking". He has no qualms about wrangling within the Bush administration. Referring to apparent arguments between Powell and the Cheney-Rumsfeld camp over multilateralism, weapons inspectors and military action in Iraq, Shultz says: "This crowd has shown that they argue. But, when the president steps up and makes a decision, they salute and go". There is more than a faint hint in the Bush White House of the turf wars of the Reagan years between the secretary of state and Caspar Weinberger who then was the defence secretary. The FT said that, during the interview, Shultz chose to point out which side he was on, and the paper quoted him as stressing: "When I was in office, I was the one who was pounding the table and saying terrorism is a menace and we have to be able to use our forces". The FT also said: "There are many supposed godfathers of the Bush administration, but Mr Shultz makes no such claims. His views, he says, are informed only by what he reads in the papers and sees on TV".

As a Hoover fellow, Shultz can offer academic opinions - for example, on NATO. Asked whether the world still needed the alliance, Shultz told the FT correspondent from London: "Maybe we don't". But he cautioned: "You guys [the Europeans] got two massive wars going and we tried to stay out of them, but we could not and we wound up with a lot of Americans killed. A lot of blood and treasure lost... NATO is a response to that. A pre-emptive strike for peace".

On the UN, the FT quoted Shultz as saying: "We all know how equivocal the UN Security Council can be and how people don't like to face up to something tough". But he added that Saddam Hussein - "a menace to world peace" - was already teetering on a material breach of UN Resolution 1441 by claiming that he had no weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Most likely, Shultz concluded, "there will be military action. I would be surprised if we have not acted by the end of January".

The FT said Shultz was "ultimately optimistic about regime change". In the Reagan years, he recalled, "they said the same about Asia as they are now saying about the Muslim world", only to witness new governments ushered in from Taiwan to the Philippines.

With NATO now set to enlarge from 19 members to take on seven East European nations including the three Baltic states, it is said that both the Bush team and the CLI want the political mechanism of the Atlantic alliance to replace the UN Security Council in giving multilateral legitimacy to any major US action outside North America. This is because, unlike the UN Security Council where the French or Russians might block American action, NATO's political decisions do not require consensus. The Only NATO's military decisions require consensus.

Thus, at NATO's summit meeting in Prague on Nov. 21, the US opted for - and easily got - the alliance's political support for its strong warning that Saddam's Iraq comply with UN Resolution 1441 or face what Bush called "the severest of consequences".

The NATO communiqu said its members were committed to taking "effective action" to ensure Saddam complied immediately with Resolution 1441 to give up his WMD. Although the communiqu, agreed after three days of intense negotiations, fell well short of committing NATO forces or military assets to an invasion, the US has made significant progress gaining commitments from individual NATO countries.
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Publication:APS Review Oil Market Trends
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Dec 16, 2002
Previous Article:IRAQ - Part 4 - The Decision Makers.
Next Article:IRAQ - The Economic Mess.

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