The United States has an interest in the stability and prosperity of North Africa, a region that is undergoing important changes. In particular, we are seeking to strengthen our relations with Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria, and to encourage democratic development and economic reform. Libya continues to be a country of concern for the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States. Although the government of Libya has taken an important positive step away from its support of terrorism by surrendering the Lockerbie suspects, our policy toward Libya is designed to encourage Libya to completely cease its support of terrorism and to block its efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction.
In Southwest Asia, the United States remains focused on deterring threats to regional stability and energy security, countering threats posed by WMD, and protecting the security of our regional partners, particularly from the threats posed by Iraq and Iran. We will continue to encourage members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to work closely on collective defense and security arrangements, help individual GCC states meet their defense requirements, and maintain our bilateral defense relationships. For example, the United States is fostering counterproliferation cooperation with, and among, the GCC states through the Cooperative Defense Initiative.
We will maintain an appropriate military presence in Southwest Asia using a combination of ground, air, and naval forces. The terrorist attack on the USS Cole has not deterred our resolve to maintain a continuous military presence in the Gulf to enhance regional stability and defend against threats to friendly countries. Our forces in the Gulf are backed by our ability to rapidly reinforce the region in time of crisis, which we have demonstrated convincingly. We remain committed to the UN Security Council resolutions and preventing the Iraqi regime from taking large-scale military action against Kuwait or the Kurd and Shia minorities in Iraq.
Our policy toward Iraq is comprised of three central elements: containment to prevent Saddam from again threatening the stability of the vital Gulf region; relief for the Iraqi people via the UN oil-for-food program; and support to those Iraqis seeking to replace Saddam’s regime with a government that can live at peace with its neighbors and its people.
Containment of Iraq remains the foundation of our policy toward Saddam Hussein’s regime. Until his government can be removed from power, it must be prevented from again threatening the region. In December 1999, the United Nations Security Council passed UNSCR 1284, a new omnibus resolution on Iraq. The United States supports Resolution 1284 because it buttresses the containment of Iraq while maximizing relief for the Iraqi people. The resolution expands the humanitarian aspects of the oil-for-food program to ensure the well being of the Iraqi people. It provides for a robust new inspection and monitoring regime that would finish the work begun by UNSCOM. It would allow for a suspension of the economic sanctions in return for full Iraqi cooperation with UN arms inspections and Iraqi fulfillment of key disarmament tasks. This resolution would also lock in the Security Council’s control over Iraqi finances to ensure that Saddam Hussein is never again able to disburse Iraq’s resources as he would like.
Although Iraq continues to refuse to implement any of the requirements of Resolution 1284, the United States and other members of the Security Council have already begun to implement those sections of the resolution intended to improve the humanitarian situation of the Iraqi populace. Iraqi oil exports have increased dramatically, making possible the procurement of ever-larger quantities of humanitarian necessities. In addition, the Security Council has greatly expanded the lists of items that Iraq is allowed to import to include educational supplies, building materials, spare parts for the oil industry, infrastructure necessities, and other economic goods.
Nevertheless, we consistently maintain that sanctions on Iraq can only be lifted after it has met its obligations to the international community in full. Saddam’s actions over the past decade lead us to conclude that his regime will never comply with the obligations contained in the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. For this reason, we actively support those who seek to bring a new democratic government to power in Baghdad. We recognize that this may be a slow and difficult process, but we believe it is the only solution to the problem of Saddam’s regime.
Our policy toward Iran is aimed at changing the practices of the Iranian government in several key areas, including its efforts to obtain WMD and long-range missiles, its support for terrorism and groups that violently oppose the Middle East peace process, and its human rights practices. We view signs of change in Iranian policies with great interest, both with regard to the possibility of Iran assuming its rightful place in the world community and the chance for better bilateral ties. We welcome statements by some Iranian officials that advocate improved relations with the United States.
These positive signs must be balanced against the reality that Iran’s support for terrorism has not yet ceased and serious violations of human rights persist. Iran is continuing its efforts to acquire WMD and develop long range missiles (including the 1,300 kilometer-range Shahab-3 it flight-tested in July 1998, July 2000, and again in September 2000). The United States will continue to oppose Iranian efforts to sponsor terrorism and to oppose transfers from any country to Iran of materials and technologies that could be used to develop long-range missiles or WMD. Additionally, the United States will continue to work with Arab allies threatened by WMD to develop a defense through efforts such as the Cooperative Defense Initiative.
The United States has demonstrated that we are ready to explore ways to build mutual confidence and avoid misunderstandings with Iran. In recognition of the positive changes in Iran, in particular the fair and free parliamentary elections of February 2000, we modified our sanctions to allow Iran to export to the United States carpets and foodstuffs — key exports for small Iranian businesses and to facilitate people to people contact. We would welcome reciprocal steps from Iran, and continue to signal our willingness to engage in an authoritative government-to-government dialogue in which both sides will be able to discuss their issues of concern.
Meanwhile, we will strengthen our cooperation with allies and friends to encourage further positive changes in Iranian practices that threaten our shared interests. If a government-to-government dialogue can be initiated and sustained in a way that addresses the concerns of both sides, then the United States would be willing to develop with the Islamic Republic a road map leading to normal relations. It could be useful to begin a dialogue without preconditions.
The President’s trip to South Asia in March 2000 reflected the growing importance of the region to U.S. political, economic, and commercial interests. As the President emphasized, our strategy for South Asia is designed to help the peoples of that region by helping resolve long-standing conflicts, encouraging economic development, and assisting social development. Regional stability and improved bilateral ties are also important for U.S. economic interests in a region that contains one-fifth of the world’s population and one of its most important emerging markets. In addition, we seek to work closely with regional countries to stem the flow of illegal drugs from South Asia, most notably from Afghanistan.