What Did Jim Baker Promise The Allies?

One of the many wonders of the allied performance during five weeks of warfare in the Persian Gulf was just how sturdy the "fragile" U. S.-led coalition proved to be. The strength of the alliance is surely a tribute to the deft diplomacy of President Bush and Secretary of State James A. Baker III. But now that the war is winding down, many observers are wondering what sort of promises have been made to keep the allies--many of whom are divided by ancient enmities--pulling together.

"We haven't made any secret deals or promises," says a State Dept. spokesman. But "you try to take care of your allies. That's the way diplomacy has always worked." Such disclaimers make Capitol Hill suspicious. "When Jim Baker denies that any promises have been made to our allies, he's not telling a lie in a strict sense," says House Middle East subcommittee Chairman Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.). "But impressions have been left, and glances have been exchanged." Congressional Democrats save their most skeptical frowns for the Administration's claim that America's net war cost will be only $15 billion, thanks to allied promises to share the burden. "If you add up all the requests and promises I'm hearing about, it's three times what we have to spend," says Senator Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.).

Since diplomacy, especially the secretive Bush-Baker variety, isn't subject to public audit, full details of the arrangements that made Desert Storm possible may never be known. But the sketchy information that has emerged suggests a growing stack of financial, political, and military IOUs.

Israel and Egypt, which together accounted for a third of all U. S. foreign aid before the war, will be the biggest beneficiaries of what cynics might call Operation Desert Score. The government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir has made it clear that Israel expects to be amply rewarded for staying out of the war despite the three dozen Scud missiles hurled into the Jewish state.

TWIN BLOWS. Privately, Tel Aviv politicians admit they expect a generous reward. "Americans see dollar signs in the eyes of every Israeli minister who arrives in Washington," says one senior Israeli official. Israelis insist that U. S. aid is desperately needed. Finance Minister Yitzhak Modai recently estimated that his country will need $13 billion over the next five years to cover the costs of the war and of the massive influx of Soviet Jews. And the Israelis have asked for $1 billion in emergency military assistance. Baker has promised Jerusalem $400 million in loan guarantees for housing construction.

On the military side, Israel has already obtained the latest-model Patriot missile interceptors, to be left be-hind by their American crews when the war ends. Israel can also expect continued U. S. support for a possible successor to the $1 million-apiece Patriot, the Arrow, under development by Israel Aircraft Industries. The Pentagon has already contributed $158 million to the project.

FREE WEAPONS. Egypt may have risked the most to join the coalition. For months, President Hosni Mubarak endured Saddam's taunts, which were designed to sow discord among Egypt's impoverished masses. Washington has written off $7 billion that Egypt owed the U. S. for weapons purchases. And Egyptian forces returning from the gulf will likely bring home some slightly used U. S. weapons, including M1A1 tanks. The hardware may be declared surplus by the Pentagon and offered to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Kuwait. Or, according to a senior Pentagon official, it may be deemed "pre-positioned" for future conflicts. U. S. defense contractors, which will benefit by selling replacements to Washington and spare parts to Cairo, will push hard for the deployment.

Turkey is another old U. S. ally seeking a payoff for the politically tough decision to stick with the coalition. President Turgut Ozal has already asked President Bush to hike Turkey's textile-export quotas to the U. S. Bush quickly complied to reward Turkey for its support--and for cutting off a pipeline that carried Iraqi oil through Turkey to the Mediterranean. Whether Turkey has the capacity to meet its expanded quotas is still in question, however. Over the longer run, Ankara wants membership in the European Community. But that must overcome stiff Greek opposition.

Some former U. S. enemies also expect postwar rewards. Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, who once outranked Saddam Hussein in Washington's demonology, signed on with the coalition--and promptly moved to effectively annex Lebanon to Syria. Washington, which had opposed Assad's dream of "Greater Syria" for years, voiced no objections as his troops routed Christian militias from Beirut.

Even Iran, for more than a decade America's nemesis in the region, stands to benefit. According to a senior Western diplomat in Riyadh, Washington has quietly assured Iranian leader Hashemi Rafsanjani, who runs the parking concession for nearly 150 Iraqi air force planes, that Tehran will play a major role in any postwar gulf security arrangements. The Iranians can also expect more sympathetic treatment in disputes with the U. S. dating back to Iran's 1979 revolution.

China won points, too--simply for not standing in the way of the U. S. After Beijing's abstention paved the way for a U. N. Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq, the Administration invited high-level Chinese officials to the White House. The talks helped end the international ostracism of China that followed the June, 1989, Tiananmen Square massacre. This June, the White House will fight to retain China's most-favored-nation trade status despite congressional anger at ongoing human-rights violations.

HIDDEN TAB. Perhaps the most difficult case is that of the Soviet Union. Early in the conflict, when Moscow's rhetorical support for the coalition was strong, Washington turned a blind eye to a Soviet crackdown in the Baltic republics despite critics' complaints that the U. S. was more concerned with human rights in Kuwait than in Vilnius. But Soviet efforts to broker a peace settlement in the gulf annoyed the Administration and could seriously strain postwar relations between the superpowers.

Before the ground war began, the Administration estimated that the cost to the coalition would be $55 billion. The dizzying collapse of Iraqi resistance means the bill for military action could be much lower. But the hidden tab for Jim Baker's spree of promises has yet to be tallied.


How Uncle Sam says thanks

ISRAEL $400 million in loan guarantees to construct housing for Soviet emigres. Emergency military and economic aid

EGYPT Cancellation of $7 billion in military debts. Rights to military hardware left behind by the U.S.

IRAN Promises of a major role in postwar gulf. Sympathetic treatment of U.S. claims resulting from Iranian revolution

SYRIA A free hand in Lebanon

TURKEY An increase in Turkish textile exports to the U.S. Rights to some U.S. weapons left behind in gulf

CHINA White House welcome to a Chinese envoy, and easing of trade restrictions


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