Kissinger sees opportunity in victory Peace possible, ex-secretary of state predicts PERSIAN GULF SHOWDOWN

February 26, 1991|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Evening Sun Staff

An allied victory in Kuwait will provide a great opportunity to bring peace and stability to the Middle East, former secretary of state Henry Kissinger said today.

"This is something America can be proud of," said Kissinger, who spoke to the Maryland Chamber of Commerce at the Omni Inner Harbor Hotel in Baltimore.

The United States has acted admirably in leading a coalition of governments in an effort to drive Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, he said.

"He was an immediate challenge to all of the neighbors in an area that has 60 percent of the world's oil," Kissinger said.

Expressing no doubts that the U.S.-led forces will succeed, he said the allies now must prepare for a new order in the post-war Middle East.

Saddam must first recognize that Kuwait is an sovereign nation. Next, the United States should help oversee a reconstruction of the region using Arab oil money rather than American dollars. Finally, the United States and the allies must be careful that the defeat of Saddam does not create a vacuum that leads to the rise of another aggressor in the region.

"We have to think in terms of a balance in that region," said Kissinger, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973.

With order re-established, a new opportunity will arise to resolve the long-standing problems surrounding Arab-Israeli relations, he said.

"Now there exists an opportunity to address some of the problems in the area with American cooperation and American leadership," he said. "I believe all of the major players in the area now see what happens when problems fester. I believe this is an opportunity on all sides to make a new start."

The victory of moderate Arab governments, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, will increase the significance of their role in negotiating a peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, Kissinger said. At the same time, he said, the war in the Persian Gulf has discredited the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which sided with Iraq.

The United States must be prepared to act in the world as its lone superpower as the Soviet Union grapples with its own internal problems, Kissinger said.

"While it's true our success give us a challenge we haven't faced before, who in the world doesn't envy us?"

Kissinger portrayed Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev as a leader backed into a corner both domestically and abroad. Gorbachev tried to play the role of peace maker in the Persian Gulf partly to temper the restlessness of his country's own Islamic population. Meanwhile, he did not want to alienate the United States and Western Europe because he needs the West to give economic aid to the Soviet Union.

"Gorbachev deserves a lot of credit for realizing he's governing a mess," said Kissinger.

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