- The Washington Times - Monday, March 10, 2003

Allies who bankrolled most of the first U.S.-led war against Iraq in 1991 will almost certainly not help pay for a second one.
Saudi Arabia and Germany, which together picked up an estimated 44 percent of the $61 billion tab for the Persian Gulf war, oppose a new military strike against Saddam Hussein.
Japan, which chipped in another $10 billion 12 years ago to defray the costs of the war, has backed the tough U.S. line in the United Nations but plans no comparable contribution to a new war.
"We have not been thinking of doing so," Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told lawmakers in Tokyo last week. With the Japanese economy mired in a decade-long slump, Mr. Koizumi added, "We have not received such a request, either."
The amount of allied contributions has emerged as a key unknown in the raging debate over how much an invasion of Iraq will cost.
A U.S.-led invasion without the blessing of the United Nations a course of action President Bush has refused to rule out could add tens of billions of dollars to the hit the U.S. Treasury takes from the war and any postwar occupation mission.
Steven M. Kosiak, in a study last month for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a District-based private research group, put the most likely costs for the war itself at between $18 billion and $85 billion, with allied support a crucial variable.
Trying to line up contributors this time has been far more difficult for the United States, Mr. Kosiak said in an interview.
"I haven't heard of any countries stepping up to help pay for this war, the way you had in 1991," he said. "It's not surprising that a lot of countries who don't support the war aren't volunteering ahead of time to help with the costs."
Allied contributions, many secured by the first Bush administration before the fighting began, made the 1991 campaign to evict Saddam's invasion force from Kuwait perhaps the most cost-effective major conflict in U.S. history.
Direct military costs for the campaign were about $61 billion in 1991 dollars ($80 billion in today's terms), just 1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), according to figures compiled by Al Nofi, now an instructor at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I.
The 8-year-long Vietnam War cost $494 billion in today's dollars, 12 percent of GDP, while the $2.9 trillion U.S. tab for World War II amounted to 130 percent of GDP at the time.
Moreover, allies such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Germany, Japan and South Korea chipped in some $54.1 billion of the Persian Gulf war costs, leaving the net direct U.S. contribution for the war at a minuscule $7 billion.
The potential ouster of Saddam's regime this time, however, raises the possibility that Iraq's own vast oil reserves could offset the costs of a U.S. invasion.
A skeptical study by the Council on Foreign Relations in December noted that the decrepit Iraqi oil industry will need $5 billion and three years just to return to pre-1990 production levels.
Iraq also has some $300 billion in existing state debts and obligations, as well as massive domestic investment and infrastructure needs. The Pentagon would find itself behind a long line of creditors if it sought the oil money to finance the war.
But the Heritage Foundation's Ariel Cohen, who has published a study on a postwar reorganization of Iraq's oil assets, said Iraq in a few years could triple its production to as much as 7 million barrels a day, providing a huge if indirect benefit to the U.S. economy by driving down global oil prices.
"There's no question that would lift a major drag on economic growth here," Mr. Cohen said.
Bush administration officials repeatedly have said too many question marks hang over any war to give a hard and fast cost estimate, including the length of the campaign, the cooperation from neighboring states, and how hard and long Saddam's forces resist.
U.S. officials also argue that critics underestimate the amount of international support a U.S.-led action will gather. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said last month that 19 countries have offered U.S. forces basing rights and 11 are in "various stages of discussion" on contributing troops to an invasion.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz told the House Budget Committee last week that many countries loudly opposing U.S. policy in Iraq are quietly signaling they are ready to help in the country's reconstruction.
"I would expect that even countries like France will have a strong interest in assisting Iraq in reconstruction," Mr. Wolfowitz said. "I expect we will get a lot of mitigation, but it will be easier after the fact than before the fact."
Mr. Kosiak notes that the price tag for a new Gulf war has to be compared in part with the high costs the Pentagon has incurred in maintaining no-fly zones and otherwise containing Saddam for more than a decade.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has repeatedly condemned the idea of military action against Iraq. But a German lawmaker said that was no bar against German participation in the rebuilding of Iraq if the war succeeds.
"If we can make a positive contribution, I think we will," said Karl-Theodor Freiherr zu Guttenberg, a member of the opposition Christian Social Union party, in an interview with editors and reporters at The Washington Times. "I have heard nothing that indicates our government would not want to participate in such a mission."
Officials at the United Nations, the World Bank and the European Union have all quietly begun their preparations to help finance the aftermath of a war. Mr. Koizumi said Japan would also be willing to contribute to economic reconstruction and humanitarian missions in Iraq.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide