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Should Saddam Hussein Be Target of Anti-Terrorism Campaign? - 2001-10-07

The United States is building a coalition to strike against terrorists and those who harbor them. To some analysts, this should include striking against Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein, who, they believe, possesses weapons of mass destruction, and might use them if undeterred. They expressed their concerns at a recent Congressional hearing.

In opening a U.S. Congressional hearing, Representative Benjamin Gilman said attacking Iraq in order to overthrow Saddam Hussein might complicate the pursuit of suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden. But in his opinion, removing Saddam Hussein should be part of the campaign to end terrorism.

"Our nation should be able to chew gum and walk at the same time," he said. "At the earliest possible moment, which might be very soon, and, certainly, will have to come before we can declare total victory over terrorism we must turn our attention to ending a regime we should have dismantled years ago."

That regime is determined to produce weapons of mass destruction, said Charles Duelfer, who served as a U.N. arms inspector in Iraq and is now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

When he was stationed in Iraq, he often spoke with army commanders, who explained their attachment to these weapons. "In the war that they conducted with Iran, they believed that the use of chemical weapons saved them," he said. "Iran was using these human wave attacks, you may recall, and Iraq responded by using 101-thousand chemical munitions. They believe that they survived and prevailed in that war, because of their possession of weapons of mass destruction."

Mr. Duelfer added that Iraqis believe these weapons prevented allied forces from marching on Baghdad during the Gulf war. He thinks Saddam Hussein is not suicidal and deterrence will keep him from using the weapons, unless he is able to mount a clandestine attack not traceable to Iraq.

Jeffery Kemp, of the Nixon Center, said Washington will have to pursue a more long-term strategy to topple Saddam Hussein, whose support may be slipping among neighboring states. "Our most effective short-run strategy toward Iraq is to keep Baghdad guessing as to what we are going to do," he said. "There is circumstantial evidence that, since September 11th, governments cozying up to Saddam, and the dozens of companies seeking lucrative business deals have had second thoughts, not wanting to be seen acting against American interests, or caught in the crossfire of military confrontation."

Mr. Kemp added that regional support is crucial in changing the Iraqi regime.

Michael Hudson, professor of international relations and Arab studies at Georgetown University, agrees. He says some of Iraq's Arab neighbors would prefer Saddam Hussein's removal to the continued economic sanctions that hurt the Iraqi people and the periodic U-S bombing, which inflames Arab opinion, while not seriously harming the regime.

Professor Hudson says an attack on Iraq must be done quickly and decisively, if it is going to work. "If the mission were not accomplished, or if it were accompanied by large collateral damage, that is, a lot of civilian Iraqis killed in the effort there would be a very serious backlash against the United States elsewhere in the region," he said. "And, it might very well complicate, if not actually destroy, the efforts the Bush administration has been making to build a coalition against the terrorist organization of Osama bin Laden."

Professor Hudson says Arab countries would support an invasion of Iraq only if it is clearly implicated in the terrorist attack on the United States.