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Editorial from the Jerusalem Post...

An iron wall against Saddam

(August 5) - Two important anniversaries passed by last week, both of them largely unnoticed, though they are very much worthy of being recalled. It was 11 years ago last Thursday, August 2, that Iraqi tanks rolled into Kuwait, setting into motion the events that precipitated the Gulf War. Last week also marked the 61st yahrzeit of Vladimir Ze'ev Jabotinsky, the great Zionist leader whose ideology led to the creation of the Herut Party, which later came to be known as the Likud. Though these two disparate events would seem to have little in common, the complementary lessons they contain for Israel and the West are both useful and informative.

Analysts have already made much of the irony that Saddam Hussein still rules Iraq with an iron grip long after others, such as King Hussein, Hafez Assad, and even George Bush senior have passed from the political scene. Saddam's reign of terror survived the massive Allied assault during the Gulf War, intensive United Nations sanctions, arms control inspections, and the censure of much of the civilized world.

Despite all this, Saddam has managed to rebuild his army and continues to threaten the region by pursuing his program to obtain weapons of mass destruction.

Indeed, Saddam is once again engaging in his favorite pastime of saber-rattling, threatening to further destabilize the already tense Middle East and Persian Gulf regions. Twice in the past week, Iraq opened fire on American jets patrolling the no-fly zones over Iraq, in one case nearly bringing down its target. According to Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral Craig Quigley, Saddam "is trying his darndest to bring down a coalition aircraft." Quigley noted that, in the no-fly zone over southern Iraq, there have been 370 "provocations" by Iraqi gunners so far this year, compared to only 211 in all of 2000.

Saddam has also rattled Kuwaitis, who have yet to recover from the memories of Baghdad's brutal occupation. The Iraqi media recently carried reports about an armed opposition group allegedly operating in Kuwait, where officials fear that such reports are Saddam's disinformation intended to provide a cover for future acts of sabotage and terrorism. Kuwaiti Information Minister Sheikh Ahmed Fahd Ahmed said the reports "made us certain that there are intentions for a terrorist act in Kuwait. We think the Iraqis... will seize any opportunities to destabilize the region, particularly Kuwait, by threatening, by establishing such groups," he said.

Saddam has also sent a few barbs in Israel's direction, using a July 17 speech to urge Palestinians to intensify the intifada: "Rise up, dear ones, for whom we are ready to sacrifice anything. Say to your enemies, the enemies of our Arab nation who are the foul Jewish usurpers, their covetous allies, and all the colonialists and their abject servants: Stop abusing the Arab nation... Long live Iraq and long live Palestine. Down to Hell with all conspiracies and evil schemes. Down with all the debased resolutions of America."

The fact that Saddam is still in a position to make such threats only reinforces the need for the West to take far more drastic action to contain him. It points to the overall failure of the West, over a decade after the liberation of Kuwait, to bring down the Iraqi regime and free Iraq's people from the burden of their thuggish rulers. Though President George W. Bush's National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said last week, "The world can be certain of this: Saddam Hussein is on the radar screen for the administration," it will require a great deal more than keeping an eye on the screen to rid the world of the menace of Saddam.

The United States, and especially Europe, must not allow the passage of time to weaken their resolve. Instead, they must tighten the screws on Iraq, and continue tightening them, until the Baathist regime is a thing of the past. Had the protagonists of the Gulf War, which included current US Secretary of State Colin Powell, not ended the conflict prematurely, but instead pressed on with the goal of building a free, democratic Iraq, the entire region might very well look different than it does today.

But the sad reality is that it does not. The Middle East remains a dangerous place, as Saddam and his comrade-in-arms, Yasser Arafat, make demonstrably clear. In dealing with this duo over the past decade, both Israel and the United States have been guided more by wishful thinking than well-reasoned determination. It is unfortunate that they did not heed the words of Jabotinsky, who wrote in 1923 that the only way to deal with Palestinian Arab rejectionism was to build an "iron wall" that would shatter any illusions the Arabs might have about achieving victory.

Radiating strength, rather than proffering weakness, is the only way to deal with the likes of Saddam and Arafat, as Jabotinsky foretold long ago. Until this lesson, as painful as it may be, is digested by Western leaders and put into practice, men such as Saddam and Arafat will continue to wreak havoc.

-- Martin Thompson (, August 04, 2001

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