October 18, 2001 | Commentary on National Security and Defense
Saddam poses a greater threat to U.S. national security than bin
Laden does. He's been busy building nuclear, chemical and
biological weapons of mass destruction -- and the missiles to
deliver them -- without outside interference since the expulsion of
U.N. monitors in 1998. He already has used chemical weapons in his
war against Iran and against Iraq's Kurdish opposition. Now, he
reportedly has the nuclear material necessary to build two atomic
bombs and soon may finish building such a device -- the ultimate
No direct Iraqi involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks has been
proven, but there are disturbing reports of several Iraqi contacts
with bin Laden and his henchmen. According to U.S. intelligence
officials, bin Laden was in contact with government officials in
Iraq shortly before the attacks took place. In addition, Mohamed
Atta, the suspected ringleader of the 19 terrorists who hijacked
the four U.S. airliners on Sept. 11, met with an Iraqi intelligence
officer in Europe earlier this year, U.S. intelligence officials
Iraq has a long record of supporting terrorist groups and using
terrorism to advance its foreign policy. During the 1991 Gulf War,
for example, Baghdad planned a series of attacks against U.S.
targets around the world. (Most were blocked by the United States
with the help of several foreign governments.) Iraqi agents were
also apprehended in an aborted April 1993 assassination attempt
against former President George Bush on a visit to Kuwait.
Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the February 1993 bombing of the
World Trade Center, had strong links to Iraq as well as to bin
Laden's terrorist network. He flew to the United States using an
Iraqi passport. He appears to have acquired a false identity with
the help of Iraqi authorities, who doctored his personal file in
Kuwait during the 1990-1991 Iraqi occupation. Another suspect in
the 1993 bombing, Abdul Yasin, later returned to Iraq and is
believed to be living in Baghdad.
Let's also remember that Iraq's failed assassination attempt
against former President George H.W. Bush never received an
adequate American response. The Clinton administration equivocated
for months before launching a symbolic pinprick cruise missile
strike against the headquarters of one of Iraq's many intelligence
agencies in June 1993. Such a limp response not only didn't deter
Saddam from future attacks, it may have emboldened him to escalate
his stealth war against the United States.
To keep Iraq from becoming even more dangerous, the Bush
administration should consider a full range of military and other
options against Saddam's regime. It should fully support Iraqi
opposition forces, particularly the Iraqi National Congress (INC).
The opposition now controls only a safe haven in northern Iraq
established in 1991 to halt Iraqi attacks on dissident Kurds. The
United States should cement an alliance between the INC and the
Kurds, then allow the INC to return to Iraq's northern mountains to
establish a provisional government.
The United States also should establish a "no-drive zone" for
Saddam's army in the Kurdish safe haven and in southern Iraq, and
expand the two "no-fly zones" already imposed on Iraq's air force
to cover the entire country. U.S. military forces should then seize
Iraq's southern oil fields and channel oil revenues to a
provisional government, with the INC as its nucleus.
To increase the incentive for mass defections from Saddam's
regime, U.N. economic sanctions should be lifted on territory
controlled by this government. Washington also should agree to the
lifting of all U.N. sanctions against Iraq as soon as Saddam's
regime is replaced by a government that agrees to halt his weapons
programs and stop threatening Iraq's neighbors.
Such steps may sound premature now, with bin Laden at large and the Taliban still in power. But it's clear that we can't really win the war on terrorism unless we're willing to remove all regimes that support terrorism against us. We're in this for the long haul, and it's time to take out Saddam Hussein once and for all.
James Phillips is a research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs in the Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation.
Distributed Nationally on the Knight-Ridder Tribune Wire