President George W. Bush has declared war against
international terrorism in response to the September 11 terrorist
attacks that killed more than 6,000 innocent people. That war will
require eradicating Osama bin Laden's global terrorist network and
uprooting its Taliban protectors from Afghanistan. But that alone
will not be enough to stop terrorism. Troubling questions have been
raised about possible Iraqi support for bin Laden's network; this
is not surprising, given Iraq's past support for terrorist attacks
against America and its allies.
Regardless of whether Iraqi involvement
with bin Laden's network can be established conclusively, any war
against terrorism that leaves Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in
power will be judged a failure. Saddam's brutal regime is propped
up by systematic terrorism against its own people and neighbors. It
could soon become even more of a threat due to its relentless drive
to obtain nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons of mass
destruction. The United States must push hard and fast for regime
changes in both Baghdad and Kabul if terrorism is to be
Evidence of Iraqi Connections
Although direct Iraqi involvement in the September 11
attacks has not been established, there are disturbing reports of
several Iraqi contacts with bin Laden and his henchmen. U.S.
intelligence officials have reported that bin Laden was in contact
with Iraqi government agents shortly before the airline hijackings.
New scrutiny is also being given to a December 1998 meeting between
a senior Iraqi intelligence officer, Farouk Hijazi, and bin Laden
in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Moreover, Mohamed Atta, the suspected
ringleader of the 19 terrorists who hijacked four U.S. airliners on
September 11, reportedly met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in
Europe earlier this year, according to U.S. intelligence
has a long record of supporting terrorist groups and resorting to
terrorism as an adjunct of foreign policy. During the 1991 Gulf
War, Baghdad planned a series of terrorist attacks against U.S.
targets around the world, but most were blocked by U.S.
counterterrorism efforts in close cooperation with a wide variety
of foreign governments. Iraqi agents had been apprehended in an
aborted April 1993 assassination attempt against former President
George H. W. 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 on a
trip that began in Iraq. 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. Former CIA Director
James Woolsey has called for a renewed investigation of the 1993
bombing, which the Clinton Administration handled as a criminal
conspiracy rather than as state-sponsored terrorism.
Washington has more than enough reason to
include Baghdad in its war against terrorism even if no "smoking
gun" is found linking Iraq to the September 11 attacks. Iraq
repeatedly has violated the cease-fire agreement that ended the
1991 Gulf War; therefore, it is technically at war with the United
States. Moreover, Iraq's failed assassination attempt against
former President 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 did little to deter Saddam Hussein from future
attacks, and in fact may have emboldened him to escalate his
stealth war against the United States.
poses a much greater threat to U.S. national security than does
Osama bin Laden. Its clandestine programs to build nuclear,
chemical, and biological weapons of mass destruction and the
missiles that can deliver them have proceeded without outside
interference since the expulsion of United Nations monitors in
1998. The Iraqi dictatorship has used chemical weapons in its war
against Iran and against Iraq's Kurdish opposition. It is believed
to have enough fissile material for two atomic bombs and soon may
finish building such a device-- the ultimate terrorist weapon.
To prevent Iraq from crossing the nuclear threshold and
becoming an even more dangerous terrorist state, the Bush
Administration should consider a full range of military options to
disarm and remove Saddam's dangerous regime. It should throw its
full support behind Iraqi opposition forces, particularly the Iraqi
National Congress (INC), which received only lip service from the
Clinton Administration. The opposition now controls only the safe
haven in northern Iraq established by the Bush Administration in
1991 to halt Iraqi attacks on dissident Kurds. The United States,
in close cooperation with Turkey, should cement a
political-military alliance between the INC and the Kurds. Then INC
cadres should return to Iraq's northern mountains to establish a
provisional government, to be protected by U.S. air power.
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 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 state that it will 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 live
peacefully with Iraq's neighbors.
Conclusion. The concept of fighting a war
against international terrorism is stillborn without the goal of
removing terrorist regimes. There may be considerable debate about
how best to topple such regimes, but a war against terrorism that
dodges the issue of regime change in such countries as Afghanistan
and Iraq is doomed to failure. Even if Osama bin Laden should
disappear tomorrow, terrorist attacks against America will continue
as long as the terrorist regimes in Kabul and Baghdad remain in
James Phillips is a Research Fellow
for Middle Eastern Affairs in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis
Institute for International Studies at The Heritage