- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 17, 2001

Ten years after an allied coalition led by George W. Bush's father devastated his armed forces, Saddam Hussein is making trouble again.

Since the U.S. election, Saddam has been threatening a holy war against Israel. On Dec. 31, Iraq staged the biggest show of military force since the 1991 Gulf war. Saddam stood on the reviewing stand firing a rifle into the air during a four-hour military parade as more than 1,000 Russian-made tanks, artillery, infantry units and new surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles rolled by, with jet fighters and 60 helicopter gunships flying overhead.

This followed last month's parade in Baghdad by nearly 2 million Iraqis eager to fight against Israel, in response to a call by Saddam for volunteers to wage a holy war to "liberate Palestine." On Dec. 31, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said Israel is in a state of strategic alert facing the possibility of war. As terrorists attack Israelis, the fear is that radical Palestinians will roll out their cache of machine guns and mortars to increase the carnage, and have artillery support from the heavily armed Hezballah in southern Lebanon.

Saddam Hussein is using the situation to try to foment a new Arab war against Israel. In a Jan. 6 television address, he announced establishment of a military command for the special forces he created to support a Palestinian revolt. He also announced deployment of the Republican Guard's Hamorabi tank division toward the Jordanian border. With a population that is more than half Palestinian, Jordan would have trouble preventing Iraqi "volunteers" from crossing its soil to fight a war against Israel.

The Iraqi military parade showed off new and improved weapons and equipment. The well-dressed troops wore uniforms and boots imported from Syria, while new Mercedes and Renault trucks reportedly imported under the U.N. oil-for-food program were used to carry troops and tow artillery. The 1,000 tanks on display, with new engines and parts from Ukraine, showed Saddam has been able to modernize his military despite the U.N. sanctions.

New Russian-made SAM-8 and SAM-9 surface-to-air missiles were shown, as were several new models of surface-to-surface missiles. One missile was described by Iraqi television as similar to the banned al-Hussein missiles that "we rained down on the Jews" in the Gulf war, and which Saddam said had all been destroyed. Ominously, a chemical weapons unit marched with the missiles, underscoring that there have been no inspections of Iraq's missile, nuclear and chemical weapons programs since Saddam threw out the U.N. inspectors more than three years ago.

This display of missiles comes just weeks after Khidir Hamza, a top nuclear adviser to Saddam Hussein until his defection in 1994, revealed that Iraq is dangerously close to producing nuclear weapons. In remarks made on Dec. 8, Hamza said Iraq is continuing its nuclear weapons program. Baghdad has solved most of the engineering problems, he said, and only needs a source of enriched uranium to produce nuclear bombs. He complained that "the whole world" is playing down the threat.

It would be reckless to ignore Saddam's calls for a holy war against Israel. After all, he invaded Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990. Now, with the son of his old adversary moving into the White House and Dick Cheney and Colin Powell, who prosecuted the war against him 10 years ago, becoming vice president and secretary of state, Saddam has a greater incentive than ever to cause trouble for the United States.

Two years ago Congress passed the Iraq Liberation Act authorizing assistance to groups opposed to Saddam Hussein's regime, but the Clinton administration has given little more than lip service to Saddam's opposition. The Bush administration should move quickly to reverse that policy, and send a message that any new aggression by Saddam will meet the same kind of opposition it did 10 years ago.

Steps should be taken to protect U.S. forces and allies in the Middle East. The new Patriot PAC-3 missile interceptor should be moved from its current low-rate production into full-scale production without delay, so it can be sent to defend U.S. forces and bases in the area. This advanced-capability Patriot also should be offered for sale to U.S. allies, to help them defend themselves against the growing numbers of tactical missiles in both Iraq and Iran.

For example, PAC-3 would be a valuable complement to Israel's Arrow interceptor, providing a better defense of key facilities than the existing Desert Storm-era PAC-2s. Deployment of both the new Patriot and the planned National Missile Defense would reduce the value of ballistic missiles and could help discourage their proliferation.

It is better to send a clear warning that aggression will be stopped than to try to stop it after it occurs. The new administration should make U.S. intentions crystal-clear to Iraq.

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