- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 10, 2002

The Taliban has been conquered, and Hamid Karzai has been made temporary leader of Afghanistan and invited to the White House. However, the Bush administration has assured the world that the war on terrorism is far from over. Next on the agenda: Somalia.

Reconnaissance aircraft are identifying future bombing targets, such as port facilities and terrorist training camps in northern and southern Somalia. Which leads to the question: How serious is the administration about the war on terrorism? Somalia has al Qaeda training camps, it is true. The Washington Times also reported last week that about 100 al Qaeda terrorists were identified in the East African country. Yet, on the list of countries where the administration is focusing its counterterrorism efforts Somalia, Yemen, the Sudan, Indonesia, the Philippines Iraq is glaringly absent. But it poses a greater security and terrorism threat to Americans than all the other countries combined.

Not only was Iraq once again on the State Department's most recent list of state sponsors of international terrorism, but as an exporter of terrorism to the Middle East, Saddam Hussein's reputation with regard to the development of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction is well-known. Procurement, research and development for the weapons was not stopped during the years of U.N. weapons inspections from 1991 to 1998, and it surely has not come to a halt since then. Iraq has shown no sign of opposing terrorism. According to the State Department, Iraq has continued to provide weapons, bases and protection to terrorist groups such as the Iranian Mujahedin-e-Khalq. There are also reports that Iraqi intelligence agents met in Prague with Mohammed Atta, the leader of the September 11 hijackings, while he was planning the attacks.

In a meeting with editors and reporters of The Washington Times on Tuesday, Secretary of State Colin Powell said that the administration was constantly reviewing its plans, both in military and intelligence strategy, with respect to a regime change in Iraq. Right now, however, he said there would be no policy shift. Yet a shift has surely taken place: The State Department announced Saturday that the United States has suspended funding for the leading Iraqi opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress. This signals both the Iraqi opposition and Saddam that the Iraqi dictator is being given a pass at least for the present time.

It is true that the administration would have great political challenges should it set its sights on Iraq, both from its allies in the Middle East and in Europe. Yet, the White House must consider what the long-term costs will be of focusing its energy on the smaller bastions of terrorism, while a terrorism headquarters is still active. September 11 taught America that it can no longer afford to be merely reactive. As long as Saddam and his allies are left, the American people must know that the anti-terrorism effort against them will continue.

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