- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 27, 2002

The trans-Atlantic relationship stands at another crossroads. When President Bush met with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Berlin this May, he said Washington didn't have any definitive plans to attack Iraq. War-wary Germany hoped that would continue to be true. Besides, it was not an opportune time to talk about controversial topics, especially with German federal elections just around the corner. Now that Mr. Bush has made clear that he is involved in all aspects of the planning to get rid of Saddam Hussein, complete with air, land and sea-based forces, Germany and its European neighbors can no longer delay coming to grips with the threat posed by Iraq.
It is not that Germany disputes that Saddam Hussein is a menace: It just wants to give him another chance. Unfortunately, Iraq's dictator is running out of chances. Since 1998, he has continually rejected the entrance of U.N. weapons inspectors who sought to ensure he has destroyed his stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. Saddam represses and tortures his own people, and actively encourages Palestinian suicide bombings against Israel by offering what are in essence survivor's benefits to killers' families.
As the Bush administration has made clear that Iraq's ability to deliver weapons of mass destruction poses an urgent threat, pressure is mounting on Germany and its European neighbors to get off the fence when it comes to confronting Saddam. But a recent interview with Oliver Thraenert, the leader of the security division of the politically independent think tank, the German Institute for International Security Affairs, suggests that the message hasn't sunk in. An air attack, he told The Washington Times, shouldn't come until U.N. weapons inspectors have tried once again to enter Iraq and been refused. Another problem, he asserted, is that Mr. Bush has said his end goal is to get rid of Saddam, rather than to uphold the United Nations mandate that Iraq allow its weapons stockpiles to be inspected. Mr. Thraenert also doubted that the German parliament would support German participation in an attack on Iraq.
But without action, Iraq will definitely remain in the hands of a dangerous tyrant. The two candidates for the office of Germany's chancellor have mostly managed to avoid the topic. The trans-Atlantic relationship may stumble over what action to take, but there should be no disagreement over the fact that Saddam presents an urgent security threat to Europe, as well as the United States. Time and time again, he has demonstrated that he will not be deterred from menacing Israel and his Arab neighbors, brutally repressing the Kurds, Shiites and other Iraqi minorities and developing weapons of mass destruction that could target Europe, and, in a worst-case scenario, the U.S. The Bush administration clearly understands that decisive action to remove Saddam is necessary. Regrettably, this reality has not set in in Berlin.

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