Small World

Jewish World Review Jan. 10, 2001 / 15 Teves, 5761

Saddam Threat Looms,
Thanks to Papa Bush

By Richard Z. Chesnoff -- BELIEVE IT OR NOT, it has been 10 years since the Gulf War. Now, despite the U.S.-led "victory" in 1991, Saddam Hussein is still in power and still dreaming of conquering the neighborhood — and then some.

To prove it, Iraqi tank divisions began moving recently onto the Jordanian and Syrian borders, within striking distance of Israel. That as United Nations sanctions have begun to crumble. Even the embargo on flights into Baghdad is falling apart.

Worst of all, the Iraqi leader and his henchmen increasingly bypass UN restrictions on their oil exports by black-marketing fuel through Iran and other countries.

Much of the gold Saddam and his family make on these illegal sales is being used to buy forbidden arms and military supplies and know-how on nuclear and chemical weapons. Saddam bypasses UN rules with a large contingent of European middlemen. But an equally big helping hand comes from some of Saddam's closest neighbors.

Mideast intelligence sources say one of Iraq's most important contraband procurers is a Syrian with close family ties to ruling President Bashar Assad. The man's name, the sources say is, Ibrahim Makhlouf, a cousin of the Syrian president on his mother's side.

The sources say a Damascus-based Iraqi government straw company called Matisco handles millions in payments that go to Makhlouf.

Add to this all the other growing rogue military trade with Iraq, and you can understand why the Iraqis refuse to allow UN arms inspectors into their country.

You also can understand why, when Iraq celebrated its annual Army Day on Saturday, there was an especially broad smile on Herr Saddam's face.

Can the renewed threat from the Butcher of Baghdad be stopped? That depends whether our incoming President and his crew sustain the tough stance that the Clinton administration took.

Saddam is no fan of the Bush family; he clearly remembers that it was the senior Bush who launched the war against him. But Saddam also remembers — as do those like me, who covered the war in 1991 — that it was Secretary of State-designate Colin Powell, who then headed the U.S. armed forces, and then-Secretary of State James Baker who argued most fiercely against finishing off the job by chasing Saddam back into Baghdad and helping to throw him out of office.

We've been paying the price for that Bush/Powell/Baker misjudgment ever since. I only hope Powell and George W. don't compound the error.

JWR contributor and veteran journalist Richard Z. Chesnoff is a senior correspondent at US News And World Report and a columnist at the NY Daily News. His latest book is Pack of Thieves: How Hitler & Europe Plundered the Jews and Committed the Greatest Theft in History.


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