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How to Target Iraq

In the current debate about policy towards Iraq, two extreme alternatives are usually presented: either extend the military campaign against terrorism to Iraq, or maintain the current uneasy status quo with that country. Pious talk about reworking the UN sanctions is another version of the second alternative - that is, of doing nothing. Both alternatives are unpalatable.

Yet preparing a ground war against Iraq - finishing off the unfinished business of the 1991 Gulf War - is a high risk strategy. Arab countries, already questionable allies in the war against fellow Muslims in Afghanistan, will be even less reliable in a war against fellow Arabs. The Europeans, let alone the Russians, may demure. The military odds appear daunting.

Still, letting the status quo continue is equally problematic. It means that the Iraqi people will continue to suffer - both from Saddam's brutalities, as well as from the consequences of the sanctions caused by his continued rule. Moreover, it would continue to send the wrong message to would-be terrorists: you can get away with murder. The perceived weakness of the US after the embassy bombings in East Africa and the attack on the destroyer the USS Cole no doubt contributed to the audacity of the attacks of September 11 th .

Other options, however, do exist and a combination of them could help bring down Saddam without necessarily engaging in outright military action.