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Saddam Husseyn A Growing Threat

(Washington, DC--February 8, 2001) A decade after the Gulf War, Iraqi dictator Saddam Husseyn is still in office and may be a greater threat to his own people, the region and international stability than ever before.

That was the message of Rend Rahim Francke, the executive director of the Iraq Foundation, to an RFE/RL briefing in Washington today.

Francke said that Saddam has been remarkably successful in making an endrun around the international sanctions regime. Not only has Baghdad earned millions of dollars from the illicit export of oil and other goods, but Saddam has invoked the sanctions regime to justify greater repression of the Iraqi people.

Moreover, she continued, the Iraqi dictator under the sanctions regime has refocused his military efforts away from conventional arms to weapons of mass destruction. On the one hand, Saddam recognizes that he can hide the development of such weapons far more easily than he could a conventional weapons build-up. And on the other, he is convinced that he will gain strategically by having even one such weapon.

Francke said that Saddam Husseyn has successfully exploited the Palestinian uprising to present himself as the "hero" of the Palestinian people. Although he has done little or nothing for them and although most Palestinians would not want to live under his regime, many of them have been impressed by his willingness to speak out when other Arab governments have been more restrained. And many of those governments have become convinced that they must be more deferential to Baghdad than they otherwise would like.

Francke argued that continuation of the current sanctions regime, even if accompanied by an enhanced program of international inspections, will not by itself lead to the isolation of Baghdad and the replacement of Saddam Husseyn. Instead, in response to questions, Francke suggested that the international community should work to create a regional forum on Iraq in order to create a common front against a man who has inflicted so much suffering on his own people and those of his neighbors.