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Should the U.S. attack Iraq? Few dispute that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is a ruthless dictator. But is it right for the U.S. to attack a sovereign nation? (opinion).

YES There is no question that Iraq still possesses weapons of mass destruction. Intelligence from U.S. sources, friendly countries, Iraqi defectors, and United Nations inspectors all indicate that Iraq has chemical and biological weapons now, and is within months of having a nuclear weapon if it can acquire fissile material--the key ingredient in creating a nuclear bomb--through its own devices or on the black market.

So send the inspectors back in, some observers say. But inspectors likely won't find much. Saddam has had nearly five years since the last batch of inspectors left to improve his weapons program and find better ways to hide the evidence. Iraqis who have escaped say previous inspectors didn't come close to finding everything they should have--and there's no reason to assume the next group will fare any better.

Iraq must be disarmed, not merely inspected. Inspections focus on the symptoms of the problem: Iraq's illegal weapons. But the world must focus on the cause: Saddam's dangerous regime.

Saddam's own behavior has removed any doubts that he'll use his weapons if he has not disarmed and deposed. He's used poison gas against his own people and against Iranians in the Iran-Iraq war. He has invaded two of his neighbors, Iran and Kuwait. He's launched missiles against Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Bahrain. Moreover, he tried to assassinate former President Bush in Kuwait in 1993.

Nearly 20 United Nations resolutions direct Saddam to destroy all chemical, nuclear, and biological weapons and long-range missile systems, and to cease brutal treatment of his people. He remains in defiance of all these resolutions.

It's time he--and other would-be Saddams worldwide--see that the United States and the international community are serious about keeping the peace, and preventing rogue leaders with dangerous weapons from using them on other nations or selling them to those who would.

Saddam has proven he has no intention of disarming, so the only realistic means of removing the weapons from Iraq is to remove Saddam and his outlaw regime.

--JAMES PHILLIPS Research Fellow The Heritage Foundation

NO There is no question that Saddam Hussein's regime is a particularly nasty one. It has launched wars against its neighbors, used poison gas, and abused its own population. These are reasons to be vigilant in dealing with Iraq, but they are not compelling reasons to go to war.

War should be a last resort. The U.S. should be wary of going to war without a domestic consensus and broad international support. These are now lacking, because the Bush administration has not answered the following questions:

* Is there any reason to believe that Iraq is on the verge of obtaining nuclear weapons? Most experts say no. If the administration has evidence to the contrary, it should share it with Congress, our allies, the United Nations Security Council, and the American public.

* If we attack Iraq with the declared intention of toppling Saddam's regime, why would he show restraint in using his chemical or biological weapons? In 1991, Saddam had these weapons and did not use them, because the U.S. and Israel had warned that his use of biological or chemical weapons would be suicidal, as it would force us to respond with overwhelming force. The threat worked. But it may not work now if our announced goal is to oust Saddam from power, since he has no incentive to show restraint.

* Assuming that we could dislodge Saddam's regime, how would we ensure that a successor is law-abiding, democratic, and stable? There is a real risk of chaos in the Middle East, as all of Iraq's neighbors seek to influence the new Iraq.

* Won't war with Iraq detract from the critical campaign against remaining Al Qaeda terrorist networks? With anti-Americanism already widespread in the Arab world because of our perceived bias in favor of Israel, there's a red danger that war with Iraq will produce more recruits for terrorism.

* Finally, as the world's leading power, the U.S. has a responsibility to observe the principles of international order that we want others to follow. Any military action [of the kind being contemplated] should be based on a UN resolution to enhance its legitimacy.

War will always remain as an option. But for now, let's continue to rely on the policies that have kept Saddam in check for the past decade.

--WILLIAM B. QUANDT Professor of Politics University of Virginia
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Author:Quandt, William B.
Publication:New York Times Upfront
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Oct 18, 2002
Words:730
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