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Monday, 6 November, 2000, 14:41 GMT
Analysis: Saddam steps up defiance
Saddam Hussein
Saddam is much less isolated than in the past
By BBC Middle East analyst Roger Hardy

The Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is stepping up his defiance of the West.

His latest action - in sending domestic flights into the no-fly zones patrolled by American and British warplanes - is part of a campaign designed to free the country from a decade of harsh United Nations sanctions.

Policy-makers in Washington and London - the two western capitals struggling to maintain a tough line against Iraq - are watching the latest developments with unease.

Iraqi passengers disembark in Basra
Western policy on Iraq is less effective than at any time in the last decade
During the last decade they have taken the lead in Western efforts to contain Iraq, to deprive it of weapons of mass destruction, to curb its ability to make trouble in the Middle East and - although this is not said too loudly - to topple Saddam Hussein's regime and replace it with one which is more amenable.

But these efforts have only achieved the most limited success.

Less isolated

Iraq is militarily weaker than it was 10 years ago, but still strong enough to threaten its neighbours if it chooses to.

UN sanctions have crippled Iraq's economy and hurt its people - but they have left the Iraqi dictator in power and, some would argue, have actually strengthened his grip on power.

In the last few weeks Saddam has shown he is much less isolated - both in the region and internationally - than in the past.

And now he is thumbing his nose at the US and Britain by openly challenging the no-fly zones they have imposed in the north and south of the country.

Western hawks will be hoping George W Bush wins the US elections, since he is committed to tougher action on Iraq.

But whoever wins will have to face the reality that Western policy on Iraq is less effective and less coherent than at any time in the last decade.

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06 Nov 00 | Middle East
Iraq vows to destroy no-fly zones
01 Nov 00 | Middle East
Iraq trade fair hits UN embargo
28 Sep 00 | Middle East
Iraq predicts sanctions collapse
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