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Thursday, 2 August, 2001, 02:03 GMT 03:03 UK
Gulf War fallout goes on
USS Carl Vinson in the Persian Gulf
Allied planes are under threat in the no-fly zones
By Caroline Hawley in Cairo

It is exactly 11 years since Iraqi President Saddam Hussein ordered his army into neighbouring Kuwait.

A military strike against Iraq will be suicidal for the United States and its interests in the region

Dubai's Al-Bayan newspaper
The fallout from the invasion is continuing - with a war of words now underway between Iraq and the United States, and fears of renewed confrontation.

Over the past few days Iraq has said it is preparing for an American military strike, as it continues to challenge the no-fly zones that were imposed by the US and Britain in the north and south of the country in the wake of the Gulf War.

Strong Iraq will not retreat or accept that it is to stay in a dark corner

Iraq's Babel newspaper
Iraq has always disputed the legitimacy of the zones, but American officials say it has recently stepped up its efforts to hit Western planes patrolling the area. A Pentagon spokesman said on Tuesday that Saddam Hussein was "trying his darndest to bring down a coalition aircraft".

Iraqi defiance

Last week, after Washington announced that an Iraqi missile had narrowly missed hitting an American U2 spy plane, the US National Security Advisor, Condoleeza Rice, said Iraq was on the US "radar screen".

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein: Analysts say he is going from strength to strength
Washington, she said, was working with its allies to craft a policy that looked at the use of "military force in a more resolute manner and not just a manner of tit-for-tat with them every day".

Iraq remains as defiant as ever. A headline in the state-run Al-Iraq newspaper on Wednesday trumpeted: "We are the strongest."

The Babel newspaper, meanwhile, reported this week that Washington wanted to attack Iraq "because of the success it had made in developing its anti-aircraft defences".

The paper said: "Strong Iraq will not retreat or accept that it is to stay in a dark corner."

Gaining strength

Kuwaitis celebrate the end of the Gulf War
Kuwaitis celebrated the 10th anniversary of the end of the Gulf War back in February
Arab analysts agree that Saddam Hussein is gaining political strength in the region, as American influence continues to be battered over the mounting Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed.

Over the past few months, the Iraqi leader has succeeded in improving ties with several key Arab countries, and has signed free trade agreements with Syria and Egypt - which both fought against it in the Gulf War coalition.

To Baghdad's delight, joint American-British proposals for "smart sanctions" against Iraq had to be put on hold at the Security Council last month, because of Russian opposition.

Map of no-fly zone
Now, in a regional climate poisoned by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, any American attack on Iraq will stoke Arab anger.

"A military strike against Iraq will be suicidal for the United States and its interests in the region," wrote the Dubai-based Al-Bayan newspaper.

Even Kuwait seems to have little appetite for an attack on its former occupier. The Kuwaiti foreign minister, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, has said Baghdad "still represents a danger and a threat." But he also declared: "No-one wishes any harm to brotherly Iraq."

See also:

26 Jul 01 | Middle East
Iraq 'nearly downs' US spy plane
17 Feb 01 | Middle East
Iraq defiant over missile attack
03 Jul 01 | Middle East
Iraq escapes 'smart sanctions'
02 Jul 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Iraq wins sanctions battle
29 Jun 01 | Middle East
Iraq outburst over UN sanctions
27 Jun 01 | Middle East
UN deadlock over Iraq sanctions
27 Feb 01 | Middle East
Powell's new plans for Iraq
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