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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 10 September, 2002, 10:46 GMT 11:46 UK
Saddam Hussein: US target

By Paul Reynolds
BBC News Online world affairs correspondent

Saddam Hussein is engaged in round two against a US president called George Bush.

In 1991 it was against Bush the elder. The outcome of the desert war was never in doubt, but the Iraqi leader survived in power because George Bush senior did not press home his advantage into the Iraqi capital.

Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein has proved to be a survivor
In 2003, Saddam Hussein faces Bush the younger. Again, the outcome cannot be in doubt.

But this time, the target is not Saddam Hussein's army in Kuwait. It is the Iraqi leader himself. Saddam Hussein has proved both a fighter and a survivor.

But is he facing his end?

Ruthless leader

It is typical of him that he has not backed down. Some Western intelligence sources predicted last time round that he would capitulate and leave Kuwait. He did not.

To be Saddam Hussein is to fight - win or lose

It is in his character to stand and fight.

It all goes back to his youth. He was born near Tikrit north of Baghdad in 1937 and grew up in an atmosphere heavy with anti-Western feeling.

Young men like him wanted to sweep away the often royalist or pro-Western old guard.

He joined the Baath Party, the vanguard of a secular, socialist Arab nationalism.

Saddam Hussein tried to assassinate Iraqi Prime Minister Abdel-Karim Qassem in 1958. The plot failed and he fled abroad.

But back he came when the Baath Party achieved power and he began his climb of the ladder.

In 1979, he became president. A chilling videotape taken at a private party meeting showed just how ruthless he can be.

He announces that there are traitors in their midst and while he sits on a stage in a cloud of smoke from a pipe he is calmly smoking, party members scream their hysterical support for him while others are led out to their execution.

It is no surprise that nobody has managed to overthrow him.

Kuwait invasion

Saddam wanted more than power in his own land.

He wanted to become glorious in the Arab world. Portraits and posters of him all over Iraq display his dream of leading Arab armies to victory - across the Arab kingdoms and into Jerusalem.

In 1980, he sensed that Iran was weak and attacked across the Shatt al-Arab waterway. But Iran was not weak. It sent its young men in human waves against Saddam's army and the war dragged on for eight years.

Saddam used chemical weapons against Iranian solders and against his own people in Halabja. He tried to develop a nuclear bomb. And his failure in Iran did not stop him.

In 1990 he struck again, into Kuwait.

Again, he was driven out. But not before he hurled rockets at Israel and won approval among some on the streets of Arab countries.

Despite defeat he declared himself the winner of the "mother of all battles" - and he remained in power.

As he faces American action again, he is using all the tactics he displayed last time round. He is trying to win friends among his neighbours and is trying to undermine the will of his enemies.

It did not, however, work last time round. But to be Saddam Hussein is to fight - win or lose.


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