The ultimate fifth column: Saddam Hussein, international terrorism, and the crisis in the Gulf

by Bruce Hoffman

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The current crisis in the Middle East is like none the United States has ever faced. Saddam Hussein has rewritten the rules of modern warfare by enmeshing thousands of Western hostages in his ruthless quest for Iraqi Lebensraum and threatening to deploy them as human shields. Equally disquieting is the likelihood that the Iraqi leader has created the ultimate "fifth column": an international terrorist army arrayed throughout Europe and the Middle East, ready to strike at his command. The U.S. chances of mounting a successful rescue operation appear problematical, at best, as essential intelligence acquisition is rendered impossible by the large number of hostages that Saddam is threatening to disperse among Iraqi military and industrial sites. The unprecedented size of the hostage problem, however, is just one of the factors complicating American actions in the Middle East. Saddam is apparently preparing to unleash a campaign of international terrorism. The most radical, hard-line Palestinian terrorist organizations have been moving their operational bases to Iraq. There are now twice as many international terrorists in Iraq as there were a year ago. If Saddam remains in power and if Iraq retains its military might, unconventional tactics, such as terrorism, will become institutionalized as instruments of modern warfare.

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