Saddam Hussein's Iraq often appears immune to coercion. Despite military strikes, political isolation and seven years of the most comprehensive sanctions ever imposed on a country, Saddam has refused to abandon his ambitions for regional hegemony, dismantle his weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs, repay Kuwaitis for war atrocities, or otherwise comply with international demands. In recent years, Saddam has become more defiant. Not surprisingly, some observers have begun to question whether Saddam can be coerced at all. In 1975, Iraq met Iranian demands over the disputed Shatt al-Arab waterway; after the 1991 Gulf War, Saddam accepted a 'no-fly zone' over southern Iraq and a de facto US protectorate over northern Iraq; in 1993, he temporarily withdrew his opposition to the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM)'s long-term monitoring regime and stopped interfering with its inspections; and in 1994 he backed down from a second invasion of Kuwait. Even the often ambiguous resolution of more problematic confrontations - including the winter 1997-98 fracas over WMD inspections - indicates that Saddam can respond to coercive pressure. Recognizing that Iraq under Saddam continues to precipitate crises, despite being repeatedly coerced in the past, Saddam can be successfully coerced in the future. The best way to coerce Saddam's regime is to target 'center of gravity': the relationship between Saddam and his power base.

Originally published in: Survival, v. 40, no. 3, Autumn 1998, pp. 127-152.

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