Sweating Iraq

  • Share
  • Read Later
Eleventh hour? Not quite. The U.S. appears unlikely to strike in Iraq before it has a massive force in position -- and that buildup may be just the thing to convince Saddam to back down. "The U.S. is planning the biggest operation against Iraq since the Gulf War, and you don't start that until you have all your ducks in order," says TIME Middle East bureau chief Scott MacLeod. "You can't afford to start the game prematurely."

Special ReportIraq's attitude may well change in the face of a large-scale military campaign: "Saddam created this crisis believing that the U.S. would be isolated and back down," says MacLeod. Instead, eight key Arab states issued a statement Thursday warning Baghdad that there was nothing they could do to avert an attack, and responsibility for avoiding confrontation rests squarely with Baghdad. "Saddam's primary concern is the survival of his regime," says MacLeod. "He believes he'd come out on top if the U.S. backed down, and even if it launched a limited series of air strikes. But if he anticipates a large-scale, sustained military campaign against his regime, he may well do a 180-degree turnaround." So right now, Washington's slow buildup of forces may be a lot more persuasive than a slew of cruise missiles.