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January 11, 1991 - Image 43

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-01-11

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Foreign Correspondent


s the clock continues
to tick inexorably
toward January 15,
there are growing indica-
tions that Israel is being
sucked into a potentially
devastating war with Iraq.
Both the German and
Swedish governments have
advised their nationals to
leave Israel and five inter-
national airlines have now
joined trailblazer Pan Am in
suspending flights to Tel
Aviv, ostensibly because of a
20-fold hike in insurance
Another sign of the moun-
ting tensions is the decision
to advance the date of ex-
aminations for foreign
students in Israel so that
they can leave the country
as soon as possible.
As the drums of war beat
louder, senior Israeli analy-
sts this week conceded that
an Iraqi attack could cause
extensive civilian losses, but
Israeli officials continued to
play down the threat in an
effort to maintain an at-
mosphere of calm.
After having warned that
"the danger is very close,"
Israeli Prime Minister Yit-
zhak Shamir this week
called for peace talks: "I
would like to receive all the
leaders of the Arab world in
Jerusalem if they want to
talk peace," he said. "We
want direct, serious talks."
Such a process could not
happen "today, tomorrow or
the day after," he told an
interviewer on Israel Radio,
but he was ready to receive
the Arab leaders, including
President Hussein, if Iraq
withdrew from Kuwait.
While Mr. Shamir spoke of
peace, he admitted that the
region was heading toward
war: "Nobody wants a war,"
he added, "It's hard for me to
believe that there are forces
in the world interested in
war, but the logic of the facts
says there's no escape from

- more from the Los Angeles Tense by R'ichafOMilholleisd, Cobyrighto 1990, Richard

Olittitatrted by Los Angs;es Times Synclicati.

To Cataclysm

While waiting for Jan. 15, it is well to
remember that Saddam Hussein may have
another timetable and another target: Israel.

Mr. Shamir was relatively
sanguine about Mr. Hus-
sein's Army Day speech last
Sunday, regarded as the
most bellicose yet by the
Iraqi leader, but Israeli For-
eign Minister David Levy
described it as "a declara-
tion of war."
Despite Mr. Shamir's bid
to calm the rising passions,
Hussein's continuing deter-
mination to link the Pales-
tinian problem with a deal
over Kuwait and his increas-

ingly violent rhetoric has
heightened anxiety that he
is planning to provoke a
clash with Israel in a bid to
avoid a confrontation with
the military coalition in the
Mr. Hussein has already
served notice that he fully
intends to draw Israel into
any future military
showdown by pre-ordering
his field commanders to
launch missile strikes on Tel
Aviv if his forces are attack-

ed — even if Israel is not in-
volved in the strike.
Senior Israeli sources,
however, believe that Mr.
Hussein has calculated that
a pre-emptive attack on
Israel, while ensuring a
massive retaliatory strike,
would be less harmful than
having to face the might of
the United States-led forces
deployed in the Gulf.
By dragging Israel into the
conflict, they say, Mr. Hus-
sein will gamble on shatter-

ing the military coalition
currently ranged against
him, detaching the Arab
component from the alliance
and transforming the Gulf
crisis into a full-scale Arab-
Israeli war.
In such an event, at least
some of the Arab countries
currently hostile to Iraq,
notably Syria, could be ex-
pected not only to withdraw
from the coalition but actu-
ally to switch sides and join
an Iraqi-led war against
At the same time, the
United States and other
Western nations would be
thrown into a quandary,
particularly if an Iraqi at-
tack came before the
January 15 deadline set by
the UN Security Council for
the use of force against Iraq.
With or without deadlines,
however, Western nations
would be unwilling under
any circumstances to be
perceived as defending
Israel on the battlefield and
they would be effectively
sidelined in such a conflict.
Anxiety about an Iraqi
pre-emptive strike was rein-
forced by the commander of
the British forces in the
Gulf, Lt. Gen. Sir Peter de la
Billiere, who warned that
while the multinational
force was prevented from
taking military action before
January 15, no such inhibi-
tions constrained Iraq.
"I am sure that Saddam
Hussein isn't sitting there
waiting for us to get our act
together," he said. "I believe
he will do something to try
to take the initiative."
As tensions continue to
mount, the growing unease
in Jerusalem has prompted
speculation that Israel itself
might launch a politically
perilous pre-emptive strike
on Baghdad to forestall the
possibility of an Iraqi attack
on its population centers.
Despite Mr. Shamir's
assurances to the contrary in
Washington last month,
Israeli sources are adamant
that "we will do anything
and everything that is



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