Israel fears Iraqi Scuds

April 4, 2003

Israeli academics fear Iraq may yet launch a missile attack and are sceptical about the prospects for postwar democracy in the region.

Amatsia Bar-Am of Haifa University, who is an expert on Iraq, said it would be premature for Saddam Hussein to strike at Israel now.

But Professor Bar-Am said: "If there are Scud missiles carefully camouflaged in underground shelters, theoretically it is possible that Israel may (be attacked).

"Saddam has not yet used any weapons of mass destruction, either because he doesn't have any or because he feels [if he fires missiles on Israel] he would lose the support of the international coalition. He has been confident that under certain circumstances, they may be able to help him to stop the war. But if he decides to use weapons of mass destruction prematurely, if he shows that he has the thing that he has said that he doesn't have, then he will be forsaken.

"The war will be over when the Americans are deep inside Baghdad. If and when the allied forces get close to central Baghdad, he may give up hope that the international coalition may save him. Then, the temptation to use weapons of mass destruction on Israel will be much greater."

Professor Bar-Am said Saddam's missile units dug deep in the desert would face a dilemma. "If they obey Saddam's orders, they will be (endangering) themselves because the Americans will know where they are. They have to take into account that they will be dead. Most of them are not suicide bombers."

Ofra Benjo, a senior research fellow at the Moshe Dayan Centre at Tel Aviv University, predicted a decade of instability. He said: "The US and Israel are one unit - they cannot be separated in the minds of the Arab world.

"The prospects of bringing democracy to Iraq are almost nil. You have to have a strong ruler to control Iraq. If you are not strong enough, you can't control the country. If you're too strong, you won't have a democracy, it would be a dictatorship."

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