Although peace in the Balkans has been agreed, the US and its Western allies look likely to be tied down in the region for some time. Meanwhile, in Iraq, the leadership is making the most of the international community's distraction.
Taking advantage of the United States and its Western allies focusing on the Balkans, Iraq's president, Saddam Hussein, is quietly rebuilding his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction while his agents, once again, became active in their cloak and dagger operations worldwide to further his plans.
Double agents - working for Russian and Chinese intelligence - gave their paymasters in the Iraqi Mukhabarat a useful tip: The US Central Intelligence Agency, the CIA, and the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI5, were said to be concentrating their efforts on the Balkans, and Serbia in particular, so they would have little time for casting their eyes towards Baghdad.
Since the tip-off, Iraqi diplomatic missions in Eastern European and the Middle East have been buzzing with activity, with new recruits being drafted in from Iraq to handle the increased workload, Western diplomats observe. Disguised as diplomats, the new arrivals report directly to special agencies in Baghdad, controlled by the Mukhabarat and Saddam's eldest son Uday.
Uday, frequently referred to as a pathological killer, is directing a two tier operation: obtaining material, technology and the necessary expertise to rebuild the arsenal of weapons of mass destruction (WMD); and recruiting radical Palestinian marginal factions who oppose peace with Israel and Islamic extremists with a calling to punish America and the West. There is even talk of Saddam inviting the terror master Osama Bin Laden to stay in Iraq.
"With the world's eyes on Kosovo," President Saddam reportedly told Uday and his new committee of Mukhabrat operators, "this is our golden opportunity".
Although the US and Britain put on a token show of firing at Iraqi radar sites in the no-fly-zone now and again (more to dispel reports that America is losing interest in containing Iraq than to achieve meaningful goals), the Iraqi leader knows that there is no real threat while the Kosovo crisis continues. And, despite the peace agreement, all the signs are that Western attention will be focused on the Balkans for the next few weeks.
The Iraqi leadership will not let the grass grow beneath its feet in these few crucial weeks. Reports that Iraqi scientists could resume their chemical and...