It is reported that Iraq fired missiles at foreign aircraft which invaded its airspace. These aircraft were US and British warplanes, which, according to Baghdad, turned and fled. This incident is yet another which shows the escalating tension in the region. Now with the report from the German Secret Services, BND, that Iraq will be able to attack its neighbours with nuclear missiles within three years, from sources the BND claim to be reliable, there will be renewed insistence that President Saddam Hussein allow the arms inspectors back. The immediate reaction from Washington is a review of the sanctions policy. President Bush said: “We are going to work together to find the means to make them (sanctions) more efficient”. However, sanctions are often a leader’s main support and there is nothing more likely to keep a beleaguered regime in power with the support of popular consent than sanctions and strafing, however illegal this may be. Populations pull together in time of war, it is a primary social mechanism. The USA knows this as well as anyone else. Through the stability of a piecemeal token punishment on Iraq whenever President Hussein rattles his sabre, the US forms a relationship with the Iraqi regime, albeit a perverse and strained one. At the same time, its influence grips the Gulf like an octopus as its war machine slips up a gear, signing armament contracts, exactly the reason why it is so attractive to the US to extend NATO’s borders eastwards. The first directive of NATO will be the re-equipping of the armed forces of the new members, a gesture which will at the same time guarantee lucrative arms contracts for US firms and, more sinisterly, cripple the economies of the new member states, making them wholly dependent on Washington. Let there be no illusions: Washington intends to dominate the world but it will not manage to do so for one very basic reason: it does not have, has never had and never will have, the human resources to do so and in this we are not speaking about numbers. We are speaking about intelligence. At the moment the US has money and arrogance in gigantic doses. Some of us, however, are unimpressed. The same weight and measure should be applied to all countries and all situations. Why doesn’t the USA allow Iraqi jets to violate its airspace, bomb and kill its civilians and perform arms inspections on US arms factories? The mind boggles to think of the weapons of mass destruction they would find there. TIMOTHY BANCROFT-HINCHEY, PRAVDA.RU, LISBON