By William Markiewicz

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September 11 2002

Overthrowing Saddam 'just the first step'

As the Bush Administration debates going to war against Iraq, its most hawkish members are pushing a vision for the Middle East that sees the overthrow of President Saddam Hussein as merely a first step in the region's transformation.

The argument for reshaping the political landscape in the Middle East has been pushed for years by some Washington think tanks and in hawkish circles.

It is now being considered as a possible US policy by hardliners in the Administration, analysts and officials say.

Iraq, they argue, is just the first piece of the puzzle. After ousting Saddam the US will have more leverage to act against Syria and Iran, be in a better position to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and rely less on Saudi oil.

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