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Will America pursue Phase II against Iraq? For those urging moderation, it wasn't a good week. To echo diplomat George Kennan, "A war regarded as inevitable has a very good chance of being fought." The following articles track a hardening of the U.S. position relative to Iraq:
 A commentary by Robert Novack in the Chicago Sun-Times includes this important news:
"On Nov. 16, the New York Times reported Iraq as rejecting a trade between lifted sanctions and renewed inspections. Ambassador Mohammed Aldouri, Iraq's representative at the United Nations, immediately wrote to the Times, denying its account. In vague diplomatic language, he implied that Iraq would be open to a deal that involved ''lifting the sanctions against the country in return for international monitoring.'' The letter was never published."
 and  Analyses from the NYTimes and USA Today, respectively. The Times presents hawkish William Kristol (notorious for several influential 'attack Iraq' letters) as confident: "Now, Mr. Kristol says, there's no need for letters to the president."
 William Arkin's "dot-mil"column from the Washington Post online (*not* the print version), includes this striking entry: "Civilian deaths in Iraq are the very core of Islamic hatred of the United States that has grown since 1991. (Bin Laden himself cites the death of one million innocent Iraqi children under sanctions as justification for the death of American innocents.) The real issue is which alternative will result in fewer civilian deaths: continuation of the embargo or a 21st century war against Saddam? No war against terrorism can ever be successfully concluded without addressing the deaths of Iraqi civilians caused by the U.S. embargo."
Still, Arkin's overall tone verges on acceptance of the inevitable battle ...
 ... as does Lord William Rees-Mogg's piece, disappointing in so many ways but especially in how he succumbs to the big lie and accepts the false dichotomy of 'Pax Americana vs. anthrax from Baghdad'.
Golden Valley, MN USA
Bush faces Iraq question
December 3, 2001
BY ROBERT NOVAK SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST
Despite President Bush's heightened public bellicosity toward Saddam Hussein, he is reported by administration sources as far from a final decision on whether to attack Iraq. Indeed, private back-channel efforts continue for a negotiated settlement with Baghdad.
Iraq's fate may hinge on a tradeoff of international weapons inspectors returning to Iraq and sanctions ending. Such a deal would be a most unhappy outcome for influential forces in the administration and Congress. They do not want a defanged Saddam. They want him gone--dead or alive. ''Left alone,'' Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told me on CNN last weekend, ''he is a threat in the region.''
Secretary of State Colin Powell, protecting the surprisingly cohesive anti-terror coalition, wants a negotiated settlement. He would seem outflanked by Republican hawks who believe not going to Baghdad in 1991 was a dreadful blunder. But sources say Vice President Dick Cheney may be on Powell's side.
Sentiment in the Pentagon to assault Iraq crystallized immediately after Sept. 11. Former Assistant Secretary Richard Perle, an influential force in the capital, can speak out frankly as chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board. Long before Sept. 11, Perle advocated an aggressive U.S. policy to subvert and overthrow Saddam. Within hours of the terrorist attack, he intensified that theme.
Perle's message has been echoed relentlessly by his friend, James Woolsey, who was the Clinton administration's resident hawk before he was sacked as CIA director. Literally within hours after the assault of Sept. 11, Woolsey suggested Saddam ''possibly'' may have had ''a hand'' in it. On Sept. 12, he said Osama bin Laden needed sophisticated government intelligence to help pull off the attacks, ''most likely'' Iraq's.
In the following days, Woolsey repeatedly cited a meeting in Prague earlier this year between suicide hijacker Mohamed Atta and the Iraqi secret police station chief, though U.S. intelligence found that this constituted no link with Sept. 11. During his most recent visit to Washington, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres informed U.S. officials that the Mossad secret service could not find an Iraqi connection.
So, a broadened rationale for attacking Iraq was signaled last Monday by Bush, answering questions in the Rose Garden. ''If you develop weapons of mass destruction, that you want to terrorize the world,'' he said for the first time, ''you'll be held accountable.'' On the next day, Woolsey contended that possessing these weapons-- "quite apart from whether there's any smoking gun . . . with respect to Sept. 11''--is reason to attack Iraq.
But are there really such weapons in Iraq? The International Atomic Energy Agency was permitted in January to send inspectors to see whether nuclear material in reactors was being diverted to weapons; it found nothing. Experts do not believe a nuclear facility could be hidden. In the absence of inspectors who left the country before U.S. bombing in December 1998, there is no conclusive evidence about biological or chemical weapons.
Finally, the attack-Iraq bloc has revived the allegation that Saddam planned the failed assassination attempt against former President George Bush during his 1993 visit to Kuwait. Actually, the ''credible'' evidence cited by U.S. intelligence is dubious, and the botched effort was exceedingly amateurish for state secret police. The matter has been dormant for eight years, since a brief bombing retaliation against Iraq ordered by President Bill Clinton.
On Nov. 16, the New York Times reported Iraq as rejecting a trade between lifted sanctions and renewed inspections. Ambassador Mohammed Aldouri, Iraq's representative at the United Nations, immediately wrote to the Times, denying its account. In vague diplomatic language, he implied that Iraq would be open to a deal that involved ''lifting the sanctions against the country in return for international monitoring.'' The letter was never published.
Iraq appears to be ready for a deal if Bush were to make clear that the United States no longer adheres to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's dictum that sanctions never will be lifted so long as Saddam Hussein is president. The question is whether the president wants to open that door to negotiations or would rather launch a second gulf war.
December 3, 2001
Calls for New Push Into Iraq Gain Power in Washington
By ELAINE SCIOLINO and ALISON MITCHELL
WASHINGTON, Dec. 2 When President Bush told Saddam Hussein last week to submit to weapons inspections or else, he bolstered the spirits of a coalition of conservatives, cold warriors and Iraqi exiles determined to persuade the administration to overthrow the Iraqi leader once and for all.
Since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, this loose-knit group with ties to power centers in research institutes, law firms and magazine meeting rooms, and to the White House, has been steadily sounding the drums for an American military campaign against Iraq.
If this coalition once looked like it was fighting a fringe battle, its members now say their viewpoint is gaining ground. They say that the debate inside the administration is no longer over whether to go after Mr. Hussein, but how.
"It strikes me," said Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, assessing the state of play inside the Bush administration "that the Saddam-is-evil-and-dangerous wing seems to be winning." He made clear he shared that wing's views.
The campaign by the outsiders had its genesis in the Persian Gulf war. It is part of a broader battle inside the Republican Party's foreign policy establishment, pitting proponents of cautious realism against champions of military activism who believe that America has the right and the obligation to project power and win wars.
"It's something that has been percolating for the past decade," said Marshall Wittmann, a senior fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute. "It sprang from the failure to eliminate Saddam at that time."
Inside the administration, the guiding principle is to move cautiously in the absence of consensus.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell insisted today on the CBS program "Face the Nation" that Mr. Bush had made no decisions about the next phase of the war on terrorism.
But there are differences. On one side, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, retired Gen. Wayne A. Downing, the president's counterterrorism chief, and I. Lewis Libby, the vice president's chief of staff, favor a robust military strategy that would put the Iraqi opposition in power, officials say.
On the other side, Secretary Powell, his deputy, Richard L. Armitage, and retired Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, the new Middle East envoy, insist on working with the allies to force Mr. Hussein to accept international inspections of his weapons sites. At the same time they would streamline punitive economic sanctions against Iraq. Mr. Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, is believed to be not quite in either camp.
But the outsiders are formidable warriors. They come armed with credentials derived from years in government, an ability to articulate their message in the media and access to power. Even in the world of Washington politics, their connections are unusually strong.
The group includes a former spymaster, an array of Iraqi exiles and veterans of the last three administrations. In some cases, they are publicly expressing the views that their friends inside the administration cannot. In others, they are continuing old battles.
The outsiders work through various power centers, including the conservative American Enterprise Institute, and such opinion journals as The Weekly Standard. But much of their campaign is ad hoc.
"There is no organization, no secret handshake, and if there are any meetings or planning sessions, nobody invites me," said R. James Woolsey, a lawyer and former director of central intelligence who has rankled many senior administration officials with his point-blank assertions that Mr. Hussein is tied to a series of terrorist plots.
Mr. Woolsey portrays his role modestly, saying: "I'm just practicing law. If the press calls, I answer the phone. If someone asks me to be on CNN, I go."
Perhaps the group's most important power base is the Defense Policy Board, a bipartisan group of national security experts that meets in a room just outside the office of the secretary of defense. Its 18 members include former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger; former Secretary of Defense Harold Brown; Adm. David E. Jeremiah, the former deputy chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; former Vice President Dan Quayle, former Defense and Energy Secretary James R. Schlesinger, Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Woolsey.
Under the chairmanship of Richard Perle, a former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration and perhaps the most influential of the outsiders, the board has assumed a quasi-official status.
Mr. Woolsey was asked by the Defense Policy Board to undertake a semiofficial fact-finding mission on Iraq's potential involvement in the terror attacks.
In September, the secretary of defense's office of protocol invited Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi who heads the London-based Iraqi National Congress, and Khidhir Hamza, a former director of Iraq's nuclear weapons program, to brief the policy group.
"Rumsfeld was in and out of the meetings and he offered a general statement of support for us," said Francis Brooke, the Washington adviser to the exiles who also attended the meeting. "He said, `We're with you. Don't worry.' He and Ahmed are good friends."
Neither Secretary Powell nor George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, who have grave reservations about Mr. Chalabi's leadership, knew that the Iraqis were there, senior administration officials said. "It's outrageous that these guys were there," said one senior administration official. "They could end up influencing policy."
But Mr. Perle has tirelessly promoted the Iraqi National Congress as part of a strategy that would have the American military occupy southern Iraq, create a new government of Iraqi exiles and protect them until Mr. Hussein is overthrown.
He argues that Afghanistan provides a template. "The Northern Alliance could not have taken an inch of territory until we supplied them with ammunition," he said. "And no one has supplied the Iraqi opposition."
Dov Zakheim, the comptroller in the Pentagon, and Douglas Feith, an under secretary of defense, have both worked for Mr. Perle. Mr. Perle helped Mr. Woolsey get a job on the Senate Armed Services Committee in 1969. Mr. Perle and Mr. Wolfowitz are close friends and former protegé of Albert Wohlstetter, the godfather of the cold war hawks.
Indeed, Mr. Perle is so omnipresent that Mr. Rumsfeld this weekend on CNN called him "very bright, very talented," but noted: "He is not a government official. He does not speak for the president. He does not speak for me."
Another outsider is Laurie Mylroie, a writer who is the leading proponent of the theory that Mr. Hussein was behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Senior officials in the C.I.A. and State Department say there is no evidence to support her theory.
Initially, the outsiders feared that Mr. Bush would confine his attention to Afghanistan. So after the Sept. 11 attacks, William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard (and Vice President Quayle's chief of staff), gathered nearly four dozen signatures on a letter to Mr. Bush arguing that the campaign must include an overthrow of the leadership in Baghdad, even without specific evidence linking Iraq to the attacks.
Among the signers were conservative Republicans but also staunch pro-Israeli Democrats, like Martin Peretz, the editor of The New Republic, and former Brooklyn congressman Stephen J. Solarz.
Now, Mr. Kristol says, there's no need for letters to the president: "You can't look at Bush's face when he lays out goals about terrorism and think he does nothing about Iraq."
12/03/2001 - Updated 12:47 PM ET
U.S. officials question link between 9/11 and Iraq
By Peter Eisler, USA TODAY
AP via Iraqi television
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein says he does not seek armed confrontation with the United States.
WASHINGTON - Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network has ties to Iraqi intelligence that date to the mid-1990s, when they came together in Sudan to support Islamic insurgencies in Algeria and across the Middle East. The CIA had convincing evidence at the time that Saddam Hussein's regime was funneling money through bin Laden to the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) in Algeria and other terrorist organizations, according to current and former U.S. officials who reviewed intelligence at the time. The scheme was seen as an effort to mask Iraq's support for the groups.
It's unclear whether the pass-through was directed by bin Laden, then living in Sudan, or by his circle of associates, at least one of whom was identified by 1994 as having close ties to Iraq's intelligence service, officials say.
The previously unreported arrangement appears to be the earliest in a series of murky connections between Iraq and bin Laden. It raises new questions in the fiery debate over whether Saddam's regime - and its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs - should be the next target in the war on terrorism.
If U.S. officials can establish a firm Iraq-al-Qaeda link, particularly with respect to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, it will give leverage to those in the Bush administration who want to take the war on terrorism to Iraq. So far President Bush has been non-committal, partly because key Gulf allies warn that any military action against Iraq without proof of an al-Qaeda link would shatter the coalition behind the anti-terror campaign.
Bin Laden was relatively unknown when the Sudan connection surfaced in 1994. He had been expelled from Saudi Arabia, but his fortune, business ventures and budding ideas of Holy War had made him a welcome guest of the radical National Islamic Front, the party that held power in Khartoum, Sudan's capital.
Saddam, under intense international scrutiny after the Gulf War, also had strong ties to Khartoum, and Iraqi intelligence was well represented in the stew of Islamic radicals, insurrectionists and foreign agents pouring through the city.
"We were convinced that money from Iraq was going to bin Laden, who was then sending it to places that Iraq wanted it to go," says Stanley Bedlington, a senior analyst in the CIA's counterterrorism center from 1986 until his retirement in 1994.
"There certainly is no doubt that Saddam Hussein had pretty strong ties to bin Laden while he was in Sudan, whether it was directly or through (Sudanese) intermediaries. We traced considerable sums of money going from bin Laden to the GIA in Algeria. We believed some of the money came from Iraq."
At the time, bin Laden was just emerging in U.S. intelligence reports on Sudan's sponsorship of terrorist groups and the role Iraq, Iran and other Arab states played in those arrangements.
Federal officials now are reviewing those old reports, looking not only for evidence of overt contacts between Saddam and al-Qaeda, such as Iraqi money passing through bin Laden, but for more covert ties, including the possibility that Iraqi intelligence had penetrated al-Qaeda.
Interpreting the evidence
Most current and former officials who have tracked Saddam's regime and bin Laden's organization believe there has been regular contact between the two. Many suspect that Iraqi operatives have helped al-Qaeda, perhaps with bomb-making materials and expertise, forged identity papers and safe houses - the sort of assistance Iraq has provided to any number of terrorist groups. But relatively few believe Iraq is directly involved in the planning and execution of al-Qaeda attacks.
The debate is based mainly on a handful of known contacts:
Mohamed Atta, the ringleader in the Sept. 11 attacks, met in Prague last April with Ahmed al-Ani, a suspected Iraqi intelligence chief posted at Iraq's Czech embassy. Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman, whose agents monitored the meeting, says Atta and the Iraqi discussed a plot to bomb the Prague offices of Radio Free Europe, which broadcasts U.S.-backed programs into Iraq.
The meeting, according to Czech intelligence, focused only on the radio station, an alleged target of Iraqi agents at least once before, in 1998. But many suspect the Sept. 11 attacks were a topic, too. Atta, who'd made at least one previous trip to Prague, traveled 72 straight hours from Florida and back to see al-Ani. Upon returning, he used money wired from the Middle East to finance the attacks.
Farouk Hijazi, Iraq's ambassador to Turkey and reputedly a top official in Saddam's intelligence service, went to Afghanistan in 1998, after bin Laden was implicated in the U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa, and offered the accused terrorist sanctuary in Iraq.
Iraqi officials deny any such invitation. But Vincent Cannistraro, former counterterrorism chief at the CIA, says the agency has evidence to the contrary: "Hijazi wanted bin Laden to relocate to Iraq, but bin Laden turned it down. He knew Saddam wanted to make him a tool of Iraqi policy."
The meeting was first made public by the Iraqi National Congress, an exiled opposition group that contends that Saddam's regime has helped train, equip and plan al-Qaeda attacks.
Two Iraqi defectors this month provided details on a terrorist training camp south of Baghdad in Salman Pak, first identified by United Nations weapons inspectors in the early 1990s.
The defectors, in accounts provided by Iraqi opposition leaders, described a separate, secret compound where non-Iraqi Arabs, most of whom appeared to be Islamic radicals, were drilled in terrorist acts. Among other things, the trainees practiced hijackings in small groups, armed only with knives, on a Boeing 707.
"We always just called them the terrorist camps," says Charles Duelfer, former deputy chairman of the U.N. weapons inspection program in Iraq. "We reported them at the time, but they've obviously taken on new significance."
Other links between al-Qaeda and Iraq continue to crop up, including reports that at least two other people involved in the Sept. 11 attacks met with Iraqi agents beforehand. But most remain unconfirmed.
Cash and spies in Sudan
Whatever Iraq's relationship to al-Qaeda, its roots seem to be in Sudan. Bin Laden lived there from 1991 to 1996 after leaving his native Saudi Arabia, where his calls for a strict Islamic government had angered the monarchy. By 1994, U.S. officials were concerned that bin Laden was supporting Islamic insurgencies across the region.
The nexus of those efforts, according to U.S. and foreign officials, was Hassan Turabi, who headed Sudan's ruling National Islamic Front. Turabi, credited with bringing bin Laden to Sudan, opened the country to Islamic fundamentalists, providing training grounds and safe haven for terrorist operations, the officials say. Money for those efforts flowed in from several Middle Eastern states - including Iraq - and bin Laden was believed to be helping with its distribution.
"The years when bin Laden was establishing himself in Sudan also happened to be a time when there was a lot of Iraqi-Sudanese activity," says Steven Simon, a counterterrorism advisor for Clinton.
Many people associated with al-Qaeda came from a loose network of operatives who served a variety of states and terrorist organizations, and there were a lot of "tactical and shifting contacts," adds Simon, now at London's International Institute for Strategic Studies. He notes, for example, that it is rumored in London that some of the people Saddam employed to assassinate Iraqi dissidents "were affiliated with al-Qaeda."
U.S. officials worried at the time that Saddam was sponsoring development of chemical weapons in Sudan, and U.N. inspectors documented visits to Khartoum by officials in Iraq's chemical weapons program. Some believe bin Laden and his associates were helping to finance the weapons work.
The recent wave of anthrax-tainted letters to U.S. officials and media outlets has spurred speculation that bin Laden may also have gotten Iraqi help in building his own arsenal. Newly discovered camps in Afghanistan where al-Qaeda operatives appear to have experimented with chemical weapons may yield new information on any connections.
"There's a lot of (intelligence) collection going on in those caves and mountains," says Duelfer, the former UN official. "We're going to hear about more ties between al-Qaeda and Iraq, particularly when it comes to al-Qaeda's efforts to get chemical and biological weapons."
It was also during bin Laden's time in Sudan that U.S. intelligence officials began suspecting that Iraq's foreign intelligence service was trying to penetrate the then-fledgling al-Qaeda organization. And the question of whether Iraqi agents are operating secretly within al-Qaeda's ranks is one that the CIA continues to investigate.
"There was a guy in bin Laden's entourage in Khartoum - he was not what you would call 'active duty,' but he had very close connections to Iraqi intelligence," recalls one former CIA operative who declined to be identified. "He was close to bin Laden and dealt with him a lot in his incarnation as factory builder and road builder."
Most officials doubt that anyone in the upper ranks of al-Qaeda is an Iraqi spy. And there's great debate about the extent to which Iraqi agents may have been able to get inside bin Laden's organization, which vets recruits extensively.
Even so, virtually no one doubts that Saddam would try to place someone inside al-Qaeda.
"That's the way he works," says Tim McCarthy, a scholar at the Monterey Institute of International Studies who did U.N. inspections in Iraq - an operation that itself was penetrated by Iraqi agents. "Saddam believes in getting inside these sorts of organizations."
Wafiq al Samarrai, who headed Iraq's military intelligence operation before defecting in 1994, also believes Saddam has agents inside al-Qaeda, though he doubts they're in the upper ranks. The agents "most likely would be from other countries, Egyptians or Jordanians or Yemenis," he says. "It wouldn't be Iraqis - the Iraqis in al-Qaeda are few."
A question of proof
Despite the contacts between Iraq and bin Laden's organization, there's still much debate over the precise nature of the relationship.
"In that part of the universe, the part occupied by Muslims who hate Americans, there are bound to be some (al-Qaeda) contacts with Iraqi agents, even some who are known as such," says Daniel Benjamin, a former National Security Council advisor on terrorism during the Clinton administration.
But Benjamin, now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, sides with many who doubt that Iraq has any meaningful role in steering al-Qaeda's operations. "We were never aware of any substantial cooperation," he says.
Those who doubt any sort of substantive relationship are quick to note that there are deep philosophical differences between Saddam and bin Laden. The most obvious is that Saddam, a secular autocrat who has repressed Islamic fundamentalists in his own country, seems to be the type of Arab leader that the deeply religious bin Laden often rails against.
Yet there's a vocal and powerful group of officials in the U.S. military and intelligence communities who believe Iraq and al-Qaeda work hand-in-hand. They point to what they see as clear evidence of state sponsorship in al-Qaeda strikes, such as the use of large amounts of C-4, a hard-to-get military explosive, in the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole, a Navy frigate rammed at a Yemen port by a suicide bomber on a small boat.
"People put aside ideological differences to work towards common goals - in this case, driving America out of the Middle East," says Laurie Mylroie, author of Study of Revenge, which makes a case that Iraq helped plot the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Bin Laden "is not capable of carrying out the kind of major assaults we've seen .... Iraqi intelligence provides the expertise and direction. Proving it is difficult, but many things that are true can't be proven."
Many who are pushing to turn the U.S. war on terrorism against Saddam believe there never will be absolute proof of Iraqi involvement in al-Qaeda attacks. But they say no more evidence is necessary, given Iraq's history of sponsoring terrorism, including a foiled 1993 plot to assassinate former President Bush, and Saddam's blocking of U.N. weapons inspections.
"I don't know what the (Iraq-al-Qaeda) relationship is, whether it's a 90-10 joint venture or a 10-90 joint venture, and it doesn't matter," says former CIA director James Woolsey. Some al-Qaeda attacks "look like a foreign intelligence service was involved, and we have a long history of contacts between Iraqi intelligence and al-Qaeda," Woolsey adds. "All of that, plus the (blocking) of the U.N. inspections, is enough."
Contributing: Barbara Slavin
Should Iraq Be Next?
By William M. Arkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Monday, December 3, 2001; 7:21 AM
On September 11, America was too preoccupied with the tragic events in New York and Washington to notice that a U.S. military Predator unmanned reconnaissance drone was shot down over southern Iraq. Another Predator was lost over Iraq on October 10, just three days after Operation Enduring Freedom began.
Ever since U.N. inspectors have been locked out of the country, low flying Predators with their video cameras have been essential to keeping a close eye on Saddam Hussein's military. As operations in Afghanistan have shown, the Predators can now be armed with Hellfire laser guided missiles. This is a capability, military sources say, that sends a powerful message: The U.S. can conduct high-quality surveillance and attack missions without fear of losing a pilot. And Predators are a far more visible presence than U-2 aircraft or satellites.
Administration officials continue to insist that no decisions have been taken on "Phase II" of the war against terrorism. Nevertheless, as the Predator's missions demonstrate, the war against Iraq has already begun.
Pressure against Iraq was already rising even before Sept. 11. Since the four-day Desert Fox bombing campaign in December 1998, the United States has undertaken a far more aggressive stance in enforcing the northern and southern no-fly zones over 60 percent of Iraqi territory, as well as a "no-drive" zone in the south, and continuing enforcement of the maritime embargo. Though we tend to think of the U.S. as blinded by the loss of the inspections conducted by United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) on the ground, the accelerated military activity and new capabilities such as Predator and stand-off weapons have more than compensated. The aggressive patrolling has not only maintained an active targeting base, it has also chipped away at Iraq's air defenses and command and control, laying the groundwork for any future military action.
Air Force sources say that there has been at least a 25 percent reduction in Iraqi air defense capabilities since 1998. In other words, the essential first three to four days of an air campaign, says a senior Air Force general.
Last year, Marine Corps Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, then commander-in-chief of all U.S. forces in the Middle East, and now adviser to Secretary of State Colin Powell, said "We have effectively destroyed 30 percent of Saddam's air defense capability across the board - missile systems, triple A [anti-aircraft artillery], radars, command and control, etc. - methodically, precisely carefully, with minimal if any collateral damage. We've done it politically extremely well, low-key.... No one is noticing it. It fits all the requirements. Slowly but surely this guy is losing."
The Military Excuse
With so much already accomplished in Afghanistan, it is no wonder that handicapping the line-up of American officials for or against taking military action against Iraq has been a cottage industry since September 11. The speculators say: Powell and Rice against, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz for, Rumsfeld a cipher, Cheney holding the balance. Experts also handicap alliance relations, with Russia, France, and Saudi Arabia said to be in the "against" camp.
How hard would it be to destroy Saddam Hussein's regime? Prior to becoming Secretary of State, Powell vociferously defended the decision to end the 1991 Gulf War by raising the specter of Americans fighting in the streets of Baghdad. Today, skeptics against taking action continue in the same vein.
But the "too difficult" argument is flawed. It is based on the assumption that war in Iraq would resemble the American style of war in Normandy and Korea, rather than the 21st century American style of war. An Iraqi campaign today would feature the awesome capabilities of airpower (vastly improved since the Gulf War) working in tandem with Predator-type technological advantages and special operations forces. Such a campaign would set the stage for either political pressure or a ground war against a demoralized and already defeated foe.
The Iraqi military may still manage to fire anti-aircraft artillery and surface-to-air missiles. This year alone, Iraq has shot at coalition aircraft more than 420 times. But the statistics mask the facts that the Iraqis shoots wildly and that their forces are pieced together with "bubble gum and barbed wire," as Gen. Zinni put it last year. The only thing that has strengthened in Iraq since 1991 is the brutal internal security mechanism around Saddam. In my post-war visits to Iraq, I have always been struck by the Iraqi military's respect and awe for the American military. They know they got their butts kicked in 1991. Even if Americans can't see it, the well-festooned but powerless generals controlled by Baghdad, and the poor soldiers who served not too long ago as canon fodder in the desert, know how they are paper tigers. They are just enough to enforce repression and maintain universal conscription but not even in the same sport, let alone league, as the U.S. military.
After bombing began in Afghanistan, the foreign ministers of the Islamic countries issued a statement rejecting "the targeting of any Islamic or Arab State under the pretext of fighting terrorism." The ministers fretted as well about the death of "innocent civilians." Their statement was clearly intended to head off U.S. military action against Iraq. On the second point, the ministers are confused. They fear what Colin Powell fears: a ruinous bombing campaign ala World War II or a 20th century military contest featuring armies on the march. That isn't going to happen no matter what. However, the foreign ministers' admonition about civilian deaths is very much on the mark. Civilian deaths in Iraq are the very core of Islamic hatred of the United States that has grown since 1991. (Bin Laden himself cites the death of one million innocent Iraqi children under sanctions as justification for the death of American innocents.) The real issue is which alternative will result in fewer civilian deaths: continuation of the embargo or a 21st century war against Saddam?
No war against terrorism can ever be successfully concluded without addressing the deaths of Iraqi civilians caused by the U.S. embargo. Most in the Arab world believe that the United States could take out Saddam if it wanted, but prefers instead to pursue a gutless and cruel policy whose purpose is to kill innocents and punish a country and a people who were once one of the most powerful in the Arab world.
The only way to permanently eliminate such hostility is to create the conditions in the region that will allow U.S. to end the embargo and withdraw its forces from Saudi Arabia. Those moves will only be possible when Saddam Hussein is gone. If Kosovo and Afghanistan teach us anything, it is that decisive military action can be taken with relatively few civilian deaths-many fewer than are caused by the embargo that is imposed because Saddam Hussein refuses to let in U.N. inspectors.
Which raises the ultimate question: Is attacking Iraq a good idea? Maybe military action in a Somalia or Sudan would play better in the Arab world, because those countries have been more clearly linked to the al Qaeda network. There is an argument to be made that the international legitimacy of the overall war against terror needs to be guarded.
But in the long term, giving Iraq society a real chance to rebuild itself without Saddam Hussein is of greater interest to the Arab world and to the United States than picking off easier targets. If military action is taken against Iraq, rooting out Saddam's regime will likely be even more difficult than it is proving with Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. But it would not be "too difficult" to contemplate. The United States would be going to war against another house of cards, already diminished and weakened.
MONDAY DECEMBER 03 2001
Most of us prefer Pax Americana to anthrax
The big decision seems to have been taken in Washington already. After Afghanistan, the United States is going to take on Saddam Hussein. Implicit in this decision is an absolute determination that America should achieve its objectives. This is an Administration of cautious hawks, who believe that the US must never again make what they regard as the Vietnam mistake - "Moderation in war is imbecility". As I have quoted before, because it is central to the Bush Administration's view of policy, "in war there is no substitute for victory". That quotation comes from General MacArthur's farewell speech to Congress in 1951, after he had justifiably been dismissed by President Truman.
The reason for the decision to take on Iraq, which will mean the elimination of Saddam Hussein's regime, is not so much Iraq's connections with terrorism, although they are extensive, as Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction, chemical, biological and nuclear. The US, since September 11, has ceased to accept that such weapons should remain in the hands of states whose governments are hostile to world order. The view in Washington is that this is too dangerous; it will either be brought to an end now, at five minutes to midnight, or it will lead to casualties in their hundreds of thousands. It does not matter much whether we agree with this view; this is what the Bush Administration believes, and it has the backing of the vast majority of Americans.
The struggle against Iraq is likely to follow the strategy of Kosovo in 1999 and Afghanistan in 2001. In both wars America acted cautiously, with careful planning, after forming a supportive alliance. On the ground, local forces hostile to the regime did most of the infantry work; the US provided overwhelming air power. American casualties were negligible in Kosovo and have been light in Afghanistan. In both cases it proved impossible for the local regime to keep armed forces in the field against the American air attack. In both cases Britain proved the closest of allies, but Russia became the most important, frightening Milosevic into surrender, and giving vital logistical support to the Northern Alliance.
The complexities of the British and the Russian relationships were illustrated by the Pristina events of June 1999. On June 12, 200 Russian troops made a surprise takeover of the airfield after 78 days of Nato bombing. The American general, Wesley Clark, Nato's Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, ordered Lieutenant-General Sir Michael Jackson, the British commander of the Kosovo peace keeping force, to send tanks to block the Russian move. General Jackson refused, saying "I'm not going to do that. It's not worth starting World War Three". The US did not support General Clark, who was retired from Nato, but has not forgotten the event. Two ground rules for Afghanistan have been: no standoff with the Russians; no foreign generals in the line of command. On the assumption that Kandahar falls in the near future, and that Osama bin Laden will be a fugitive, captured or killed, the US will deal with Iraq next. Perhaps there might first be some attacks on terrorist bases elsewhere, in countries of less significance.
The US strategy, as in Kosovo, and Afghanistan is likely to follow pre-planned phases. The opening stage will involve formulation of a demand, such as the ultimatum made to Milosevic at Rambouillet, or the call to the Taleban to surrender bin Laden. At the same time the US will endeavour to build at least a nominal coalition of support. Step by step, there will be a planned build-up of pressure, threatening Iraq with irresistible force, but facing many countries with difficult political choices. Objectively, other governments have even greater reason to support US action against Iraq than against Afghanistan, if only because Iraq is the greater threat to global security. An American failure in Iraq would be a total disaster; it would leave Saddam in possession of his weapons of mass destruction and with his prestige greatly enhanced. It would create anarchy in the Middle East, and threaten the survival of more peaceable Middle Eastern governments. It would condemn the people of Iraq to more years of cruel tyranny. There are rational grounds for other governments to warn America against the risks of taking action; there are no rational grounds to want the US to fail if it decides to try.
Immediately after September 11, a number of other states that have supported terrorists, such as Syria and Iran, saw that a choice had to be made. They gave assurances to the US that they would not back the al-Qaeda terrorists. These assurances may have been qualified in public but were probably more explicit in private conversation. Saddam must have contemplated offering similar assurances, but there are no signs that he gave any. Perhaps, when the issue in Afghanistan was still in doubt, the
US would have allowed him to sign up with the alliance against terrorism; probably not. Such chances as he had, he missed. The demands - which will include the return of the inspectors - that will now be made on him are likely to be difficult for him to accept.
Saddam is vulnerable. The Gulf War showed that the American bombing of ten years ago could destroy any visible military formation. That has been demonstrated again in Kosovo and Afghanistan. US defence technology is now far more powerful than it was in Bush's father's time. Saddam governs through a machine of terror, which has its own troops, armoured vehicles and barracks, all targets for air power.
In the Iraqi population at large his support may be very thin. The Americans will target the core supporters of his power. These evil thugs are not inspired by religious fanaticism, and are unlikely to hold out against US power. Iraq does have opposition groups although, apart from the Kurds in the north, they are nothing like as coherent as the Albanians in Kosovo or the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan.
At this stage the worldwide alliance for action in Afghanistan is not expressing an equal willingness to support action against Iraq. Europe is cautiously unwilling, Russia has given warnings, there is substantial opposition inside the Labour Party. Islamic governments might face riots in the streets. Yet this does not mean that the alliance is likely to disintegrate altogether. Governments are concerned about public opinion, but they have to be even more concerned about the probable outcome.
Of course, the destruction of Saddam's regime would be a further wound to Arab and Islamic pride. It might create a new and much better Iraq, but no one would thank America for that. Yet the Arab street anger is directed against the reality of American power. If the US demonstrates the effectiveness of this power, that will not assuage the anger, but it will discourage governments from challenging American policy. These governments have seen what happened to Milosevic and the Taleban.
The world is not going to rush to the defence of Saddam if it believes that he is merely the next in the queue for the daisy-cutter.
This will be an argument in British politics. At first Tony Blair, with reluctant backbenchers to consider, was warning the US not to try; he is already springing back towards the Washington line. Iain Duncan Smith has taken the political risk of giving the US his full support and his party's. If the US now backs off, Blair could look like a prudent statesman, and Duncan Smith like a hot head. Equally, if the US acts against Iraq, Blair will look to have been wobbly and Duncan Smith will appear the firm statesman. To the outcome, British support means little, but it is odds-on we shall end by supporting the United States.
An eventual diplomatic objective of American policy must be reconciliation with the Islamic powers, which will in the end have to include guarantees for Israel and a Palestinian state. The US seems to have decided that a lasting settlement may be possible with Syria and Iran, but not with Saddam. His possession of weapons of mass destruction is too great a threat to all other countries.
Iraq must rejoin the community of nations; it cannot do that under Saddam's leadership. The rest of the world may complain, but almost all of us prefer Pax Americana to anthrax from Baghdad.