The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
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Seymour Hersh's article (below) on Ahmad Chalabi and the INC claims that Iran may now support an Iraqi incursion . It includes this soundbite: "The time for the (overthrow) plan is now", wrote Chalabi ...... in 1993.
Also attached is Jeff Stein's piece on an alternative proxy army (Iraqi expatriate military), and their meeting with former State Department officials ... a meeting from which the INC was excluded .
Does the attack-Iraq crowd ever deal with the question of what happens if Saddam is ousted? The right-wing National Review attempts to do so, but its blitheful answer (civil war, anarchic chaos, American occupation) does no one credit.
The New Yorker
THE IRAQ HAWKS
Can their war plan work?
by SEYMOUR M. HERSH
Issue of 2001-12-24 and 31
In November of 1993, Ahmad Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress, an opposition group devoted to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, presented the Clinton Administration with a detailed, four-phase war plan entitled "The End Game," along with an urgent plea for money to finance it. "The time for the plan is now," Chalabi wrote. "Iraq is on the verge of spontaneous combustion. It only needs a trigger to set off a chain of events that will lead to the overthrow of Saddam." It was a message that Chalabi would repeat for the next eight years.
Chalabi, who is fifty-six, was born into a wealthy Iraqi Shiite banking family and earned a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Chicago. He received money and authorization from the Clinton Administration to put his plan into effect, and by October, 1994, a small C.I.A. outpost had been set up in an area in northern Iraq controlled by the Kurds. Chalabi's headquarters were nearby. His plan called for simultaneous insurrections in Basra, the largest city in southern Iraq, which is dominated by disaffected Shiites (Saddam and his followers are Sunnis), and in Mosul and Kirkuk, Kurdish cities in the north. Massive Iraqi military defections would follow. "We called it Chalabi's rolling coup," Bob Baer, the C.I.A. agent in charge, recounted.
At the time, Baer has written in "See No Evil," a memoir to be published next month, "the C.I.A. didn't have a single source in Iraq. . . . Not only were there no human sources in country, the C.I.A. didn't have any in the neighboring countries-Iran, Jordan, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia-who reported on Iraq. Like the rest of the U.S. government, its intelligence-gathering apparatus was blind when it came to Iraq."
In March, 1995, Chalabi's insurrection was launched, and failed dramatically. "There was nothing there," Baer told me. "No one moved except one Kurdish leader acting on his own-three days too late. Nothing happened." As far as recruiting agents from inside the Iraqi military, "Chalabi didn't deliver a single lieutenant, let alone a colonel or a general." Baer emphasized that he wasn't dismissive of Chalabi himself, because, as he put it, "Chalabi was trying." Even so, Baer said, "he was bluffing-he thought it was better to bluff and try to win. But he was forced to play bridge with no trump cards." Baer went on, "He always thought it was a psychological war, and that if Clinton would stand up and say, 'It's time for the guy to go,' people would do it."
Chalabi had written in his war plan that if there was "no movement" and if Saddam was permitted to export oil, "then the psychology of the people will turn. Saddam will appear to open [for] them hope for the future. At that point he will have escaped." A month after the failed insurrection, the United Nations Security Council allowed Iraq to resume oil sales under its Oil for Food program, insuring a flow of money to the regime.
By late 1996, the Iraqi Army had all but driven Chalabi's operation out of northern Iraq. A hundred and thirty Iraqi National Congress members were executed. Chalabi managed to maintain his hold on the I.N.C., despite repeated charges from the coalition's members of mismanagement, corruption, and self-aggrandizement, and he moved his anti-Saddam base to London. His plans were largely written off by the State Department and the C.I.A. America's goal would be to pursue Saddam's removal by military or political coup, and not by open rebellion. "I don't see an opposition group that has the viability to overthrow Saddam," Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni, the commander of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), who is now serving as the U.S. special envoy to the Middle East, later told a Senate committee. "Even if we had Saddam gone, we could end up with fifteen, twenty, or ninety groups competing for power."
Chalabi bore his fall from official favor gracefully. Disdainful of the Clinton Administration, which he felt had abandoned him in northern Iraq, he took his campaign to the press and to Congress, and the I.N.C. soon emerged as a rallying point for political conservatives and for many of the former senior officials who had run the Gulf War for the first President Bush.
In February of 1998, forty prominent Americans-including Caspar Weinberger, Frank Carlucci, and Donald Rumsfeld, all former Secretaries of Defense-signed an open letter to President Clinton warning that Saddam Hussein still posed an immediate threat, because of his stockpile of biological and chemical weapons. They urged that the government once again consider fostering a popular uprising against the Iraqi government. Echoing Chalabi's 1993 war plan, the letter writers argued that Saddam's weakness was his lack of popular support: "He rules by terror. The same brutality which makes it unlikely that any coups or conspiracies can succeed makes him hated by his own people. . . . Iraq today is ripe for a broad-based insurrection." Their first two recommendations were that the I.N.C. be recognized as the provisional government of Iraq and be reinstalled in northern Iraq. Another recommendation urged the Clinton Administration to release Iraqi assets frozen at the time of the Gulf War, which total more than $1.5 billion, to help fund the provisional government.
The letter, like similar pleas from congressional Republicans, failed to bring about a change in policy, although eight months later President Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act, which allocated ninety-seven million dollars for training and military equipment for the Iraqi opposition. Because of continued skepticism within the government, the I.N.C. has received less than a million dollars of that money, but the State Department has provided the group with roughly ten million dollars in routine operating funds.
During the Presidential campaign last year, George W. Bush and Al Gore both promised support for the opposition to Saddam-Bush said he would "take him out"-if he continued to develop weapons of mass destruction. Most arms-control experts believe that Iraq has in fact continued to develop such weapons, but after the election Condoleezza Rice, the national-security adviser, made it clear, according to a former government official, that the new Administration would not make Iraq a priority. "Her feeling was that Saddam was a small problem-chump change-that we needed to wall him into a corner so we could get on with the big issues: Russia, China, NATO expansion, a new relationship with India and, down the road, with Africa," the former official said.
Before September 11th, according to one of Chalabi's advisers, the I.N.C.'s war plan revolved around training, encouraging defectors, and American enforcement of the no-fly zone in southern Iraq. The idea was to recruit two hundred instructors and put them to work training a force of five thousand or more dissident Iraqis, reinforced by soldiers of fortune, some of whom, inevitably, would be retired Americans who had served in Special Forces units. The United States would also be asked to institute a no-drive zone, backed up by air strikes, to protect the insurgents from attack by Iraqi tanks.
A Chalabi adviser explained, "You insert this force into southern Iraq"-the site of most of Iraq's oil fields-"perhaps at an abandoned airbase west of Basra, and you sit there and let Saddam come to you. And if he doesn't come you go home and say we failed. This is not the Bay of Pigs." On the other hand, the adviser said, "if the insurgent force took Basra-that's the end. You don't have to go to Baghdad. You tie up his oil and he'll collapse."
Then came September 11th, and the quick victories in Afghanistan, where the combination of internal rebellion, intense bombing, and Special Forces deployment turned the Taliban out of power within weeks. Ahmad Chalabi has now given the Bush Administration an updated war plan, which calls not only for bombing but for the deployment of thousands of American Special Forces troops.
There is a second significant addition to the plan: the participation of Iran, which fought a protracted war with Iraq during the nineteen-eighties. The government of President Mohammad Khatami, America's newfound partner in the war against the Taliban, has agreed to permit I.N.C. forces and their military equipment to cross the Iranian border into southern Iraq. An I.N.C. official told me that the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control gave the organization special approval to open a liaison office in Tehran. (American companies are forbidden under federal sanctions law to do business with Iran.) The office opened in April. "We did it with U.S. government money, and that's what convinced them in Tehran," the I.N.C. official said. "They took it as a sign from the United States of a common interest-getting rid of Saddam. The way to get to him is through Iran."
Once inside Iraq, according to Chalabi's scenario, the I.N.C. would establish a firebase and announce the creation of a provisional Iraqi government, which the Bush Administration would quickly recognize. Nearly two-thirds of the Iraqi population are Shiites, and they are seen as potential allies in a political uprising. The United States would then begin an intense bombing campaign, as it did in Afghanistan, and airlift thousands of Special Forces troops into southern Iraq. At the same time, I.N.C. supporters in the north, in the areas under Kurdish control, would begin signalling that they were about to attack. If all went as planned, dissent would quickly break out inside the Iraqi military, and Saddam Hussein would be confronted with a dilemma: whether to send his Úlite forces south to engage the Americans or, for his own protection, keep all his forces nearby to guard against an invasion from the north.
Chalabi's new plan also calls for the United States to provide funding for an I.N.C. mobile assault force of six battalions of armed Toyota four-by-fours, equipped with machine guns, recoilless cannons, and antitank missiles. "If you did that, there would be massive defections," the I.N.C. official told me. The six battalions, he said, could stop an Iraqi counterattack by two armored divisions. Two preliminary target areas have been isolated, both near airbases that, once secured, could be used to fly in American Special Forces troops. The attack plan was worked out with the help of a retired four-star Army general, Wayne Downing, and a former C.I.A. officer, Duane (Dewey) Clarridge, who have served as unpaid consultants to the I.N.C. (Downing was appointed by President Bush in October to be the deputy national-security adviser for combatting terrorism.)
Downing, who ran a Special Forces command during the Gulf War, was convinced that the I.N.C., with airpower and a small contingent of well-trained Special Forces, could do the job inside Iraq. He was privy to one of the most astonishing engagements of the Gulf War: In mid-February of 1991, a Delta Force troop of sixteen men on night patrol south of Al-Qaim, near the Syrian border in western Iraq, was overrun by a large enemy force, and the Iraqis wounded two Americans. The Delta troops, operating from heavily armed vehicles, counterattacked with grenade launchers and machine guns (a maneuver known as Final Protective Fire) and killed or wounded an estimated hundred and eighty Iraqis, with no further injury to themselves. One American veteran of the Gulf War told me, "In the west"-where Delta operated-"there was little opposition, and we had freedom of movement"; that is, the troops were operating on their own. "Downing loved it."
America's success in routing the Taliban has improved Chalabi's standing with some elements of Washington's defense community. "They believe they have found the perfect model, and it works," a defense analyst said of the updated war plan. "The model is bombing, a modest insertion of Special Forces, plus an uprising." Similarly, Tim McCarthy, a former United Nations weapons inspector, acknowledged that "the one thing the I.N.C. has going for it is that, once someone puts their stake down, the Iraqis will have to go after them. Saddam will have to send his Hammurabi after them"-the Iraqi Army's Úlite armored-tank division. Once Saddam made his move, McCarthy said, his forces would be exposed to American air strikes, "and then they are toast."
Many of the people who signed the 1998 open letter to Clinton urging American support for Iraqi insurgents are now in positions of authority in the Bush Administration, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld; his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz; and Douglas Feith, an Under-Secretary of Defense. Richard Armitage, the Deputy Secretary of State, was also a signatory. One of the drafters of the letter was Richard Perle, the longtime conservative foreign-policy adviser in Washington, who has turned the obscure Defense Policy Board, which he chairs, into a powerful platform for advancing policies dear to the Republican right. In the past few weeks, Perle and another I.N.C. supporter, James Woolsey, a former director of the C.I.A., have inspired a surge of articles and columns calling for the extension of the Afghan war into Iraq.
The Pentagon officials, buttressed by Perle and Woolsey, are at odds with the State Department-specifically, with their fellow letter-signer Richard Armitage, who has now become, in private, an opponent of the revised Chalabi plan. "I've got to believe that Wolfowitz and Feith are angry" at Armitage, one friend of all three men told me. "They feel he's betrayed a fundamental conviction they shared."
"September 11th changed the whole equation," said the former New York congressman Stephen Solarz, who helped Perle draft the 1998 letter. "Before then, an argument could be made that deterrence worked." In recent speeches and articles, Perle has dwelled on the potential threat from Iraq. Last month, at a meeting in Philadelphia of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a conservative think tank, Perle said, "The question in my mind is: Do we wait for Saddam and hope for the best? Do we wait and hope he doesn't do what we know he is capable of, which is distributing weapons of mass destruction to anonymous terrorists, or do we take preŰmptive action? . . . What is essential here is not to look at the opposition to Saddam as it is today, without any external support, without any realistic hope of removing that awful regime, but to look at what could be created."
One of Armitage's supporters in the internal debate, a former high-level intelligence official, wondered scornfully if the Perle circle's enthusiasm for Chalabi's plan grew out of their unease about the first Bush Administration's decision in early 1991, when they were in power, not to seek Saddam's demise at the end of the Gulf War. "It's the revenge of the nerds," he said. Also, he said, "They won in Afghanistan when everybody said it wouldn't work, and it's got them in a euphoric mood of cockiness. They went against the established experts on the Middle East who said it would lead to fundamental insurrections in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. Not so, and anyone who now preaches any approach of solving problems with diplomacy is scoffed at. They're on a roll."
Armitage views the I.N.C.'s eagerness to confront Saddam, the former official told me, as ill-considered. "We have no idea what could go wrong in Iraq if the crazies took over that country," the former official said, referring to religious fundamentalists. "Better the devil we know than the one we don't." He described Armitage as confident that he could block the plan, and frustrated by the amount of time he has been forced to spend on the issue. "Dick says no way. He's going to win it." Otherwise, he added, "he knows it's going to be a political disaster."
A senior Administration official depicted Chalabi as "totally charming," but said that the Administration had no intention of allowing "a bunch of half-assed people to send foreigners into combat." Of Chalabi and his supporters in and out of government, the senior official said, "Who among them has ever smelled cordite? These are pissants who can't get the President's ear and have to blame someone else. We're not going to let them lead others down the garden path." The I.N.C., he added, is not the only Iraqi opposition group being funded by the Bush Administration, and not the only group capable of "working through Iran."
Secretary of State Colin Powell, known to be skeptical of the I.N.C., has "backed away from the infighting," a senior general explained, and left it to Armitage, his trusted colleague, "to stall them off four or five months. There's a lot of ways to squeeze Saddam without using military force." More focussed sanctions would be one logical step, but the Bush Administration last month agreed to delay for six months its insistence on "smart sanctions," which would enable the United Nations to crack down on "dual use" goods, which could be employed for military or civilian purposes, while allowing medicine, food, and other essentials to flow. The Iraqi regime now exports an estimated two million barrels of oil daily under the Oil for Food program. Major purchasers include ExxonMobil, Chevron, and other American companies, who routinely buy the oil through third parties. As many as eight hundred thousand barrels of that oil a day end up in the U.S. market.
In recent weeks, Chalabi's revised war plan, augmented and modified by a Pentagon planning group authorized by Paul Wolfowitz, has made its way to the Joint Chiefs of Staff for evaluation. It has left some military men cold, and prompted a debate about the lessons learned from Afghanistan and how they can be applied to Saddam. "There's no question we can take him down," a former government official told me. "But what do you need to do it? The J.C.S. is feeling the pressure. These guys are being squeezed so hard."
Some of the concerns were articulated by Robert Pape, a University of Chicago political scientist who has written widely on airpower. "The lesson from Afghanistan is less than meets the eye," Pape told me. "Airpower is becoming more effective, but the real lesson is that you need significant ground forces to make the strategy effective. The Taliban, which controlled fifty thousand troops, were thinly dispersed and never in total control of the country. We don't have an armed opposition already in Iraq like the Northern Alliance." A former senior State Department official depicted the I.N.C. proposal as "highly risky, because two things they can't control have to happen. There's got to be an uprising against Saddam, and our allies have to join us in country." A senior intelligence official similarly debunked the notion that what worked in Afghanistan would necessarily work in Iraq as equivalent to "taking the show from upstate New York to Broadway."
The military's response has been cautious and bureaucratic. A former official told me that the Joint Chiefs ordered their staff to "come up with a counterproposal," which is now in the planning stages. An Air Force consultant said that the I.N.C. is not included in the Pentagon's planning, adding, "Everything is going to happen inside Iraq, and Chalabi is going to be on the outside." According to a senior Bush Administration official, two senior American diplomats were recently sent to northern Iraq to talk to Kurdish opposition leaders and "check out who's got go and who's got no go."
Generals and admirals have been among the most outspoken critics of Chalabi's proposals. In his years of planning at CENTCOM, General Zinni concluded, according to a Clinton Administration official, that a prudent and successful invasion of Iraq would involve the commitment of two corps-at least six combat divisions, or approximately a hundred and fifty thousand soldiers-as well as the ability to fly bombing missions from nearby airfields. In an essay published last year in the United States Naval Institute Proceedings, Zinni, who was on the eve of retirement, wrote about what it would take to "drive a stake" through the heart of someone like Saddam:
You must have the political will-and that means the will of the administration, the Congress, and the American people. All must be united in a desire for action. Instead, however, we try to get results on the cheap. There are congressmen today who want to fund the Iraqi Liberation Act, and let some silk-suited, Rolex-wearing guys in London gin up an expedition. We'll equip a thousand fighters and arm them with ninety-seven million dollars' worth of AK-47s and insert them into Iraq. And what will we have? A Bay of Goats, most likely.
One of the officials currently involved in the Pentagon's planning said that he, too, had doubts about the efficacy of an I.N.C. armed insurrection, even one backed up by American warplanes and Special Forces. "If you go to war and don't address the root political problem, why bother?" he asked. "All we're going to get is another tyrant in five years. If this is the war to end all jihads, it's got to have a broad-based political agenda behind it."
One of Zinni's close aides told me, "Our question was 'What about the day after?' How do you deal with the long-term security aspects of Iraq? For example, do you take the Republican Guard"-the military unit most loyal to Saddam-"and disarm it? Or is it preferable to turn it from having a capability to protect Saddam to a capability to protect Iraq? You've got Kurds in the north, Arab Shia in the south, and the Baath Party in the middle, with great internal tribal divisions. There's potential for civil war. Layer on external opposition and you've got a potential for great instability. I'm a military planner and plan for the worst case. As bad as this guy is, a stable Iraq is better than instability."
When I asked James Woolsey, the former C.I.A. director, about these concerns, he said, "Iraq has its tribal factions and regional loyalties, but it also has a very sophisticated and intellectual infrastructure of highly educated people. There's no reason they couldn't establish a federalized-or loosely federalized-democracy."
"The issue is not how nice it would be to get rid of Saddam," a former senior Defense Department official told me. "Everybody in the Middle East would be delighted to see him go. The problem is feasibility. We looked at all these plans and always came to the conclusion that the external opposition did not have the armed ability to deal with Saddam's police state."
President Bush has not yet decided what to do about Iraq, according to the senior Administration official. Until he has, he said, the State Department will continue to give financial support to opposition groups, including the I.N.C. In a Washington Post interview earlier this fall, Condoleezza Rice used a football metaphor to indicate that all options remain open. "We will be calling audibles every time we come to the line," she told the columnist Jim Hoagland.
There is evidence that Saddam Hussein is rattled by the war talk in Washington. "The Iraqis are scared to death," one intelligence source said. The intelligence community, according to a former official, has also received hints-however hard to credit-that the Iraqis might be willing to join in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Conciliatory messages were relayed through diplomatic channels in Canada, and eventually reached the White House.
Inside the Administration, there is a general consensus on one issue, officials told me: there will be no further effort to revive the U.N. inspection regime in Iraq. The inspectors were withdrawn in late 1998, after seven years of contentious and sometimes very successful inspections, and Iraq has refused since then to accept a new wave of inspectors. "I've been told that senior U.S. officials have little faith in the viability of the new inspection regime," one disarmament expert told me.
There is every indication that the next few months, as the President struggles to reach a decision, will produce more, perhaps much more, of the same: continued American patrolling of the no-fly zones in the south and north of Iraq and occasional bombing of military targets. A retired flag officer described the approach as deterrence: "We have to make sure that Saddam knows that if he sticks his head up he'll get whacked."
<CNN transcript, appearing in the MariamAppeal's newletter.>
Iraqi Opposition Leader Submits Plan for Attack on Iraq.
By Paula Zahn.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: The question this morning is: Could Iraq be next? Well, over the past couple of weeks, there has been plenty of speculation that after Afghanistan, the U.S. may turn its attention to Saddam Hussein. An Iraqi opposition leader reportedly submitted a plan of attack to the Bush administration, modeled on the U.S. military strategy deployed in Afghanistan.
In the new issue of "The New Yorker" magazine, Seymour Hersh writes that the Iraqi war plan is the subject of intense debate within the Bush White House.
And Seymour Hersh joins me now from Washington - welcome back - glad to have you with us this morning, sir.
SEYMOUR HERSH, "THE NEW YORKER": Thank you.
ZAHN: So what is it that Iraqi opposition leader, Ahmed Chalabi, has in mind here?
HERSH: He's got something new, which is interesting. One of the new facts is that he wants to come in from Iran. Iran has given him permission - this is an Iraqi dissident - you know, to come, stage his forces in Iran, go across the border into southern Iraq, and set up camp there. And that's a very big step. That hasn't happened before.
This man has been trying, Mr. Chalabi, with his opposition group I think since '93 or so to, with the help of the CIA and the Clinton administration, their money, to get it going. And now he has got an access route, which is from Iran, and he's also got the model, so they think, of what happened in Afghanistan, which was a combination of insurgency, that is the National Alliance - the Northern Alliance, a lot of bombing and Special Forces.
So what he wants to do is go across with his people from Iran into Iraq, set up a base, have the United States declare him the provisional government of Iraq, recognize him, we send some Special Forces in there, we begin bombing, we tell Saddam, come on south - you know, Saddam is up north in Baghdad - send your tanks south to come get us in southern Iraq where he would be. And of course, if Saddam did that, as I quote somebody as saying, our planes would take care of his tanks. They'd be toast.
But the problem still is, and this is what the story is about really, who is going to - what's going to happen if that works? It probably can work. It looks like we can certainly give Saddam a lot of trouble by doing so. But what happens to that country? Who is going to take it over? And that's the issue.
ZAHN: Well, let's come back to the plan and the amount of criticism of it. Aren't there a lot of people within the administration who simply don't think Ahmed Chalabi can pull this off?
HERSH: Oh, absolutely. But I have to tell you, they also believe that you could do something about Saddam with Special Forces. We did - our Special Forces worked very well, particularly the Delta Force, in the 1991 war we had when we attacked Saddam in the Gulf War.
And so, we know we can do it, but the problem is, as I say, well, forget Chalabi for now. We can just do it ourselves if we found somebody to lead, but we don't have - A, we don't have people inside. We don't have the intelligence we need. We really have very little out of Iraq. I quote on CIA person as saying, even back then in the early '90s we had nothing. I don't think we have much now.
And secondly, the fear is if you do overthrow Saddam, you get three countries. You know, you get a Shiite - an Arab Shiite country in the south, where most of the people in the south are against the regime. They set up a separate government around Basra. You have a middle regime, where the tribes, that Saddam gets support from, fight each other. And in the north, of course, the Kurds take over, and nobody wants that too. That's chaos.
And also, none of our allies want us to go, and they want things left the way they are...
HERSH: ... and they don't want anymore trouble - I'm sorry.
ZAHN: Yes, I'm sorry too. Come back to the other piece of the puzzle here, that the role Iran would play. I mean, effectively is that the end of dual containment then, if we're suddenly trusting the Iranis to help this Iraqi opposition leader pull this off?
HERSH: They're our new buddies. They helped in Afghanistan, and certainly, they are more moderate. The only problem with the moderate side of Iran is, of course, there's also another side, which is the mullahs who still run - the fundamentalists who still run Iran still support terrorism, particularly against Israel, Hezbollah. And also as I wrote a few weeks ago, they're making a nuclear bomb, and we don't know what quite to do about that. They've been digging holes, putting their bombs lower and deeper.
So that's another issue. Do we really want Iran to be involved in an overthrow of Iraq? And again, I have to stress this, Chalabi has a lot of support - political support, and this administration is interested in what the conservatives think. A lot of people - Richard Perle and his crowd, who is not an inconsiderable force in Washington, the former defense official who now runs something called the Defense Policy Group, and also many members of Congress - Trent Lott and others. Very powerful members want Chalabi to be put in play. So it's a political issue for this government too.
ZAHN: Realistically, politically how soon could this happen if you build this political consensus? What are we talking about here?
HERSH: Oh, I think first of all, it's very clear that Colin Powell and his deputy, Mr. Armitage - Richard Armitage are very much against this and fighting it very hard. And I think what's going to happen is more of the same. We're going to continue. As you know, we fly - we attack in the no-fly zone in north and south Iraq. We set up zones, which are - they're not allowed to do any military activity in, and we bomb if we see something.
I think we'll just do more of the same for the next four or five or six months, as the administration struggles with what to do, if anything, about Iraq. And don't forget, the Saudis, the Syrians and all of Europe has told us stay out of it. So it's a very interesting issue, because it's a question of politics versus reality.
ZAHN: Well, for anybody wanting to learn more about this and the points of the debate, dive into your December 24 issue of "The New Yorker," which will hit the newsstands here shortly. Seymour Hersh, always good to have you - it was a fascinating piece. It has certainly given us a lot to think about this morning.
HERSH: Thank you very much.
ZAHN: Take care.
CNN LIVE THIS MORNING 17/12/2001
Searching for Saddam's replacement
Washington reaches out to ex-Iraqi generals.
By Jeff Stein
Dec. 13, 2001 | WASHINGTON -- A stream of ex-Iraqi military officers has been invited to Washington in recent weeks to explore options for overthrowing Saddam Hussein.
The unprecedented meetings in early November and again last Friday, held under the auspices of the Middle East Institute, a private group headed by top former U.S. State Department officials, amount to a quiet effort by some former and present Washington officials to add military teeth to -- if not supplant -- the main exile organization supported by Washington for almost a decade, the Iraqi National Congress.
Indeed, the INC, led by Ahmad Chalabi, scion of a onetime Iraqi banking family, was not even invited to the first meeting on Nov. 1, which featured about a dozen former ranking Iraqi military officers plus a half dozen onetime civilian officials in the Baghdad regime. An assistant to Chalabi showed up at the conference visibly miffed, along with some Pentagon officials who have backed the INC, officials said.
The ex-Iraqi military officers attending that first meeting included Najib Al Salihi, a onetime general and chief of staff in the elite Republican Guard; former Brigadier Gen. Fawzi Al-Shamary, an important figure among mid-level Sunni officers; and Faris Hussein Shahed, a former Iraqi army colonel and ambassador to Germany. Their airline tickets and other expenses were paid for by the State Department, according to a source involved with the conferences. A half-dozen other former senior Iraqi officers accepted the invitation but could not get cleared for visas in time.
The topic of the gathering was "The Iraqi Armed Forces After Saddam Hussein." David Mack, a deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs during the first Bush and Clinton administrations, presided over the meeting, the first-ever gathering of so many former Iraqi military officers under one roof in Washington. "The fact that this is taking place sends a very important message to people inside the country ... and can play a role in actually stimulating people to take the risk to overthrow the regime," said Mack.
Said a former CIA operations officer who attended the sessions: "The most important business was the fact that this was held, and that there was a discussion of the military post-Saddam, and how to go about doing it."
"The message was just that fact," he said. "This is not by any means all the Iraqi military officers that are interested in doing something like this. This was billed as a working group, a small group of people getting together to toss some things around and -- who knows -- they may do it again."
U.S. attendees included Whitley Bruner, a former CIA chief of station in Iraq, and Edward S. Walker Jr., the State Department's top Middle East official in the Clinton administration, now president of the Middle East Institute, which hosted the conferences. Talks were given by Kenneth Pollack, a former official of the CIA and the White House National Security Council, and Michael Eisenstadt, a specialist on Arab military affairs on temporary assignment to the U.S. Central Command.
Bush administration military officials declined to invite the Iraqi military officers to the Pentagon, although some private meetings were held, according to sources. Iyad Allawi, a former Iraqi intelligence chief and now head of the Iraqi National Accord, a London-based rival to Chalabi's INC, met with senior officials from the CIA when he was in Washington for the Dec. 7 conference, a former CIA officer with experience in Iraq said. "As far as I know, these are periodic higher-level discussions ... the DDO [Deputy Director of Operations] probably makes an appearance."
Allawi has argued that the exiles should form a "military commission" of notable former Iraqi officers, and then seek U.S. backing. Allawi led a coup conspiracy that was crushed by Saddam Hussein in the mid-1990s.
But some exiles, as well as U.S. officials, are queasy about dealing with such figures as Nizar Khazraji, a former Iraqi army chief of staff, now under investigation in Denmark, where he lives in exile, for human rights violations under his command in northern Iraq. The State Department is wringing its hands over whether to even talk with Khazraji, an informed source said.
On the second day of the first conference, Nov. 2, three former Iraqi civilian officials were scheduled to meet with Phil Mudd, a member of the White House National Security Council, and John Hannah, an aide on Middle East affairs to Vice President Dick Cheney. Ryan Crocker, assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, met with both former Iraqi military and civilian officials, sources said.
The effort to organize ex-military officials adds a new front in the bureaucratic battle over what to do about Iraq, which has heated up considerably since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, in which some officials see the hand of Saddam Hussein. Republicans, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, have thrown their weight behind the INC and Chalabi. Chalabi's critics, mostly in the State Department and CIA, argue that he has no following in Iraq, especially among military officers. Chalabi is also a Shiite Muslim, while the bulk of Iraq's military corps is led by Sunnis.
Chalabi, educated at MIT and the University of Chicago, was initially recruited by the CIA in 1992 to stitch together an exile organization, but lost the confidence of Clinton officials when he mounted an unauthorized effort to foment a military revolt in Iraq in 1996. For the rest of Clinton's term, Capitol Hill Republicans -- and some Democrats -- on Capital Hill used him as a battering ram against the White House for its "do-nothing" policy toward Saddam Hussein, frequently inviting him to testify in hearings on Iraq. Chalabi's name has been invoked less frequently since the Republicans captured the White House, but he still remains a favorite at the Pentagon, where he was a guest of Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz as recently as last month.
"Somebody was saying at one point that Chalabi has more influence on the banks of the Potomac than on the banks of the Tigris -- by far," joked a former CIA operations officer with long experience in Iraqi affairs.
Another source, a former military officer who has worked in secret operations in Iraq, said he personally liked Chalabi but didn't think the former banker, whose family left Baghdad when the monarchy was toppled in 1958, was the appropriate leader for a military campaign against Saddam. "He's really smooth, but maybe not the guy to head up the opposition," the officer said. "As Michael Corleone said in 'The Godfather,' we need a wartime consigliere."
Another of Chalabi's challenges is that he heads an organization that includes groups of Kurds and others who are often at odds and don't automatically defer to him. "He always says he represents them, but they never say he represents them," said a diplomat familiar with all the groups.
"I would say that Chalabi is effective in that he knows the U.S. system, he's effective in the U.S., he's effective in Congress. He's effective in that he can get people to accept his story in the U.S.," the diplomat said. "He's not effective there."
"What you do need," he added, "is a centrist. Iraq is not going to be led by the Kurds. Iraq is not going to be led by the Shia. You need to have a centrist. And Chalabi, for lack of anybody else, has at least filled that role." Now, he and many others who favor toppling Saddam Hussein say, it's time to make inroads where it counts in Iraq: among the leaders of his military units.
Whatever the Bush administration decides to do, the swift success of the Afghan campaign has put extra pressure on Washington officials to come up with a plan for dealing with Iraq. A decision could come as early as next month.
"Mid-January is the moment of truth," said a source familiar with events.
About the writer
Jeff Stein is the coauthor, with Khidhir Hamza, of "Saddam's Bombmaker: The Daring Escape of the Man Who Built Iraq's Secret Weapon." He writes frequently for Salon on national security issues from Washington.
To conclude the Gulf War, ten years later.
By Richard Lowry, NR Editor.
From the October 15, 2001, issue of National Review
Colin Powell helped save Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War, and seems bent on saving him again. If Saddam escapes the full wrath of the U.S. war on terrorism, he will once more have Powell and the dictates of a great international coalition to thank. It was to preserve the Gulf War coalition - for what exactly, no one knows - that Powell, as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, urged the first President Bush to stop short of Baghdad in 1991. Now, as secretary of state, Powell is urging George W. to lay off the Iraqi dictator for the purpose of keeping intact yet another broad international coalition. Saddam should be the biggest fan of U.S. "multilateralism" this side of 1 U.N. Plaza.
Early indications are that Iraq had a hand in the September 11 attacks. But firm evidence should be unnecessary for the U.S. to act. It doesn't take careful detective work to know that Saddam Hussein is a perpetual enemy of the United States. But it's more than a personal matter. Iraq's Baathist regime will be totalitarian and expansionist, Saddam or no. Accordingly, the solution to the Iraqi problem needs to go deeper than a random assassination: It must destroy the Baathist regime root and branch. At the very least, Iraq should be allowed to be dismembered by its perpetually warring factions, or, ideally, invaded and occupied by the American military and made into a protectorate.
If an ineffectual U.N. liberalism characterized Clinton policy toward Saddam - resolutions, inspections, etc. - it was a desiccated realism that left him in power in the first place. The first Bush's national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft, and other Bushies made a fetish of borders. In this case, the casual handiwork of the British Foreign Office - which outlined modern Iraq with a pencil and ruler in 1918 - was elevated to high geopolitical art. The entity called "Iraq" had to be kept together at all costs. As Daniel Byman explained in a 1996 National Interest article, "Washington therefore wanted the Kurdish and Shi'a revolts to succeed to the extent that they would cause Saddam's downfall, but not to the extent that they would lead to national dismemberment." The result of this attempted fine-tuning was no success at all.
The caution displayed here was rank foolishness. Nothing is so dangerous as leaving an aggrieved enemy hanging on and able to strike back - he should either be befriended outright (the French approach) or destroyed. Hannibal allegedly was made to take an oath of eternal enmity toward the Romans by his father, who lost the First Punic war - thus laying the predicate for the Second. Saddam needn't yet pass on such a pledge to his psychopath son Uday or to the younger Qusay (one of whom will probably end up killing the other, if the rules of Arab politics hold). Saddam has, in effect, taken the oath himself.
The bare minimum of U.S. action should be an effort to kill Saddam - from precision cruise-missile strikes to bribes of his close associates - and to topple his regime by proxy. The U.S. should seriously arm and support Iraqi opposition groups. A bombing campaign on their behalf could, among other things, create a "no drive" zone for Iraqi vehicles in the north and south. No exaggerated claims should be made for the opposition - which contains, no doubt, its share of thieves and opportunists - but at least it could be trusted to plunge the country into chaos, and perhaps to dismantle it, since it is so ripe for falling apart. In a description still apt today, Iraq's King Faisal I said of his "country" in 1933, "There is still no Iraqi people, but unimaginable masses of human beings, devoid of any patriotic ideal . . . connected by no common tie, giving ear to evil, prone to anarchy, and perpetually ready to rise against any government whatsoever."
In the above-sketched scenario, the United States would be willing to let the fissiparous resentments of Iraq - the Kurdish north, the Sunni middle, the Shiite south - play themselves out on the theory that a hopeless muddle would be an improvement over a dangerous regime. Several strategic objections are often raised to breaking up Iraq. Turkey, an important U.S. ally with a restive Kurdish population of its own, wouldn't relish an independent Kurdish entity to its south. And the Gulf states wouldn't welcome the resulting uncertainty. But the grand Scowcroftian reason for preserving Iraq - that it can balance Iran in the Persian Gulf - is a nice-sounding theory utterly unhinged from reality. "It is senseless to think in these terms," as Daniel Byman points out, "in circumstances where Iraq is roughly as hostile to many of the potential targets of Iranian aggression as is Iran itself."
The greatest risk would be to U.S. moral sensitivities. To help push Iraq into chaos and then stand aside would require abiding uncertainty about the ultimate result in Iraq and a willingness to ignore heart-wrenching humanitarian disasters (refugees, ethnic massacres). It would be a mistake for the U.S. to embark on this course and then - as dismaying pictures started to come in via CNN - decide that it wanted to try to influence the final result after all. This would create a situation in which the U.S. would be merely responding to, rather than firmly shaping, events (as in Vietnam). If we prefer not to court the uncertainty, but to follow instead a path that would oust the Iraqi regime quickly and be much cleaner, the U.S. should jettison half-measures and invade and occupy Iraq.
The United States could pull off an invasion with the help of only Britain, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. It would require a significant buildup, a long air campaign against all of Saddam's military assets, and finally a land invasion (which would be a strain, given the troop drawdown that brought the endlessly costly "peace dividend" of the 1990s). The main attack, as NR contributing editor John Hillen has argued, would be launched from Saudi Arabia toward Baghdad, with air support smashing Iraqi forces whenever they massed either to fight or to flee. Pre-invasion, the U.S. would work closely with some sort of Free Iraqi government, making it clear that the war was against the regime and not the Iraqi people. American forces would probably enjoy a reception from the locals much warmer than that accorded the ROTC on many college campuses.
An American occupation would not last years, on the model of a MacArthur regency in Japan. Instead, the U.S. would quickly - say, after less than a year - hand control of the country over to a U.N. protectorate, with some Arab input to soothe feelings and a non-American - some anodyne European, such as a Swede - running the show. He would in effect act as Iraqi dictator, but without the brace of pistols. After five years or so, as Iraq's public institutions were firmed up, the baton could be passed to an Iraqi government that one would hope would be thoroughly democratic - but that would at a minimum be pro-Western and capitalist. The entire effort would represent a return to an enlightened paternalism toward the Third World, premised on the idea that the Arabs have failed miserably at self-government and need to start anew.
We occupy the Balkans to very little strategic purpose, except perhaps to keep the Europeans from complaining too loudly. Why not undertake an occupation where it really matters? The ideal would be to duplicate the best of British colonialism in India, where the rule of law and other important institutions (e.g., the civil service) helped make India the functioning democracy it is today. But the model to avoid would be, as it happens, the British in Iraq. After installing a Sunni king in 1921, they had to bomb the Shiites in the south into submission. The U.S. would, undoubtedly, set for itself an extremely delicate political and diplomatic task. The goal, however, would not be perfection, but a pro-Western and reasonably successful regime, somewhere between the Shah of Iran and the current government of Turkey.
A functioning, mostly free, and relatively rich Iraq would have several advantages over Saddam's country, and over chaos: In moral terms, it would represent a great improvement in the lives of average Iraqis. It would bring strategic stability to the region, freeing the Gulf states from the constant fear of invasion. It would be an embarrassment - and perhaps a spur to change - to the rest of the corrupt regimes in the region, providing a model of free-market success. It would guarantee the West's access to oil, and perhaps help break up OPEC (the ill-gotten gains from which fund repressive dictatorships and, indirectly, terrorists). And it would be a nice economic benefit to the United States: If the Teamsters like drilling in ANWR, they should love occupying Iraq.
Most important, either of these options - breakup or occupation - would bring a rightful, if belated, end to the Gulf War by ending the Baathist regime. According to the U.N.'s Rolf Ekeus, he was once told by the head of Iraq's missile program, "Iraq needs its military equipment. The war is not over. It was only a ceasefire." Exactly.