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Secret Plan to topple Saddam Hussain


New York Post, Jan 21, 2002



January 21, 2002 -- President Bush's war Cabinet is drawing up a secret plan to topple Saddam Hussein as soon as six months from now.

A new Afghanistan-style strategy is being finalized to use Iraqi freedom fighters, backed by U.S. military forces, to oust the Baghdad butcher, a Bush administration adviser is reported to have said.

The adviser is quoted as saying that a "general consensus" has emerged among members of Bush's inner circle that the dictator must be ousted.

As the likelihood of a new attack grew, Saddam yesterday chaired an emergency meeting in Baghdad of his two most powerful bodies to discuss the mobilization of Iraqis, the official Iraqi News Agency reported.

The meeting of the Revolutionary Command Council and the Regional Command of the ruling Baath party discussed means to "confront the malicious, hostile plans that the rulers of America are brandishing against our people," the news agency said.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld are finalizing a strategy based on building an international military coalition, sponsoring Iraqi freedom fighters, and having the United States lead a military invasion, Newsweek is reporting, quoting a Bush administration adviser.

Under the strategy, the United States will continue pressuring Saddam to re-admit U.N. arms inspectors into Iraq, rather than launching a military attack "tomorrow or unilaterally," the adviser said.

Bush's military chiefs do not expect the dictator to comply fully, enabling the United States to win international support by demonstrating his intransigence and the immense global threat he poses.

Former Air Force Lt.-Gen. Tom McInerney told The Post, "Saddam has got to go - but we have to move quickly, because we are racing against him getting a nuclear weapon."

McInerney, a former assistant vice chief of staff of the Air Force, said the campaign against Saddam would be easier than the war in Afghanistan because the terrain and weather in Iraq are not as severe, boosting precision military attacks and the use of ground forces.

He said Iraqi freedom fighters who despise Saddam would rally against him - as long as "they know we mean business."

"You would get a cascading effect of resistance among the general people and his military," he said. "But vacillating does not help the problem - actions speak louder than words."

Ahmad Chalabi, the leader of the main resistance group Iraqi National Congress, said last month that Saddam could be toppled with a campaign using 3,000 U.S.-trained Iraqi rebels, an Afghanistan-style bombing campaign, the insertion of several thousand U.S. special forces and assistance from Iran.

"What happened in Afghanistan is basically what we want to do in Iraq?" he said.

But U.S. plans to recruit and support freedom fighters in Iraq have been widely criticized in the past.

In 1997, after Congress allocated $97 million to Iraqi National Congress, U.S. envoy to the Middle East Anthony Zinni - who was then still in the Marine Corps -said such a plan would end in failure, like the 1961 attempt to overthrow Cuba's Fidel Castro.

"What will we have? A Bay of Goats, most likely," he said.

Attempts after the Gulf War to spark a popular uprising also failed, with the United States being accused of betraying Iraqi freedom fighters by not offering enough support.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan would not comment yesterday.

But a renewed campaign against Saddam received support from Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and presidential aspirant Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).

"I'm for focusing on Saddam Hussein - I've been saying that for a long period of time," Kerry told CNN.

"We know, through intelligence, of increasing activities that Saddam Hussein has been involved in with respect to weapons of mass destruction.

"His policies are dangerous, he is dangerous."

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