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A. Secret Plan Outlines the Unthinkable, Los Angeles Times, 10th March B. Outrage as Pentagon nuclear hitlist revealed, Observer, 10th March C. Pentagon has nuclear hit list of seven nations, Sunday Times, 10th March D. US plans for first-strike nuclear attacks against seven countries, Sunday Telegraph, 10th March E. Bush wants 25,000 UK Iraq force, Observer, 10th March F. Blair's just a Bush baby, Observer, 10th March [opinion piece by Nick Cohen] G. United they stand. But will Tony follow George all the way to Baghdad?, Independent on Sunday, 10th March H. Mr Blair is right to take on Labour before Saddam, Sunday Telegraph, 10th March [opinion piece by Matthew d'Ancona] I. Mr Bush needs friends who will tell him, Sunday Times, 10th March [opinion piece by Martin Ivens] J. U.S. Seen as Likely to Stay on Collision Path With Iraq, New York Times, 9th March K. An Iraqi Campaign Faces Many Hurdles, Los Angeles Times, 10th March Independent on Sunday: email@example.com Observer: firstname.lastname@example.org Sunday Telegraph: email@example.com Sunday Times: firstname.lastname@example.org New York Times: email@example.com The 'Nuclear Posture Review' story is in all to today's broadsheets. A. is the original piece from the Los Angeles Times. B.,C., and D. is the coverage that I could find on-line (the Independent on Sunday also covered story with the headline 'US prepares contingency plans for nuclear strikes.') You'll recall that in his State of the Union address Bush stated that 'by seeking weapons of mass destruction' "rogue" states 'pose a grave and growing danger', 'threaten[ing] the peace of the world.' F. is a piece by the Observer's Nick Cohen. Cohen is a long-time apologist for the sanctions, hence his frankly bizarre aside that he 'look[s] forward to seeing how Noam Chomsky and John Pilger manage to oppose a war which would end the sanctions they claim have slaughtered hundreds of thousands of children.' I don't have an e-mail address for letters page at the LA Times, but if anyone does they might like to fire something off in their direction. Letters to the Sunday papers should be sent by Tuesday evening at the latest. Best wishes, Gabriel **************************************************************** A. Secret Plan Outlines the Unthinkable A secret policy review of the nation’s nuclear policy puts forth chilling new contingencies for nuclear war. By WILLIAM M. ARKIN Los Angeles Times, 10th March WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration, in a secret policy review completed early this year, has ordered the Pentagon to draft contingency plans for the use of nuclear weapons against at least seven countries, naming not only Russia and the "axis of evil"--Iraq, Iran, and North Korea -but also China, Libya and Syria. In addition, the U.S. Defense Department has been told to prepare for the possibility that nuclear weapons may be required in some future Arab-Israeli crisis. And, it is to develop plans for using nuclear weapons to retaliate against chemical or biological attacks, as well as "surprising military developments" of an unspecified nature. These and a host of other directives, including calls for developing bunker-busting mini-nukes and nuclear weapons that reduce collateral damage, are contained in a still-classified document called the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which was delivered to Congress on Jan. 8. Like all such documents since the dawning of the Atomic Age more than a half-century ago, this NPR offers a chilling glimpse into the world of nuclear-war planners: With a Strangelovian genius, they cover every conceivable circumstance in which a president might wish to use nuclear weapons--planning in great detail for a war they hope never to wage. In this top-secret domain, there has always been an inconsistency between America's diplomatic objectives of reducing nuclear arsenals and preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, on the one hand, and the military imperative to prepare for the unthinkable, on the other. Nevertheless, the Bush administration plan reverses an almost two-decade-long trend of relegating nuclear weapons to the category of weapons of last resort. It also redefines nuclear requirements in hurried post-Sept. 11 terms. In these and other ways, the still-secret document offers insights into the evolving views of nuclear strategists in Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's Defense Department. While downgrading the threat from Russia and publicly emphasizing their commitment to reducing the number of long-range nuclear weapons, Defense Department strategists promote tactical and so-called "adaptive" nuclear capabilities to deal with contingencies where large nuclear arsenals are not demanded. They seek a host of new weapons and support systems, including conventional military and cyber warfare capabilities integrated with nuclear warfare. The end product is a now-familiar post-Afghanistan model--with nuclear capability added. It combines precision weapons, long-range strikes, and special and covert operations. But the NPR's call for development of new nuclear weapons that reduce "collateral damage" myopically ignores the political, moral and military implications--short-term and long--of crossing the nuclear threshold. Under what circumstances might nuclear weapons be used under the new posture? The NPR says they "could be employed against targets able to withstand nonnuclear attack," or in retaliation for the use of nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, or "in the event of surprising military developments." Planning nuclear-strike capabilities, it says, involves the recognition of "immediate, potential or unexpected" contingencies. North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya are named as "countries that could be involved" in all three kinds of threat. "All have long-standing hostility towards the United States and its security partners. All sponsor or harbor terrorists, and have active WMD [weapons of mass destruction] and missile programs." China, because of its nuclear forces and "developing strategic objectives," is listed as "a country that could be involved in an immediate or potential contingency." Specifically, the NPR lists a military confrontation over the status of Taiwan as one of the scenarios that could lead Washington to use nuclear weapons. Other listed scenarios for nuclear conflict are a North Korean attack on South Korea and an Iraqi assault on Israel or its neighbors. The second important insight the NPR offers into Pentagon thinking about nuclear policy is the extent to which the Bush administration's strategic planners were shaken by last September's terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Though Congress directed the new administration "to conduct a comprehensive review of U.S. nuclear forces" before the events of Sept. 11, the final study is striking for its single-minded reaction to those tragedies. Heretofore, nuclear strategy tended to exist as something apart from the ordinary challenges of foreign policy and military affairs. Nuclear weapons were not just the option of last resort, they were the option reserved for times when national survival hung in the balance--a doomsday confrontation with the Soviet Union, for instance. Now, nuclear strategy seems to be viewed through the prism of Sept. 11. For one thing, the Bush administration's faith in old-fashioned deterrence is gone. It no longer takes a superpower to pose a dire threat to Americans. "The terrorists who struck us on Sept. 11th were clearly not deterred by doing so from the massive U.S. nuclear arsenal," Rumsfeld told an audience at the National Defense University in late January. Similarly, U.S. Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton said in a recent interview, "We would do whatever is necessary to defend America's innocent civilian population .... The idea that fine theories of deterrence work against everybody ... has just been disproven by Sept. 11." Moreover, while insisting they would go nuclear only if other options seemed inadequate, officials are looking for nuclear weapons that could play a role in the kinds of challenges the United States faces with Al Qaeda. Accordingly, the NPR calls for new emphasis on developing such things as nuclear bunker-busters and surgical "warheads that reduce collateral damage," as well as weapons that could be used against smaller, more circumscribed targets--"possible modifications to existing weapons to provide additional yield flexibility," in the jargon-rich language of the review. It also proposes to train U.S. Special Forces operators to play the same intelligence gathering and targeting roles for nuclear weapons that they now play for conventional weapons strikes in Afghanistan. And cyber-warfare and other nonnuclear military capabilities would be integrated into nuclear-strike forces to make them more all-encompassing. As for Russia, once the primary reason for having a U.S. nuclear strategy, the review says that while Moscow's nuclear programs remain cause for concern, "ideological sources of conflict" have been eliminated, rendering a nuclear contingency involving Russia "plausible" but "not expected." "In the event that U.S. relations with Russia significantly worsen in the future," the review says, "the U.S. may need to revise its nuclear force levels and posture." When completion of the NPR was publicly announced in January, Pentagon briefers deflected questions about most of the specifics, saying the information was classified. Officials did stress that, consistent with a Bush campaign pledge, the plan called for reducing the current 6,000 long-range nuclear weapons to one-third that number over the next decade. Rumsfeld, who approved the review late last year, said the administration was seeking "a new approach to strategic deterrence," to include missile defenses and improvements in nonnuclear capabilities. Also, Russia would no longer be officially defined as "an enemy." Beyond that, almost no details were revealed. The classified text, however, is shot through with a worldview transformed by Sept. 11. The NPR coins the phrase "New Triad," which it describes as comprising the "offensive strike leg," (our nuclear and conventional forces) plus "active and passive defenses,"(our anti-missile systems and other defenses) and "a responsive defense infrastructure" (our ability to develop and produce nuclear weapons and resume nuclear testing). Previously, the nuclear "triad" was the bombers, long-range land-based missiles and submarine-launched missiles that formed the three legs of America's strategic arsenal. The review emphasizes the integration of "new nonnuclear strategic capabilities" into nuclear-war plans. "New capabilities must be developed to defeat emerging threats such as hard and deeply-buried targets (HDBT), to find and attack mobile and re-locatable targets, to defeat chemical and biological agents, and to improve accuracy and limit collateral damage," the review says. It calls for "a new strike system" using four converted Trident submarines, an unmanned combat air vehicle and a new air-launched cruise missile as potential new weapons. Beyond new nuclear weapons, the review proposes establishing what it calls an "agent defeat" program, which defense officials say includes a "boutique" approach to finding new ways of destroying deadly chemical or biological warfare agents, as well as penetrating enemy facilities that are otherwise difficult to attack. This includes, according to the document, "thermal, chemical or radiological neutralization of chemical/biological materials in production or storage facilities." Bush administration officials stress that the development and integration of nonnuclear capabilities into the nuclear force is what permits reductions in traditional long-range weaponry. But the blueprint laid down in the review would expand the breadth and flexibility of U.S. nuclear capabilities. In addition to the new weapons systems, the review calls for incorporation of "nuclear capability" into many of the conventional systems now under development. An extended-range conventional cruise missile in the works for the U.S. Air Force "would have to be modified to carry nuclear warheads if necessary." Similarly, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter should be modified to carry nuclear weapons "at an affordable price." The review calls for research to begin next month on fitting an existing nuclear warhead into a new 5,000-pound "earth penetrating" munition. Given the advances in electronics and information technologies in the past decade, it is not surprising that the NPR also stresses improved satellites and intelligence, communications, and more robust high-bandwidth decision-making systems. Particularly noticeable is the directive to improve U.S. capabilities in the field of "information operations," or cyber-warfare. The intelligence community "lacks adequate data on most adversary computer local area networks and other command and control systems," the review observes. It calls for improvements in the ability to "exploit" enemy computer networks, and the integration of cyber-warfare into the overall nuclear war database "to enable more effective targeting, weaponeering, and combat assessment essential to the New Triad." In recent months, when Bush administration officials talked about the implications of Sept. 11 for long-term military policy, they have often focused on "homeland defense" and the need for an anti-missile shield. In truth, what has evolved since last year's terror attacks is an integrated, significantly expanded planning doctrine for nuclear wars. _ _ _ William M. Arkin is a senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington and an adjunct professor at the U.S. Air Force School of Advanced Airpower Studies. He is also a consultant to a number of nongovernmental organizations and a regular contributor to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. ******************************************************** B. Outrage as Pentagon nuclear hitlist revealed Edward Helmore New York and Kamal Ahmed Sunday March 10, 2002 The Observer America has drafted secret plans to wage nuclear war against seven countries as well as building an arsenal of smaller nuclear devices for use in battlefield situations. A classified Pentagon report has warned that the US must be ready to use nuclear weapons against China, Russia, Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Libya and Syria and also in an Arab-Israeli conflict. The report, provided to Congress in January and signed by hawkish US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, said weapons could be used in three types of situations. The first was against targets able to withstand non-nuclear attack, the second in retaliation for attack with nuclear, biological or chemical weapons and the third 'in the event of surprising military developments'. A spokesman for the Pentagon last night confirmed the existence of the document, called the 'Nuclear Posture Review', which was written with the knowledge of President George W. Bush and leaked to the Los Angeles Times. News that the US has drawn up options for potential nuclear attack against hostile nations will alarm MPs already opposed to the continuing war on terror and comes ahead of a visit to Britain tomorrow by Vice-President Dick Cheney. Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, said: 'This completely changes the terms of debate about nuclear deter rence. America has said that it can now act unilaterally and that it could use nuclear weapons against nations who do not have nuclear capability. Britain will have to think very carefully now about its support for systems such as the national missile defence system.' Defence experts said the US had already acknowledged existing nuclear plans for an attack on Russia. However, the report appears to show for the first time an official list of potential target countries. 'This is dynamite,' said Joseph Cirincione, a nuclear arms expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. Referring to the countries on the target list, he told the Los Angeles Times: 'I can imagine what these countries are going to be saying at the UN.' Experts said the report's conclusions on the development of smaller nuclear weapons could signal a seachange in opinion by the US in using nuclear weapons except as a last resort and even trigger a new arms race. They warned that such moves could dangerously destabilise the world by encouraging other countries to believe that they, too, should develop weapons. 'They're trying desperately to find new uses for nuclear weapons, when their uses should be limited to deterrence,' said John Isaacs, president of the Council for a Livable World. 'This is very, very dangerous talk. Dr Strangelove is clearly still alive in the Pentagon.' Other defence figures urged caution and said the US could be simply preparing a 'wishlist' of possible contingencies in the event that dozens of countries, and some terrorist groups, are engaged in secret weapon development programmes. 'We need to have a credible deterrence against regimes involved in international terrorism and development of weapons of mass destruction,' said Jack Spencer, a defence analyst. He said the contents of the report did not surprise him and represent 'the right way to develop a nuclear posture for a post-Cold War world.' Reports last night said the US Congress requested the reassessment of the US nuclear capability in September 2000. The last such review was conducted in 1994 by the Clinton administration. The new report is now being used by the US Strategic Command to prepare a nuclear war plan. Bush administration officials have publicly provided only sketchy details of the nuclear review. They have publicly emphasised the parts of the policy suggesting that the administration wants to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons. US politicians have suggested nuclear weapons would not be used against non-nuclear states unless they were allied with nuclear powers. But experts are unsure whether the United States would use nuclear weapons in retaliation after strikes with chemical or nuclear weapons. ******************************************************** C. Pentagon has nuclear hit list of seven nations Tony Allen-Mills, Washington Sunday Times March 10, 2002 PRESIDENT George W Bush was facing international controversy last night after a leaked Pentagon report revealed that Washington has contingency plans to use nuclear weapons against seven countries, including Russia and China. The report went to Congress on January 8 and was leaked by William Arkin, a senior defence consultant, who described it as “a chilling glimpse into the world of nuclear war planners”. The document, entitled Nuclear Posture Review, said the Pentagon should be prepared to use nuclear weapons against China, Russia, Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Libya and Syria. The weapons might be used against targets able to withstand conventional attack; in retaliation for the use of nuclear or biochemical weapons; or “in the event of surprising military developments”. There was no immediate comment from the target countries, but diplomatic sources predicted worldwide anger at any American threat to use nuclear weapons at a time when the United States is committed to reducing nuclear proliferation. Some of the target countries appear certain to complain to the United Nations. The report appeared to reflect the belief of hawks that Washington must be prepared for all eventualities while it is waging war against terrorists who are seeking to acquire their own nuclear weapons. It showed that planners still regard Russia as a possible future target. They recommended a range of tactical and so-called “adaptive” nuclear weapons for use in situations where traditional long-range nuclear missiles are not required. The review specifically refers to the possibility of a confrontation over Taiwan as one scenario that could cause Washington to use nuclear force against China. Other scenarios included a North Korean attack on South Korea and an Iraqi assault on Israel. The review was reportedly requested by Congress in September 2000, six years after the Clinton administration compiled a similar report. The earlier report has never been released, but experts said the Bush review has gone much further than any of its predecessors in widening the possible uses of US nuclear weapons. It is believed to be the first time that an American list of target countries has ever been made public. Earlier this year Donald Rumsfeld, the US secretary of defence, told a military audience that “the terrorists who struck us on September 11 were clearly not deterred from doing so by the massive US nuclear arsenal”. John Bolton, the hawkish US under-secretary for arms control, gave a warning recently that Washington “would do whatever is necessary to defend America’s civilian population”. The campaign in Afghanistan has encouraged speculation in American defence circles that some form of “mini-nuke” might be usable in remote cave networks without endangering civilian populations. The leaked review places a new emphasis on nuclear bunker busters and other precision warheads that “reduce collateral damage”. It also calls for a “new strike system” using converted Trident submarines, pilotless combat aircraft and new air-launched cruise missiles as possible delivery vehicles. ****************************************************** D. US plans for first-strike nuclear attacks against seven countries By David Wastell in Washington Sunday Telegraph (Filed: 10/03/2002) PRESIDENT BUSH has drawn up secret plans for nuclear conflict with at least seven countries, according to a classified Pentagon report leaked in Washington yesterday. The report, signed by Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, says that America must be ready to use nuclear weapons against China, Russia, Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Libya and Syria. Pentagon officials last night confirmed the existence of the top secret document to The Telegraph. It is understood to identify three circumstances in which nuclear weapons could be used: "against targets able to withstand non-nuclear attack; in retaliation for the use of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons"; and "in the event of surprising military developments". This is believed to reflect fears that terrorists, or rogue states, are planning to deploy previously unknown types of weapons against the United States. North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya are named as countries that could be involved in what the report calls "immediate, potential or unexpected" contingencies. "All have long-standing hostility towards the US and its security partners," it says. "All sponsor or harbour terrorists, and have active WMD [weapons of mass destruction] and missile programmes." China is "a country that could be involved in an immediate or potential contingency" because of its nuclear forces and "developing strategic objectives". Athough Pentagon officials have long acknowledged that sites in Russia have been targeted for nuclear attack, this is the first time the names of other countries considered possible targets have been made public. The last such review was conducted under Bill Clinton in 1994 and the contents remained secret. In a further break with previous policy, the report reveals that America is planning for possible use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states which are not themselves allied with nuclear powers. The Pentagon is also considering how small-scale nuclear weapons might be developed as a more effective deterrent against terrorist attacks. The document, leaked to the Los Angeles Times, is the result of a "nuclear posture review" conducted with the knowledge of President Bush during the first year of his presidency. It was delivered to Congress in secret on January 8. The review says the Pentagon should be ready to use nuclear weapons "in an Arab-Israeli conflict, in war between China and Taiwan, in an attack by North Korea on the south, or in an attack by Iraq on Israel or another neighbour", according to the the L A Times. It also orders the military to plan for the use of "smaller nuclear weapons" in specific battlefield situations. These could include bunker-busters - bombs that destroy reinforced battlefield structures - and precision "warheads that reduce collateral damage". Mr Rumsfeld is determined that America's enemies understand that its nuclear weaponry is not confined to mass-destruction warheads. The report calls for the cruise missiles under development to be "modified to carry nuclear weapons if necessary", and for similar modifications to the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, in whose development Britain is sharing. It will increase British concern over further US plans for the "war on terror", including action against Iraq, as Vice-President Dick Cheney arrives in London to meet Tony Blair tomorrow. Downing Street said: "We don't comment on leaked documents." Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, said the document embarrassed both the US and British governments. "It drives a coach and horses through Nato's nuclear doctrine of minimum deterrent and weapons of last resort." A Pentagon official said: "We don't talk about classified material. We don't talk about contingencies. We make plans all the time." Officials rushed to counter the expected international furore by announcing that they would publish much of the 100-page document. "This was always meant to be made public," said one. "We can't let a liberal-leaning newspaper take the lead in setting out our policy to the world." The report reveals that, although Moscow is no longer officially an enemy of the US, the huge number of Russian nuclear weapons remains a serious concern. Russia's foreign ministry refused to comment until it had seen an official version. Senior Ministry of Defence officials are under pressure to discipline Chris Gale and Roger White, civil servants involved in sensitive nuclear work in Bath, who voiced their opposition to the Afghan war in the MoD's house journal. ******************************************************** E. Bush wants 25,000 UK Iraq force Britain considers joint invasion plan by Kamal Ahmed, Jason Burke and Peter Beaumont Sunday March 10, 2002 The Observer America has asked Britain to draw up plans for 25,000 of this country's troops to join a US task force to overthrow Saddam Hussein. In a move which reveals advanced US plans for the next phase of its war on terror, Government departments are considering the plans ahead of Vice-President Dick Cheney's meeting with the Prime Minister tomorrow. Cheney will come to London armed with fresh evidence against the Iraqi dictator, and will tell Tony Blair that United Nations inspections of Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons may not be enough to head off a new war in the Gulf. The request for such a large number of British troops shows the high stakes America is now playing for. It will alarm Cabinet doves, thought to include Clare Short, the International Development Secretary, and Robin Cook, the former Foreign Secretary and now Leader of the Commons. The Government is already facing a split on the issue of military action against Iraq. One Minister described those who had questioned Blair's policy of fully backing a US military campaign as 'appeasers'. 'At some point people have to realise that action has to be taken,' he said. The request for such a large number of troops is unprecedented in peacetime. It is one of three major options now being considered by the Government which has always insisted publicly that no final decisions have been made on military action against Saddam. British troops would be part of a 250,000-strong ground force to invade Iraq in an operation similar to Desert Storm in 1991. The second option is one where smaller special forces units would support opposition forces within Iraq, like the tactic used in Afghanistan, where the Northern Alliance was backed with air strikes and logistical support in its battle to overthrow the Taliban. The third option - thought to be preferred by the Foreign Office - is one of 'aggressive containment'. Under this plan, air strikes against Iraq would be intensified if Saddam did not agree to a comprehensive inspections agree ment. Cheney arrives in London ahead of a 10-day 'hearts and minds' tour of the Middle East which is seen as vital in shoring up the alliance against Iraq. After London he will visit Egypt, Israel, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Turkey. America is confident that with enough evidence against Saddam, the White House can persuade other Arab states to support military action. 'I think they all have legitimate concerns about the regime in Iraq, and they're aware that Saddam continues to represent a threat to the security and stability of the region,' said one White House official. 'I expect they'll all want to talk about it.' America has already begun a discreet military build-up in preparation for a ground war in Iraq. US special forces are training Iraqi militia to be ready for a strike against Saddam in the coming months. Teams of instructors drawn from American elite regiments have been arriving in Kurdish-held areas in the north of Iraq in recent weeks, targeting the semi-autonomous areas run by the Kurdish Democratic Party. The instructors are improving local fighters' tactical and weapons skills and teaching them how to exploit chaos caused by American air strikes. They are also drawing up lists of potential targets, a vital prerequisite to any ground offensive. Defence sources say a battalion of 24 Longbow Apache attack helicopters also recently arrived in Kuwait. The helicopters, capable of operating up to 250 kilometres behind enemy lines, could be used to attack air defence sites and Iraqi armour in the opening air phase of any war. In a separate development sources say more than 5,000 US fighting vehicles, mothballed in Kuwait since the end of the Gulf War, have quietly been overhauled. ************************************************************** F. Blair's just a Bush baby The US President may like to have Tony by his side, but it's crystal-clear that he isn't listening Nick Cohen Sunday March 10, 2002 The Observer The Prime Minister gives every appearance of being willing to risk the lives of British troops in a war he believed should not be fought. His Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary didn't believe it was justified either. His generals have warned against it as noisily as serving officers can. His diplomats and spies have found no excuse for it. But if and when America tells Britain to send its soldiers into Iraq, Tony Blair will comply with alacrity. What is there left to say about such a man? Ministers used to explode when you said that subservience to America after 11 September had made Britain an international joke. By standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Bush, Britain gained 'influence', they explained to me with varying degrees of patience. 'Solidarity in public: candour in private' was their motto. The old magic of the special relationship was charming naïve Washington. Historians would find that Blair had pushed Bush away from Donald Rumsfeld and the other total-war intellectuals, and persuaded the President to listen to Colin Powell and concentrate on fighting Islamic fanaticism. Using the massacres in New York and Washington as an excuse to go for Iraq never made sense. Saddam is a secular tyrant who prefers Stalin to Muhammad. An alliance between Baghdad and an al-Qaeda whose members would cheerfully have killed Saddam seemed unlikely, even to those who understood the 'my enemy's enemy' principle. A story that Mohamed Atta met an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague before crashing into the Twin Towers played into Rumsfeld's hands and swept round the world. It was quietly put out of its misery in January when the Czech police admitted they had no evidence that Atta had talked to the Iraqi Embassy. Perhaps one day we will know whether the newspapers which 'revealed' the 'Prague connection' were the victims of a cock-up or black propaganda. Britain's opposition to extending the war was relayed in private to privileged journalists. When the privilege was granted so promiscuously that Lefty hacks received it, the secret was in plain view. New Labour hinted in public that it thought the Rumsfeld faction was dan gerously boneheaded. When John Negroponte, Bush's ambassador to the United Nations, said in October that America reserved the right to attack other states, Jack Straw dismissed him as a Beltway chatterer. 'There are always statements coming out of Washington,' he said breezily. 'Washington is a very large place but this military coalition is about action in respect of targets in Afghanistan.' The Foreign Secretary's confidence that Britain and Powell had persuaded Bush to limit the war couldn't have been more misplaced. If he now thinks invading Iraq won't set the Middle East on fire, he should explain what apart from a desire to get in line behind Bush has made him change his mind. Geoff Hoon was blunter. The drubbing of the Taliban would be enough to teach 'rogue states' not to promote terrorism, he said. 'I believe very strongly that the signals we are sending to Afghanistan and around the world will be sufficient to encourage other countries to recognise that they can no longer support international terrorism.' Whenever he was asked, he repeated the line that there were no known links between Iraq and Islamic fundamentalism. He was quite right. The CIA and MI6 have searched for them for six months and found nothing. Hoon will be in charge of British forces if war comes, nominally at any rate. If they are going to be endangered, courtesy and honest leadership demand he tells them why and when he realised he was wrong. Blair, as you would expect, is harder to pin down. But Downing Street advisers told journalists he worried that an assault on Iraq would destabilise his friends in the Middle East. More telling than the whispers of anonymous spinners was Blair's decision to allow Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, the Chief of the Defence Staff, to lay into the Washington hawks with real contempt. Britain should be wary of following 'the United States' single-minded determination' to wage war on a broad front with 'hi-tech, wild west' operations, he said in December. International law must be respected; Arab opinion must not be provoked; the hearts and minds of Muslims must be won. Sir Michael didn't mention Iraq. But then he didn't have to. Every British account of diplomacy after 11 September says Blair lobbied against America attacking Iraq. (The reconstructions of American journalists scarcely mention him.) The greatest defeat of British foreign policy is the loss of the illusion that London influences Washington, a fantasy which afflicts the media as severely as the PM. Anyone who has met the leaders of the US Right should know that they have a self-confident and coherent world view which has been buoyed by extraordinary military power. The principles Blair professed after 11 September may have been far better. But it was absurd to imagine that Republicans were going to slap their foreheads and shout, 'damn it, you're right, Tony, we should pour aid into the Third World and abandon the double-standard on the West Bank.' The second defeat is almost as humiliating. Britain did what America wanted throughout the 1990s and contained Iraq by enforcing sanctions. Bush's declaration of war against the axis of evil was a declaration that Washington now saw all that loyal service as a risible failure. There are ironies in this for the remnants of the Left. I look forward to seeing how Noam Chomsky and John Pilger manage to oppose a war which would end the sanctions they claim have slaughtered hundreds of thousands of children who otherwise would have had happy, healthy lives in a prison state (don't fret, they'll get there). But the humbling of the men who said sanctions were the best and only way will be greater. It is hard for the deluded to admit they've fooled themselves more than others. Whitehall's latest dream is that America's talk of war is a bluff. Saddam will let United Nations weapons inspectors back in, Powell will edge out Rumsfeld, the conflict will be cancelled and nobody will be hurt. My predictions are as useless as Downing Street's. But I should point out Republicans are ready to assert that Saddam can never be trusted. They would dismiss the readmission of the UN as a feint. These gentlemen want another war, and will get one if they can. Blair might reply that America doesn't need the support of Britain's over-stretched forces. He might add that he signed up to tackling al-Qaeda, and now realises that he cannot be distracted from the work he must do against fundamentalism in his own cities. He might hope that the tyrant fell quickly and with a minimum of civilian casualties and leave it there. He won't because he can't bring himself to admit that a roaring, uncontrollable America sees him as an ornamental extra: nice to have, but inessential. *********************************************************************** G. United they stand. But will Tony follow George all the way to Baghdad? By Steve Richards and Rupert Cornwell Independent on Sunday 10 March 2002 Tony Blair made the first move. Minutes after the first plane struck the World Trade Centre on 11 September, he was the first world leader to express in public his horror and his sympathy for the US. In those first bewildering, frightening hours and days, the Bush administration, normally so determined in its insularity, needed external support. Grieving for the dead and for a lost world, it wanted to feel that it was not alone. In those early days the relative military strengths of the US and Britain did not matter. President Bush welcomed the Prime Minister's early declaration of support and the two of them have talked regularly on the phone ever since, as well as meeting twice for longer discussions. This staunch, prompt support is central to the relationship between the two leaders. Yet how much influence the Prime Minister has over the President is debatable. Some government insiders at Westminster make big claims about it. But it is now, six months on from 11 September, that Britain's views really count, in the unresolved debate over Iraq. Since 1991, we have been Washington's most faithful, indeed sometimes only, ally in the crumbling strategy of "containment", backed by a strict sanctions regime. Britain's participation in an offensive against Saddam is the absolute bare minimum if Washington is to pretend that a "coalition" exists. For all the overt acknowledgements of partnership, the relationship between the two leaders is subtler than the stereotypes. It has sometimes been caricatured in different ways, none of them entirely correct. In the UK, Mr Blair's diplomacy has been portrayed as a triumphant example of Britain punching above its weight, exercising a cautionary influence on the pugilistic instincts of the Bush administration. Or he is seen as the lackey, carrying out Mr Bush's instructions, acting almost as his spokesman around the world – influential only in the sense that he agrees with whatever President Bush says or does. In fact it is at the margins where Mr Blair has a role. He has earned access to President Bush, an access which is unique among European leaders, and allows him to appeal to the plodding side of the Bush personality. In Washington the battle for the President's mind is furious. Mr Bush has hawks to one side of him and pragmatists to the other. On one level, his instincts are as gung-ho as the hawks'. Mr Bush would have Saddam Hussein for breakfast before moving on to Iran for lunch. But there is another side to the President. He is a meticulous planner, something of a plodder, not as reckless in domestic and foreign policy as he is sometimes portrayed. Leading the charge for immediate intervention is a coterie of conservative civilians, led by Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Defence Secretary and Richard Perle, head of an influential Pentagon advisory board. Their champion in the innermost counsels of the administration is the Vice-President, Dick Cheney. Get into Iraq, this school believes, and the rest will fall into place. The State Department and the CIA are anything but convinced. What about the consequences on the region, asks the former; what guarantee is there that a successor regime will be any less wedded to weapons of mass destruction? And, say the spooks, a credible internal opposition does not exist – nor does the foreign-based Iraqi National Congress represent a credible external one. Finally, as always, the military commanders who will have to do the fighting and sustain the casualties are wary. For all his demonisation of the "axis of evil", the President himself is uncertain. The Afghan campaign, as current events show, is not over, while the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is escalating to a point where it could upset every calculation over Iraq. Mr Blair can fuel the Bush side that plods, or at least is cautiously gung-ho. A timeline of sorts is apparent. By mid-April, after his Texas summit with the Prime Minister, Mr Bush wants to see a firm plan for "regime change" in Baghdad. By June, a likely showdown with Saddam over the return of the weapons inspectors will be looming. Assuming Saddam continues to obstruct and procrastinate, the weather in the Gulf by late autumn would be cool enough – and a troop build-up might be far enough advanced – for an operation to start before the end of the year. The wagon of war may trundle more slowly than most people think. Mr Blair's position is also complex. In speaking out against Iraq, as he has done recently, he is not merely echoing the thoughts of President Bush. For some time Mr Blair has been so convinced of Saddam's capacity to build up weapons of mass destruction that he is willing to contemplate support for military action. His concerns are that such action – if it is necessary – is not rushed and is carried out with as much international support as possible. Whether Mr Blair holds much sway will depend entirely on the dynamics of the Bush administration. Already Britain's relationship with the US government, as distinct from that between the two leaders, is strained. The US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, is so hawkish that he has no time for dialogue with the Ministry of Defence. He looks at Britain's puny military contribution and scoffs. Mr Blair's relationship with President Bush cannot be as strong as the one he enjoyed with Bill Clinton in which two leaders built a relationship around a similar political outlook, fuelled by genuine mutual admiration. But Mr Blair is determined to cling to this current relationship. Almost certainly he has less influence than he imagines, but the Downing Street line is unswerving: better some influence than none at all. ****************************************************************** H. Mr Blair is right to take on Labour before Saddam By Matthew d'Ancona Sunday Telegraph (Filed: 10/03/2002) IT is depressing to note that the Cabinet is now more united in its atittude to Lakshmi Mittal than it is towards Saddam Hussein. Mr Mittal, the Indian billionaire who donated £125,000 to Labour last year, has, it seems, only to drop a line to a great department of state to be guaranteed VIP treatment. Backing for international loans, help with the Belgian authorities, the endorsement of the Prime Minister himself: the Government has shown itself touchingly united in its resolve to provide Mr Mittal with these services, and doubtless more besides. And yet the fate of Saddam, a genocidal maniac whose weapons development programme is a threat far beyond the Middle East, commands much less agreement in ministerial ranks. In the Cabinet, Robin Cook and Clare Short have let it be known that they are very far from convinced of the need for fresh military action against Iraq (an odd couple, it must be said, since, as foreign secretary, Mr Cook could scarcely bear to be in the same room as Ms Short). Their misgivings are the polite face of the outright hostility felt by a growing number of Labour MPs, more than 60 of whom have signed a Commons motion opposing miltary strikes against Saddam. One prominent backbencher, no Left-winger and often a staunch supporter of the Prime Minister's foreign policy, told me with great emotion recently that "I would tear up my party membership card if we got involved in something so despicable." In public, Mr Blair still offers ritual balms to such doubters. Charles Clarke, the Labour Party Chairman, was despatched on to the BBC's Today programme yesterday to say on his boss's behalf that "the US must internationalise what they are doing" and that "any action of any kind needs to be taken fully cautiously, if I can put it like that". Calm down, in other words. In private, however, the fury on both sides of the rift is growing sulphurous. According to one minister close to the negotiations on what to do about Iraq, "Saddam's best friends on the planet right now are Clare Short and Robin Cook. Just ask the Kurds if they're right." And yet one of the Prime Minister's most admirable characteristics is his refusal to be thrown by such outbursts within Labour ranks - trouble which, if anything, he courts from time to time. In this case, Mr Blair has apparently decided to get the internal row with his party out of the way first, before the US battleplan is finalised. Thus, a week ago, he said in Australia that "if chemical, biological or nuclear capability fall into the wrong hands, then I think we have to act on it"; he also made clear that "this is not something that just America is talking about". The Prime Minister's attitude, I am told by one confidant, is that if his colleagues are to resign over Britain's role in a prospective conflict with Iraq they should do so now, on principle, rather than later, on the eve of battle. Mr Blair's own position on Iraq has shifted dramatically, at least in public. In October last year, he told The Observer that he hoped UN sanctions on Iraq could be relaxed "because we've no desire to see the Iraqi people suffer". When asked in interviews about "Phase Two" of the war on terrorism, and the possibility of an attack on Saddam, Mr Blair initially prevaricated, demanding that evidence be presented of a link between Iraq and the events of September 11. Since Christmas, however, his definition of casus belli has changed: no less than the hawks of the Pentagon, he now argues that the main issue is Saddam's development of weapons of mass destruction rather than his possible links with al-Qaeda. What has happened? Earlier this year, one of the most senior British figures involved in planning the war on terrorism told me he now realised that, for the Bush administration, Phase Two of the conflict was "not a strategy but a mindset". It was not, he continued, a question of operational detail, or coalition building, or diplomatic options, but of world view: September 11 had transformed America's perspectives so utterly that there was absolutely no point in challenging the President's determination to take on terrorist organisations and the states that sponsor them. Britain could either participate or watch. The choice was simple. I suspect that the Prime Minister - a man pathologically incapable of retreating from centre-stage - has reached precisely the same conclusion. There have, of course, been public tensions between the British Government and the Bush administration, not least over Jack Straw's claim last month that the President's State of the Union address, with its attack on the "axis of evil", was an exercise in electioneering, and the warning by Chris Patten (admittedly not a member of the Labour Government) that America risked going into "unilateralist overdrive". One member of the Bush Cabinet was so infuriated by these remarks, I gather, that he refused at one point to take calls from the British Embassy. And yet overriding these mishaps has been Mr Blair's absolute determination not to squander the alliance he has forged with Mr Bush. There is more than a touch of vanity in this: one can detect in the Prime Minister's advisers a smugness that Bill's Best Friend has so effortlessly become George's Best Friend. It is also true that Mr Blair's eagerness to please the White House conceals a yawning gulf between his own liberal internationalism and the President's more practical intention to hunt down and eradicate America's enemies. Yet the relationship between the two men cannot be dismissed as easily as some of Mr Blair's political opponents - in his own party and outside it - would wish. I do not agree with the analysis, fashionable among some Blairites, that the Prime Minister is somehow a pacific restraining bolt upon the otherwise reckless President. This exaggerates both Mr Blair's caution and Mr Bush's hawkishness. But it is surely desirable that the Prime Minister, a veteran of Desert Fox, Kosovo and Sierra Leone, should be as closely involved as possible in whatever action is taken against Saddam. Britain's strategic national interest in the Gulf specifically, and in the security of the West generally, will be dramatically affected by whatever decisions are taken in Washington after April 15, the deadline the President has set for a plan to deal with Iraq. Mr Blair's presence at Mr Bush's Texan ranch between April 5 to April 7 - for which Vice President Cheney will lay the groundwork in his visit to London this week - could scarcely be better-timed. In the current issue of The New Yorker magazine, a compelling and obviously well-sourced article by Seymour Hersh on the plan to topple Saddam reports that the Prime Minister's "support for the Iraqi operation is considered essential" by the President. It is a striking detail in an analysis otherwise entirely devoted to debate within the Bush administration. Imagine being a Prime Minister harried at home over Mittal, Stephen Byers, and hospital waiting lists, and yet considered an indispensable ally in a forthcoming conflict by the most powerful nation on earth. Would you waste such influence in the political capital of the world just to keep Clare Short and Robin Cook happy? ******************************************************************** I. Martin Ivens: Mr Bush needs friends who will tell him Sunday Times, 10 March 2002 The role of foreign policy in American life can be compared to looking for snakes in Ireland, wrote Lord Bryce, the great authority on the young republic. “There are no snakes in Ireland,” he added helpfully. Bryce, British ambassador to Washington, actually knew better. American diplomacy from the time of the revolution had been outstandingly successful; not least in holding the British Empire at bay. But by 1900 the United States was locked into the British-dominated international system of trade and finance. What need for a US foreign policy when the Pax Britannica suited both our interests? Today it is Labour MPs who complain that we, the British, have no independent foreign policy. Tony Blair is “an American poodle”. And just as 19th- century American populists cursed the “Jewish bankers and British gold” that kept their economy booming, so our leftwingers fret about sinister American global capitalism. Alas, would that the United States were always in favour of global free trade. George Bush’s administration slapped tariffs on steel imports last week. The president’s strategist, Karl Rove, is mindful of the voters in the “rust belt” states who swung the last, close-fought election behind his master. Although this measure will hurt American industry more than it hurts us, by raising the cost of steel, it sends out a message that America isn’t listening. But let’s not pretend our European partners are holier than them. Apart from strangling Third World agriculture through the common agricultural policy, Europe already imposes quotas on other steel-exporting countries. It is, however, hardly the most propitious moment in which to whip up support for the American campaign against terror, although the prime minister can and ultimately will impose his will on his party if he wants to join Bush in removing Saddam Hussein. Foreign and security policy have always been determined by an inner core of four or five ministers. Blair’s weaker predecessors Clement Attlee, Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan imposed the British nuclear deterrent on an anti-nuclear party. Callaghan didn’t even inform cabinet colleagues about updating Polaris. Loose talk of a cabinet revolt is exaggerated. If that hitherto sheep-like body starts to bare its teeth, the cause is as likely to be Alastair Campbell’s crisis management and Gordon Brown’s power without responsibility for departmental policy — not Iraq. Secondly, when the leader of the Commons, Robin Cook, flashes his tarnished left-wing credentials before the lobby, that does not constitute a revolt. Mr Blair long ago decided that Mr Cook was best allowed to wither on the ministerial vine. Out of office, his undoubted forensic talents would make him a magnet for rebellion. But Cook visibly enjoys the trappings of office: parting from them would be hard. Ditto Clare Short, the international development secretary, a licensed jester at the court of King Tony, forever bucking the line as the conscience of the party. No harm done. She has become a great British “character” beloved of the BBC’s Any Questions. Out of office, however, she becomes fodder for Louis Theroux. Finally, an invasion of Iraq is not imminent. If there is to be one there will be the usual crabwise Blair approach to the objective. Ultimatums to Saddam to admit United Nations weapons inspectors will follow; there will be a careful exercise to get everyone on board. Mr Blair does, however, lack supporters with the moral authority and guts to defend his policy. Many ministers think it’s Tony’s private, glory-seeking affair. Those few who come out fighting are interesting figures. Peter Hain, the minister for Europe, is one. Patricia Hewitt, the trade and industry secretary, may be another. Hain fiercely resists being called “America’s patsy”. A man of the left who campaigned against white racialist South Africa, he thinks there is nothing intrinsically right-wing about standing up to mass murderers, terrorists or tyrants. Hain is a colour-blind democrat. Ms Hewitt’s cool skewering of the anti-American lobby was the real Commons event last week. Were their steel tariffs wrong, she was asked? Yes, of course, she replied. Pushed further by a pro-European Tory she cut to the chase: “There is no connection between the action on steel and the global coalition against terrorism. We stand with the Americans and many other countries around the world in the coalition against global terrorism because it is the right thing to do and it is in our interests to do so.” A Daniel come unto judgment. As Ms Hewitt says, there is no difference between Britain and America’s interest in the war on terrorism. The Pax America brings peace and prosperity to us all. It’s a bargain. Just as 19th-century America got a free ride from the power of the British navy, which kept out predators from the New World, so we get American hyperpower without having to expend much blood and treasure. This Bush administration is described by the fashionable historian of American foreign policy, Walter Russell Mead, as “Jacksonian” after Andrew Jackson, the populist president who represented the do or die determination to conquer a continent. British ministers dealing with their American counterparts, especially Donald Rumsfeld’s ultra-Jacksonian defence department, are sometimes alarmed by it. Jacksonians aren’t bothered with international systems. Their paramount goal is the physical security and economic wellbeing of America. They don’t seek war but once attacked they believe, like General Douglas MacArthur, “there is no substitute for victory”. Most Americans are natural Jacksonians. Presidents Truman, Johnson and Carter upset this vast electoral constituency by failing to win outright in Korea, Vietnam and Iran. After September 11 even American liberals became Jacksonians. Perhaps we need to be more Jacksonian too. Last October the United States went on nuclear alert over intelligence that a 10-kiloton nuclear device from the Russian stockpile had been smuggled into America. The report was eventually discounted, but the FBI and CIA were brought to face the real doomsday scenario facing the West. What if terrorists manage to get a nuclear device into a city? What if a rogue state such as Iraq supplies them with one? One of these days our luck may run out. In return the Americans might become more Hamiltonian, after George Washington’s treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton, who sought to work with Britain in the interests of security and good business once the war of independence was over. As Raymond Seitz, the former US ambassador to Britain, pointed out in a thoughtful address last week: “It is another fact of life that America has not achieved much of lasting international value without the co-operation of others.” Who is going to tell President Bush that? ************************************************************* J. U.S. Seen as Likely to Stay on Collision Path With Iraq By MICHAEL R. GORDON New York Times, 9 March 2002 WASHINGTON, March 8 — In a stance that is likely to keep the United States on a collision course with Saddam Hussein's government, a senior Bush administration official warned today that United Nations weapons inspections would be a trap unless the monitors had immediate and unrestricted access to any site in Iraq. "It has to be the kind of go anywhere, any time sort of inspection regime if the world is going to have any confidence that they've lived up to and are abiding by the U.N. Security Council resolution," the official said. "There are those who suggest that our earlier inspections in Iraq were too limited." The official's comments were made one day after senior Iraqi officials came to the United Nations to discuss the possible return of weapons inspectors and as Vice President Dick Cheney prepared to leave on a trip to Britain and the Middle East to lay the political groundwork for a possible military campaign against Iraq. During his 10-day trip, Mr. Cheney is expected to address a range of Arab and European concerns about a possible military campaign to topple Mr. Hussein. To Arab leaders who say that their citizens would be outraged by an American offensive against Iraq, Mr. Cheney will be able to cite President Bush's decision to dispatch his special envoy, Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, to the Middle East and Washington's interest in Saudi Arabia's peace overture. To address the concerns of Arab leaders that the war could be prolonged, he is likely to offer an assurance that any military offensive would be relatively short and decisive. Turkish concerns that a war would lead to the emergence of an independent Kurdish state might be assuaged with an assurance that if Mr. Hussein was toppled, the United States would support the territorial integrity of Iraq. Israel will be eager to hear how the United States will preclude Iraq from firing missiles at its territory, as it did during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, if there is a new offensive against Baghdad. The possible return of weapons inspectors is also a sensitive issue, particularly to European nations, which have publicly urged diplomatic steps to avoid a confrontation. Since President Bush designated Iraq as part of an "axis of evil" because of its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, there has been speculation that Baghdad might allow the return of United Nations weapons inspectors to undermine Washington's case for a military campaign to unseat Mr. Hussein. On Thursday, the Iraqi foreign minister, Naji Sabri, met with the United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, and the chairman of the United Nations arms inspection commission, Hans Blix. Western diplomats said that the meeting was cordial and that the Iraqis expressed concern that United Nations inspections might be used as cover for American spying. The Iraqi position suggested that Baghdad might allow new inspections, but not unrestricted monitoring. Iraqi and United Nations officials agreed to meet on the inspection and other issues in April. American intelligence believes that Iraq is trying to develop nuclear weapons, has a small arsenal of ballistic missiles and has secret stocks of chemical and biological arms. On the face of it, Washington would seem to have little reason for concern. Mr. Blix has said that for inspections to be effective they must be immediate, unconditional and unrestricted. "For the credibility of future inspection it is important that there are no sanctuaries and that access is without any delay that might permit the removal of evidence," Mr. Blix said in a recent speech to prospective inspectors in Geneva. "In these regards there are no changes." But many in the Bush administration remain distrustful of the inspection process, fearing it will lead to months of wrangling over the degree of access the inspectors might have to suspected weapon sites in Iraq, wrangling that would delay efforts to organize an insurgency or take direct military action to topple the Hussein government. At the same time, some Bush administration officials are also concerned that they will have no chance of attracting allied support for a military campaign against Iraq unless Washington is able to make the case that it tried to resolve its concerns over Iraq's weapons of mass destruction through the United Nations before resorting to force. The Bush administration's solution for this quandary appears to be to stress Washington's support for United Nations inspections, which were called for in Security Council resolutions after the 1991 Persian Gulf war to ensure that Baghdad had given up its weapons of mass destruction. But the Bush administration is coupling this with the demand that Iraq meet a tough standard: the acceptance of inspections that could be carried out anywhere in Iraq with virtually no notice. It is a test that some key Bush administration officials seem to be calculating that Iraq will fail. Before the Thursday meeting, the United States and Britain pressed Mr. Annan to take a firm stand on the inspection issue with the Iraqis while Russia urged that he show flexibility. ************************************************** K. An Iraqi Campaign Faces Many Hurdles Mideast: If the U.S. opts for military action against Hussein, the battle could prove to be America's toughest in decades. by Robin Wright Los Angeles Times, 10 March WASHINGTON -- Vice President Dick Cheney's ambitious 11-nation swing through the Middle East, which begins today, has as one of its critical goals lining up a consensus on what to do about Iraq. But that doesn't mean the United States will launch an operation to oust the regime of President Saddam Hussein any time soon. The deeper the Bush administration gets into sorting through the options, the more daunting the obstacles appear, U.S. officials concede. A conventional military campaign, if that is the route adopted, could be far more difficult than any U.S. operation in recent decades, including the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The growing belief among experts is that any serious military campaign would be difficult to launch before this fall, and perhaps not until much later. "The level of difficulty and risk and the potential casualties will be much higher and will require a lot more planning than either Afghanistan or Operation Desert Storm," said Kenneth M. Pollack, a former National Security Council staff member now at the Council on Foreign Relations, a New York-based think tank. Virtually every angle of the prospective operation faces major challenges. Militarily, because of downsizing since the Cold War, the U.S. has only about half the number of divisions it did when it waged war against Iraq in 1991--and it's still deeply involved in Afghanistan. The war in Central Asia will have to wind down before the administration can launch any serious campaign in the Gulf, analysts contend. The broader war on terrorism also will have to reach a stage in which Washington feels confident that the major threat from the Al Qaeda terrorist group and its allies is under control. "Imagine if a terrorist attack occurred while the U.S. was focused on Iraq," Pollack said. "People would crucify this administration and ask why it didn't pay more attention to the folks in Al Qaeda rather than the folks in Baghdad." The military also must resupply precision-guided munitions and other war materiel rapidly being depleted in Afghanistan, a process likely to take six to eight months, defense experts say. But the most difficult challenge will be what the administration sees as a crucial preliminary step toward reducing the length and human cost of a U.S.-led mission: trying to neutralize significant numbers of the Iraqi military. "The big question is: Can the Iraqi military be reached in some way to get them to defect or at least sit in their barracks? Is there a way to get some of them to help us rather than hinder us?" said Whitley Bruner, a former CIA officer in Iraq. "This has not been explored in any systematic way." On the diplomatic front, Washington must carry through with two ongoing efforts at the United Nations involving Iraq if it hopes to prevent a major international backlash. A resolution on streamlining current economic sanctions--in the hopes of increasing the flow of goods to the Iraqi people while curtailing their government's ability to acquire war materiel--is not expected to be voted on before June. The bigger variable is to get a team of weapons inspectors back into the country, as President Bush has demanded. In the past, Hussein has allowed inspectors in at the last minute to avoid military action against his regime--then stalled in providing access to information and sites suspected of being linked to weapons of mass destruction. The toughest assignment for the administration, however, could be winning the support of other countries. Much of the world has made clear its opposition to U.S. intervention to oust Hussein. The administration's best hope, analysts say, is to construct a "silent coalition" of countries willing to support the operation privately, while persuading other nations to keep their opposition to themselves. But even that lukewarm level of support could bear costs. Arab allies are pressing for movement on the Palestinian-Israeli front before they even discuss Iraq. The old Mideast rule of thumb, that events on the ground overtake diplomacy, has already altered Cheney's mission. Iraq was supposed to be the main topic of his agenda, but that has been redefined by the escalating bloodshed between Israelis and the Palestinian Authority. All this while Afghanistan's future continues to consume the Bush foreign policy team. The U.S. may need to help sort out the shattered country's postwar period, as discordant ethnic and religious groups hold a loya jirga, or grand council; write a new constitution; and create a governing body to replace the interim administration. Any deterioration or internal strife there could divert U.S. attention, analysts say. On the political front, the administration would need to mobilize a wide range of Iraqis to help manage a post-Hussein regime and ensure that the U.S. did not have to micro-manage the aftermath for a long period--something that would be unacceptable at home, in Iraq and in the wider world. Worries About Life After Hussein "The Iraq problem isn't solved simply by eliminating Saddam and his family; you also have to find someone who will release people from living under a regime of fear," said Judith Yaphe, a former intelligence analyst now at the National Defense University in Washington. This step will be pivotal to winning support from the Arab world, which is most nervous about the potential for internal chaos and regional instability with Hussein gone. "People are far less interested in the mechanics of ousting him than in what happens after Saddam," said Bruner, the former CIA officer. "And this administration has not yet looked in a systematic way at what likely scenario is best for creating stability. It doesn't want to occupy Iraq, but it also doesn't want chaos as it backed the wrong horse." Yet Iraq's modern history is riddled with unstable coalitions, coups and counter-coups until a strong leader emerged. And none of them has been democratic. Iraq's neighbors want the country of 22 million people to have a strong central government, for it to avoid crumbling into its three social groups: the Kurds in the north, the Shiite Muslims in the south and the Sunni Muslims concentrated in the center and around the capital. "There's a real danger that strong tribal and other influences will try to carve out zones of influence," Yaphe said. "The people of Iraq have a complicated set of relationships that will dictate how long the United States might have to stay--in just the kind of situation the military doesn't like." The greater the U.S. role in shaping the post-Hussein period, the less successful the aftermath is likely to be, according to Yaphe. "Our choices may not be acceptable to most Iraqis," she said. Potential for Regional Instability The issue is important because the impact of a regime change in Iraq is far more extensive than in Afghanistan, Pollack said. If Afghanistan's transformation collapsed, the country would become what it was before: a broken state. But if Iraq collapsed, that could destabilize the entire oil-rich Persian Gulf region, with a rippling impact around the world. "It could become the Lebanon of the Gulf, with widespread impact on Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey, all countries we care about," Pollack said. Complicating this process will be the diverse visions Iraqis and their neighbors have for post-Hussein rule. Economically, preparations are needed to keep oil markets from being disrupted, especially as the world struggles to pull out of a recession, analysts say. That requires an array of moves, from ensuring that other countries will make up for any cutoff of Iraqi oil to deploying troops quickly around the oil fields near the city of Kirkuk in the north and near the Kuwaiti border in the south to prevent Hussein from ordering their destruction, as he did in 1991 to Kuwait's fields. None of which takes into account the wild cards, such as the weather in Iraq and politics back home. The scorching summer heat, particularly in the south, could affect weapons systems and troops. Heavy rains that begin in mid-November could slow armored vehicles. And with the approach of November's U.S. congressional elections, neither major American party may want to see the early stages of a military campaign weighing on voters' minds when control of both the Senate and the House is up for grabs. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk