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[casi] Times on Timing of War

Dear all

Several useful articles in the Times today. Most pertinent is the
following, which broadly confirms the Sunday Telegraph story
circulated earlier.


Voices UK,,3-352826,00.html

The Times
July 11, 2002

American elections dictate timing of an attack
>From Roland Watson in Washington

THE rhythms of the American electoral cycle mean that if President
Bush fails to attack Iraq at the beginning of next year, he may have
missed his chance.

The Pentagon is unlikely to consider launching thousands of US troops
across the desert in the following summer months, when
temperatures rarely fall below 100F.

There is an opportunity to strike in the autumn of next year, officials
say, but waiting until then risks the fighting spilling over into 2004,
leaving President Saddam Hussein’s fate unresolved at the start of a
presidential election year, something that Republican political
strategists are loath to contemplate.

Despite Mr Bush’s early rhetoric against Saddam, his room for
manoeuvre has always been limited by the calendar. Reports of an
invasion being launched this autumn were always likely to be wide of
the mark. Americans go to the polls in early November for the critical
mid-term elections and Republican strategists do not want their quest
to regain control of the Senate wrecked by the unpredictability of
Although Mr Bush enjoys the tacit support of many leading
Democrats for taking on Saddam, that could change in the ruthlessly
partisan atmosphere likely to prevail in 2004. Mistakes and reverses in
a war that left thousands of Americans dead could hurt Mr Bush in a
presidential campaign, especially if exploited by a canny Democrat
who presented criticism as patriotism.

There are early signs that Mr Bush will not enjoy a free political ride.
Joe Biden, the Democrat chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, said yesterday that he wanted to question administration
officials in public this autumn about their proposals for Iraq.

Mr Bush has public opinion with him in targeting Iraq, but there are
signs that is weakening. A recent Gallup poll found that support for
sending troops into Iraq has fallen from 74 per cent in November to
59 per cent. White House officials want to use support while it is

A Fox News poll found that 75 per cent of Americans would support
Mr Bush authorising the CIA to use deadly force to overthrow
Saddam, a step that he has not taken. Fifty-five per cent think that
Washington should try to assassinate Saddam.

Mr Bush set a clock ticking in his State of the Union address in
January, when he labelled Iraq as part of an axis of evil, along with Iran
and North Korea. Mr Bush said that the trio posed a “grave and
growing danger”. He said that time was not on America’s side and
added: “I will not wait on events while dangers gather. I will not stand
by as peril draws closer and closer.”

By the time that Mr Bush stands before Congress next January, he
will need to demonstrate that he is living up to his own rhetoric, and
acting. Yet the Administration remains deeply divided about what
precisely the mission should be, let alone how to accomplish it.

Personality clashes have also frustrated the war planning. Donald
Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary, believes strongly that the mission
should be focused entirely on Saddam. The toppling of the Iraqi
dictator should mark the successful completion of the operation, he

Colin Powell, the Secretary of State, wants a broader brief, to include
the transition to a democratic successor regime, the kind of nation-
building that Mr Bush derided in his 2000 presidential election
campaign. The success in Afghanistan has emboldened some in the
Administration, who say that it shows that intervention will be
welcomed if it is swift and decisive. Officials talk increasingly about the
search for an “Iraqi Karzai”, referring to the new President of

In the past the President’s National Security Advisers have thrown
their weight around in debates between the Pentagon and State
Department. The role assumed by Condoleezza Rice is different. She
takes a back seat in debates, acting as a private summariser for the

The arrangement pitches Mr Rumsfeld against General Powell, a
faultline that is likely to grow as planning intensifies. Mr Bush
confirmed this week that he was playing a central role. “I’m involved
in the military planning,” he told a press conference.

However, some diplomats in Washington doubt whether an invasion
will happen. One said: “I know he wants to do it, but when you look
at everything involved, I still don’t see how he does it.”


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