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[casi] from today's papers: 27-07-02

A. Bush and Blair agree terms for Iraq attack, Guardian, 27 July


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Because it's Saturday you have a little longer to send in your letters,
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A. Bush and Blair agree terms for Iraq attack
Military hatch new option for invasion

Simon Tisdall and Richard Norton-Taylor
Saturday July 27, 2002
The Guardian

Tony Blair has privately told George Bush that Britain will support an
American attack on Iraq if Saddam Hussein refuses to accept resumed UN
weapons inspections.
President Bush's "understanding", based on conversations with the prime
minister, is that he can count on Mr Blair, according to well-placed Bush
administration officials.

The agreement between the leaders comes as diplomatic, military and
intelligence sources revealed details of a new plan for the invasion of
Iraq, which could take place sooner than had previously been presumed.

The plan involves a slimmed-down force of around 50,000 troops, which could
be deployed within a matter of days.

It had been widely assumed that the US could not deploy sufficient numbers
of troops needed for the task before the end of this year at the earliest.

Now senior officials are saying a sudden military strike could be launched
as soon as October.

Boeing and other US companies are working round the clock, producing
satellite-guided "smart" bombs that would be used in huge air strikes to
accompany any ground invasion.

Although no plan of attack has yet been finalised, Mr Blair has already
offered "in principle" to lend full British military and diplomatic backing
for an assault.

Mr Blair insists in public that no decision has been made about British
involvement in any US military attack on Iraq. "We are not at the point of
decision yet," he told a Downing Street press conference on Thursday.

A Washington source familiar with administration thinking said that while it
was accurate to say Mr Bush had not yet decided how or when to attack Iraq,
the president was considering his options in the belief Mr Blair would go
along with the US.

Two options have been widely discussed in Washington. One would involve
inserting Iraqi defectors, backed by 5,000 US troops and "precision" air
strikes. The plan was once dismissed by General Anthony Zinni, America's
Middle East envoy, as a recipe for a "Bay of Goats" disaster, comparable to
the 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco in Cuba.

The second option, which would require at least a three-month build-up, is
the US military's central command standard war plan, involving 250,000
troops and heavy armour. Britain, it is suggested, would contribute 30,000
troops, an armoured division backed up by air and sea support.

A new third option now being considered is for a sudden strike, involving no
more than 50,000 troops who would bypass the Iraqi army and make straight
for Baghdad.

With thousands of US troops already deployed in Kuwait and Qatar, such a
plan could be executed quickly, officials say.

Though a sudden attack combining air power and ground forces would still
involve huge risks, it would have the advantage of avoiding mounting
opposition to military action against Iraq in such countries as Saudi Arabia
and Jordan - whose bases the US might not need - as well as wrongfooting
Saddam Hussein, officials say.

British military sources describe this third option as "high risk" but with
a "high payoff" were it to succeed.

The US officials say Mr Bush has also obtained agreement in principle for
support from France in conversations with President Jacques Chirac.

Mr Blair is understood to have told Mr Bush that British support is
contingent on the completion of a genuine effort to persuade Iraq to readmit
weapons inspectors.

Mr Blair has also insisted that Mr Bush offer a "full explanation" in public
of his reasons for going to war and that a "major effort" be made to win
over sceptical public opinion. "Blair wants him to make the case," a source

Part of the Blair-Bush understanding was that evidence that Iraq presented
an urgent threat through its alleged attempts to obtain weapons of mass
destruction would be published in London.

The source said Britain and the US were jointly opposed to seeking a new UN
security council resolution to justify an attack on Iraq. Both countries
will adopt the position that action is allowable under existing UN

Mr Blair indicated on Thursday that the weapons inspections talks, which
Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, has suspended indefinitely after an
unsuccessful Vienna meeting this month, would fail - thus increasing the
likelihood of an attack.

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