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[casi] from today's papers: 25-05-02

A. Bush backs off Iraq invasion, Guardian, 25th May
B. Military chiefs defy Bush on Iraq, Telegraph, 25th May

Letters: and

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A. Bush backs off Iraq invasion

Military leaders recommend postponing mission after warning president of
heavy casualties

Matthew Engel in Washington
Saturday May 25, 2002
The Guardian

Senior American military leaders are believed to have turned sharply against
any idea of invading Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein, and have started to
gain the upper hand in persuading the White House that such a mission should
be postponed, preferably indefinitely.
The joint chiefs of staff have assured the White House their forces could
successfully invade Iraq - or anywhere else - if instructed. But they have
warned that such an invasion would be extremely fraught, given the resources
depleted by the war in Afghanistan.

One of the factors most alarming the generals is the possibility that their
troops could be drawn into street fighting in Baghdad, without support from
the local population, leading to heavy US casualties. This ties in with
longstanding fears that Saddam might use such a moment to unleash biological
or chemical weapons.

Their instinctive caution has been strengthened by Operation Prominent
Hammer, a highly secret war game recently played by senior officials,
details of which have begun to leak out. It revealed that shortages of
equipment could seriously hamper the operation and endanger the lives of
Americans and Iraqi civilians.

The air force is the most alarmed of the services, according to analysts,
because they are short of planes, trained pilots and munitions. A third of
their refuelling planes are reported to be under repair.

But there are also concerns about the ability of special forces, currently
being used in the Philippines and Yemen as well as Afghanistan, to operate
successfully in Iraq at the same time, especially bearing in mind the
intelligence services' need to concentrate on homeland security.

It is understood that the country's senior generals - the heads of the army,
navy, air forces and marines - agreed with the chairman of the joint chiefs,
Richard Myers, and his deputy, Peter Pace, in their assessment.

General Tommy Franks who, as head of the army's central command, would be in
charge of any invasion of Iraq, has told the president that an invasion to
overthrow Saddam would require at least 200,000 troops, a number that would
seriously stretch even the American military, given the near impossibility
of mounting an international coalition.

At a Pentagon briefing yesterday, General Pace sounded what was, by military
standards, an uncertain trumpet.

Turning to his boss, the defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, he assured him:
"Your military is ready today to execute whatever mission the civilian
leadership of this country gives us to do." But he added: "The fact of the
matter is, the more time you have to prepare for that kind of mission,
whatever it is, the more elegant the solution could be."

The head of the air force, General John Jumper, was blunter. "We never sized
ourselves to have to do high force-protection levels at home and overseas at
the same time. We're stretched very thin in security forces," he was quoted
as saying by the New York Times.

The military assessment backs up the messages pouring into the White House
from elsewhere. The dangerous situation involving India and Pakistan, as
well as Israel and Palestine, unnerves diplomats. World opinion ranges from
the wary - in Britain - to the vehemently opposed.

Even Turkey, regarded by the Iraq-hawks in Washington as a crucial and loyal
ally on this issue, is said by government sources there to be "very nervous
indeed" about the idea, mainly because of fears of the political instability
that would result. Officials are also getting bleak assessments about the
quality of the Iraqi opposition to Saddam Hussein, and about the likely
reaction of the Iraqi people should the Americans invade.

"The Iraqi people hate Saddam," said Judith Kipper, the Iraq expert at the
Centre for Strategic and International Studies, "but they blame the US for
their problems. Nobody likes foreign troops marching through their country,
especially the Iraqis."

The cost of American military ambitions is mounting. And, with the mid-term
elections only five months away, analysts believe an invasion is impossible
before 2003, and that the White House is already starting to look for a way
of reconciling its declared policy of "regime change" in Iraq with the need
to back away from what looks increasingly like an untenable position.

Some military sources believe that, even though special forces are now
thinly stretched, the US will switch to covert operations to try to loosen
Saddam's grip on power.

This ties in with what President Bush said after his meeting with the German
chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, in Berlin on Thursday: "I told the chancellor
that I have no war plans on my desk, which is the truth, and that we've got
to use all means at our disposal to deal with Saddam Hussein." The president
added that there would be full consultation with allies and that any action
would be handled in a "respectful" way.

It remains possible that the US will feel its hand being forced if the
Iraqis, sensing American weakness, emerge from their recent quiescence. The
Pentagon says Saddam's air defence forces have attacked American and British
planes three times in the last three weeks, as they patrolled the southern
no-fly zone.

General Pace played this down yesterday: "It's consistent with what's been
going on for the past several years," he said.


B. Military chiefs defy Bush on Iraq
By David Rennie in Washington

Daily Telegraph
(Filed: 25/05/2002)

America's most senior military commanders have staged a joint rebellion
against calls for a swift strike against Iraq.

They said United States forces would face appalling casualties as they
fought their way into Baghdad "block by block" if President Bush went ahead
with an early invasion.

Strongly advising Mr Bush to scrap a military confrontation with Saddam
Hussein altogether or at least put off any action until next year, the six
Joint Chiefs of Staff expressed fears that a cornered Iraqi leader would not
hesitate to use biological or chemical weapons.

Their revolt spilled into the open yesterday with a series of co-ordinated
leaks to American newspapers, describing how the Joint Chiefs stood
"shoulder to shoulder" in challenging the wisdom of attacking Saddam.

Earlier this year, public statements by Mr Bush and others led many to
believe a military strike on Iraq appeared inevitable.

However, senior officials are now reported to be focusing more on bringing
about "regime change" through intelligence operations and encouragement of
Iraqi opposition groups - a policy much closer to that pursued by the
Clinton administration.

An official described as being familiar with the thinking of the defence
secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, told the Washington Post:

"There are many ways in which [removing Saddam] could come about, only one
of which is a military campaign in Iraq."

Mr Bush, speaking in Berlin on Thursday, said he had told the German
chancellor, Gerhard Schröder: "I have no war plans on my desk, which is the
truth, and we've got to use all means at our disposal to deal with Saddam

Sources said Gen Tommy Franks, the head of United States Central Command,
held a secret briefing at the White House earlier this month, at which he
told the President that ousting Saddam would require at least 200,000

It was reported earlier this year that if America did decide to send a force
of the size suggested by Gen Franks, Britain would be asked to contribute
some 25,000 men.

An alternative strategy supported by some powerful conservatives in the Bush
administration would see special forces, allied with local opposition
fighters, trying to topple Saddam in a swift operation. Military chiefs
boasted to the Washington Post yesterday that such thoughts had been

One senior general talked of defusing an "Iraq hysteria" that gripped senior
officials last winter. Another senior officer said: "The civilian leadership
thought they could do it a la Afghanistan, with special forces. I think
they've been dissuaded of that."

However, other sources said that the situation was still "fluid", noting
that Mr Rumsfeld had so far stayed clear of the debate, leaving it up to his
deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, and the chief of policy, Douglas Feith. Both men are
seen as leading conservatives in favour of action against Iraq.

Mr Rumsfeld refused to be drawn yesterday on whether the United States was
planning for war with Iraq, saying it would be "the dumbest thing" to
comment on future thinking.

"With respect to any one country, we obviously don't get into discussions
about what conceivably could be done," Mr Rumsfeld said. However, he
insisted that the military was able to carry out any mission asked of it.

He was given a public show of support by General Peter Pace, the
vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who said: "Your military is ready today
to execute whatever mission the civilian leadership asks us to do."

Gen Pace declined to discuss his own views on Iraq, saying he and his
colleagues in uniform enjoyed "very robust" dialogue with their civilian

Mr Rumsfeld was no more forthcoming when asked whether the United States
military was equipped to open a new front in the war against terror.

"If we had a serious shortage of something, I think it would be rather
stupid to stand up here and announce it to the world, don't you?" Mr
Rumsfeld said.

The Washington Post described a series of secret meetings this spring in the
secure Pentagon facility known as "The Tank", at which the Joint Chiefs
agreed on the serious dangers of an invasion of Iraq.

Principal among these was the fear that Saddam, if faced with losing power,
or even his life, would feel no constraints in using his chemical and
biological weapons.

There have been rumblings for months that the American military is
"overstretched" by the new demands of the war against terrorism.

In addition to the fighting in Afghanistan, which has all but exhausted
stocks of some high-tech weapons, the military faces unprecedented demands
to contribute to the defence of the American homeland.

USA Today newspaper reported the concerns of the Joint Chiefs that special
operations commandos were already stretched thin in Afghanistan, the
Philippines and the Yemen.

The commanders also reportedly noted that - unlike in 1991, during the
operation to liberate Kuwait - neighbouring Arab nations may not offer their
bases and territory to United States forces.

In 1991, such support was vital in helping American commanders fly fuel and
supplies to the forces attacking Iraq, and to refuel air force fighters and
bombers in mid-air.

But the top brass rebellion over Iraq appears to go beyond questions of
supplies and manpower, straying well into the realms of politics.

Sources told the Washington Post that some of the Joint Chiefs expressed
misgivings about the wisdom of toppling Saddam, in the absence of a clear
successor who is any better, worrying that an invasion might result in the
emergence of a more hostile regime.

Gen Franks, who would supervise any battle for Iraq, shared such wider
strategic concerns, one officer said. "Tommy's issue is, a lot of things
have to be in place, and these things are not all military things."

Military Bids to Postpone Iraq Invasion
Joint Chiefs See Progress In Swaying Bush, Pentagon

By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 24, 2002; Page A01

The uniformed leaders of the U.S. military believe they have persuaded the
Pentagon's civilian leadership to put off an invasion of Iraq until next
year at the earliest and perhaps not to do it at all, according to senior
Pentagon officials.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff have waged a determined behind-the-scenes campaign
to persuade the Bush administration to reconsider an aggressive posture
toward Iraq in which war was regarded as all but inevitable. This included a
secret briefing at the White House earlier this month for President Bush by
Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks, who as head of the Central Command would oversee
any U.S. military campaign against Iraq.

During the meeting, Franks told the president that invading Iraq to oust
Saddam Hussein would require at least 200,000 troops, far more than some
other military experts have calculated. This was in line with views of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, who have repeatedly emphasized the lengthy buildup
that would be required, concerns about Hussein's possible use of biological
and chemical weapons and the possible casualties, officials said.

The Bush administration still appears dedicated to the goal of removing the
Iraqi leader from power, but partly in response to the military's advice, it
is focusing more on undermining him through covert intelligence operations,
two officials added. "There are many ways in which that [regime change]
could come about, only one of which is a military campaign in Iraq," one
official familiar with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's thinking said

Any final decision would be the president's. Appearing in Berlin yesterday,
Bush offered more tough rhetoric about Iraq and other countries he has
labeled part of an "axis of evil." But at a news conference in Berlin, he
also said that he had told German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder: "I have no
war plans on my desk, which is the truth, and that we've got to use all
means at our disposal to deal with Saddam Hussein." [Details, Page A26.]

In addition to skepticism from within his own military, Bush faces concern
in Europe about the wisdom of expanding the war to Iraq. Schroeder embraced
the effort to pressure Hussein to accept weapons inspectors but would not be
drawn into discussion of a military attack.

The debate inside the Pentagon is only part of a larger discussion of Iraq
that also involves the White House, the State Department and the CIA, among
others. Those deliberations go well beyond discussing the merits of mounting
a military operation and lately have focused on the role of international
diplomacy and what use to make of unwieldy Iraqi opposition groups abroad.

The disclosure of the efforts by the uniformed leadership to slow the drive
toward war suggests that a military confrontation with Iraq may be further
away than has been suggested by many administration officials. Some of the
chiefs' concerns were first reported in yesterday's editions of USA Today.

However, the situation is still fluid, and Pentagon insiders say intense
pressure is being brought by advocates of military action within the
administration to get the chiefs on their side.

In a series of meetings this spring, the six members of the Joint Chiefs --
the chairman, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers; the vice chairman, Marine
Gen. Peter Pace; and the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine
Corps -- hammered out a position that emphasizes the difficulties of any
Iraq campaign while also quietly questioning the wisdom of a military
confrontation with Hussein.

"I think all the chiefs stood shoulder-to-shoulder on this," said one
officer tracking the debate, which has been intense at times. In one of the
most emphatic summaries of the direction of the debate, one top general said
the "Iraq hysteria" he detected last winter in some senior Bush
administration officials has been diffused.

But others familiar with the discussions held by the Joint Chiefs in the
secure Pentagon facility known as "the Tank" say that it is premature for
the uniformed military to declare victory. They note that Rumsfeld has so
far mostly stayed out of the debate, leaving that to Paul D. Wolfowitz, the
deputy defense secretary, and Douglas J. Feith, the Pentagon's top policy
official, who are seen inside the Pentagon as the Defense Department's
leading hawks on Iraq.

In their Tank sessions, the chiefs focused on two specific concerns about
the conduct of any offensive. One was that Hussein, if faced with losing
power and likely being killed, would no longer feel the constraints that
during the Persian Gulf War apparently kept him from using his stores of
chemical and biological weapons. The other was the danger of becoming bogged
down in bloody block-by-block urban warfare in Baghdad that could kill
thousands of U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians.

Franks, who attended a Tank session before seeing the president, has
expressed similar concerns, said one officer. "Tommy's issue is, a lot of
things have to be in place, and these things are not all military things,"
he recounted.

In addition to those tactical concerns, some of the chiefs also expressed
misgivings about the wisdom of dislodging an aging, weakened Hussein who, by
some accounts, has behaved better than usual in recent months. Their worry
is that there is no evidence that there is a clear successor who is any
better, and that there are significant risks that Iraq may wind up with a
more hostile, activist regime.

As the discussions of Iraq policy were culminating earlier this month,
Franks briefed the Joint Chiefs and then the president on the outline of the
plan he would use if ordered to attack. His plan, which was the only one
presented, called for a substantial combat force that was close to half the
541,000 troops deployed for the 1991 Gulf War, which the military refers to
as Operation Desert Storm. Some at the Pentagon promptly labeled the Franks
plan Desert Storm Lite.

When asked at a news conference in Tampa earlier this week about what
military force be needed to invade Iraq, Franks answered, "That's a great
question and one for which I don't have an answer because my boss has not
yet asked me to put together a plan to do that."

Franks's narrow response relied on the U.S. military definition of "plan" as
a detailed, step-by-step blueprint for military operations. What Franks
discussed with the Joint Chiefs and the president was a simpler outline for
an attack that the military terms a "concept of operations."

By emphasizing the large force that he believes would be needed, Franks's
briefings also seemed to rule out an alternate plan that some civilians in
the Bush administration had advocated. Dubbed "the Downing plan," for
retired Army Gen. Wayne A. Downing, who suggested it four years ago, this
approach calls for conquering Iraq with combination of airstrikes and
Special Operations attacks in coordination with indigenous fighters.

That option, which would have required a fraction of the U.S. troops Franks
indicated he would need, was not presented as a briefing either to the Joint
Chiefs or to the president, officials said. Downing serves as the White
House's coordinator for counterterrorism efforts.

This spring, "the civilian leadership thought they could do this ā la
Afghanistan, with Special Forces," said a senior officer. "I think they've
been dissuaded of that."

The point of the Franks briefings, this general said, was that, "We don't
need as much as Desert Storm, but we need a large competent ground force, in
order to shape the other force. What forces the other guy to mass is the
presence of another ground force. Then you can deal with that force with
fires and air power." In this view, those who say the model of the Afghan
war can be transferred to Iraq fail to take into account that the Northern
Alliance in Afghanistan had thousands of troops ready to fight, some of them
heavily armed, whereas there is no equivalent indigenous force in Iraq.

Despite the confidence expressed by some officers that an attack on Iraq has
been postponed and may never occur, some on the other side of the argument
warn that it is far from concluded. There are other top officers in the U.S.
military who disagree with the chiefs' assessment. Their worries, said one
general, "smack to me of risk aversion." He added: "The fact is they [the
Iraqi armed forces] are one-third the size they used to be. Their air force
isn't there."

Advocates of an Iraqi invasion note that Bush has not backed away from his
tough State of the Union rhetoric. "They [the military leaders] have been ab
le to defer it, so they've won this round of the bureaucratic battle," said
one Republican foreign policy expert who is hawkish on Iraq. But, he
continued, "I don't believe you're going to see the president sit back and
say, 'Sure, containment's the way to go, keeping him in the box is working.'

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