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Experts Consider US Attack on Iraq - 2002-03-03

Will the U.S. attack Iraq as part of its global war against terrorism? That possibility is said to be under debate within the Bush Administration. War with Iraq has both supporters and critics in Washington.

Former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency James Woolsey is one who believes that removing Saddam Hussein from power is urgent. He is in favor of an attack even if a link between Baghdad and the terrorist network al-Qaida can not be established.

Mr. Woolsey said, "If you ask the question, 'Could you prove beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law that Iraq was behind and directed the attack of September 11," then the answer is likely to be 'no.' If you ask a different question, 'Is it clearly demonstrable to any reasonable person that Iraq has been substantially engaged in terrorism against the West and the United States over the course of the last decade?' And that 'there is a reasonable chance they were involved in September 11, and that they are developing weapon of mass destruction, particularly biological and nuclear weapons, to terrorize their neighbors,' I would submit that the answer is a clear 'yes.' Is delay in our interest? I would submit that their work on ballistic missiles, biological weapons, and nuclear weapons suggests a certain urgency. A quick offensive, arming the Iraqi opposition, and utilizing devastating American air power against Iraq would, I suggest to you, be quite likely to achieve substantial and relatively early gain in the northern and southern parts of the country. At that point, we can figure out how to move to complete the war."

But not all analysts agree with the former CIA chief. Veteran foreign correspondent and foreign poilcy analyst Arnaud de Borchgrave shared some of his impressions about such a conflict in a conversation with VOA's Ed Warner.

Mr. de Borchgrave said, "My reading is what you hear traveling around the world, which is that we have a brilliant leader in the White House who has reached 80 or 90 percent popularity ratings, and we are now looking for the next war. And the obvious next war is Iraq. You do hear this increasingly around the world. I don't think anyone is thinking this through. They're just saying, 'It's about time we took on Saddam Hussein.' There's a little bit of nostalgia from people who failed to knock off Saddam Hussein eleven years ago and others who feel that Saddam is somehow tied in with al-Qaida and global terrorism. Any intelligent person who has looked into this carefully knows very well that there is no connection between Iraq and al-Qaida."

Ed Warner: "After we go to war with Iraq, are they considering what the consequences are for Iraq?"

Arnaud de Borchgrave: "You know Iraq could splinter between the Kurdish north and the "marsh Arabs" in the South. It could be an unholy mess. As for the resistance movement, I do not see anything comparable to what was going on in Western Europe in World War II in terms of the resistance to the Nazis. You need that kind of a movement to be effective. And I think anyone who knows anything about the Iraqi National Congress, the INC, realizes that it's a 'non-starter.' I'm just listening to what various people are saying about Iraq, 'It's in the bag; it's the next target. Just wait for Vice President Cheney to come back from his tour of the Middle East in mid-March, and it is "all systems go."' This is the way they're talking. And I think that's motivated far more by domestic politics than it is by the realities on the ground."

Ed Warner: "When you say 'they,' is this a special group of people? Or do you find it widespread? Does it include our military leaders as well as the conservative intellectuals?"

Arnaud de Borchgrave: "No, the military leaders whom I know are far more cautious. They don't like the idea of an ill-thought-through campaign. This is not Afghanistan, and they know it. It's a far more complex situation. And while the Iraqis are far weaker than they were when they invaded Kuwait, it's still an entirely different ball game, which will require a lot of troops on the ground. It can't be done by using the Iraqi National Congress to overthrow the Saddam regime."

Ed Warner: "That being the case, why do Mr. Wolfowitz and his followers have so much influence with the President?"

Arnaud de Borchgrave: "Paul Wolfowitz is a man of considerable intellect, a very brilliant Deputy Defense Secretary. Clearly, he has a place at the table and a voice that is heard. It's a group that includes some very intelligent men such as Richard Perle and Jim Woolsey, the former director of Central Intelligence. But, what motivates them in wanting to go after Iraq now as a quick follow-on to Afghanistan, I can't possibly fathom. Clearly, Saddam has been developing weapons of mass destruction. Everybody knows that. I think that Iran would also like to develop weapons of mass destruction and North Korea, too. To lump them all together and give them similar motives is, I think, highly dangerous, which has been done as you know with the 'axis of evil' speech. I've been on this quick round-the-world trip, and I'm picking this up everywhere. I'm just cautioning on the basis of my own experience, which goes back to 1950 in the Middle East. I've interviewed Saddam Hussein three times. He is an evil man, but he has to be treated totally differently from the al-Qaida phenomenon."

Foreign correspondent Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor-at-large for the Washington Times and United Press International.

Daniel Pipes, Director of the Middle East Forum in Philadelphia, says he favors trying to topple the government of Saddam Hussein, whether or not a link to al-Qaida can be established.

Daniel Pipes: I think there is some connection. I do not think the Iraqis have sponsored al-Qaida, but I think they have been involved at some times and in some places. Iraq and al-Qaida are two autonomous actors with very different goals, but with overlapping enemies.

Judith Latham: "There are those who say that, once the goals in Afghanistan are achieved, Iraq should be next on the U.S. agenda. How do you see that?

Daniel Pipes: "The Iraqi threat must be looked at primarily in terms of the regime's capability to acquire weapons of mass destruction. As that date approaches, it is an imperative that the United States do something to prevent that."

Judith Latham: "If the United States engaged in that effort, how successful might it be militarily? There is considerable speculation about the difficulty of such a move."

Daniel Pipes: "I expect that an American attack on the Iraqi regime would be successful quite quickly. If one looks back eleven years ago, the United States did very well against Iraq, and the United States is even more powerful in the meantime, and Iraq has become less powerful."

Judith Latham: On the 25th of February, it was announced that Iraq's Foreign Minister would meet with the U.N. Secretary-General, Kofi Annan. And there is a possibility that Iraq will permit the return of U.N. weapons inspectors. Would that make a great deal of difference?

Daniel Pipes: "If there is real weapons inspection by the United Nations, that would make a difference. If it is back to the cat-and-mouse game of 1990's, it's pretty unimportant."

Judith Latham: What do you think the U-S role should be, if it should turn out that the United States has to go it alone?

Daniel Pipes: "I think the prospect of the United States going it completely alone against Iraq is quite small. But I think it's doable. It would be harder. The only really important country would be either Turkey to the north or Saudi Arabia to the south. The Turks have indicated that they're open [to allowing U-S forces to be based in Turkey]."

Judith Latham: There are two schools of thought about Turkey. There is considerable fear that this might ultimately lead to a partition of Iraq in which case an independent Kurdistan might arise, and that of course Turkey would not want at all.

Daniel Pipes: "But that is not their only concern. They're worried about having Saddam Hussein as a neighbor. They're worried about relations with the United States. Yes, it's not an easy question for the Turks. There are dangers on both sides."

Judith Latham: How do you rate the strength of the Iraqi opposition, particularly the Iraqi National Congress?

Daniel Pipes: "In many cases, the opposition forces are fairly weak, compared with the government. The United States did the heavy lifting in Afghanistan. The Northern Alliance is now in power. The same thing, I believe, could apply to Iraq."

Judith Latham: To what degree would American ground troops be required, do you think?

Daniel Pipes: "One should never plan a war assuming that air power is enough. That said, I don't really have much of a sense of the role of ground troops. I'm sure they'll be needed in some places."

Judith Latham: Are you convinced that at some point the United States will need to go into Iraq?

Daniel Pipes: "Unless something very unexpected happens in Iraq, the government there will continue with its building of weapons of mass destruction. And that will require that the United States as proxy for the world take steps to prevent Saddam Hussein from getting nuclear weapons. Once the United States goes to war against the Iraqi regime, I think it will be imperative to destroy that regime and replace it with something more decent."

Judith Latham: Is it of concern to you that the Secretary-General of the United Nations and America's allies in Europe warn against any attack on Iraq?

Daniel Pipes: "Since September and before it, I've been urgent in my appeals to the U.S. government to take action against the Iraqi regime. There is no time to waste."

Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum says it is unclear how long or how costly a war against Iraq might be. He agrees with President Bush that Iraq is one of the "most evil and threatening states in the world today."

But the chairman of the CATO Institute, William Niskanen said attacking Iraq is neither morally justified nor prudent.

Mr. Niskanen said, "The Bush administration should not follow a successful prosecution of the war in Afghanistan with another war in Iraq unless they present conclusive evidence that Saddam helped organize or implement the September 11 attacks. Despite the efforts of Jim Woolsey and others, no such conclusive evidence has been presented to date. Among those who have recently attested to this conclusion are the U.S. Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, the British Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary, and Defense Secretary, the NATO Secretary-General, and the head of Israeli military intelligence. Two, we may have few, if any, of the regional allies necessary for logistical support, bases, and over-flight rights. Three, we may have little, if any, support from the other major governments in the world. The opposition forces in Iraq are small, unorganized, and lightly armed. In conclusion, we should continue to avoid another war in Iraq unless we have more justification than a shared agreement that Saddam is indeed a dangerous, evil man."

William Niskanen of the CATO Institute in Washington formerly served as acting chairman of President Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers.

Some press reports indicate the Bush administration has already made its decision; the administration says no final actions have been approved. Recent surveys indicate large majorities in U.S. surveys favor military action against Iraq. But with questions about the direction of the war on terrorism being raised by Democrats in Congress, the Bush administration will have to weigh numerous factors before launching an attack against Saddam Hussein, with the goal being very different from the Gulf War of 1991.