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Experts Assess the Threat Posed by Iraq, Part 3 - 2002-03-16

Experts are telling the U.S. Congress the only way to end the threat posed by Iraq's development of weapons of mass destruction is by toppling the government of Saddam Hussein. Their testimony comes as the Bush administration considers whether to make Iraq the next target in the U.S. led war on terrorism, and Vice President Dick Cheney discusses the issue with U.S. allies in the Middle East. Correspondent Deborah Tate has the third of three reports from Capitol Hill.

Robert Einhorn, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state for non-proliferation, told a recent Senate Governmental Affairs subcommittee hearing that Iraq will not voluntarily give up its weapons of mass destruction, or WMD, program. "The importance it attaches to those capabilities can be measured by the well-over $100 billion in national income that the leadership has chosen to forego rather than meet its disarmament obligations and have the sanctions removed," he said. "No inducements or blandishments, not even the growing prospect of military action by the Bush administration, are likely to produce a genuine change of heart, and a decisive and credible change in behavior, as far as weapons of mass destruction are concerned."

The Bush administration is considering making Iraq the next target in the U.S. led military campaign against terrorism, if Baghdad does not allow unfettered U.N. weapons inspections to resume.

U.S. and British planes continue to patrol the 'no fly' zones over northern and southern Iraq, as they have been since the end of the Gulf War in 1991, when coalition forces ousted Iraqi troops from Kuwait.

But Mr. Einhorn, now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, argued that limited strikes against suspected weapons sites that Iraq refuses to open to inspectors would be ineffective. Military action, he said, should be aimed at ousting Saddam Hussein's government. "The only reliable and durable way of preventing Iraq from regenerating and enhancing its WMD and proscribed missile capabilities is to replace the current regime with one that is prepared to abide by its international obligations," he said.

It is a position shared by David Kay, chief of the U.N. nuclear weapons inspection team in Iraq between 1991 and 1992, who is now a vice president of Science Applications International Corporation. "The only way to end the Iraqi WMD program is to end the rule of Saddam Hussein," he said. "The appropriate application of military force is to achieve a regime change. You will never accomplish limiting a w-m-d program by striking facilities."

Support for using military force to topple Saddam Hussein's government is growing in Congress.

Senator Fred Thompson, a Republican from Tennessee, said "a regime change is the ultimate resolution, it seems to me."

But not all lammakers agree. Senator Pat Roberts, a Republican from Kansas, said "The United States cannot count on Iraq ceasing to proliferate simply because of a regime change; so much of the time we hear that if we aid and assist in a regime change, we automatically assume that this threat would be lessened. That maybe true, but it may also not be true."

The Central Intelligence Agency tried but failed to overthrow Saddam Hussein in 1996.

Anthony Cordesman, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the United States must have a well-thought out plan before attempting stepped up military action in Iraq. "If we are going to do something military, it has to be quick, it has to be decisive, it has to be thorough, it has to have an American presence on the ground, it has to be followed up by a major effort to rebuild Iraq, to create a state that the Iraqi people deserve," he said.

Mr. Cordesman warned of possible Iraqi retaliation against the United States in the event of increased U.S.-led military action against Iraq, including Iraq using a terrorist group to attack targets on U.S. soil. He also said Baghdad may fire a crude chemical or biological weapons-tipped warhead into Israel to try to spark a region-wide war.

Mr. Cordesman said despite the progress of the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan, the United States should not be overly confident about stepping up military action against Iraq. He said a military campaign against Baghdad should not rely too heavily on support from the Iraqi opposition, including the Iraqi National Congress, or INC. Nor, he said, should Washington impose too many limits on military action. "I have to be very clear about this if the people who talk about Iraq being Afghanistan, or who feel the INC with their almost penetration by Iraqi intelligence and their acute weakness or the Iranian-backed opposition with its ability to conduct a few minor raids with no troops, that that and a few airstrikes gives us a quick capability is a dangerous myth, and acting on it would do us far more harm than good," he said.

U.S. lawmakers are urging the Bush administration to consult with them before any stepped up U.S.-led military action against Iraq.