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Dissenting Voices Absent from US Senate Hearing on Iraq - 2002-08-03

Analysts who appeared at a U.S. Senate hearing on Iraq seemed to agree that Saddam Hussein should be removed but warned it would not be easy. Extensive funds and a large number of troops would be needed for the assault and the subsequent occupation. Others contend no opponents of war with Iraq were called to testify, leading to an unbalanced presentation.

The longer Saddam Hussein remains in power, the more of a danger he poses. That was the consensus of analysts, including former U.S. policy-makers, who spoke at the U.S. Senate hearings on Iraq. Their principal fear is the Iraqi ruler's acquisition of weapons of mass destruction. They said evidence he has them is hard to come by, but the world cannot afford to take the chance.

Khidir Hamza, who worked on Iraq's nuclear program until he defected, said it remains a threat. "This dismantling process ignored the knowledge base acquired over the years that can be used easily to rebuild what was destroyed," he explained. "With no large, easily distinguishable nuclear sites and little or no human intelligence, it is difficult to see how any measure, short of regime change, will be effective. Thus, If Saddam makes it in the nuclear arena, he will be the region's undisputed leader in Arab eyes."

Other analysts warned not to underestimate the cost of a regime change in Iraq. They said as many as 75,000 troops may be needed to stabilize the nation after the attack. The bill could be $16 billion a year for an unknown number of years.

This is no small task, noted Phoebe Marr, a former professor at the National Defense University. "If the United States is going to take the responsibility for removing the current leadership, it should assume that it cannot get the results it wants on the cheap," he said. "It must be prepared to put some troops on the ground, advisers to help create new institutions and above all, time and effort in the future to see the project through to a satisfactory end."

Hans von Sponeck, former U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, was not invited to testify. He said his point of view was missing in the hearings; that is, serious doubts about going to war with Iraq.

In the Gulf war, he said the United States had the backing of its allies, including Arab states. Today that is not the case. There is increasing resentment of the U.S. forces in the region.

"The Saudis no longer want to see a large-scale military presence in their country," said Mr. von Sponeck. "We have seen expressions of unhappiness, of anger about the U.S. presence in other places, in Bahrain, and we have had critical voices even coming out of Kuwait, out of the United Arab Emirates. In the Middle East is a different political landscape today, and anyone who does not want to realize this is unrealistic. I think the message is the same basically: we do not want war."

Mr. Von Sponeck noted a Middle East peace process is under way among once antagonistic nations. "There are clear signs that countries that were in confrontation with one another are willing today to talk," he said. "Saudi Arabia and Iraq is one good example. They opened their border. There are businessmen from that country in Baghdad. There has even been a Saudi Arabian industrial fair recently in Baghdad. The old foes of the past, Iran and Iraq, are gradually shifting toward more cooperation. So we have a better picture there."

Iraq also appears more conciliatory, said Hans von Sponeck. Is this just an act? Why don't we try to find out? asks Mr. Sponeck.