Several prominent members of the U.S. Senate say they believe war with Iraq is getting closer. Some are calling on President Bush to begin preparing the American public for military action.
In a series of interviews on American television, leading members of the Senate were asked about the inevitability of war.
Senator Richard Lugar, the incoming chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said it is time for the president to make his case to the American people. "The public needs to be prepared. This is a very tough period this month that we are entering into," Mr. Lugar said.
During an appearance on CNN's Late Edition, the Indiana Republican pointed to January 27, the next reporting deadline for U.N. weapons inspectors working in Iraq. "We are sliding, not sliding, but heading toward January 27, when the next report comes. If the report is unsatisfying, then it is likely to be the time in which all the build-up that we have seen everyday of military forces, that you (the media) have been reporting on, comes to play," he explained.
The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Bob Graham of Florida, was also interviewed on Late Edition. He said the Bush administration must make sure the public understands that, if there is an attack on Iraq, there could be new acts of terrorism against America. Senator Graham described a scenario put forward by the intelligence community.
"There will be a wave of terrorist attacks against U.S. interests abroad and in the United States. Some of those will be initiated by Iraq unilaterally. Others will be a combination of Iraq and international terrorists," Senator Graham said.
He said, there is a likelihood of war within the next few months. Senator Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican, told the CBS program, Face the Nation, that military action is very possible, but not a certainty. He stressed, it is now more important than ever for the Bush administration to consult with other nations.
"We should stay close to our allies. I think, we are proceeding on that course. And, we should be patient, careful, deliberative, and stay close to our allies," Mr. Hagel said.
One of those countries is Saudi Arabia, which played a crucial role in U.S. military operations during the last Gulf War with Iraq. The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, emphasized during a CNN interview that the United States must continue to work through the U.N. process.
"The consensus is very important. War and peace is a decision that is ominous. Whatever the reason, whether it is weapons of mass destruction, or change of the regime, it is a momentous issue that will probably destroy the country of Iraq if war comes," he said.
The Saudi official refused to cast judgment on the 12,000 page arms declaration recently submitted by Iraq to the United Nations, saying only that he hopes Baghdad told the truth. He told CNN's Late Edition that all Arab countries have pressed Iraq to come clean, and give a full accounting of its weapons of mass destruction.