- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 17, 2001

As the Bush administration debates when and if Iraq should be targeted in the new war against terrorism, both major Kurdish parties in northern Iraq say they have a security guarantee from the United States should Saddam Hussein attack.
Events in October have placed new importance on earlier written U.S. guarantees for the Middle East, especially one made over the summer.
"There were concerns about changing the rules of engagement and defense of the no-fly zone, and this letter allayed these concerns. We were concerned these things would change because everything was under consideration," Hoshyar Zebari, the Kurdistan Democratic Party's (KDP) top diplomat, said in an interview.
In a July 30 letter, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell wrote: "As we have said before, should Saddam's forces move against the Kurds, it is our policy that the United States would respond in a strong and sure manner at a time and place of our choosing."
The letter, addressed to Jalal Talabani, the leader of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, and Masud Barzani, the leader of the KDP, was the first formal security guarantee made to the Kurds by the Bush administration, which is reviewing all aspects of U.S.-Iraqi policy.
The issue is particularly relevant in light of President Bush's response to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In the past five weeks, Pentagon and State Department officials have clashed, at times publicly, about whether the new anti-terrorism campaign would target Iraq and other states that Washington deems to be sponsors of terrorism.
On Oct. 8, the U.S. ambassador to United Nations, John Negroponte, delivered a stern warning to his Iraqi counterpart, Mohammed Aldouri, to adhere to U.N. commitments regarding aggressive no-fly zones. The next day, Baghdad claimed to have shot down an unmanned U.S. spy plane. The Pentagon has only confirmed that such a plane was missing.
The July 30 letter adds a new wrinkle to the administration's internal fight over its Iraq policy. Mr. Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage, have sounded the call that Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network are the first targets of the new military campaign, leaving open the question of going after Iraq later.
In contrast, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz initially called on "ending" all state sponsors of terror.
While the Pentagon has pushed for robust military assistance and training to the coalition of Iraqi resistance groups known as the Iraqi National Congress (INC), the State Department has tried to expand the number of rebel groups in the country it dealt with and began an audit earlier this year against the INC.
Mr. Zebari said the Kurds have pushed for a formal security guarantee from Mr. Bush for some time.
In June, Saddam massed between 8,000 and 12,000 troops inside the Kurdish-controlled no-fly zone.
"We came to Washington in the end of March as a joint delegation and we brought a joint letter from Mr. Barzani and Mr. Talabani outlining our main concerns and requests from the new administration," Mr. Zebari said.

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