- The Washington Times - Friday, April 5, 2002

The Bush administration says there are no active plans to put American peacekeepers between Palestinians and Israelis, but at least one internal military study says 20,000 well-armed troops would be needed.

The Army's School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS), an elite training ground and think tank at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., produced the study last year. The 68-page paper tells how the major operation would be run the first year, with peacekeepers stationed in Gaza, Hebron, Jerusalem and Nablus.

One major goal would be to "neutralize leadership of Palestine dissenting factions [and] prevent inter-Palestinian violence."

The military is known to update secret contingency plans in the event international peacekeepers are part of a comprehensive Middle East peace plan. The SAMS study, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times, provides a glimpse of what those plans might entail.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld repeatedly has said the administration has no plans to put American troops between the warring factions. But since the escalation of violence, more voices in the debate are beginning to suggest that some type of American-led peace enforcement team is needed.

Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, quoted U.S. special envoy Gen. Anthony Zinni as saying there is a plan, if needed, to put a limited number of American peacekeepers in the Israeli-occupied territories.

Asked on CBS whether he could envision American troops on the ground, Mr. Specter said Sunday: "If we were ever to stabilize the situation, and that was a critical factor, it's something that I would be willing to consider."

Added Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat and Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, "In that context, yes, and with European forces as well."

The recent history of international peacekeeping has shown that it often takes American firepower and prestige for the operation to work. The United Nations made futile attempts to stop Serbian attacks on the Muslim population in Bosnia.

The U.S. entered the fray by bombing Serbian targets and bringing about a peace agreement that still is being backed up by American soldiers on the ground. U.S. combat troops are also in Kosovo, and they have a more limited role in Macedonia.

But James Phillips, a Middle East analyst at the Heritage Foundation, used the word "disaster" to describe the aftermath of putting an international force in the occupied territories.

"I think that would be a formula for sucking us into the violence," he said. "United States troops would be a lightening rod for attacks by radical Islamics and other Palestinian extremist groups. The United States cannot afford to stretch its forces any thinner. They're very busy as it is with the war against international terrorism."

Mr. Phillips noted that two Norwegian observers in Hebron were killed this week. U.N. representatives on the Lebanon border have been unable to prevent terrorists from attacking Israel.

The SAMS paper tries to predict events in the first year of peacekeeping and the dangers U.S. troops would face.

It calls the Israeli armed forces a "500-pound gorilla in Israel. Well armed and trained. Operates in both Gaza [and the West Bank]. Known to disregard international law to accomplish mission. Very unlikely to fire on American forces."

On the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, the Army study says, "Wildcard. Ruthless and cunning. Has capability to target U.S. forces and make it look like a Palestinian/Arab act."

It described Palestinian youth as "loose cannons; under no control, sometimes violent."

The study was done by 60 officers dubbed the "Jedi Knights," as all second-year SAMS students are called. The Times first reported on their work in September. Recent violence in the Middle East has raised questions about what type of force it would take to keep the peace.

In the past, SAMS has done studies for the Army chief of staff and the Joint Chiefs. SAMS personnel helped plan the allied ground attack that liberated Kuwait.

The Middle East study sets goals that a peace force should accomplish in the first 30 days. They include "create conditions for development of Palestinian State and security of [Israel]," ensure "equal distribution of contract value or equivalent aid" and "build lasting relationships based on new legal borders and not religious-territorial claims."

The SAMS report does not specify a full order of battle for the 20,000 troops. An Army source who reviewed the paper said each of three brigades would require about 100 armored vehicles, 25 tanks and 12 self-propelled howitzers, along with attack helicopters and spy drones.

The Palestinians have supported calls for an international force, but Tel Aviv has opposed the idea.

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