- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 1, 2002

The threat from Iraq's nuclear, biological and chemical weapons arsenals grows by the day, and the current containment strategy cannot succeed in the long run, two former top U.N. weapons experts told a Senate panel yesterday.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings, the first on Capitol Hill to focus on a U.S.-led military move against Saddam Hussein, also revealed sharp differences among lawmakers over the necessity of congressional approval for any action by the Bush administration.
International inspections, which Iraq has blocked for four years, "are only a short-term palliative and do not address the long-term solution," said Charles Duelfer, former deputy executive chairman of the U.N. Special Commission on Iraq, or UNSCOM.
"All other things being equal, the current leadership in Baghdad will eventually achieve a nuclear weapon in addition to their current inventories of other weapons of mass destruction," Mr. Duelfer said.
Richard Butler, the Australian who headed UNSCOM until 1998, said the United States and the United Nations should push one last time for a tough, unfettered weapons-inspection program inside Iraq, if only to advertise to the region and to the world the extent of Saddam's efforts to hide his military assets.
But he acknowledged the Bush administration's argument that delay only strengthens the Iraqi regime and increases the threat to the United States and its allies.
"If you defer, put off to another day the solution to this serious problem, it will only be harder and costlier in the end," Mr. Butler said.
While saying Saddam was determined to beef up his weapons of mass destruction, Mr. Butler said he did not believe the Iraqi leader was willing to share the technology with terrorist groups and states hostile to the United States. Mr. Butler argued that such weapons are intimately tied to Saddam's hold on power.
The Senate hearings, which conclude today, represent the formal kickoff of congressional debate on the administration's widely discussed plans for "regime change" in Iraq.
Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, said he honored an administration request not to call executive branch officials to testify, but he said he had received personal encouragement from President Bush to proceed with the hearings.
Mr. Biden has pressed the administration to secure congressional authority for any move against Saddam, and he was supported by the senior Republican at yesterday's hearing, Sen. Richard G. Lugar of Indiana.
The administration has not indicated whether it will seek congressional backing, but Mr. Lugar said Mr. Bush's father greatly bolstered his case around the globe when Congress voted to support military action against Iraq in the Persian Gulf war.
"If President Bush determines that large-scale offensive military action is necessary against Iraq, I hope he will follow the lead established by the previous Bush administration and seek congressional authorization," Mr. Lugar said.
Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, said he believed there was already "pretty strong unanimity in Congress to deal with this guy."
Sen. Paul Wellstone, Minnesota Democrat and one of the chamber's most liberal members, countered, "I don't think the administration has made the case" for a military strike against Iraq.
Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, slammed as "pure partisan politics" a resolution introduced Tuesday by Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont opposing the use of force against Iraq without clear congressional approval.
"What you're talking about there is just a blatant political move that's not helpful," Mr. Lott told reporters.
The Senate hearings heard different evaluations of the military difficulty of a campaign to remove Saddam.
Retired Lt. Gen. Thomas G. McInerney, a former top Air Force strategist, predicted that Iraqi forces would put up even less of a fight than they managed in the Gulf war in 1991.
"The Iraqi forces we are facing are about the equivalent of 30 percent of the force since Desert Storm with no modernization," he said. "Most of the army does not want to fight for Saddam, and the people want a regime change."
But Anthony H. Cordesman, a former Pentagon military analyst and an expert on the Middle East military balance, said those who expected a "cakewalk" in Iraq seriously underestimated Baghdad's core military assets.
"This is not a force that can be dismissed," Mr. Cordesman said, adding that "to be careless about this war would be a disaster."

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